Artist: DJ Red Alert
Album: Beats, Rhymes & Battles Vol. 1
Rating: 9 / 10
Reviewer: A to the L
With the tragic deaths of Biggie Smalls and 2pac still fresh in the memory, and the ominous clouds gathering over the current Jay-Z / Nas / Jadakiss beef, it may be difficult for some people to remember back to the days when battles were kept on stage and on wax, and never spilled over into violence. When the object of battling was to show your skills, to prove you were better than the opponent – not to remind everyone how big your gun collection is.
Thank God then for DJ Red Alert. The Hiphop pioneer has dug through the crates to come up with a compilation-come-mixtape-come-audio-documentary aimed at showing the world how it was back in the day.
Some of the most legendary battle rhymes and diss records in Hiphop history have been pulled from Red’s crates and mixed together to create “Beats, Rhymes & Battles Volume 1”. Each little “episode” is introduced by Red Alert, who drops some wisdom and knowledge on the artists involved in each battle, and how the battle came about.
The first “episode” is the infamous Roxanne wars – UTFO versus Roxanne Shante versus The Real Roxanne. Sparked by the interest in UTFO’s ‘Roxanne Roxanne’ cut, a 16 year old Roxanne Shante launched her career with the venomous ‘Roxanne’s Revenge’ – setting herself up as the lady mentioned in the UTFO song, she proceeded to belittle each of the members one by one. The waters muddied as The Real Roxanne stepped onto the scene vowing that she was the TRUE Roxanne, and that Ms Shante was the fake. Sounds a bit schoolyard now, doesn’t it? But back in the days this was one of the first battles on wax that grabbed everyone’s attention.
Next up is the “Bridge Wars” between Boogie Down Productions and MC Shan. Anyone who claims to be into Hiphop should have heard some of these cuts and know the history already. Needless to say, ‘The Bridge’, ‘South Bronx’, ‘Kill That Noise’, and ‘South Bronx’ are all on here, and still sounding fresh.
LL Cool J used to be dope. Anyone remember that? No? Maybe ‘Jack The Ripper’ can remind you. LL’s stinging rebuke to Kool Moe Dee’s ‘How Ya Like Me Now’ is arguably one of the greatest battle / bragging rhymes ever recorded. Also on here in LL’s ‘To Da Break Of Dawn’ another (slightly weaker) cut directed at Moe Dee, Ice T, and MC Hammer. In between, Red Alert explains the history of the rivallry and some exclusive behind the scenes information that a lot of people might not have been aware of.
The last few tracks are ones where not everyone may be aware of the history behind them. Doug E Fresh and Slick Rick’s ‘The Show’ is instantly recognisable, but how many people knew that Salt N Pepa made a battle track called ‘Show Stopper’ calling Doug and Rick out.
The final couple of tracks has us going back to the females – Antoinette versus MC Lyte. Another not so well known rivallry that spawned a couple of bangin’ tracks.
This is a nice package – the thought behind it is good, the tracks are top quality, and Red Alert’s expert commentary make it a great buy. The only downside is that some older heads may be put off due to the fact that they have some or most of these joints already. (I actually have them all!) Neverless its good to have them all in one place, and for younger listeners, its a great way to dip in your toe in the old school waters.