October 14, 2014

Three Unrelated EPs That Nevertheless Help Me Advance Through My Ongoing Project

Today's post shines some light on three separate and unrelated EP projects.  I suppose I could have bought myself some time and ran each write-up individually, but where's the fun in that?  Besides, these EPs help me work through my "finish what I started" project.  Sort of.  Well, one of them does; another shouldn't really count in the artist's catalog, and the third isn't even really available for purchase unless you happen to be owed money by the rapper in question.  So it goes.  Click through to discover today's lucky subjects.

My Gut Reaction / For Promotional Use Only: Remedy - Remedy EP (2000)

At least nobody can claim that Ross "Remedy" Filler didn't put in the work.  After getting signed by The RZA and having it discovered that he is actually the son of a lawyer Prince Rakeem either once employed or still has on the payroll, Remedy was quickly dismissed as a novelty act who wasn't worthy of the one-sheet ads in The Source that he appeared on.  Thankfully for him, The RZA gifted him a slot on the Wu-Tang Killa Beez compilation The Swarm in 1998, and he responded with hip hop's answer to Schindler's List, "Never Again", which proved that the man could actually write, rap, and produce, and that his signing wasn't necessarily a fluke, even though, sure, RZA certainly could have given that deal to a bunch of other rappers who would have taken better advantage, but whatever.

After a number of false starts, Remedy's debut album, The Genuine Article, found its way to store shelves in 2001.  Your mileage will vary depending on how much you like Wu-Tang b-teamers who take this rap shit far too seriously (apparently none of the artists affiliated with the Wu have ever taken a cue from the late Ol' Dirty Bastard, except for maybe his brother 12 O'Clock and that Shorty Shit Stain guy, because I believe you can't take anything seriously if you're going to leave the house looking like that).  But it was clear that Ross had taken his time trying to put together what he believed was a solid piece of work.  I know this because he went through a ton of tracks before landing on what ended up on The Genuine Article, some of which appear on the Remedy EP, a project curated by our host with hand-picked tracks from his vault, intended to build a buzz for whatever the fuck his debut album was supposed to be called at the time.  (This EP is also known online as The Library 1995-1999, which makes a little more sense, but I'm running with what I have.)

This EP is not available for resale, but can be heard fairly readily on the Interweb.  It features five previously-unheard tracks, one song featuring Killarmy that Wu stans were very familiar with (and were shocked to discover its absence from The Genuine Article), and, because this is a man who has never heard of the phrase "beating a dead horse", "Never Again", since Remedy is committed to beating the Guinness record of how many non-greatest hits projects that song can appear on, apparently.  At the very least, this EP shows a mind at work, as Remedy plays around with his production style and his flow to see what works best for him, even though you don't get to hear any blatant fuck-ups since, once again, this was curated by Remedy himself, and he controls how you perceive his work. 


A sound bite from the television show The Prisoner, which is trippy as fuck, opens the EP, implying that our host will use the next seven tracks to address themes such as paranoia, imprisonment, and entitlement. Which he sort-of does, but not in any real way that matters. Our host's production doesn't sound completely mastered, and the Ross that rhymes on here isn't polished, still trying to find his way around the music. He does his best to follow the titular command, and for the most part succeeds: he isn't great on here, or even all that compelling, but he doesn't suck, and he shows enough promise to explain how he secured his record deal in the first place. Interestingly, I didn't hear the Wu's name dropped at all, although I have listened to a ton of songs throughout the lifespan of this blog, and it's possible I willfully missed it.

Oh wait, there's the Wu connection. “The Anthem”, better known as “Chant The Anthem”, eventually found its way (albeit in an alternate form) to his sophomore album Code: Red but was released long before, during the time when Killarmy held a higher cachet than the other Wu affiliates. The hook is fucking garbage, but the actual verses were pretty good: Remedy and his guests Beretta 9, Islord (who vanishes from the officially-released form), and Shogun Assasson all work with our host's instrumental decently, all of them sounding green but hungry. It's too bad that the beat isn't very engaging, but the rhymes (again, save for the shitty hook, which only exists to justify the song's title) manage to salvage it just enough. Not bad for what is essentially a glorified demo.

Actually pretty goddamn good. The dark, moody instrumental lends his bars a weight that may not have been earned otherwise, although those were also pretty goddamn good. Ross spits matter-of-factly, with vivid descriptions and an engaging flow that helps explain just how he managed to convince The RZA that he was worth a second look. An enjoyable lost gem that wouldn't have sounded out of place on The Genuine Article.

