October 4, 2022

Reader Review: Soopafly - Dat Whoopty Woop (July 31, 2001)




(Hey! Remember the Reader Reviews I used to run? BrianL certainly did, as he submitted some words on Long Beach stalwart Soopafly’s debut project,
Dat Whoopty Woop, which you two can now leave your own thoughts about in the comments below. Enjoy!)


Do you know what an “ensemble dark horse” is? If you haven’t spent / wasted quite as much time on that most marvelous and massive site TV Tropes as I have, you might well not. An ensemble dark horse is that member of a cast, group, set of characters or what-have-you that is generally of relatively minor importance and supports the main stars, but tends to be very popular with the franchise’s fan base. Partly encouraged by Max, I have decided to take a look at who might well be the dark horse of the Dogg Pound collective, the producer and rapper known as Soopafly. The man has turned up in various reviews on this site over the years and, befitting a dark horse, he received Max’s praise without getting put in the spotlight. Let’s try to turn that around through me reviewing the man’s debut “album”, Dat Whoopty Woop, released in 2001.

Why the quotations marks? Well, it would not be accurate to call this collection of songs a true album. You see, Soopafly recorded everything on here when he was still signed to Death Row Records, the label he departed around the turn of the millennium. So how could these recordings be released in 2001 through D.P.G. Recordz, the vanity label of producer, rapper, and co-founder of Tha Dogg Pound Daz Dillinger, who had also recently jumped ship from the same label?

Because Daz just took them.

I suppose there was some way in which he was entitled and, better, legally allowed despite a certain then-incarcerated Suge Knight holding at least some of the rights to the recordings, but even so, this was likely a fishy act. My impression is Daz took what he could when he let the door of Death Row Records hit him on the way out, and Soopafly was fine with earning a quick buck through the release of tracks he had recorded earlier, even if the collected songs were never intended to be compiled as a single coherent full-length, which was how a bunch of mostly then-unreleased recordings ended up marketed and sold as an album supposedly recorded by just about the last DPGC member yet to release a project.

This situation means that the credits here are iffy at times: that one of the tracks does not even feature Soopafly’s vocals but is a solo effort from Death Row songstress Jewell, of all people, also speaks volumes about Daz simply snatching everything he could and then figuring out a way to release it later. All production on Dat Whoopty Woop is officially credited to Daz and Soopafly, but the inclusion of “Like It Or Not”, which had been included on the compilation Suge Knight Represents: Chronic 2000 – Still Smokin’, immediately casts serious doubt on that claim as LT Hutton was credited with the beat there. My hope is that it is the only exception to the general image I have of Daz and Soopafly producing everything together on this release, but who knows, really? I’ll trust the dodgy kinda-thief’s claim over my own doubts this time, though. (That Daz has repeatedly made a lot of false claims over the years (such as his insistence that he produced all of Dr. Dre’s The Chronic and Snoop Doggy Dogg’s Doggystyle instead of Dre himself) I’ll choose to ignore for my own peace of mind.)

So who is this Soopafly fellow anyway? Well, Priest Brooks, what his mother calls him and whose real name would make a fine hip hop double act with Bishop Lamont, was a minor player at Death Row Records in its early (but not its earliest) years, his work as a keyboard player and producer in on the Murder Was The Case soundtrack marking his entry into the game. Around this time, when both were being coached / mentored / exploited / put on / assisted / taught (I appreciate that the reader can choose their own interpretation here) by Dr. Dre, he struck up a friendship with fellow Long Beach native Daz Dillinger, with whom he’d have a productive working relationship in the decades to come. Like Daz, Soopafly can also handle a microphone – and more skillfully too, I feel – and has often shown so, rapping and singing from 1996 onwards. During the messy demise of Death Row, Soopafly stayed loyal to Snoop Dogg (unlike Daz) and, when he got the fuck out of Dodge, became one of Snoop’s closer associates, even signing to the man’s own label imprint, Dogghouse Records. Soopafly’s label situation makes it even weirder that Daz released a Soopafly “album” on his own DPG Recordz, but I suppose some good weed and a mutual desire to fuck Suge Knight over goes a long way amongst friends. In any case, it was about time the man dropped something, as he’d been at this for some six years already without much to show for it in 2001.

So how well does this collection of previously unreleased and barely-connected songs fare?

