July 10, 2018

Reader Review: Das EFX - Generation EFX (March 24, 1998)




(Today’s Reader Review comes from frequent contributor shoe-in, whose final Das EFX write-up, for their fourth album Generation EFX, I’m finally running. Look into his own blog if you’re into that sort of thing, and leave your thoughts and stuff for him below.)


There are very few artists in hip hop that manage to find success all on their own. Look at the likes of Jay-Z, Biggie, 2Pac, and Nas: they had to establish themselves as business entities (of a sort) from the very get-go. Other acts, such as Onyx, Naughty By Nature, and Das EFX, were only able to reach the top of the food chain with the help of their respective teams.

Das EFX, in particular, relied on their in-house production crew, Solid Scheme, made up of Derek Lynch and the late Chris “Blitz” Charity. They produced the type of beats that were molded strictly for underground audiences, which rarely made an impact in the mainstream, let alone shooting straight to the top of it. But shoot to the top they did.

It didn't happen overnight, of course. In 1991, Brooklyn-born, Teaneck-raised Andre “Krazy Drazy” Weston and Brooklyn-born-and-raised William “Skoob” Hines (the word “books”, but spelled backwards) were buddying it up at Virginia State, masquerading as students along with their two producers, when they signed up for a small hip hop talent competition, where the winner would get one hundred dollars. The crucial detail to this otherwise boring-ass origin story is that the judges of said competition were none other than Erick Sermon and Parish Smith. Both E and PMD were blown away, so naturally they rigged the competition so that our two protagonists wouldn't win. Parish then went up to the duo and asked them, "You want a hundred bucks or a record deal?" As a result, Dead Serious, Das EFX's debut album, executive-produced by EPMD (an obvious step), became a sleeper hit in 1992, earning critical accolades and commercial success. Stuff of fairy tales, really.

However, things began to spiral out of control once EPMD broke up that very same year. In an ill-advised move, the duo ditched what made them so popular in the first place, the” -iggedy"(or "sewage") gimmicky flow. As a result, it didn't really matter if their sophomore effort, the underrated Straight Up Sewaside, was a better album in every quantifiable way: critics weren’t impressed, and commercial success had long since left them behind. So Das EFX did the only thing they could think to try at that point in their careers: embrace the underground. Their third effort, Hold It Down, found the duo calling in favors from fans within the music industry, resulting in a twenty-track album with very different musical backdrops, most of which were pretty damn good. And yet, sales still slumped, and critics refused to buy in.

So we come to the year 1998. The new millennium is on the horizon, boom bap is a sound long thought to be dead, and Krazy Drazy and Skoob find that the industry, while not exactly shunning them, also refuses to keep in touch, which left them with only one option. Parish Smith, whom the duo sided with after the temporary EPMD implosion, released his own second album in 1996, one that somehow gave his camp a second life. Business Is Business was essentially a PMD Squad album (I refuse to call that clique the Hit Squad, as I reserve that moniker for the reunited camps of Erick and Parish), with beats coming from Solid Scheme, Charlie Marotta, DJ Scratch, and the excellent Agallah (or 8-Off the Assassin, as he was known at the time), along with cameos from M.O.P., Nocturnal, Prodigy, and our headliners today, who appeared on four tracks. Das EFX later collaborated with EPMD on their reunion album Back In Business on "Intrigued", which is an awesome song.

So clearly in-house was the way to go. For their fourth effort, Generation EFX, PMD felt like he had to have more of a hand in crafting the sound, given that he was once an extraordinary producer himself. So, he signed up his producers from his own sophomore LP, along with a few additions, and set off making the final Das EFX album in many people's eyes. (In shoe-in’s eyes, anyway: I’ve tried to convince him to continue with the duo’s body of work, but he seriously stops acknowledging them after this project, which I kind of respect, but as a completist, it also bugs the hell out of me. But no matter.)


1. INTRO

2. RAW BREED
The second single, and the first song of the album, is produced by the team of Agallah and Solid Scheme, crafting a 1950’s-themed gangster movie-type beat that is very easy on the ears. A very contrasting style to what we're accustomed to from Solid Scheme, but that's likely due to Agallah's input. The lyrics, however, are a different story: the duo has seemingly lost all sense of fun with their writing, resulting in a very paint-by-numbers lyrical display. This aspect was very disappointing. I still enjoyed this because of the beat, though.

