REVIEW: Black Moon – Warzone

Warzone

Artist: Black Moon

Album: Warzone

Label: Duck Down

Rating: 8.5 / 10

Reviewer: DJ MF

Many say it was the Wu that brought hip hop back to its grimy roots in the early nineties. I beg to differ.

Black Moon was the group that began the east coast rejuvenance of the early nineties. Their debut LP, “Enta Da Stage” reinvented hip hop, while still respectfully recalling the early years of the genre. I remember being blown away by the album at the time, and just fiending and fiending for more of the same, which I got when Smif N Wessun dropped their debut LP. But that’s an opinion for another day.

After the release and success of “Enta Da Stage”, the group, which consists of Buckshot, 5 Foot, and DJ Evil Dee of Da Beatminerz, encountered a grip of legal problems with their label at the time, Wreck (Nervous Records). The problems were so bad, that the label, which owned EVERYTHING by the trio, refused to let them even use the name Black Moon on future releases, seeing as how they were now signed to Duck Down (Buckshot and Dru Ha’s label).

Finally in 1999, things were settled. A settlement was agreed upon where Black Moon got to use any and all of their music recorded for Wreck, PLUS use the name. Joyous shouts were heard throughout the world. The result? “Warzone”.

It’s hard to follow up on a crappy first release, so one can imagine how difficult and pressure filled the recording sessions were for this LP. However, the basics were still there, including a more mature Buckshot, and the still dope production talents of Evil Dee. While this album didn’t blow up by any means, I think it’s severely overlooked. There’s not much tangibly different between this and their debut in terms of production values. If anything, production is NICER on “Warzone”. The problem, as everyone else in the Bootcamp Clik found out, was that hip hop had passed on by the grimy sound of the early nineties, and was, and currently is, embroiled in a love for hook driven tracks.

Let’s enter the stage…

1) Intro
Things kick off with an intro reminiscent of early Wu material, with a movie sample overlaid brilliantly on a great flute sample.

2) Onslaught feat. Busta Rhymes
And then things get REALLY psycho. This is the track that almost made me wet myself when I first heard it. It’s completely different from anything Black Moon has ever done, but it still maintains that dark, gritty sound, while espousing some incredible production skill. The bulk of the rhythm for the song is an absolutely haunting and soaring organish sound that may or not be a vocal sample as well. It’s hard to describe. When the bass drops, about 30 seconds in, you FEEL it, and the drum kicks that the Minerz use are vintage. Busta is relegated to chorus duty here, and does it well. The 5 Footer is MIA for this track, but Buck more than makes up for it, with his raggedy flow, albeit a little slower than what you may have come to expect from him. Topic matter? Black Moon is BACK – that simple. Just a brilliant track overall. I’m still shocked to this day that this track in particular didn’t explode more than it did.

“Buck spread love like the Pope, but I never spread false hope
I bring the bomb squad close, rock you with a dose of TNT
Niggaz ain’t believe in me?
I’m comin back for all them niggaz who be thievin me”

3) Warzone
Another track that was receiving massive mixtape play before the album was even released. This is vintage Beatminerz ish here, with a very simple rubbery bassline, and some water drops noises with an echo effect. The original version I heard of this had Rock of Heltah Skeltah doing the chorus. This doesn’t. Instead, they’ve removed the chorus and replaced it with the sound of someone scanning the radio. 5 Foot shows up here, and kills his verses, although it’s safe to say he won’t ever win “multisyllablist of the year”. Just a menacing overall track, where the production and lyrics mesh almost perfectly.

