The elite of the masses were scooped up by the major labels of the period and promised prosperity beyond their wildest dreams. Fame and fortune certainly seemed to be on the horizon of these would-be conquerors of music but troubled times lay ahead. The heinous evil known as Southern rap soon began to dominate the charts and the labels forgot about these promising rappers. Few released albums. Saigon signed with Just Blaze but became a victim to Just’s insatiable desire to sit on his ass and play video games. Papoose signed with Jive and soon learned that yes, the crackers don’t play ‘em fair. Joell Ortiz signed with Dr. Dre and soon learned that Dre rampantly does not give a fuck, anymore. Those that did release an album like Cassidy and Fabolous quickly learned that (they were the same damn rapper) lame punchlines and half-assed R. Kelly guest appearances are not the formula for success. Not with Lloyd Banks freely stealing their gimmick and making shitty records with it on G-Unit. The world slowly passed these men by and soon record labels became focused on ruining the careers of hipster rappers and other assorted flash in the pans. The few that survived went to Koch were doomed to work with Sheek Louch and rap over the corpse of 9th Wonder’s beats for the rest of eternity. Clearly, it was a time of great despair and hope was something that dared not bear it’s head.
Boston’s Termanology has managed to break this self-defeating cycle and his debut album, “Politics As Usual”, is really, really good. “Politics As Usual” is a ‘90s East Coast throwback album in the truest sense. It has that classic jazzy but gritty New York sound and intricate rapping that made East Coast rap the greatest brand of hip hop ever. That in itself isn’t necessarily enough to make an east coast rap worth a damn these days. There are plenty of vaguely generic, east coast hardcore rap albums being released these days but they all sound like an approximate of what the scene used to sound like. Producers like Statik Selektah, Jake One, 9th Wonder, and Marco Polo have all been attempting to capture the classic New York sound for years now and while in their defense, they have come up with some memorable beats some of the times, the music they make just sounds forced at times It’s a little too clean, the chopped samples are little too precise, and the vibe just seems a little off. What sets Term’s album apart is that the album sounds authentically ‘90s and that is no little part due to the production line-up. Termanology has got the production line-up that Nas should have been working for years. The creme de la creme, the fuckin’ elite of classic east coast rap production is all here! DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Large Professor, Easy Mo Bee, Buckwild, Havoc, The Alchemist, and Hi-Tek all show up on this record and turn out records that clearly were produced in ‘98 because none of them have sounded this good in years. Most surprising is Primo who hasn’t turned a memorable beat since at least ‘01 demolishes his three productions on the album (“Watch How It Goes Down”, “So Amazing”, “How We Rock”). “Watch How It Goes Down”, the album’s heart stopping opener, may in fact be the best beat Primo has produced since “Moment Of Truth” and for Term’s part, he absolutely couldn’t have used the beat better. The song is fierce and thrilling in ways that you forgot good east coast rap scene. I can’t really understate how amazing that song is.
And while the production is what’s really distinctive about this album, it’s not like Termanology is a slouch on the mic. For his part, Term has a wicked flow and while at times, his writing falls clearly within some of the cliches of New York rap as he dwells too often on a generic sense of the struggle, tales of drug dealing and crime life, Term is more than a capable rapper and when he wants to be, his delivery and energy more than makes up for it. I wish in some sense, he would escape some of modes of hardcore rap because if he does, this album could have been REALLY something special.
While the album is quite strong and doesn’t have any joints that really stick out as bad, the three songs produced by Nottz (“Please Don’t Go”, “Float”, and “Drugs, Crime & Gorillaz”) all feel a little too G-Unity for my tastes and could have all pretty much left on the cutting room floor with nary a complaint from me. They’re not bad tracks per se but they sound out of place on album that sounds authentically throwback and take away some of the vibe.
If we are to rate, the success of the elite of the ‘00s New York mixtape scene that the leaders of this movement has thus far. We would have to give Saigon a C plus for failing to release an album but releasing some half decent singles, Joell Ortiz, a solid B for his album “The Brick” but also for getting dropped from Aftermath, fuckin’ Papoose gets a G minus (and that's perhaps being too light on that clown shoes) for doing everything possible to ruin any faith that the man is capable of not sounding like a bad Big L rip-off (the somewhat underrated and unfairly critically maligned verse on the “Touch It (Remix)” aside), and Termanology gets an A minus for releasing an actual real-life album that lives up to the hype. If this album proves anything, it’s still possible to make a damn good album with the people that made the Bible. (Nasir, for the love of god, calls these people now!!!) One question remains though... Who the fuck is Terma fuckin’ nology blowing that got all these men to produce his album?!?!