Remedy appears to adopt an antagonistic role during the introductory skit-slash-press conference, but quickly abandons that for some typical overly-wordy, self-serious bars filled with codes, allusions, and a general apathetic nature toward the concept of a song being something the listener should be able to “enjoy”. The instrumental seemed incomplete but could have worked, had our host managed to find a way to give a damn, as opposed to spitting the kind of verses that non-Wu fans use as reasons to prove that the Clan has fallen the fuck off. Sigh.

On a track where our host repeatedly spells out his rap name, thereby marketing himself first and foremost, he invites Lounge Mode to contribute a verse that most certainly does not serve his own selfish interests. However, the guest star carries the song better than Ross does, sounding appreciative of the opportunity while our host spits empty platitudes and threats as though he was forced to meet a quota before he could clock out for the day. The looped instrumental is nearly alright, but let's fact it, nothing in the previous two sentences is going to make you really want to listen to “Therapy” anyway, so who really gives a shit, right?

Even in this unmastered form, I freaking loved this beat, which lends a bit of dramatic heft to our host's shit-talking. I have no idea where any alternative mixes of this track might have landed, but this song is worth seeking out if you're a Wu stan who has exhausted the rest of his collection (because let's face it, if that description fits you, you're probably a guy) and is in need of something to keep the spark alive. Not especially Wu-esque, but I don't give a fuck, I liked this.

I've written about Remedy's signature song twice before, and I'm really running out of things to say about it. Suffice it to say, Wu stans have heard it before and already know whether they like it or not. So.

SHOULD YOU TRACK IT DOWN?  Only if you don't find Remedy's refusal to understand how goofy his job as a "rapper" is to be a turn-off.  Ross certainly takes his craft seriously, but you just know he's probably the kind of person that would refer to this shit as his "craft".  Still, there are a few songs on this EP that would fit rather easily onto Wu playlists, even in these incomplete formats.  If you wear your Wu stannery on your sleeve, and for some reason you haven't yet hunted this EP down, then by all means, do so: you'll probably enjoy it.  But for the rest of you still reading this paragraph and hoping that the other two EPs in this post aren't Wu-related, I can't imagine any of you two giving much of a shit.  And there you go.

You can find more Remedy by clicking here, and as is the standard, here's a link to other Wu stuff.

Bahamadia - BB Queen (July 25, 2000)

After the commercial failure of her major label debut, Kollage, in 1996, Antonia "Bahamadia" Reed took her act underground, resurfacing only sporadically.  Which was a shame: as I've written before, Kollage is actually a pretty good hidden gem within the vast realms of our chosen genre, and for fuck's sake, she finagled some DJ Premier and Beatminerz production onto that motherfucker.  But perhaps a female emcee with a monotone that rivals that of the late Guru from Gang Starr (a duo DJ Premier was a part of - hey, wait a minute, why the hell hasn't Primo reconnected with our host for at least an EP?  I'm pretty sure it would bang) wasn't the easiest act for a major label (EMI) to sell to the masses, as Antonia was quickly dropped and left behind.

With such a strong music scene in her hometown of Philadelphia, it stands to reason that she didn't necessarily have to stop rapping, as everything is cyclical and she would earn another shot at grabbing the ears of potential listeners.  Which is pretty much exactly what happened: Bahamadia parlayed her cameo appearances on tracks from The Roots, Talib Kweli, the Boogiemonsters, and, most surprisingly for anyone that hasn't paid attention, fellow Philly natives Jedi Mind Tricks into a deal with the independent label Good Vibe Recordings, who released her follow-up to Kollage, an EP entitled BB Queen, in 2000.

BB Queen received a mild amount of buzz on the Interweb: I remember people actually giving a shit that Bahamadia was attempting a comeback of sorts, even though those very same people didn't actually purchase Kollage, which caused this problem in the first place.  For her part, Antonia decided that it dodn't make much sense to follow the original recipe, since the first time around didn't work out for her: on BB Queen, she shed all of her previous collaborators from Kollage (including Philly heroes The Roots, who are missed) and started from scratch, ending up with only an EP's worth of material, which begs the question: was this always designed to be an EP, or did Bahamadia lose steam halfway through the recording process?

