October 7, 2014

Reader Review: Das EFX - Straight Up Sewaside (November 16, 1993)





(Today, Shoe-In gets back to his Hit Squad Appreciation posts, writing up Das EFX's second album, Straight Up Sewaside. So you two get another chance to read about your beloved Das EFX, a group the readers love so much that they didn't bother leaving many comments on his last post. You have to speak through your keyboard, folks. Anyway, leave your thoughts for Shoe-In below.)

In March of 1992, two snotty dreads who called themselves Das EFX blasted into the mainstream with their debut single, "They Want EFX". That song, along with its accompanying album, Dead Serious, introduced the world to a new style of rhyming that the duo dubbed "sewage" and landed the duo alongside the likes of Naughty By Nature and Onyx to build the foundation for the East Coast Renaissance, a period of time where New York could do no wrong in the eyes of music critics.

Amidst all the hoopla, Das EFX stood with their chests held high, side-by-side with their Hit Squad brethren EPMD, Redman & K-Solo. They were paid to cameo on Ice Cube's "Check Yourself", which only furthered their rise and cemented their “sewage” gimmick as one of the most original ideas in hip hop. Even though it was a fucking stupid name for a gimmick, it was one that would define Krazy Drayz and Skoob's entire career. Just not in the way they had hoped.

Everyone and their fucking dog started adding “-iggedy” to their rhymes, from Jay-Z to fucking Kris Kross (who had their rhymes written by Treach, of all people, even though producer Jermaine Dupri stole all the credit. I mean, talk about a scratch to the fucking belt), which resulted in the gimmick getting very old very fast. Unlike what some people may have believed, the first people who noticed this were Das EFX themselves. So, rather than stick with what worked for them in the past, they opted to reinvent themselves in order to remain on top of the game. So, they decided to throw their "sewage" style away for a short time, while the dust settled.

Which turned out to be the worst fucking commercial move they could've done at the time, as their second album, Straight Up Sewaside, sold absolutely zero copies (shouldn't it be called Straight Down Sewaside?). To top it all off, the infamous EPMD breakup further soured matters for Drayz and Skoob. Das EFX's commercial career never recovered from that one-two combo.

But what about the album itself? It was crafted by the very same people as their popular debut: the returning production team Solid Scheme handled all but two tracks on the album, which were left for Das EFX themselves and Charlie Marotta, who sided with Parrish Smith after his ugly breakup with Erick Sermon and a guy whom I will always respect for his work on that shelved Knuckleheadz album.

Enough talk.

1. INTRO
Just as the title proclaims. Skip!

2. UNDERGROUND RAPPA
The first thing you'll notice about this song is that the "sewage" style, imitated by countless upstarts (please refer to the paragraphs above), is long gone. The rhymes are extremely clear now that they stopped flipping their tongues, and from the very first verse, Skoob demonstrates very clearly why he's the better punchline rapper of the two. Solid Scheme continue their amazing run from the first album by producing an absolute gem of a beat. Believe me, this will cause your expensive sound system to rattle the environment exactly the way you want it to.

3. GIMME DAT MICROPHONE
Marotta's lone contribution. The track continues Das EFX's weird obsession with Erick Sermon, sampling the iconic EPMD hit "So What Cha Sayin'." This tracks appears to have finally woken Drayz the fuck up, since he catches up to his partner this time round, and they proceed to demolish the track together. The wonder of friendship. The Pepsi reference was pretty dope, too. Putting it short, this shit was nice!

4. CHECK IT OUT
The spiritual sequel to "Mic Checka" from Dead Serious. The hook, once again, will be all you remember from this song. Lyrically, the duo carries the track, but without any truly memorable lines. Drazy's delivery is inspired, though. It's as though he ate some pretty banging rats down at those sewers they keep mentioning. The beat is the standard that Solid Scheme set for themselves, which pretty goddamn nice. Fuck it, I like this song.

5. INTERLUDE
...

6. FREAKIT
The lead single. This time around, this choice was a smart one, as the first single from most albums is typically chosen based on what represents your act the most, and if any one song encapsulated what this album sounded like, it's “Freakit”. Curiously, I found the beat sounding like "Klap Ya Handz" from their first album. Maybe they had a special connection during that time. Maybe they hold a special place in their heart for the producer of the first song. Maybe I'm high as a fucking kite at the time of this writing. Skoob sounds like he wasn't really trying on this song, so his partner gets the better of him in the punchline department.

7. RAPPAZ
Huh! And here I was thinking the "sewage" style was to make no resurgence whatsoever on this album. Das EFX immediately sound more comfortable by resorting back to their gimmick. The difference is, there is no “-iggedy” suffix to speak of. I'm left thinking, "Why in the fuck didn't they rhyme like this on their debut?" As, admittedly, the “-iggedy” suffix made them sound a little preschool-ish. Anyway, the beat is fucking awesome yet again, with another Solid Scheme slam dunk that samples Biz Markie.

