Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Albums You Should Own: Smif-N-Wessun - Dah Shinin' (Boot Camp Clik Week: Part II)
I'm not quite sure why it took me to my senior year of college to discover the pleasures of Smif-N-Wessun's brooding opus, Dah Shinin'. I am certainly fan of hardcore rap (especially New York hardcore rap) that ear-fucks your occipital lobes to a bloody and mucous-y pulp. I always marginally liked Buckshot stemming from his legendary performance in the Top-10 greatest hip hop songs ever, "Crooklyn Dodgers". Hell, I'm even a big fan of one Mr. Jack Nicholson so you would figure an album named after his career-defining tour de force performance in "The Shining" was bound to strike my considerable fancy. I just never listened to it. I guess I was too busy wasting my time listening to post-Forever Wu-Tang solo albums, drinking copious amounts of the devil's spirits and failing spectacularly to get laid. (You know, what any respectable collegiate does.) When I did finally get around to listening to Tek and Steele regale my prurient earlobes with their dark tales of the criminal justice and ghetto violence, I was understandably both amped and extremely annoyed with myself. How could I have slept-on an album so undeniably dope? I pride myself on being enough of authority on hip hop that I can comment within reason on every major American rap artist of the past twenty years (except oddly enough Spice-1 who I still have not heard, to this day, a single song from his discography... And don't really plan to, either.). I thought to myself all of the pleasurable times that could have made better if I had a lil' Cocoa Brovaz in my life and I wept. I wept that day and have not completely forgiven myself since...but such as life.
Seriously though, Smif-N-Wessun's Dah Shinin' is one of the best hip hop albums of all-time. It combines Tek and Steele's undeniable lyrical chemistry with some of the darkest and jazziest beats that Boot Camp Clik's venerable producers, Da Beatminerz, ever concocted. The album is an exercise in understated lyricism and production. Tek and Steele are underrated emcees whose chemistry makes them one of the most inseparable duos in all of hip hop. Their vocals swirl around and twist in and out of each other's verse to allow each emcee to play off each other's rhyme. Neither of them are particularly memorable emcees on their own but each verse they lay is vital to the songs and allow them to form something greater than their own. You don't wanna hear Tek without Steele or vice versa. What's also so remarkable is how well they work within Da Beatminerz' dark production. Dah Shinin' is full of pounding gutter drums, horn loops and sounds as if it's early Tribe Called Quest's twisted younger cousin. It's not the jazzy cool of Q-Tip but rather a marauding jazzy menace that permeates the record and adds a stark gravitas to Smif-N-Wessun's lyrics. It's just very dope.
What also is so great about the album is that it literally has no filler. The record works from front to end and is loaded with great and classic songs. "Bucktown", "Sound Bwoy Burriell", "Wontime" & "Let's Git It On" are all stone-cold east-coast rap classics that belong with the best that Nas, Jay-Z, Wu-Tang or Biggie ever crafted. The songs are cold and stark and feel as if you can see the frost on your window pane. This album feels as if it were meant to be the soundtrack for those cold, rainy nights where the world seems to be on the verge of collapsing. Heltah Skeltah-assisted "Wontime", with it's pulsating sirens and strings, is my personal anthem for when I'm feeling down and out and just don't give a fuck. It helps me deal.
Ultimately, Smif-N-Wessun were never able to match the intensity of their debut so in a sense, it never got it's deserved "Reasonable Doubt-if-cation" where an over-looked album gets placed in the canon because the artist becomes a star. Smif-N-Wessun just couldn't put it together like that, again. As it stands, Dah Shinin' is one of the great under-rated minor classics in hip hop but it deserves better. All heads wrekonize!
Smif-N-Wessun - Bucktown
Smif-N-Wessun - Wrekonize (Remix)