The answer, I think, is found below.

A scratched-together rap album intro from DJ Revolution, although technically produced by DJ Drez. You can listen to it if you want, but it isn't that great.

During her opening verse on this collaborative effort, our host proclaims that she's “over” the fact that Kollage flopped, and she's apparently moved on to such a degree that she feels it's perfectly okay to only contribute a minimal amount to the first actual song on her own EP. Is that a bold choice, or just a misguided one? After fourteen years, I still haven't decided, but her monotone and no-bullshit approach are both intact, and I like “Special Forces” for what it is. Although nothing on here is world-shatteringly great, it is a decent track, and guest stars Chops and the Cali Agents (Planet Asia and Rasco) hold down the simple Chops beat (co-handled by our host) in an efficient manner.

Bahamadia's Guru-esque monotone makes her sound like the female counterpart to the Roots Crew's Black Thought, which is a pretty high compliment. (Speaking of The Roots, why weren't they involved in the creation of this second project from their fellow Philly resident?) Unfortunately, her vocals are buried within EQ's instrumental, making them hard to distinguish from the weirdly club-ready drum beat. The music isn't bad, but it wasn't a good fit for our host's subject matter (itself making for a spiritual sequel to Kollage's "True Honey Buns (Dat Freak Shit)". Sigh.

Sounds like Bahamadia hijacked a preexisting Slum Village song, but forgot to delete the group's vocals from the hook. I tend to feel that our host can get easily lost within soulful beats: my favorite tracks from her debut featured her clashing directly with DJ Premier's boom-bap, with great results. “One-4-Teen (Funky For You)” isn't bad in its bid to imitate A Tribe Called Quest's The Love Movement, but there isn't much for the listener to grab on to here.

Bahamadia recruits Detroit crooner Dwele to, well, croon on “Philadelphia”, which might have been considered a musical ode to her hometown, had she deems it important enough for her to actually appear on it. That's right, folks: on a seven-track EP, Bahamadia only appears on five tracks. Dwele's own instrumental is pleasant enough, and his vocals consist of mostly ad-libs and such, so he doesn't intrude, but who the fuck told our host that not appearing on here was a good idea? I want names, people.

Perhaps realizing that she kind of hoodwinked the audience on “Philadelphia”, our host invites Dwele to sing on this song, too, and she makes damn sure that she actually rhymes on it. Bahamadia focuses on society's ills, trying to find the rose that grows out of concrete, but she'll mainly just depress the listener with her laundry list of everything that's fucked up about humanity. Hell, even the guest sings the phrase, “Don't ruin my day”, so he was obviously affected by this song, too. Dwele's instrumental is clean, but kind of dull, at least until the end, where it switches into something infinitely more interesting. “Beautiful Things” runs for nearly six minutes, though, which is just uncalled for.

BB Queen ends with...a Soulfingerz-produced drum-and-bass track? What the mother fuck? Bahamadia's monotone isn't quite nimble enough to maneuver around the instrumental, which makes “Pep Talk” a curious entry in her body of work. What compelled her to make an attempt at speed-rapping in this fashion? Why did she try to jump on this particular bandwagon? And had BB Queen been released today, would this have been replaced by a shitty dubstep track instead? One person has the answers to these questions, and odds are pretty good that she won't respond to this write-up. An interesting failure is still a failure.

Reissues of BB Queen contain a bonus remix of "One-4-Teen (Funky For You)" produced by the late J. Dilla, but that's not the version I have, so if you're familiar with the remix, leave your thoughts somewhere below.

FINAL THOUGHTS:  So BB Queen is a goddamn mess.  Bahamadia's flow remains intact from her early days, which is definitely not detrimental to the cause, but her ear for beats must have been impacted by the failure of Kollage and the lack of a budget from her new label home: every single one of these songs could have benefited from a few more hands in the kitchen.  Much respect due to the fact that our host didn't want to rehash old memories and was always looking forward throughout her career, but BB Queen is what happens when a rapper doesn't quite know what to do with themselves.  It's a physical manifestation (well, if you have the disc, anyway) of confidence that had been shattered and is slowly rebuilding itself.  There will always be a place for Bahamadia at the hip hop dinner table, especially if the right producers support her words, but BB Queen only deserves to be forgotten as quickly as possible.  I know, right?

