Artist: Boot Camp Clik
Album: The Chosen Few
Label: Duck Down
Rating: 8 / 10
Reviewer: DJ MF
I’m not even gonna bother going into the history behind Bootcamp, Duck Down Records, their rise and their fall. Simply put, it’s the blueprint for how great expectations led to great disappointments, which rather than prove to be setbacks (see “Wu-Tang Forever”), instead led to utter and complete destruction of a burgeoning crew and label that looked to be at the forefront of the rap scene in the mid-nineties.
Drop stunning debuts. Get the crowd to a fever pitch. Then drop “For The People” and it’s live instrument based attack, based mostly on guitar twangs and keyboard loops which differ so much from your dark, grimy sound, that original heads that felt you would rather spit on your name than give you another chance. It happened to Canibus too if you don’t recall. But let’s not get into THAT, which deserves it’s own 30 page essay.
“The Chosen Few” is a statement album. After 3 years of being out in the wilderness of independent distribution, with little to no critical or commercial acclaim, the BCC’s latest LP has a very ‘comeback’ feel to it.
That’s nowhere more apparent than on the lead single, and first track of the album, ‘And So’, produced by Curt Cazal. The best cut on the LP, with a basic drum loop, and a gorgeous guitar sample running throughout, in addition to a male sample saying ‘and so’ every couple of bars. Lyrics-wise, this is the best you’ve heard from most of these heads since the mid-nineties, with the emotion in the lyrics coming through in a massive sense, especially Buckshot who absolutely rips the mic to shreds, killing his detractors with some scathing lines…
“Fuck everything you’ve been told
Shit like Buck ain’t ever went gold
He ain’t ever had a platinum hit
He on that underground backpack rapping shit”
Unfortunately the next couple of tracks on the LP, ‘Let’s Get Down 2 Bizness’ with production by the Alchemist, and ‘Let’s Roll’ with production by Baby Paul fail to recreate that magic. With the former, it’s solely the fault of Alchemist with a far too repetitive beat that fails to interest AT ALL. Guess he keeps the good stuff for P and Havoc. Combine the beat with similar content to ‘And So’, and you’ll be hoping that the rest of the album isn’t just a bitch-fest at the record industry.
With the latter, you get a bouncy faster paced joint that will remind you a little of ‘Destroy and Rebuild’ from Nas’ latest, coincidentally enough produced by the Beatminerz. This could probably rock a club with the jumpy bassline, and the running synth sound keeps things interesting. It’s just that the whole thing sounds a little too derivative and begging for radio play for my liking.
After the missteps, dopeness returns with ‘Welcome to Bucktown USA’ featuring the vocal stylings of Scratch from the Roots, and production by Coptic. Now THIS is a return to the roots, no pun intended. The track will remind you of a brighter “Dah Shinin'” cut, with Scratch expertly adding in his contribution over the lazy feeling piano keys,harp strings, and female voice sample. Just a great chill song. Everything is amplified further by the the underrated Steele, who shows just how integral he is to the BCC with a crazy nice verse taking it back to his old days.
A little harder edge follows with ‘That’s Tough’, produced by Bink!. Over a pounding bassline, and little else, Tek, Sean P,Buck, and Starang tear apart the song with, well, not exactly ‘conscious’ lyrics. It’s all good though, as Starang in particular is great at telling the ‘finding a girl at the club’ story type rhymes (see his ‘It’s A Game’ single). It’s also notable that it appears that Buck has done away with his ‘BDI Thug’ style of rapping which took the style of Tupac with little of the substance. That’s a GOOD thing.
Following a short skit, we get to another of the better cuts on the album, ‘Had It Up 2 Here’ produced by the Beatminerz, and featuring Ruck’s brother, Illa Noyz. This is another one of those ‘venting’ tracks, much like ‘Let’s Get Down 2 Bizness’ was, but unlike that one, it takes a different spin on things, and it doesn’t hurt that the beat provided is dirty as fuck. A refined Beatminerz sound that harkens back to their past, but with a definitely dope twist. A buzzing organ over classic dirty Minerz drums, and the entire Clik dropping great rhymes, ranging from being pissed off at over-eager fans and fake radio DJ’s(hmm, I wonder who???), to Starang’s proclamations that the BCC are back. A dope track.
The B-side to ‘And So’, ‘Whoop His Ass’ comes next, and it’s a track that has taken a LOT of time to grow on me. The beat, by The Producers Coalition of America sounds like a reject from the “BDI Thug” by Buckshot. That’s a BAD thing. The chorus needs a lot of work. Yet the frantic energy of the track gets a little addicting with time, led once again by Buckshot, who so far on the first half of the album is showing that he just might be past the valley in his career… bias speaking? Probably, but maybe not.
Another Beatminerz track, ‘Daddy Wanna’ slows things up once again, and once again, the Minerz show why they and the BCC should never be removed from each other’s presence again. A simple enough beat, but it’s the lyrics that’ll get your attention. I’ve been a BCC fan for a long time, and I’ve never heard them open up like they do here. Each MC on the track drops rhymes about their relationship with their babies, and the mothers of their babies. Sean P in particular shines on this track, detailing the strife in his relationship, and instead of doing the predictable ‘smack his bitch up’ routine, putting a twist on things.
Guest production returns with ‘Ice Skate’, this time with Hi-Tek of all people behind the boards. Last having worked with Buckshot on his debut LP, Hi-Tek give the Clik’s a HORRIBLY mismatched track to work with. It’s not the instrumental really – the bassline is actually pretty nice, as are the staccato snares. It’s the absolutely brutal, horrible, smelly, dirty, disgusting female chorus sample/whatever. It doesn’t work at all. And the real disappointing thing is that it overshadows what would otherwise be some really dope verses by Sean P and Buckshot.
‘Just Us’ follows, with a very blah beat provided by TY Deals. It’s not bad, it’s not good. It’s just there. Another strong showing by the Clik saves the track, although just barely, as Tek steals the show with some dope lines running down the ‘me against the world’ philosophy.
A smile came to my face when I saw the liners for ‘Think Back’. JAHDAN! Yes! BCC has always been dope when it’s come to reggae/hip hop fusions, and ‘Think Back’ keeps the tradition going. A funky bassline over some nice scratches provided by the Minerz, with Buckshot, Sean P, Tek, and Steele all reminiscing about their early days in music- from children on the streets listening to the beginnings of hip hop, onto the early nineties and their ascent in the game. If you can’t feel this track, I feel for you.
The album closes with the title track, with Coptic once again behind the boards, and once again he doesn’t disappoint with another effort that exudes feeling, with some nice horn stabs, and a deep piano sample. Another head nodder, and a nice end to a pretty solid album.
A couple more things – a nice surprise on this album is that on the majority of the tracks, you’ll find ALL seven of the MC’s in the crew. A nice bonus considering many larger crews (Wu I’m speaking of you) tend to focus too often on 2 or 3 of their members. Another pleasant surprise is that although there are a LOT of producers on this LP, much like Cage’s “Movies For The Blind”, “The Chosen Few” sounds very cohesive (Ice Skate notwithstanding).
You know, it’s funny sometimes. Replace “For The People” with “The Chosen Few” and the landscape of hip hop MIGHT be different from what it is today. Bah, who am I joking? Puffy woulda still reigned supreme.
But on the real, while “The Chosen Few” is by no means a perfect album, it is a very good release, and a nice stepping stone for the BCC to get some name recognition again, apart from being ‘the crew that fell off’. Whether or not they can be considered ‘back’ will probably be decided by the 3rd Black Moon album, the Starang solo, and the Sean Price solo, but this is definitely a good, and necessary start.