“Take a closer look at who ya see
No its not a mirage its the Five F-T
Finally
Here to make my mark
Rhymes in out of the dark in my fatigue with the dutch”

4) This Is What It Sounds Like(Worldwind)
The hits keep coming, and thus far, this album has been near perfect. The production here sounds STRONGLY influenced by music from the middle east, with a haunting flute sample, and some sitar like chords being strummed. The end effect is a laid back beat that’s just smoked out. A nice touch is that throughout the song, you get a wind sample, simulating the “worldwind” referred to in the lyrics. 5 Footer is absent once again, but Buck represents beautifully once again, and the maturation of his style is evident on this track. Sure he’s still doing the braggadacio stuff, but there’s messages about life and death in there too- something lacking in the mostly battle raps found on “Enta Da Stage”.

“Buck flow with the speed of a bobsled
Bust lead to the head plus I stay red
Everytime I think about the dead
I think about what Makaveli said
Fight for the one’s who bled
And this MC shit
We agree shit got outta hand
But they aint stop the plan”

5) Freestyle
Basically what the title says it is, although I’m not sure if it’s a REAL freestyle. A dope old-school and super bass heavy beat, complete with record pops and scratchiness, accompanies Buck on a pure battle rap. The effect they were going for here I think was a “live” track done in the studio. It sounds dope, and raw as hell. Some nice cuts by Evil Dee in there too.

“A lot of niggas are jealous of Buckshot [say what?]
I hear it everyday on my block
I heard you did an album with 2Pac
Yeah muthafucka, Thug-a-Don till I drop
And what not, watch the spot get blown
Two heads flown, can’t stop me now muthafucka
I’m in the zone Baby you ready to go home, cuz I’m ready to bone
The don king of rap sittin on the throne”

6) Five (Interlude)
A skit, and one that after you’ve heard it once, you never will again, but it’s still good. The point of it? It’s an excerpt of an interview where Buck, Evil Dee and 5 Foot talk about their 5 year absence from the game. Interesting stuff.

7) For All Y’All (feat. Heather B.)
Another track that sounds like it could be straight off of “Enta Da Stage”, with better production values of course. 5 Footer is back, and this is basically a solo track for him, as Buck is nowhere to be found. A great fast paced beat, laced with a dope vocal sample (For all y’all), and a bumpin bass line. It gets interesting in the second verse, as an electronic tinge effect is added to the bassline, giving the track a completely different sound. Great production here. As stated above, 5 Footer ain’t the best MC, but he comes off admirably here, with a TON of intensity, as he just attacks the mic. Heather B. does nothing of note except talk a little on the chorus by the way.

“This be a little something
For those who do not know me
Like number 23 Chicago Bulls
You cannot hold me
It’s as if, tryin to grab a ni**a that’s smothered on fire
Hot every night, elevation be my sole desire
See my, will and determination is out of this atmosphere
For 25 years, I’ve shedded the sweat, blood, plus the tears
Makin me get to a man that walk the surf with no fear”

8) Come Get Some feat. Louieville Slugga
Louieville of Bootcamp group OGC guests on this track, probably the most laid back one on the LP. A simple driving bassline, interspersed with some light bells, and a great little guitar lick that comes in every little bit. This is just raw on the vocal tip, as Lou and Buck just call out all pretenders to the throne. Nothing new, but it sounds dope.

“Fire one, Buckshot, comin with a gun
Fire two, Buckshot, blast at you
Actin like you solid with ya plastic crew
Schemin on my nigga L-O-U, who the hell are you?
What? you think I’ma talk and flap
Fuck the chit-chat, man I should’ve have been put this in your back
You ain’t have to act like that
But you did, now I’m bout to aim for ya wig”

9) Weight of the World
Ah, we finally reach a bit of a letdown. The production lets down a touch here. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just that it’s not up to the level that the Beatminerz have made us all expect from them. Just a simple beat, with a weird whistle sample thrown in. Kinda boring.For the first time on the album, things get a little introspective as well, as Buck and 5 Foot talk about all the stress they have in their lives. Thing is, their flows sound kinda boring here, which is a shame, since the lyrics themselves are on point. 1 bad track out of 9 ain’t nothing to cry about though.