8. INTERVIEW
Thankfully the last skit on the album. They talk about the “sewage” style and why they're not using it anymore, setting up the next track.

9. BAKNAFFEK
I definitely agree with Max on the issue of the intentional misspelling of song titles. This second single seemingly rubs salt in the wounds of people who loved their popular “sewage” gimmick by using it only in the first bar, then continuing to gallop ahead with the track. Krazy Drayz later mentions in the song that since so many people bit the gimmick, then they can have it while he moves on to greener pastures. The beat is the spiritual sequel to "They Want EFX", with the weird yodeling and an Erick Sermon sample to boot.

10. KAUGHT IN DA AK
The fellow miserable soul who read my review of the first album might recall that I added a b-side to track down by the name of "Hard Like A Criminal." You might also recall that I proclaimed it the best friggin' track of the whole album and that it was a damn shame that it wasn't included on the proper thing. Well, my dear friend, I'm very pleased to tell you that the two snots have learned their lesson and present to you its sequel, which was also the third single. And I'm also very pleased to tell you it's even better than its predecessor. The beat starts with a menacing bass line. Then, as the kicks and snares reveal themselves, Books In Reverse beckons Solid Scheme to "bring it in one time." Then, the beat in all its glory is finally revealed, with a fucking ingenious hook that samples Ad-Rock's famous proclamation from the Beastie Boys' classic joint "Paul Revere". This is the best beat on the album thus far. This is the lone storytelling rap on the entire record, but believe me, it'll fill your appetite, as the tale depicts Skoob as a higher-level street thug "doin' it big" and Drayz as a frustrated former criminal desperate for some of the loot. The former recruits the latter, who worked with him in the past, to kill an underling that stole from him. As they prepare for the hit, they come across some cops. And that's where the story is left open-ended. Brilliant! It's almost as if the duo wants you to focus on the circumstances surrounding this life rather than the narrative itself. I felt this very strongly after Drayz's verses as he, just as in the prequel, out-fucking-shines his partner. Hands down, the best song on the album.

11. WONTU
I can't imagine anything that can follow up the previous track, but this song isn't really that much of a letdown. By now you'll be used to how Solid Scheme produce their beats. By my count, this is the third time they've sample Biz Markie in their career, so far. The rhymes are a much better showing in punchlines than what we were used to hearing on the album, save for a few exceptions. Overall, this dope track went as high as it can. Moving the fuck along...

12. KRAZY WIT DA BOOKS
The first thing that caught me about this beat is how Drayz's delivery scheme involves him shouting. The poor guy's vocal chords must be reduced to shit, these days, right? No? He's still performing? He recently dropped a friggin' solo album?! Fuuuuck. The lyrics are a continuation of the winning form of the previous track. Some of these lines, like the Popeye reference, are flat-out hilarious. The beat uses a very fitting DMC sample from one of my favourite Run-DMC songs, "Ooh, Whatcha Gonna Do".

13. IT'Z LIK DAT
Solid Scheme's final contribution is their only fuck-up on the album. The beat is so minimalistic you feel like you're being suffocated. It does, however, succeed in finally subduing Drayz's delivery, which results in him writing more direct and confrontational lyrics. Not Skoob's delivery, though: that fucker is a lost cause ever since the very beginning. The “Kaught In Da Ak” single contains a remix using a much better beat, resulting in a much better product.

14. HOST WIT DA MOST (RAPPAZ REMIX)
Just as the title fucking reads. The remix provides us with the lone Das EFX production. They don't change the lyrics, though, just the delivery of said lyrics. But the beat is just too disjointed for me to recommend this track. And we're done.

FINAL THOUGHTS: The fact that Straight Up Sewaside didn't sell shit points to only one factor: Das EFX's decision to discard their “sewage” gimmick was a fucking bad move, especially when you release your album just one year after you made your debut in this game. Although maybe Parrish lost his knack for executive production after his breakup with Erick. You might also note that the pop culture references were cut down to a bare minimum. In any case, the odds were stacked too high against this album succeeding, resulting in its commercial failure. However, that made Straight Up Sewaside a more precise listen, thereby adding more sting to the punchlines, which was a nice touch. Also, the inclusion of “Kaught In Da Ak” immediately made this album a better product, simply because of how awesome their storytelling is. So, in reality, this album was the proper step forward for Krazy Drayz and Skoob Effects, who needed to step the fuck out of their gimmick's shadow. Of course, they would fuck up the entire evolution process by returning and sticking to the “sewage” gimmick, starting with their very next album. But that's a story for a later time.

