“So forget the past, No more shorty, Strictly Buckshot….”
A memorable line from a song that should have appeared on this album but didn’t. It was actually the remix to the track “I Got Cha Opin”. It’s one of my favorite rap songs of all time, and a remix that was in fact more popular than the original because it was released as a single. Yet, if you bought the album based off of the coolness of the singles you may have heard around the way or on the radio, then you’d be in for a slight let-down.
I hate to start off a Classic review like that, but in a way, it’s telling of what this album delivers…2 different feels…
I take this one personally, because the Boot Camp Clik is my favorite rap crew, which is home to my favorite rap duo; Smif-N-Wessun, as well as 2 of the best spitters of all time; Ruck and Rock, as well as my favorite Hip-Hop record label, and one of the coolest dudes in the game; Buckshot. Also, because these dudes grew up with my cousins in Brooklyn. And while I may not be the most up on their recent work, or I may not still be the most hardcore fan, I keep abreast of the moves they make and they have left an indelible impak on me.
I’ll never forget my first time hearing of Black Moon. It was 1991 going on 1992. Me and my sister Veen were just chillin’ watching Video Music Box and Ralph McDaniels announced the debut of a new group from Brooklyn. The video debuting was for the introductory single “Who Got Da Props”. The whole video was just a mob of Brooklyn kids running through an alley up to a fence. So many, that besides Buckshot himself, I couldn’t tell who the Hell else was in this group. I was intrigued by the name of the group and admired that the lead dude was short like me, but commanding in presence. I wanted to hear more. It would be a year later when I heard that something more from the group that I STILL wasn’t convinced was a group because Buckshot remained the only visible member as new singles began pouring out onto the airwaves, marking the release of the album we come to know now as Enta Da Stage. I got it that Evil Dee was the dj, but it just seemed like it was a one-man-act. When the “I Got Cha Opin” remix dropped, at the end of the song, you hear Buckshot shouting out someone named “big 5” among a list of other jailed friends and saying “we coming to get you out kid”. I just vaguely remembered the 5Ft. Assassin from hearing him shouted out in the chorus from “Who Got Da Props” a year and change earlier and put it together that he must’ve been the other group “member”. I barely recognized the dude rapping as Buckshot either. The rowdy kid with the Fisherman hat from the first video I saw moving spastically and spitting like he was in a street fight, was replaced by a calm, melodic rap personality, with the same hunger, but with more poetry in his lyrics and more chill in his voice. He was right, this certainly wasn’t “Buckshot Shorty” anymore. It was like Night and Day. And that’s what being a Black Moon fan and listening to this album is like for me…
The general hip-hop public didn’t know that this version of “I Got Cha Opin” was the remix. Like myself, most assumed this was an album cut. Enta Da Stage, much like Biggie‘s seminal effort, Ready To Die was more of a compiled batch of songs recorded between the earlier period of the group’s recording process, and the later period. The difference here being that there was no overbearing Visionary Svengali like Sean Combs to ensure the brilliant sequencing and critical selectivity of the project as an album like Big had to make his a classic and give it a cinematic feel. This was just raw Brooklyn kid Timberland boot music. Which is fine if you’re a 1 – dimensional, New York-centric hardcore head who craves momentary satisfaction (like alot of my hip-hop listening peers tend to be). But this sucks if you’re into being able to make albums that can be played from front to back and stand the test of time.
In rap news, it’s been no secret that The Bootcamp family, Most notably Black Moon and Smif-N-Wessun, who released their debuts on Nervous Records, had many grievances with the label. Something must have happened that pushed the original drop date of the album back. No label spends money on promo just for the sake of it. I’m guessing the group may have also been stalled by the incarceration of member 5 ft. This apparently lead to Buck helming the project and carrying the weight of it. It’s also clear that he and Dj Evil Dee, who was also 1 half of Bootcamp production team, Da Beatminerz (along with his brother Mr. Walt), went back into the lab to make new material with a more refined sound that made its way onto the album.
Those additions and that little stretch of time was needed. The sprinkles of airy samples and hypnotic instrumentation coupled with Buck’s newfound unique chanty flow helped to break up the monotony of the barrage of Boom-Bap and yelling that floods this LP.
Some of that Boom-Bap and yelling is no doubt Dope, like the high-powered intro that borrows from the popular Busta Rhymes line (“Powerful Impak”). It’s all you can ask for to set a 90’s rap album off. After listening to the second song however, “Niguz Talk Shit” and looking at the names and deliberate spelling of the other song titles, it becomes obvious what school of thought Black Moon was coming from. Straight from the early to mid-90’s East Coast ethic of being unrealistically violent and grim, sounding ready to fight, and having 10 niggas shouting one repeated phrase for a hook, the songs that seem to be from the earlier set of recordings are all about the same thing; representin’. At times, it even sounds like you’re just hearing the same song with a different hook. The beats are mainly murky bass and drum kicks with very little instrumentation on top of it. Similar patterns make them less discernible from each other and this lead to the stamp of the crew having a “BootCamp Sound”.
