REVIEW: Crunk Classics

Crunk Classics

Artist: Various

Album: Crunk Classics

Label: TVT Records

Rating: 8 / 10

Reviewer: A to the L

Its the buzz word of the last year and a bit… EVERYONE and their mother is intent on “gittin’ crunk”, “keepin’ it crunk”, “puttin’ crunk in their system” – I’m sure you’ve realised this by now yourself. Now TVT Records, home of probably THE most famous face of crunk music, and self-proclaimed “King Of Crunk”, Lil Jon, has decided to capitalize on the hype, and has released this handy little audio look back at the origins of the music that makes you wanna throw some chairs around.

Surprisingly Lil Jon only features on this compilation once – at least this shows that TVT are at least true to their claim of attempting to trace the origin of crunk, which most people agree not only started well before Jon was on the scene, but also came not from the ATL, but lower down the map – in Memphis, Houston, and Miami.

Most of these tracks you’ll probably have a passing knowledge of, whether you’re hip to the crunk ‘scene’ or not. Its also reasonable to assume that even if you’ve never heard Three 6 Mafia, Trick Daddy, UGK, or JT Money, if you’re a Hiphop fan worth your salt, you’ll at least know OF them. So for the uninitiated, this is a chance to pick up some classic dirty south tunes all in one place, as opposed to firing up Kazaa or WinMX and waiting sixteen days to get decent copies of half of em.

Three 6 Mafia kick the compilation off with ‘Tear Da Club Up” – this track (from their debut album “Mystic Styles”) was the one that broke them to a wider-than-local audience, and established Memphis, TN as a hotbed of southern talent (most of which came out of the Three-6- Mafia stable). Over a crawling interpolation of LL’s ‘Bad’, the addictive chant-along chorus drums its way into your brain as the Mafia lay down the blueprint for Southern thug music – violent and often misogynistic yrics and every drug and alcohol stereotype known to man over a backing track that literally makes your teeth vibrate in your head. It ain’t hard to link the work of Lil Jon and co back to the Mafia – these cats ARE the pioneers.

From there, Miami’s Trick Daddy drops ‘Shut Up’, another southern anthem that features him trading verses with Trina over an evil, evil, evil brass loop, before ‘Bia Bia’ see’s Lil Jon rowdily urge Chyna Whyte & Too Short to spit their verses nailing haters and fakers as “bia-(tches).”

Those who remember the “Menace II Society” flick and / or the soundtrack might well recall the UGK’s ‘Pocket Full Of Stones’. First featured on what, to date, is still Larenz Tate’s best outing on celluloid, this ode to slanging raised interest at the time mainly due to the bluesy feel of the beat, and the whining incorporation of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers into the hook. Whether this could be classified as crunk is another matter though – the vibe on this track is more likely to have you searching for a chair to put a pillow on and sit down, than to pick it up and throw it at someone’s head.

Hitman Sammy Sam’s ‘Knuckle Up’ is another sleeper hit from the south that those above the North Carolina state line may not have even heard. Admirable in that Sam urges people in the club to stop the violence and shooting in the clubs, and instead to settle their differences with um… violence and fisticuffs, ‘Knuckle Up’ is an addictive addition to the crunk hall of fame. So too, is the Iconz ‘Get Fucked Up’. Now y’all are bound to have heard this – its only four years old, and really was one of the first tracks that pushed the word ‘crunk’ to the MTV generation, due to the channel’s censorship policy (which saw ‘Get Fucked Up’ changed to ‘Get Crunked Up’.)

Things continue with Archie Eversole’s ‘We Ready’ – a track that featured in many southern DJ’s club listings due to its sing-a-long chorus (which sample fans will know borrows heavily from Steam’s ‘Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye.’) Unfortunately ol’ Archie did seem to be a bit of a one-hit wonder, fading from view once his fifteen minutes was up.

The same can’t be said for Pastor Troy, who’s steadily built on his local rep in Augusta, Georgia, to establish himself as a well known and respected (but often overlooked) souther artist. ‘No Mo Play In G.A.’, as with many on Troy’s debut, dealt with his ongoing beef with Master P, over an alledged broken promise in a record deal. Over sparse percussion and a simple piano track, Troy and the Down South Georgia Boyz threaten the No Limit soldier with a week of right handed chinese burns, and 20 hours of hair-pulling a week. Or something.

Drama’s penchant for all things army shines through as he perfectly pulls off his drill sergeant routine on ‘Left Right Left’, before the man JT Money’s anthem ‘Who Dat’ kicks in. I’ll never hear a bad word said against JT Money – EVER. His work with the Poison Clan automatically places him above criticism, and ‘Who Dat’ is one of his finest outings on wax anyway. So there.

Petey Pablo’s ‘Raise It Up’ was a dead cert to feature here. In late 2001, ‘Raise It Up’ exploded onto the scene with MTV, BET, and national radio constantly rotating the track. Over one of Timbaland’s nicest beats PERIOD, Pablo represented his home state of North Carolina perfectly, while urging muhfuckas to strip off their T-shirts and spin em round their heads. Don’t lie – even if you were built like Bonecrusher, you were doing this… maybe in the privacy of your own bedroom, but yeah… you were still doing it.

Sandwiched between this, and the Youngbloodz ‘U-Way’, Gangsta Boo’s ‘Where Dem Dollars At?’ seems awkwardly out of place, mainly because of how laidback the vibe is here. However this pioneering cut from Boo (a member of Three 6 Mafia) can’t be dismissed out of hand – she was one of the first females to gain true respect on the Dirty South scene, and waved the flag for the likes of Shawna and Jacki-O to follow through. ‘U-Way’ meanwhile gives an early indication of how the Youngbloodz can hook up an anthem. Taken from their first album “Against Da Grain”, the cats who gave you ‘Damn’ last year, present a fast-paced beat with an eerie undercurrent, and another killer hook. Rounding things off, Rasheeda gets help from Pastor Troy on the closing cut, ‘Do It’, a rather limp conclusion to an otherwise sparkling compilation.

TVT have again worked hard to put a top notch compilation on shelves, and again they’ve largely succeeded. Its difficult to argue against any tracks’ inclusion here (apart from perhaps the final cut), and its this value for money that should convince you to go pick this up – ESPECIALLY if you’re just dipping your toe in the waters of crunk, and want to get a fullscale baptism.

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