BUY OR BURN? This is where it gets confusing. If you were all about the “-iggedy” from the first album, you'd do well to burn "Rappaz" and move the fuck along, because this is not the same group you blasted into your subconscious via your Walkman. However, if you're a fan of Das EFX's writing, then this is a much easier choice, since nothing has changed thematically. Their flows just got better, in my opinion. If you're new to Das EFX and wanted to start here, you wouldn't be missing much of what made them great. Except for "Looseys". That song was genius. Buy this shit immediately if you're in the latter two categories. Just in case someone out there confuses all this talk, I'm advising fans of quality hip hop to BUY THIS SHIT!!!!

BEST TRACKS: "Kaught In Da Ak"; "Underground Rappa"; "Krazy Wit Da Books"; "Wontu"; "Gimme Dat Microphone"; "Rappaz"

-Shoe-In

(Questions? Comments? Concerns? Déjà vu? Leave your thoughts below.)



27 comments:

  1. I really like the writing in this review! I also thought you did some actual analysis. Well done!

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  2. never liked the second album , first and the third are much beter

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    1. I disagree. I find the first 2 albums to be more complete works than the 3rd because the beats on it are much higher in quality than the lyrics.

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  3. You used variations of "fuck" twenty times in this review. It got boring pretty fast. But oh well..

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    1. You actually counted how many fucks he used? You're just wasting your time reading this site if that's all that caught your attention.

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    2. In the immortal words of Castor Troy:
      Bra-fucking-vo

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  4. I fucking agree. Oh well..
    Still a good review. Kaught In Da Ak is my favourite song, too.

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  5. I'll never understand why this and their first album are partially edited. Should've just used an explicit sticker like everyone else.

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    Replies
    1. I'll say. The censoring pissed me off to no end, I'll tell ya.

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  6. This album is great, not better than the first, but to me certainly better than the third album and I even liked that one.

    The only thing missing is the recommedation to track down the DJ Premier remix of "Kaught in Da Ak" which is absolutely crushing.

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    1. I'm sorry, but I just heard the DJ Premier remix, and while his work between 93-97 was mostly untouchable, this remix was fucking horrid & nowhere near the original. If you want Das EFX spitting over some good Primo, then "No Diggedy" is your only choice. Yeah, I'm saying the original version of "Real Hip-Hop" sucks, too.

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    2. Funny how tastes differ. I take the remix over the original everyday To me, it's vintage Primo, cut out of the same cloth as Jeru's "D'Original" or better, "Physical Stamina". And I do like the original version.

      One thing we agree on, is that "No Diggedy" is great. I don't think "Real Hip Hop" sucks, but the beat is kinda boring.

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    3. Very curious you should mention that...

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    4. @l-boogie

      Strange thing is, I actually enjoy "D. Original", tho I'm not crazy about the beat. And I fucking LOVE "Physical Stamina", yet I still stick by what I said about the Primo remix to "Kaught In Da Ak".

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    5. Like I said, tastes may differ. To each his own. And that's like it should be. One.

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    6. though primo's remis to kaught.. is not a jewel, recommending no diggedy is a fucking shame

      premier's tracks on hold it down are both awful and should i tell that easy mo killes him there

      if i was limited to 10 hip-hop albums on a desert island i'd pick this one up for sure

      both interludes are good kick-offs to both a and b sides, get it, and both intro beats are dope. not all interludes suck)

      b-sides are rich - 3 remixes to freakit, 2 to baknaffek and it'z like dat remix is nice too. thanks for review!

      k/

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    7. The remix provides us with the lone Das EFX production. They don't change the lyrics, though, just the delivery of said lyrics.
      --------

      You mean the original exists? Did I miss something?

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    8. The original song is track #7, I believe.

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  7. Max is the October theme artists' names prefixed with Das? Because I think you've ran out already if so

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  8. I remember being SOOOOOO disappointed when I first copped this album. I was one of the ones who expected more iggedies and was mad that i didn't get them. i do remember Caught in the Ak being a banger though. i'll have to give this a second listen someday, without all the crazy expectations,

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  9. The dude who wrote this review is outta his fucking mind.

    This album, better than Dead Serious?!!! Give me some of what you're smoking!!!

    The entertainment on the 1st album was leaps & bounds ahead of this typical bragfest. Although I'll agree that Kaught In Da Ak is better than Hard Like A Criminal.

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  10. Dude. That's YOUR opinion. Since it's MY review, I'll say whatever the fuck I want. I don't know if you really paid attention to the 2nd album's lyrics as much as the 1st, but their wit is very much present on it. At least you agree about Kaught In Da Ak.

    Thanks?

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  11. Do you even know Rap Genius?!
    If you did you wouldn't be saying that shit. Matter of fact, you'd be saying the exact opposite about this album. Shoe-In, you nailed this one right on the money.

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  12. I never really liked the Das EFX songs that weren't produced Solid Scheme.
    Then again, I only heard this album & Dead Serious.

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    Replies
    1. Listen to the 3rd album.

      Worst that can be said about it is that it's a curiosity piece.

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  13. Yo, Max.

    Don't know if you care about this at this point, but you got the header wrong. They spelled it "SewaSide". With an S, NOT with a C.

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