"Send emcees to he in squads of three..."
A wise man once said, a Guru if you will, that when it comes to rapping it's "mostly the voice" that separates the ill from the "eww." This, of course, is ironic because the man who said this has been known to put his fair share of the music listening public to sleep with the sweet dulcet sounds of his infamous montone delivery. However, I think in this particular case we can all agree with Guru and agree that your voice is one of the most important weapons in an emcee's aresnal.
And why shouldn't it be? The essence of a rapper's job is to literally talk over some music so if the rapper is going to make an impression than the voice had better be memorable. A great voice can elevate a mediocre lyricist into a great rapper and a nasally whine can sabatoge a great lyricist into a weed carrier. Ol' Dirty Bastard is probably one of the most infamous beneficiaries of this phenonemon. If you actually read the content of Dirt McGirt's lyrics, you realize he ain't all that particularly special but Russell Jones was born with gravelly yet high pitched bark that when combined with his unorthodox crooning delivery made him a star. When it comes to hip hop, the voice is everything.
There is one voice in hip hop, however, that never quite got it's just due and that is Rock of Heltah Skeltah. Heltah Skeltah released two albums before they broke up in the early 2000s, 1996's underrated masterpiece, Nocturnal, and 1998's disappointing and unfocused Magnum Force. On both of those records, Rock was star of the show using his gravelly baritone growl to great effectiveness that outshined the other members of the mighty Boot Camp Clik on everything he touched. If you ask me, Rock is the most talented member in the entirety of the Boot Camp Clik which is saying alot considering that the collective includes the much more famous Buckshot and even Rock's own parter-in-rhyme, Sean Price. Rock's growl could be channeled on the show-stopping and sober single, "Therapy", where Rock takes the lead and waxes contemplative about his dark psychological issues or he could unleash the beast like on the classic left-field banger, "Leflaur Leflah Eskoshka" and rip lesser emcees apart. He eats everbody alive on that song. Rock also had a penchant for memorable hooks that launched great songs into the stratosphere. In a brief memorable appearance on Smif-N-Wessun's classic "Wontine", Rock provides the sweeping, dark chorus that defines that song. It's no mystery why so many of the Boot Camp Clik members called on him to handle the chorus of their songs. He's their Method Man.
Rock was a star-in-the-making that never got a chance to shine on his own. After Heltah Skeltah broke up, Rock had an ill-fated solo album entitled Planet Rock that was never released to due label issues and in the meantime his former partner, Sean Price, released two extremely well-received underground solo albums and became the go-to indie rapper of the moment for those who were seeking instant hardcore credibility. This is kind of ironic because although, Sean Price was a still a strong rapper on Heltah Skeltah's early stuff, it was clear that Rock was the star of the show. Rock, meanwhile, languished in-developmental hell and never got a chance to shine on his own.
These days, Heltah Skeltah have re-united and plan to release their first new album in ten years this summer on Duck Down Records so we can discover if Ruck and Rock still have the chemistry they had so much of ten years-ago. Price has grown leaps and bounds as an artist since then and if Rock can bring it like he used to then we might get something out of it. That's assuming 9th Wonder has nothing to do with it. Where are the Beatminerz these days, anyway?
Heltah Skeltah - Operation Lockdown