“Got all these stressed out ni**as with firearms
Prepare, get ready they about to bomb
First one hit usually an innocent civillian
Shot by the elevator dead up in the building I’m illin’ off the chill I got
Through my spine last night when I heard the shot
Took flight, cause I know that the Gods is right
Telling me you gonna make it when there’s hard in life”

10) Evil Dee Is On The Mix
Just a DJ interlude, in the style of many old school LP’s. Evil Dee drops a minute long, peaceful beat, with some subtle sound effects thrown in. Soothing, and the record pops makes it sound even better. I’m such a sucker for analog.

11) Showdown feat. Q-Tip
The final part of the triumvirate that was making the mixtape rounds before the release of the LP. You can also hear this track on Funk Flex’s Volume 3 mixtape. A simple beat, with a funky bassline, highlighted by the use of a cool electronic sample that sounds straight out of an action movie. Q-Tip is relegated to the chorus here, and Buck is the sole lyricist, as the subject matter is basically, “have a good time” ish. Bouncy, danceable, but in the end, nothing too special. Average.

“Now what be the shit that make them niggas think
When they ship come in, they ship won’t sink
Everybody you meet on your way up, you meet down
So if you burn a bridge how you gonna cross town
Think about it now and cry later
A mothafuckin money maker so I die greater”

12) One-Two
Dope production returns, with an interesting beat once more. Some ill cuts to start off, and this electic buzz that comes in and out. The bulk of the song is made up by a slow flowing bassline, and a guitar chord sample that reminds me of the ‘Soul On Ice’ remix beat done by Diamond D. If you listen on some good speakers or headphones, you’ll also hear a soaring score in the deep background. It’s very low in volume though. The chorus is a headnodder too, with various vocal samples of “one-two” cut up over each other. Sounds great. Vocals are strictly battle rap, thug ish again, but as I always say, it’s all about the style. And Buck and even 5 Foot come correct on that aspect for this track.

“Thru the mist of the black smoke
One toke, take a hit, inhale in some real ill sh*t
What you about to deal with is the worst in here
I’m 5 foot 4, raw little nightmare
Givin heavy not a light stare
Concentrate to hit my target on sight
Now who gonna get it tonight”

13) Frame feat. Cocoa Brovaz
One of my favorite overall tracks on the LP, probably due to the fact that it’s so different in feel from the rest. On the production tip, a super funky bassline is used over various vocal samples, and the hard drums we’ve all grown to love from the Minerz. It’s that simple. The bass line is the treat though. It just sounds so good. I’m sure it’s probably sampled from somewhere, but I ain’t gonna look, so find out for yourselves. 🙂 Buck and the Cocoa B’s use the track to tell you how they’re gonna “shake your frame”, which although I’m not up to date on all my NY slang, I’ll assume means, “beat you up”. Since the days of “Dah Shinin” and “Enta Da Stage”, these two crews have had great chemistry, and it’s maintained here in brilliant fashion. Their voices just complement each other nicely.

“All of sudden y’all killas
Cuz you got a little size
Sold a little wiz and you did a little time
I still get scribes from my ni**as inside
A Zar, E Bo and my brother Jahard
Out in Texas corrections I’m known as Smif-N-Wessun
Cuz I’d rather have a gat, then get caught with no protection
Cuz I still school a dike, just like they was a-horrors
And ride dirty with my mans in a tinted up Taurus”

14) Buckshot (Interlude)
Another interlude, this time an interview with Buck, talking about the 5 year layoff. Dope the first time, after that, useless.

15) Two Turntables & A Mic
One of the official singles from the LP, and probably the most radio-friendly in terms of beats. Evil Dee takes the famous ‘Buddy’ bassline beat by Native Tongues, and uses it for the track, adding an atmospheric sound in the background, and various ill scratches. The end is notable too, as Evil Dee adds a disgustingly nice guitar solo lick. It sounds great, and they do a classic beat justice. Buck is in especially fine form here, as his flow matches the beat perfectly, and he’s sounding circa 1993. A fun track.

