September 1, 2015

For The Max-Approved Mixtape: Group Home - "Serious Rap Shit"

Artist: Group Home featuring Guru and Big Shug
Title: "Serious Rap Shit"
Producer: Guru
Album: Livin' Proof (1995)

There has been enough virtual ink spilled writing about the New York rap duo Group Home.  Most of those articles and Twitter comments quickly veer into "Group Home is terrible" territory.  Honestly, that kind of talk isn't unwarranted: here we have a situation where two well-below-average rhyme spitters lucked into a working relationship with one of the finest producers our chosen genre has crafted (DJ Premier), and the end result was a debut album (Livin' Proof) that sounds much better than it has any right to.   The weak-ass lyrics are seemingly washed away in a sea of forgiveness that doubles as what makes up the best boom-bap Primo has ever managed to come up with outside of his own group, Gang Starr.  (Jeru The Damaja fans will probably balk at that statement, but it is what it is.)  

But here's the thing: Group Home is not made up of two below-average rappers.  Lil' Dap is actually pretty decent, his smarmy, streetwise flow merely elevated by the backing beats.  Melachi the Nutcracker, now that guy sucked: his excitable demeanor is that of a chihuahua frightened by his own shadow, a chihuahua who is awful at writing rhymes.  Why did he get the chance to spit weak-ass fire over pounding Primo production?  Right place at the right time, mostly.  The planets had long since shifted out of alignment once Group Home dropped their sophomore album, A Tear For The Ghetto, that featured one measly Primo beat, and people rightly stopped giving a shit about the team, but Livin' Proof stands as, um, living proof that the music has to be good in order for anyone to pay attention to the rhymes.
However, what most of those articles fails to mention is that DJ Premier did not produce every song on Livin' Proof.  The subject of today's post, "Serious Rap Shit", was actually handled by Primo's late Gang Starr partner Guru, who also spits the first verse.  The video above only features the song itself, but the actual album track includes an introduction with some obvious Primo board work: once that quickly cuts to Guru's own brand of boom-bap, the energy of the track (and the album as a whole) spikes, with a cavalcade of sounds mashed together that would sound corny on their own (is that the sound of lasers firing down upon mankind?), but come across as somewhat sinister on "Serious Rap Shit".  

Guru's verse is pretty good, if much simpler than anything present on the best Gang Starr tracks: it's kind of like he intentionally dumbed himself down in order to hang with his younger charges ("Yo, the G-U-R-U of the Gang can always hang", he says at one point without a trace of irony).  But, again, he still sounds good, as though he takes "this rap shit serious", as Lil' Dap recites during the hook.  Dap is, unfortunately, stuck exclusively with hook duty, leaving Melachi room to expand his verbal horizon, and, unsurprisingly, he isn't great.  But "Serious Rap Shit" is yet another example of the music helping to course-correct the bars.  Gang Starr Foundation affiliate Big Shug closes things out "bounc[ing MC's] off walls, like superballs" and actually turns in the best performance, meeting that sweet spot between aggression and clever writing: the only way this song could have ended better is if Bumpy Knuckles suddenly arrived on the scene for no reason.

I realize that last paragraph makes it seem like I'm trashing "Serious Rap Shit", but here's the thing: I actually love this track now.  My earlier, sparsely-written review makes it seem like I didn't care for it at the time, but I actually like a lot of Livin' Proof now for the same reasons everyone else kind of digs it: back then, DJ Premier could do no wrong.  So why go with the one song Guru produced?  "Serious Rap Shit" isn't better than the best songs on Livin' Proof (such as the title track, "Tha Realness", or, my personal favorite, "Suspended In Time"), but, well, it's actually underrated as fuck: Guru, Shug, and, yeah, even Melachi all rip it to shreds like the posse cut it claims to be, and Guru's instrumental is kind of dope in its essence.  Yes, it doesn't sound like DJ Premier: yes, Primo probably wasn't even on the fucking planet when Guru created the beat.  But none of that matters if the music works, and I'm happy to say that this song only gets better as it ages.  So maybe Group Home wasn't made up if the best rappers in the world: at least they can say that they took the art form as seriously as they were allowed.

Do you agree or disagree with this selection?  Discuss below.


Group Home - Livin' Proof (review)


  1. Good fucking choice, friend. I will say, though, that the Nutcracker was better than he had any right to be on this track. Especially for someone who was forced to rhyme.

    Yes, people: Melachi was actually facing prison if he didn't participate in the making of this album. Little did the bonehead judge who sentenced him know that he'd be causing a crime much more serious than anything Melachi ever committed by forcing him to become a rapper.

  2. I did feel that you dismissed this track on your original review, and I appreciate that you gave this song its due after all this time. Nice review Maxy!

  3. I disagree with this selection. I also disagree with you saying Lil Dap is decent, I think they're both trash. The only song I fuck with on this album is The Getaway Car Mix

    1. That beat is absolutely bonkers. But, come on. Give Dap his dap.

    2. Lil Dap isn't great behind the mic or anything, but he certainly could be a lot worse, as evidenced by his handful of solo appearances elsewhere. Melachi cannot be saved, though.

    3. Meh. Anyway, have you both heard Group Home ft. Brainsick Mob - East NY Theory

      BEAUTIFUL beat

    4. His contribution to Large Professor's Dope medley was especially horrible. But, he wasn't bad on this Livin' Proof album at all.

    5. Indeed it is. However, you're forgetting one very delightful detail: Melachi's horrid ass was nowhere near East NY Theory.

  4. Echoing shoe-in, good choice. I always liked this non-Primo track for some unexplainable reason, although I guess your analysis has solved my mystery.

    That being said, my go-to Group Home track will always be "Tha Realness".

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