September 25, 2018

Something (Sort Of) Different: Mash Out Posse - Mash Out Posse (May 25, 2004)




I will admit that M.O.P. have spent most of their time in the blind spot of my collection. Sure, I’m familiar with the more famous tracks from Lil Fame and Billy Danze’s catalog: I’ve listened to “Ante Up” so many times that I can tell what a film or television director is trying to convey whenever it inevitably appears in their product, as it is by and large the duo’s most popular song. I’ve probably played their collaborations with DJ Premier more than anything else, as I used to go out of my way to compile collections of Preemo-produced tracks before I realized that there already nerds on the Interweb that were doing that exact thing for me. And I generally enjoy whenever they happen to pop up on the songs of their peers: M.O.P. bring an energy that is sorely lacking within our chosen genre, a combination of excitement and pure, uncut aggression that is meant to both hype you up and have you running for the hills whenever you happen to run into these dudes in public, as they’ve honed their personas to a point where they’re just as likely to break your jaw as they are to take a picture with you.

That contagious energy is why Mash Out Posse, a side project recorded with the relatively unknown rock band Shiner Massive when the duo were in label limbo (having left Loud after dropping just one album, Warriorz, in order to set up shop at Roc-A-Fella Records, a move which ultimately didn’t lead anywhere), was something I actually looked forward to hearing when it was first announced. I mean, their best songs already sound like hip hop’s attempt to mimic the style and swagger of rock. “Ante Up” hits harder than many rock acts can manage even today, which is likely why it crossed over into the mainstream so easily. If there was any rapper or rap group that could potentially sound fucking great when paired with crunchy guitars and live drums, it would have to be M.O.P., right?

One would think.


Mash Out Posse, named after what you get when you break out the acronym M.O.P., is not what I originally thought it would be: for whatever reason, I was under the assumption that Fizzy Womack and William Danze slipped Shiner Massive the acapellas for some of their tracks, including a few that hadn’t even officially been released at the time of this project’s release, and a glorified mash-up album was the result. Instead, that’s merely what happened for some of these tracks: others actually feature M.O.P. stepping out of their Brownsville comfort zone into a studio alongside Shiner Massive to record original-ish material. I say “original-ish” because, while these guys may not be on my radar unless I’m specifically trying to write an article about them, I’m still aware enough of their lyricism to know that the duo’s subject matter doesn’t stretch out much beyond “street shit”.

One would assume that ‘Mash Out Posse’ would be the name of the full group, consisting of both halves of M.O.P. and every member of Shiner Massive, but that isn’t really the case, although the rock part of the equation does a lot more on Mash Out Posse than our ostensible hosts. In addition to handling guitar duty, "Ill Will" Fulton and Larry Devore, the band’s vocalists, share microphone duties with Lil Fame and Danzini, while the rest of the band works overtime to gift M.O.P. the crunchy backdrops some of their antagonistic raps thrive over.

Keeping with the “label limbo” theme, Mash Out Posse is, importantly, not credited to M.O.P. Our hosts are name-checked in the liner notes, but for legal purposes, I suppose it could be any old Fizzy Womack and Billy Danze the credits could be referencing. The label that distributed Mash Out Posse is named Family First Productions (as opposed to ‘First Family’, which apparently would be a dead giveaway?), an outfit that also released a couple of projects from the mysterious duo The Marxmen, who are best known for rapping M.O.P. songs never released by a major, and are also just Fizzy Womack and Billy Danze wearing sunglasses and fake mustaches.

Guest-wise, Mash Out Posse steers clear, letting the novelty of the experiment sell the project. However, there is an artist named Foxx that receives a bit of a nod in the notes, whom Discogs seems to believe to be none other than Freddie Foxxx, also known as Bumpy Knuckles, who has worked with our hosts in the past, so it wouldn’t be unheard of for his vocals to pop up on here. I honestly can’t remember ever hearing his voice, though, let alone any guest cameos, save for an accidental ad-lib from a permanent A-lister that I’ll dive into further when I get there.

Be honest: does any of what I just wrote make you think that this is something you'd want to ever listen to? Because that's kind of the point of this site.