1. Y’ALL N----Z BETTA RECONIZE
Our first vocals here are Soopafly insisting that a nameless “ho” be slapped. Classy, surely, but on brand. After that, we get fitting raps over a fast-paced beat that suggests amateur homebrew video games a little too much, but at least grabs your attention. Soopafly’s skill and charm as an emcee lay mostly in his cocky attitude and calm voice, but the younger Priest rapping here still needed to master those vocal skills, meaning that he’s excitingly shouting here more than you’re probably used to and more than is welcome. As this track is fairly short, it can mostly be dismissed as an intro, albeit one with an overly long (and annoying) outro.

2. THIS TYPE OF FLOW
The beat here, which sounds both mechanic and funky, is a marked improvement over what we heard on the previous track, and our host comes much closer to sounding like his later self. Soopafly the producer is creative and capable, which comes through here, but Soopafly the rapper has a voice that is still on the shrill side, the man walking a tightrope between sounding confident and trying too hard, repeatedly slipping without ever fully crashing. This wasn’t great, but it’s enjoyable and might even pump you up slightly.

3. HELL YA (FEAT. TRAY DEEE)
“Hell Ya” has a pretty good instrumental, and while Soopafly opts for a fast, slight-shouting flow and voice, it fits the track better here than the calm babble he would adopt later ever could. Even so, the upstart gets schooled by Tray Deee, who doesn’t need to raise his voice to sound like he’s running the show, using Soopafly as his hype man while he had an extra drink. Seriously, when Tracy Davis comes in, the entire track reflexively bends to his will, leaving our host desperately trying to point the spotlight back on himself.

4. CAN I GIT BUCC (FEAT. CROOKED I & DAZ DILLINGER)
The artist now known as KXNG Crooked started his music career as a signee of a post-zenith Death Row, so his appearance here should not come as a surprise – as out of place as he might appear today, he was a logical fit at the time. The fact that he ends up ripping his verse and outshining his fellow collaborators on here should not shock you at all, however. Daz and Soopafly even switch up the beat to work up to his appearance, which makes me wonder if this whole track was actually meant for Crooked instead of our host. Come to think of it, the person we here the most on here is actually Daz, who brings both a verse and a horrible chorus to the proceedings – Soopafly merely performs the second verse. On the plus side, the guy sounds the best he has so far, even if lyrically there’s little substance. The beat, you’re asking? Creative, slightly experimental, and enjoyable for as long as it lasts.

5. WAY 2 OFTEN (FEAT. KURUPT)
Over a beat that sounds just like the pimp-strutting being rapped about, which seems impressive until you realize it’s more sizzle than steak, Soopafly sounds fittingly confident, though I’d have liked more calmness in his delivery (and much more substance to his lyrics). He sounds a lot like his collaborator here, interestingly enough, to the point where I struggled a tiny bit to tell them apart. Kurupt’s skills behind the microphone had not yet declined to the embarrassing lows of his post-millennial career when he recorded his verse here, but the spirit that made him murder his freestyle on “Puffin’ On Blunts & Drankin' Tanqueray” had long since dissipated regardless.

6. EVERYDAY (FEAT. BAD AZZ, LIL’ C-STYLE, & TRAY DEEE)
Soopafly sounds a lot more like he later would, and I’d dare bet that “Everyday” was among the last songs of this compilation to be recorded because of it. If so, his (or Daz’s) production certainly wasn’t suggestive of the same growth: it’s weak, slight and very, very average. While the now-late and then still very much not late Bad Azz at least tries to make the most of it and succeeds in being the best thing about this song, the rest of the track is so bland that if it was food, it would need a lot of spice. I’d also like to take this opportunity to point out that I don’t think anyone ever cared about hearing Lil’ C-Style, a serious contender for the position of most milquetoast and unremarkable MC ever, though you or Max might well know one that induces you to yawn even more.

7. THERE WILL NEVER BE ANOTHA (FEAT. DAZ DILLINGER, GONZOE, & RICHIE RICH)
A very weird beat and a very weird chorus for what is a just slightly weird collaboration. Bay Area rappers Gonzoe (from Kausion, an Ice Cube-endorsed short-lived rap crew) and Richie Rich add variety to the proceedings, but their contributions leave me with little more to say than, “Okay then,” and Daz doesn’t feel particularly inclined to give this his all, either. Soopafly, almost by default, sounds best, but then again, it’s about time that he actually dominate his own songs, right? The only reason to listen to this (just the once, mind you) is that the beat is a pretty good showcase of our producers’ skill and daring, but after experiencing it and agreeing with me, you can leave it at that.