3. SHINE
It was bound to happen: the former sewer rats attempt to record a track for the fucking radio, and it wasn’t even a fucking single. Was this really what the streets demanded from the guys who made "Hard Like A Criminal" and "Kaught In Da Ak"? It’s as though they heard fucking Puffy on the radio and whispered to each other, "Hey! We can have a good time, too! We can look good in a fucking club, too!" Some sewage (pun motherfucking intended) that calls itself Tony L produced this horseshit, by the way. An important note: Drazy's delivery has become even more annoying than usual.

4. SOMEBODY TOLD ME (FEAT. 8-OFF & NOCTURNAL)
8-Off returns behind the boards and crafts a beat that successfully washes the remnants of the previous song out of my ears. However, his vocal contribution is the only somewhat decent verse on this entire song, with the worst offender being the other guest, Nocturnal, who sounds like a fucking mafioso-rap reject. Lord Almighty, this album's off to a bad start. By the way, who in the fuck played Sega back in 1998? Were you too poor to afford a brand-spanking new Sony Playstation? (The Sega Saturn may have been nearing the end of its life, but it still was a thing that existed, and the Dreamcast was released at the end of 1998, so, those people.) Overall, the beat saved this.

5. SET IT OFF
By far the worst song on Generation EFX. Rashad Smith and Armando Colon are with us to bring us this pig shit. Believe me, my fellow lonely soul, this is somehow much worse than the crap that was "Shine". I mean, even Puff Daddy wouldn't dare record something like this, it's that bad. For their part, Das EFX have now officially transformed into the poor man's M.O.P.

6. NO DOUBT (FEAT. M.O.P. & TEFLON)
Speak of the devil. Solid Scheme return with the Mash Out Posse and their sidekick, Teflon, to show our hosts how they're supposed to sound if they're going to make an M.O.P. song. First off, you need an instrumental worth demolishing, and Solid Scheme provide just that. Then, you need some competent emcees, and M.O.P. succeed in bringing our hosts into that special Onyx/M.O.P. vibe of furniture and limb tornadoes. This was a much-needed breather from all the shit we've been swimming through.

7. RAP SCHOLAR (FEAT. REDMAN)
The lead single and yep, you read that right, Redman's here. Armando and Rashad work with Brick's "Dazz", which was very famously sampled for Ice Cube scathing demolition of his former N.W.A. brethren, "No Vaseline". This song was originally produced by Parish Smith (the original version pops up later on the album), and I suppose he didn’t believe his take was good enough to be the lead single from Generation EFX, so he brought in some ringers to work their magic. He couldn’t have at least called in the Neptunes or even the Trackmasters if that was the direction he wanted to go in? Anyway, the fuckers were brought in to spice things up a little, and I'm pleased inform tell you that their take is the inferior one and they should not be allowed anywhere near the boards ever again. Redman, naturally, steals the track from our hosts, although at least Books put up some kind of a fight: Drazy rambles some absolute gibberish on here. But don't hold it against him: too much stress from shitting out all those chimichangas from yesterday apparently fried his wires. We'll get someone to fix him later.

8. GENERATION EFX (FEAT. EPMD)
Parish and Agallah collaborate on this track to produce a brilliant spin on Survivor’s "Eye Of The Tiger", which is then demolished by both duos with infectious energy. The sound of Erick and Parish back together on another record just cannot be denied. Plus, any song where both members of Das EFX are awake and actively paying attention is a huge step in the right direction. The hook sucks walrus balls, though.

9. RITE NOW
Some dude named Mike Lowe provides us with East Coast beat #2458842, which does nothing for our hosts, as Drazy's drunk again, leaving Books as the only alert artist in the booth. You can almost hear him getting angry at Drazy for being such a fucking bum during his performance.

10. WHUT GOES AROUND (FEAT. MISS JONES)
The “Sugar Hill” songstress is here, and she's very much the wrong companion for our kings of sewage. Nevertheless, she and PMD, who's on his own behind the boards, do enough with what they have. ”Whut Goes Around” might attract some listeners, but it's merely meh for me. The beat sounds like it came straight from an 1980’s pop song, which means it isn’t bad, I guess?

11. MAKE NOIZE
The very final Solid Scheme production ever. Blitz, who was the leader of the whole Das EFX movement, passed away in 2000, effectively ending any sort of comeback. R.I.P. Kind of wish the beat was better. It's not bad, exactly, but if you're a fan of the group's earlier work, you’ll be left hoping for more than a Nightmare Before Christmas-type of beat. Oh well, the rhymes were somewhat good, at least. I'm almost sad it had to end for them this way. Almost.