1. CONQUERORS
Essentially a rap album intro that sets the stage for Lil' Fame, Billy Dance, and Shiner Massive to rip your fucking head off with shredding guitars and live drum work. Except not really: the actual music is repetitive and fairly tame. Just merely being loud isn't enough, people.  However, our hosts decide to rhyme (and, in Billy's case, sort-of sing) on "Conquerors”, preparing the listener in a far better manner than a simple instrumental could. This track isn't exactly ready for the mosh pit just yet, but at least we know which direction we're headed now, and that's all I can ask.

2. GROUND ZERO
A much harder version of M.O.P.'s “Live From Ground Zero” that matches the intensity of the performers much more than the original instrumental ever did. It isn't the duo's finest hour, but it is a decent choice for the being the first real song on Mash Out Posse, even though it, like most of the tracks on here, is a glorified mash-up, with an acapella of the original take layered on top of their partners’ rock sensibilities like a parfait.The music was alright: it doesn't go quite as far as one would like, since it's only function is to mimic the original beat, but it works fairly well otherwise.

3. PUT IT IN THE AIR
Fun fact: I actually really like the original “Put It In The Air”, with its old-school feel and the catchy way that Fizzy and Billy both shout during the hook. Shiner Massive's take on the same material fails to recapture that same feeling: instead, the new backing track seems a bit generic. Once again, just merely being loud isn't enough, people. And this is still just an M.O.P. acapella set to new music (this project should have been titled Mash Up Posse. I know, I'm really clever). To wit: M.O.P. fanatics will recall that a certain Jay-Z, who was, at the time of the song's recording, their label boss, appears on the original “Put It In The Air”; the band fucked up and retained one of Hova's ad-libs on this take, even though his guest verse has been otherwise deleted. Whoops!

4. CALM DOWN
This version of a Warriorz album track works out a bit better, mostly because, had the Mash Out Posse explored more with guitars during the recording of that project, this is essentially what “Calm Down” would have sounded like. Weirdly, this version clicks because the instruments played underneath take a backseat to the aggression personified by Lil' Fizzy and Billy Danze: this is mainly bizarre because “Calm Down” segues into a bit of an actual guitar solo at the end, almost as a reward from M.O.P. To the guests for showing such restraint. The original song works okay, too: there isn't a better version, just two takes on the same material that have the same general impact.

5. STAND CLEAR
The first poor mash-up on Mash Out Posse, as the music seems to be running just behind the lyrics, which causes a chain reaction where the two ideas never converge and then... oh, fuck it, I can’t do this anymore, the song is just bad. You'll notice that I haven't written a whole lot about the overall lyrical content: that's because Lil' Fame and Billy Danze aren't exactly known for their wordplay. For the most part, they throw their all into the performance: passion plays a large role in the Mash Out Posse. But, when broken down, their bars are simply made up of threats and boasts, all of which tend to sound better when someone is screaming them at you, apparently.

6. FIRE
Works much better than the previous track, as the underlying music is a vehicle and not a distraction. Although it is kind of weird that Billy and Fizzy would name a song after a word they are relatively well-known for saying in a certain manner (come on, you know what I'm talking about) and then not actually saying the word themselves on the track, “Fire” isn't bad: it's actually the best song on Mash Out Posse up to this point. Does it compare to the original version of “Fire”? Hard to say: they're different beasts. But I liked this one.

7. HILLTOP FLAVA (NO SLEEP TILL BROOKLYN)
This song is the reason why I will forever believe this project to be pretty much bullshit. This one song renders the majority of Mash Out Posse as being an equivalent to Danger Mouse's The Grey Album: he famously created the beats for Jay-Z's The Black Album acapellas out of songs from The Beatles' The White Album, but never requested actual input from Jay-Z. This song caused quite a stir when it first hit the Interweb, as it appeared that Fizzy and Billy were covering the Beastie Boys classic, or at least paying the trio homage. But this is ultimately neither: Fizzy and Billy simply rap over the music from “No Sleep Till Brooklyn”, with that track’s hook thrown in for good measure. There is no argument to be had here: this is clearly a mash-up. A competently made one, yes, but stop fucking pretending that this is some sort of original composition. All this song does is make me want to stop writing this and pick up Licensed To Ill, which couldn't have been the original intention. Hell, I may do it anyway, just to pay tribute to the late MCA (R.I.P.).