8. BACC 2 L.A. (FT. DAZ DILLINGER & XZIBIT)
While hearing Xzibit alongside DPGC members was nothing unusual in 2001, it certainly was when this track was recorded. Before Xzibit abandoned his longtime Likwit Crew associates to live it up popping pills with Eminem, even before he got Dr. Dre’s or even Snoop Dogg’s attention, he befriended Soopafly, the two collaborating to record this song in what was probably 1999. Astute readers might also recall Soopafly went on to produce for Alvin on his second album 40 Dayz & 40 Nightz. Anyway, “Bacc 2 L.A.” and not “B Please” marks the first collaboration between Xzibit and the Dogg Pound clique, and a young-sounding Alvin seems to be having a lot of fun, which is a joy to hear. Just listen how happily he shouts, “X to tha Z rockin’ with the DPG!” at the end of Daz’s verse. I have always really liked this song: both Soopafly and Daz sound like they really enjoyed recording this, Daz even starting his verse with the type of sung rap he excelled with on The Chronic. Beyond that, the slightly Asian-inspired beat is energetic and enjoyably out-of-the-box, and while it outstays its welcome in the end, that takes just long enough to happen. The only thing I could have done without is the far too busy chorus. Coincidentally, this song might have Soopafly’s most positive line on this entire gangsta-cliché filled record: “A n---a need a hand, I lend him my arm”. Awww.

9. LIKE IT OR NOT
As mentioned before, this LT Hutton-produced song was released two years prior to Dat Whoopty Woop and probably has no business showing up here. However, as it’s Soopafly’s biggest song up to this point and, as it happens, up to now in 2022, and because it is just so damn enjoyable, I can see why it was included anyway. (Am I the only person who first heard of Soopafly because of his “I Don’t Hang”, a single released from the soundtrack to the 1996 movie A Thin Line Between Love and Hate? I’d be willing to argue that to be his most well-known song, but perhaps that’s just me.)

10. DAT WHOOPTY WOOP (FEAT. SNOOP DOGG)
Dat Whoopty Woop couldn’t have been released without one Calvin Broadus showing up somewhere along the way, right? Here he is on its title track, dropping a lengthy verse that is so strongly in the vein of post-Dre departure Death Row, he should better have been credited with his middle name Doggy: confident, fairly lyrical but missing a lot in energy (think his guest verse on Mack 10’s “Only In California”). Even so, he outshines his host through sheer charisma alone, although the latter gets the funniest line: “She wanted me to buy her a ring / Called her on the phone, there you go, you got your ring.” I get the impression Soopafly wanted to rap like Snoop on here, and once again I’d have preferred a more energetic performance. The beat doesn’t help matters as it, too, is low-key with a limited sprinkling of funkiness. Why anyone thought it a good idea to also have it last whole minutes beyond the second (and final) verse is beyond me. Also, we never learn what a whoopty woop is.

11. PIMP CITY (FEAT. DAZ DILLINGER)
Although the beat starts off interesting enough, you’ll quickly realize it suffers from Never Really Going Anywhere Syndrome. The chorus is both bad and way too long, while Soopafly and Daz trade verses and ad-lib to the point where all of their lines seem to blend together (not to mention our host opting for a long-winded monologue after the rapping is done) – this is the audio version of an incoherent wall of text. And it lasts for over five minutes! Pass! However, I’ll give our host credit for a couple of bars that made me smile from their, well, bluntness: “Wanna know why the hos call me Soopafly? / 'Cause if my dick were a blunt, bitch, y'all all be high.” ("Pimp City" also originally appeared as a bonus track on certain versions of the 1998 Daz solo album Retaliation, Revenge and Get Back, which leads me to believe that Soopafly may have had nothing to do with its production, but I digress.)

12. PHONE CONVERSATION
Smoothly rapped and smoothly produced. Very pleasant, especially when compared to the previous track. There is no need to pay close attention to listen to any of the lyrics, though.

