Artist: Craig Mack
Title: "Real Raw"
Producer: Craig Mack
Album: Project: Funk Da World (1994)
Craig Mack, which is allegedly his real name, should have been but a footnote in the history of Bad Boy Records. He had the misfortune of releasing his debut album, Project: Funk Da World, after The Notorious B.I.G.'s Ready To Die, and as a result, never quite reached the pinnacle his labelmate did, even though he managed to sneak in a couple of hit records in his own right. Yes, one of those hit records was a remix of his most popular single that became even more well-known thanks to a cameo from Biggie, but still.
That's a goddamn shame, not because Mack is some sort of unheralded lyricist deserving of a comeback (he isn't), but because Project: Funk Da World didn't deserve all of those unfair comparisons to Ready To Die that it inadvertently received, since Craig Mack and Biggie came up through different circumstances and, as such, were not the same person. Some of the songs on that particular project are pretty enjoyable, as are many of the beats (Easy Mo Bee provided five of them, for fuck's sake). The subject of today's post, "Real Raw", just so happens to be one of those hidden gems that hip hop heads of a certain age hope to come across when revisiting older albums.
Craig Mack provides both the rhymes and the beat for "Real Raw", and, surprisingly, he does a fucking great job with the music: I apparently described the instrumental in my original review as "whimsical", and I feel that description still fits today. But that's merely because Mack had the balls to include a hint of melody (swiped from the main theme from Days Of Our Lives) on a track that is, if nothing else, fairly raw, thanks to the oft-heard drum beat borrowed from the Skull Snaps' "It's A New Day". As much as I love The Automator (Dan Nakamura is one of my favorite producers of all time, which you two should know by now), I feel that Mack's beat would have made much more sense for Kool Keith to spit to for Dr. Octagon's own "Real Raw" (which is featured only on the Dreamworks re-release of Dr. Octagonecologyst). It's really good, you guys.
Lyrically, listeners won't find themselves challenged in the slightest, but Mack still comes through with a powerhouse performance that finds that sweet spot between mainstream acceptance and a "don't fuck with me" attitude. Mack proceeds to spit three verses of boasts 'n bullshit, and while he never approaches the lyrical dexterity of his late labelmate, he also flows with more rugged authenticity than his boss Puff Daddy: his rhymes sound like the man hurriedly scribbled down as many similes and threats as he possibly could in a twenty-minute jam session and then recorded them as soon as he was able.
Again, I'm not co-signing the lyrics: a rapper that dared to spit bars such as "I'm concrete, hard as the street, like pavement", or "I'm ready / To eat MC's like spaghetti" today would either be laughed off the stage or given a six-album deal with Def Jam, especially if set to trap beats. Mack even tosses in the obligatory homophobic bar, since it was the 1990s, which by no means makes it okay, but allows for a tiny but of historical context. The hook is a vocal sample that repeats the phrase, "I can get real raw, plus my style is hardcore", which, interestingly enough, doesn't get old over time.
Although an acapella of this track would sound pretty terrible, the marriage of the beat with the rhymes give Mack an edge that most of you two probably didn't believe he was capable of. The music isn't as radio-friendly as, say, "Flava In Ya Ear" or even "Get Down", but "Real Raw" could have made a fantastic B-side, and even though you two probably won't rush out to buy the album or anything, you should give "Real Raw" a spin or two.
Do you agree or disagree with this selection? Discuss below.
Craig Mack - Project: Funk Da World (review)