8. STAND UP
Meh.

9. STRESS Y'ALL
This collaboration sounds hollow as fuck, and yet I still found the lyrics enjoyable. Having Billy Danze kick off his verse by announcing, “Good evening, you contaminated semen” is a good call, mainly because the audience immediately knows the score. The music is inconsequential and derivative, so “Stress Y'all” clearly fails to honor its source material. But it's hard to stay angry at boasts that silly on a rap song.

10. RAISE HELL
Corny as fuck, but at least the tempo actually changes many times throughout, which is more than can be said about every other goddamn song on Mash Out Posse.

11. IT'S THAT SIMPLE
I think it's obvious at this point that I've long since lost interest in this project.

12. GET THE FUCK OUTTA HERE
The intro reminded me, strangely, of the beginning of Jay-Z's “Do It Again (Put Ya Hands Up)”, but “Get The Fuck Outta Here” is nowhere near being a club-friendly song: hell, have you seen that title? The hook features a catchy phrase worthy of shouting at the top of your lungs: three guesses as to what that phrase could be. This wasn't awful, but it is far too late for these guys to actually start caring.

13. ROBBIN' HOODZ
Fairly silly, as Shiner Massive took it upon themselves to create this glorified mash-up using a clean acapella of the classic “Ante Up”. Because censorship is so rock and roll, right? Weirdly, even though actual drums and guitars are used to recreate DR Period's instrumental, the original version is much more energetic than this shit. Fuck this shit, I'm done.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Mash Out Posse is, literally, just a louder version of a crappy M.O.P. album. It reads like a brilliant idea on paper, a license to print money, if you will. But in its executed form, it’s garbage. The whole is somehow less than the sum of its parts. Fizzy Womack and Billy Danze do exactly what was expected of them, so I don’t place the fault at their feet exactly, even though they clearly could have offered some more creative input. Shiner Massive come across as a wholly competent rock band, and most of their musical backing is just fine, at times approaching great. So why didn’t Mash Out Posse work? To me, the entire project sounds rushed, as though M.O.P. had to meet an arbitrary deadline, or else the clock would strike midnight and hip hop heads would instantly forget who they even were. Also, something would turn into a pumpkin. Mash Out Posse comes across as a mere cash grab during a time when rap-rock was waning in popularity: perhaps if this project dropped in the late 1990s, Fizzy Womack and Billy Danze would still be eating off its royalties to this very day. Alas, the decent moments on Mash Out Posse (which do exist) are drowned out by the noise created by the empty-sounding dumpster fire that most of this album appears to have been recorded during. I’m happy this experiment exists, and I wouldn’t be opposed to M.O.P. trying something similar in the future, but even with that said, Mash Out Posse could be erased from history and I wouldn’t even fucking blink. M.O.P. fanatics should stick with their proper catalog, and as for the duo, maybe they should try to work in a guitar or two into their future songs, but this blatant crossover attempt is a failure on most every level.

BUY OR BURN? The fuck do you think?

BEST TRACKS: “Calm Down” and “Fire”, if you feel like you have to choose something

-Max

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4 comments:

  1. A great example of how MOP set against a rock-ish backing could absolutely bang is, er, Let It Bang, off the X-Ecutioners' Built From Scratch album. The music in it perfectly suits M.O.P.'s style. "Critically acclaimed criminals to blame/
    Put 'em in critical condition, fuckin' with Lil' Fame"! Dope!

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  2. I love M.O.P. but always avoided this one. Thanks for confirming that this was the right move.

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  3. Your blog has done a great job of introducing me to quite a few obscure rap albums. Based on your review, I probably won't check this one out, but at least my pool of knowledge for hip hop trivia continues to expand

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  4. Foxx is a female member of the Squad.

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