BUY OR BURN?  Can you do neither?  I mean, obviously you are capable of it, but can you do neither and still somehow make a statement about how you're doing neither?  Because that would be great.

BEST TRACKS: "Special Forces", maybe, but absolutely nothing else, seriously


3rd Bass - The Cactus Revisited (September 7, 1990)

In between the only two albums the group ever released, 3rd Bass and Def Jam Records unleashed The Cactus Revisited, an EP filled with alternate takes of tracks taken from their breakthrough album The Cactus Album.  The label made sure that the EP would reach those that loved the first project, even going so far as to include a crappy illustration of a cactus on the album cover, just so you couldn't be confused as to what the hell you were listening to. 

The Cactus Revisited is, at its most basic level, a remix EP, consisting of six re-imaginations of album cuts (plus one b-side that eventually became a little bit more) guided by the likes of Prince Paul, Marley Marl, and 3rd Bass themselves.  The group, made up of MC Serch, Prime Minister Pete Nice, and the long-forgotten-by-me-even-though-his-fucking-name-is-on-the-album-cover DJ Richie Rich, used this EP to tide fans over while they were getting their shit together for their sophomore (and, to date, final) album Derelicts Of Dialect, and, as a way to keep their name out in the world, Def Jam could have done much worse (and has, as you two all know).

3rd Bass has always come across as an anomaly in the rap game, and not just because the actual rappers in the group are two white guys: it's because they weren't playing to any specific gimmick and still became mildly popluar.  Serch and Pete Nice opted to stand behind their actual lyrics, leaving the pop world to Vanilla Ice (who most people forget was technically their peer around this time in history) and the party atmosphere to their sworn enemies, the Beastie Boys (who are still far more entertaining and are the much better crew, but let's face it, Ad-Rock, Mike D., and the late MCA were never poetic wizards behind the mic).  Their no-bullshit attitudes earned them respect within many circles, but they just weren't able to keep it together long enough to be able to actively participate in the golden age of hip hop.

Well, Serch kind of did, having discovered Nas and all, but that story's already been told.

(Editor's note: with the exception of one track, all of the following songs are remixes, but the liner notes don't actually affix the word "remix" to the titles, so I went with how Def Jam listed the songs.)

With the help of producer Prince Paul (who even speaks!), Serch and Pete remix their seminal KMD collaboration “The Gas Face” by essentially recreating the same song. Both verses present strongly resemble what our hosts had previously come up with, albeit with distinct differences: regardless, 3rd Bass still sounds pretty good. All of this takes place over Paul's original Aretha Franklin-sampling instrumental, which adds to this track's “rerun” feel, but don't be fooled: it is an original song. Sort of. Enjoyable and all, even though the guest stars from the first take are missed.

The version of “The Cactus” that appears on the original album had a decent beat but was “all over the fucking place lyrically: at least according to what I wrote back in 2011. This Dave Dorrell-produced remix loses the point entirely. He doesn't improve upon the original composition (credited to Pete Nice, Sam Sever, and, hilariously, 'Mr. Puffy McScruffy'): in fact, his work behind the boards is more generic (although, admittedly, catchy enough that it could have gone to another artist and scored a minor hit). The bars from Pete and Serch are still fairly ignorant of the fact that the music is intended to keep them in line, and it's not like the subject matter (read: dicks) changes any, since it's the same song otherwise. Sigh.

This is the same track as The Cactus Album's “Wordz Of Wizdom (II)”, a Depeche Mode “Never Let Me Down Again”-sampling beast (that I strongly approved of) that was itself a remake of a different song on The Cactus Album (although it only appeared on the CD version). Although I appreciated the inclusion (I'm an unabashed Depeche Mode fan, in case none of you have managed to read between the lines over the past seven years), there really wasn't much of a need to place this particular remix onto the EP. Still, it's enjoyable as fuck, I'll give them that.

4. 3 STRIKES 5000 (VOCAL)
A b-side that later ended up on 3rd Bass' sophomore album Derelicts Of Dialect anyway, making its inclusion on The Cacuts Revisited questionable at best, although this is technically just a collection of what would have been b-sides anyway, so. I suppose it acts as an unofficial bridge between the two full-length projects, but it doesn't flow very well when sequenced in the middle of this EP. Pete and Serch sound good and all, if a little bored of their surroundings, which makes sense, as their beat isn't great. But “3 Strikes 5000” isn't interesting enough to warrant repeated listens, and its sound fails to capture the audience's ear. In short, meh.