Thank God for sampling. Once Da Beatminerz tapped into the jazzier side of things, they were able to produce gems like “Shit Iz Real” and the experimentally stripped down and eerie “Slave”. It’s like they found their glory from the “Who Got Da Props” days. The more standout beats encouraged Buck’s more standout flows.
Besides the aforementioned “Niguz Talk Shit”, there’s more clunker moments like “Son Get Wrec”, “Ack Like U Want It” (even tho the beat is pretty ill) and “Make Munne” that sound redundant and as if there was little thought required. 5ft.’s aggressive and forgettable presence on the mic adds to the trite feel. By the time you get to the closing track, “U Da Man” featuring a super young Havoc from Mobb Deep and BootCamp’s resident Whiteboy businessman, Dru Ha, dropping a verse and the N-word, You feel like you’ve been stomped with a Timberland boot for real! Although, It should be noted that Buck murders everyone on here.
But like I said, sometimes the Boom-Bap was just undeniably Dope. On tracks like the song that introduced Tek and Steele as a duo to the world, “Black Smif-N-Wessun”, their presence helps. And on the original “I Got Cha Opin”, you’ll want to press rewind because the knock of it mixes with those soulful elements in an ill and nostalgic way. The title track just adds to that and gives a real 90’s Brooklyn aesthetic.
Basically, the general consensus of this album is that it is definitely a classic. There is no debating that on any grounds. Yet and still, this album is a classic for every other reason than it’s album work. It’s a memorable cover, from a memorable group that launched a memorable crew and label from this point, from a memorable time period in hip-hop and NYC history, from an unforgettable place, with memorable singles….That barely appeared on this album! There’s several songs that are Black Moon legendary jams that are absolutely absent from any printing of this album; Joints like chilly “6 Feet Deep” and the remixes to “Buck ‘Em Down” and “I Got U Opin”. The latter 2 were both presented to the public as singles from this album, sampled from 2 very popular 70’s soul songs, and resonate with all Hip-Hop listeners upon being played. They are usually the main 2 songs that get played whenever Black Moon is brought up or spun by a DJ and are cemented in hip-hop history. They are certified signifiers of Golden Era New York rap; Something that is glorified and idolized in today’s atmosphere.
That’s what this album is Classic for…It held down the Brooklyn spot on the map while Kane was being ousted and Biggie was still honing his craft. They single-handedly represented the entire boro and carried it, encapsulating the spirit and the sound of every hood in King’s County. I remember that feel from my cousins…40 Oz’s, fatigues, book bags, beepers, bats, boots, blunts, guns and Rastafarian culture. It’s Brownesville. It’s East New York. It’s Crown Heights. They were the voice.
As a classic album, it falls so short because they did almost nothing with that voice. All that power, and obviously, they didn’t realize they had it. 5ft constantly rapping about knocking niggas out, or shooting them, Buckshot as well – tho he tried to slip in some maturity on the later recordings. It’s mystifying to hear a guy reference the moon and the still of the night and ask you to “look into the eyes” as he uses a one-of-a-kind cadence to smoothly marry the beat and trance you and then on the next track, he and his partner gun-butt you to death with rah-rah. There’s not even a break here to talk to the ladies! Even Onyx stopped the mad face invasion every now and then to delve into the pleasures of the ‘P’. There’s absolutely no social commentary here or shift of gears. Every song is pretty much about the same thing, and in effect, while the album captures the sound of Brooklyn in that era, it doesn’t take you to Brooklyn. You don’t leave track 14 feeling like you went anywhere but down a trip to memory lane. The time that elapsed between the different recordings is so evident, I could swear you hear them shouting out the years ’91 and ’92 on one or more song . If you like just reliving the Golden Era, then by all means, go ahead…But this is another case of an album being a Classic just because of the memories attached to it.
Having that said, my favorite tracks from the actual album are the original “Buck Em Down”, “Shit Iz Real”, “Slave”
and the song with one of the Dopest beats, titles and scratches ever in rap; “How Many M.C.’s”
Overall, this album gets 4 Candles out of a possible
4, 8, 12 or 16.
4(Classic Just because where it stands in Hip-Hop, whether it be the time of it’s release, it’s influence, or the popularity of it’s singles overall)
8(Classic because it was solid for it’s time, but may be a little dated or less than amazing by today’s standards)
12(Classic as a complete release and probably celebrated widely on the surface, but possibly lacking one key element – be it one song that doesn’t fit, a wack guest appearance, lyrics, lack of depth or beats)
16(Classic all around)
If I could give this album 2 Candles I would because it’s always going to be a Classic, but when you match it up to let’s say another Classic from the same time period such as Illmatic, it just doesn’t seem fair now does it?