13. PLAYIN’ GAMES
This anthem for women who like to “play games” – a huge case of projection if we are to take anything said by Soopafly and others of his misogynist ilk at face value – has a beat that would seem fitting for a song aimed at children, creating considerable dissonance between atmosphere and content. That we get vocals performed by an actual child at the very end makes that seem deliberate, referring to the act of “Playin’ Games” as being something children would do, which makes the misogyny presented here especially awkward. Is the implied message that women are like children? I vehemently hope I’m overthinking this too much. Otherwise, I’d feel filthy from actually liking the overall sound of this song. (Considering what rappers tend to enjoy doing with women, I also hope that he’s overthinking this one too much, because otherwise, ew.)

14. WHY YOU WANNA ACT THIS WAY (EAFT. BAD AZZ & BIG PIMPIN’ DELEMOND)
Continuing with theme from the previous song, this funky, energetic romp is dedicated, or so it seems, to people who don’t understand why Soopafly, Bad Azz and Big Pimpin’ Delemond act the way they (claim to) do around women. They can’t give toxic masculinity as an answer because that wouldn’t be toxically masculine, right? Anyway, ignoring the actual lyrics, you’ll probably find yourself enjoying the excitement in the verse from our host and especially from Bad Azz, who once again proves himself a pro at dropping guest verses. (He could be pretty decent on his solo songs too, though I’d consider him a little too average-sounding to ever be fully able to carry a whole album. That being said, Word On Tha Street and Personal Business are deserving of some of your time.) Non-rapper Big Pimpin’ Delemond’s distinctive-sounding filler is either your cup of tea or isn’t, but I tend to think his appearances on Dogg Pound tracks always added a certain je ne sais quoi.

15. FREAK FREAK
A remarkably calm and confident-sounding Soopafly, as compared to most of what we heard so far, easily rides this beat that originated from the bouncy, slightly mechanic mold we also heard on “This Type Of Flow”. Which means the tryhard impression that I occasionally encountered from our host is nowhere to be found on this track. As a result, Priest’s boasts about wanting girls to freak it and him freaking them in turn sound much more credible. Fun track, really.

16. BABY BOY (JEWELL)
And then we get this R&B joint. Mind you, Soopafly has produced a number of these over the years for LaToiya Williams, so this isn’t exactly out of left field. It’s competently produced, showcasing our host’s versatility behind the boards, but even so, it is badly out of place here, a poor song to end this album on. Jewell makes the most of it, but this would have worked far, far better on a Death Row Records compilation or even the Jewell solo record it was probably originally intended for. I’ll also take this opportunity to point out that I’ve always felt a bit sorry for Jewell’s career fizzling out and her being about the only artist from Death Row’s original roster to be all but ignored by her peers after they had all moved on.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Back when Soopafly recorded the songs that comprise Dat Whoopty Woop, he really wasn’t the emcee he’d later become. He certainly wasn’t without talent or skill, however. His guests outshine him at times, but never to an embarrassing degree. Perhaps most notable is the lack of lyrical diversity. The Soopafly of 2001 had learned to write witty bars and to have more fun behind the mic, I guess. The amusing lines here are rather infrequent and dearly missed, with most of the remaining lyrics unremarkable. Soopafly the producer is the far more interesting aspect of this release, as nearly every beat on here is at least creative and somewhat experimental and while some fall flat, most don’t. You’d be well-advised to give this record a spin just for the music. As few of the instrumentals resemble Daz’s output, I am pretty sure that Soopafly himself played a much larger role in the production, most of which still sounds original and fairly fresh some twenty-five years after their creation.

BUY OR BURN? It’s getting released in 2001 on an entirely different label notwithstanding, anyone interested in Death Row’s late 1990’s backlog ought to listen to Dat Whoopty Woop for some much-needed context regarding what was going on at its studio, music-wise. Everything presented here is a part of that story. This album may often be overlooked in that regard, but there is no good reason for that.

BEST SONGS: “Like It Or Not”; “Bacc 2 L.A.”

-BrianL

(Questions? Comments? Want to see more write-ups from your fellow readers? Let me know!)


2 comments:

  1. Could you guys review some DJ Quik albums?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Who the hell is soopafly ? whatever I’ll listen to some of the songs listed

    ReplyDelete