12. NEW STUFF
PMD and Agallah return to give us a more up-tempo instrumental than their earlier work, but with very similar lyrical results. Also, Skoob shows his first signs of lyrical fatigue, as he's slowly but surely become the workhorse of the duo. Meanwhile, at the time of this song's recording, Drazy was slurping on his third Fudgesicle while watching Mulan for the umpteenth time. He sure did love Eddie Murphy's family flick phase.

13. TAKE IT BACK (FEAT. PMD)
Parish is again left to his own devices behind the boards, which results in a beat that’s the most reminiscent of the Jeep-rattling EPMD sound I've heard in a long while. He appears on the song as well, raising the chemistry of every rapper involved to an enjoyable level. That's all I got.

14. CHANGE
You give us an entire album of mediocre rhymes before bringing us something that resembles interesting writing? Anyway, Agallah's behind the boards for dolo, and this time, he freaks a friggin' somber sample of Queen's "Sail Away Sweet Sister" that sets the mood for the duo to spit. Das EFX turn in their best lyrical display of the album, with Drazy talking to a girl he loves, and Skoob catching up with a mentor of sorts in a parental tone. Of course both of these conversations double as metaphors for hip hop. Count me entertained. They do as well as they can in this point of their career, with Books finally catching up to Drazy in the storytelling department, yet still not surpassing him. This shit was nice!

15. RAP SCHOLAR (ORIGINAL VERSION) (FEAT. REDMAN)
I told you that the original version would pop up later on the album, but nooooooo: you had to insist on listening to all of the bullshit first. Suit yourself, my fellow knucklehead. Anyway, Parish wasted his motherfucking time by commissioning those two worthless pieces of junk to remix this shit earlier, as this version is by far superior. Reggie’s lyrics are the exact same, while our duo step their pen game up, but PMD's take elevates this song to a very entertaining level, as his use of the very same “Dazz” sample is much more effective than how those two fucks laced it earlier.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Das EFX's fall from grace was swift and painful. Generation EFX is the worst album in their real catalog (relatively speaking), and you know what? They have no one to blame but their own goddamn selves. For the most part, the music itself, as it was a continuation of PMD's second LP's successful run, aren’t to blame: no producer from Parish's in-house team came with a bad beat, and Solid Scheme tried their hardest. The same can’t be said for the guest productions. However, the duo's laziness behind the microphone, especially Drazy, leaves Generation EFX falling flat on its schnoz. The commercial and critical no-shows this time around were very well-deserved. Aside from a handful of songs, this was a major letdown and a waste of my motherfucking time.

BUY OR BURN? Oh, by all means, burn this shit. I cannot, with a clear conscience, recommend anyone support this album. As a matter of fact, just give the songs below a spin, and if you don't like them, just treat this project as though it never happened.

BEST TRACKS: "Change"; "Rap Scholar (Original Version)"; "Generation EFX"; "No Doubt"; "Take It Back"

- shoe-in

(Yes, I also think it’s interesting that there are five “best tracks” attached to a review which discourages the reader from seeking out the album, but sometimes that’s how these things work. Leave your questions, concerns, and general bitchery in the comments below.)



5 comments:

  1. Max, you know the implied Sega was the Sega Genesis, right?

    Anyway, I friggin’ love the Dreamcast and anyone dissing it can get these knucks, easy! My Saturn memories were majorly restricted to Virtua Fighter 2 and its surprisingly good ports of many 2D fighters, particularly the SNK franchises. Whoever still remembers THOSE?

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    Replies
    1. Not based on the timing of the album's release it wasn't: the Genesis had phased out long before this. At least in the States and Japan. I take more issue with the comment about being too poor to buy a PlayStation - it's not like those things were cheap back then, either.

      Delete
    2. That was intended as a dig against the image of wealth most rappers tend to force themselves in. But I'm not sweating it.

      Delete
  2. AnonymousJuly 13, 2018

    I never really liked Das EFX (actually find their debut pretty wack) before the third album and they worked with Premier, Pete Rock and Easy Mo Bee.
    Always enjoyed Generation EFX and the track with MOP and Teflon is insane!!!

    Søren

    ReplyDelete
  3. AnonymousJuly 13, 2018

    I’m not very concerned with this review (as I agree with most of what’s been said) I’m actually more interested in why Shoe-In refuses to acknowledge How We Do.

    It actually has some pretty interesting songs, like Jungle, The Memories Remain and Diggy Das.

    ReplyDelete