“Commercial rap get the gun clap
Buckshot, original mack I’m takin it back
Back, back to when the wack used to play loafer
Carryin equiptment, nowadays they gettin over
Sayin it’s another form of hip-hop
But get dropped with the ball, back and talk when you walk
At night, whenever I stomp I can feel the hawk”

16) Annihilation feat. M.O.P.
Resident NYC wildmen M.O.P. guest on this track, which includes only 5 Foot from Black Moon. Want hype? This would be it, just like you’d expect from the Mash Out Posse clique. It’s a dark menacing beat, and sounds like it’d be at home in one of those old monster movies (ie. Godzilla) with its minor tones and intermittent bells. Great stuff by Evil Dee. In terms of a Black Moon track, this is a good M.O.P. track. 5 Foot tries, but can’t keep up with the illness of Danz and Fame. Don’t get it twisted though, the song is still tight, but 5 Foot comes off like one of M.O.P.’s younger brothers here.

“Now strap on your seatbelt, get ready for blast off
We on the crash course, mission from the moon
Fuck a passport, I’m intergalactic
Get thru this bent and gin for my him, and then bury the hatchet
Fuck it, no games, stuck with Teflon, 5, Billy & Fame
Recognize the muthafuckin name”

17) Duress
Another dope track. I’m getting tired of typing that. Laid back production here, with a mournful organ stab, and a bassline that’s accentuate by some electronic blip effects, and intermittent scratches by Evil Dee. The vocals are the treat here, as Buck is lamenting the hardships in his life. It’s not often Buck comes direct like this, so this is an unexpected pleasure.

“I used to want a Beemer, I used to want a Benz
One thing that I never wanted was fake friends in the end
I knew that ones that stuck by me be, was the ones that see me
On the streets, not TV
It’s an everyday, it’s an all day
Devils and the cops will get me in the hallway
Hopes drop me in the for slay
Around the third, because I’m about to blow
And be the shit, my word
I don’t give a fuck, I ain’t trying to quit at all
Even if my back is up against the wall, I brawl
It’s a struggle in life, and it struggles the game”

18) Throw Your Hands In The Air
A nice guitar lick starts things off, and continues throughout. It sounds west coastish even. Very smooth and very clean and laid back. This is the type of song you’d listen to while you sit on your deck sippin a beer. The vocals follow the same line, even though the title of the track would make you think “party track”. It’s all relaxing, and it’s almost like Black Moon are putting you to bed after the ride they’ve given you on the album. My fave part of the track is the historical rundown by Buck of the entire Duckdown family. Great stuff, and a solid ending to the LP.

“The bomb was set to be loose
In a couple of minutes, don’t be alarmed
It’s a hands on experience, throw your hands up
Let us, the bettors, niggas put your grands up
What you about to see is reality, baby
Check the stats, and see if you can hang with me
Black Moon, 92, was set to blow
Smif ‘n Wessun ’93 and ’94
Fab 5, ’95, and nigga we strive
To keep it tight and keep this Duckdown shit alive
Ain’t no surprise, my niggas put the “real” in “ize.”
You better open up your motherfuckin’ eyes”

19) Outro feat. Rock
Dammit. The notable thing about this is that the outro is the chorus I was talking about for the track ‘Warzone’ which had Rock doing it originally. They’ve included it here. I still have no freakin idea why they didn’t leave it in the song. Oh well.

So that’s that. Like I said above, this album was overlooked by heads in a criminal way. The production is still super tight, and Buck still showed he had skills. It’s a pity really. There really isn’t anything BAD on this album, which at 19 tracks, is a miracle of sorts, especially with hip hop today. Furthermore, there’s guests, but apart from the M.O.P. track, they’re relegated to chorus duty, making this almost a pure Black Moon/BCC release… another rarity in hip hop today.

MF recommends this highly. Cop this.

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