C.J. McIntosh and Dave Dorrell take the original Pete Nice-produced, Prince Paul-"written" “Brooklyn-Queens” and turns it into a seven-minute-plus exercise in the law of diminished returns. I get it: this song was popular, and, just as it does today, its popularity drove the need for a remix, in an effort to stretch out its shelf life. And back in 1990, the standard procedure was still to produce a version that wouldn't sound out of place at the clubs that specialize in house music. However, I still walked away nonplussed, as I've never been much of a fan of “Brooklyn-Queens”, regardless of its iteration.  And I don't believe that this song should have ever been granted a longer lifespan like this. Sigh.

In response to my outright dismissal of the original “Product Of My Environment”, a commenter mentioned this Marley Marl-produced remix, which takes everything to an entirely different level. And you know what? It kind of does. Marley's new beat is a motherfucking banger, fitting the needs of our hosts much more that the original recipe's 3rd Bass / Sam Sever instrumental. As a result, the lyrics also hit harder, even though they're the exact same as before. A prime example of just how important the actual music is to hip hop. Lyrics aren't everything, you know. (Cue the hate mail...now.)

Remixing a song originally produced by the goddamn Bomb Squad is a ballsy proposition: basically, it had better be good, or else you may as well quit the game altogether. So to the group's credit, their new beat for “Steppin' To The A.M.” is pretty decent. The original instrumental is abandoned in favor of a rolling, funky number that shows another facet of a track you're already familiar with, which is what all good remixes are supposed to do anyway. The lyrics still sound paint-by-numbers, but the performances are enjoyable nonetheless. Huh.

FINAL THOUGHTS:  The Cactus Revisited is for 3rd Bass fetishists only.  If you've ever wondered how The Cactus Album would have sounded in an alternate universe, look elsewhere, because a lot of these tracks aren't worth the time, and besides, why are you so certain that The Cactus Album would have even been recorded in an alternate universe?  Maybe Prime Minister Pete Nice works as a city planner, while MC Serch acts as prime minister of Malaysia.  Did you ever think of that?  There are songs on here that could make for interesting additions to your playlist, if you're the type of person who likes showing off to people how you are aware of different versions of songs they may be familiar with.  And let's face it, I'm one of those people, as are a lot of you two, I assume.  So you might dig this, I guess, if only out of curiosity factor and for the pretentious-snob factor.

BUY OR BURN?  I don't think anyone should actually buy this: this was a quickie Def Jam cash-in when they could have just left the tracks as b-sides on their respective singles (and probably collect more money that way, but hey, too late now).  But give the tracks below a spin.  Why the hell not.

BEST TRACKS: “Wordz Of Wizdom” (which shouldn't count, since it also appears on the actual album); “The Gas Face”; “Product Of The Environment (Remix)”




  1. Main takeaway from this post: What ever happened to Shorty Shit Stain? I MISS THAT MOTHERFUCKER (not really).

    I looked up some of those Remedy songs on Youtube. Pretty good, though I could only find the version of The Anthem with Solomon Childs in place of Islord—this is not a bad thing! Dude was a fucking monster around 98-00. His appearances on Cappadonna's Pillage and Pump Your Fist, along with Ghostface's Stroke of Death are amongst my favorite guest verses in hip-hop. And I mean that. Dude had ENERGY; he rapped in the purest sense.

    And since I'm singing the praises of Wu affiliates no one really talks about, I must bring up Islord. Has anyone developed a sicker rhyme-scheme / flow? Dude could weave any words together and make it sound amazing. I point to all of Dirty Weaponry and his appearances on Bobby Digital in Stereo in particular. I guess that Killarmy track Feel It, too.

    PS — Dirty Weaponry should be recognized as a column in the Wu-Parthenon.

    1. My older review doesn't reflect this, but in hindsight, Dirty Weaponry really is a hidden gem amongst the Wu-affiliates.

  2. Suggestion: Never Again will you review Never Again.

    1. It's going to happen at least one more time.

  3. I always kind of dug 3 Strikes 5000 when it came out. Thought the beat was good. The music on the EP is slightly different from the music on the version that appeared on Derelicts of Dialect...so maybe it was a remix...before the original came out...or maybe the EP version was the original...and the Derelicts of Dialect version was the remix...

    Wondering how anyone can sleep at night not knowing...