REVIEW: Yaggfu Front – The Secret Tapes

The Secret Tapes

Artist: Yaggfu Front

Album: The Secret Tapes

Label: Mends Recordings

Rating: 7.5 / 10

Reviewer: A to the L

The phrase “Yaggfu are back” will send some scuttling to their foreign language translation kit, some checking the Boston Celtics yearbooks for mention of Red’s illegitimate lovechild, and a minority letting out a sigh of relief that such a talented group has overcame some record label bullshit to put out some “new” product.

You see folks, “You’re All Gonna Get Fucked Up (if you) Front”, from here on in simply known as plain ole Yaggfu, first fell onto the scene into 1993/4 with their criminally slept on “Action Packed Adventure” debut. Following the “we’ve got the jazz” path that Tribe and Gang Starr amongst others had laid down, “Action Packed” was an amazing collection of dusty old samples, and “busted” loops. The three man North Carolina crew of Damaged, Jingle, and Spin were signed by Mercury at the time as a follow up to the success the label had had with Black Sheep. But with minimal promotion from the label, and distribution problems, the album, although excellent, never really garnered the sales it deserved.

The trio laid down several tracks for a second album, but recognising that they weren’t really getting anywhere, they bounced from Mercury with masters in hand. Fast forward to the present day, and these masters have found their way onto “The Secret Tapes” alongside some cuts not chosen for “Action Packed”, and a few new joints recorded while on their new home, Mends.

So what of it?

The album opens with the laidback jazz piano loop of ‘Roll With The Yaggfu’. Heads may recogise this, as it has been doing the rounds for a little while, and its a superb little slab of Hiphop. It DOES have a “94 era” feel, but for me this can only be a good thing – its very much in a similar vein to ‘Where’d You Get Your Bobos?’- smooth, chilled, but with just the right amount of energy to keep things bouncing.

The opener segues seamlessly into ‘Plastic Fantastic’, and the oopmh levels rise a little due to the had snare at the core of this track. The subject matter is something that I, and I’m sure many music fans, feel uncomfortably comfortable with – maxing out credit cards… “Sending out post pre-dated cheques, cos the credit card company’s giving you threats.” The female chorus with its chanted mantra of credit card namechecks adds a somewhat old-school feel to this track, and tops it off perfectly, resulting in this ten year old track still sounding incredibly fresh.

On their debut, Yaggfu’s ability to fuse buttery jazz loops with hard edged beats was one of the main attractions to the album. Here its demonstrated again on cuts like the bouncy ‘Jump On It’and the superb ‘Walk Around Town’. The latter is especially impressive, with its addictive horn loop and LONS-inspired chorus.

So far most of the material mentioned has been the older stuff. However Yaggfu also show and prove on their new shit too – ‘Hard Head Niggaz’ is built around little more than an uptempo ascending / descending bassline, but this minimalist approach is still successful, although here the trio sound like they’re just bugging out on the track. ‘Listen’ meanwhile features their Mends labelmate Esau, and is notable for its Oriental flavour. No bugging out here either – this time out the microphone gets RIPPED. Esau, in particular rips his guest verse, and calls out a few names too… U-God, Ludacris, AOL, Viacom, Napster – all get a fuck you of sorts. Always worth scoping is the excellent ‘Future Shock’ which covers an incredible array of subjects from the serious to the crazy, all dropped in question form, over a loop that would sound at home on a seventies sitcom.

Its not all perfect however – the inclusion of a couple of pointless skit-like tracks, ‘The Love Scene’ , and ‘Mr Buck’ drag things down a little. Thankfully they’re reasonably short, and if worst comes to worst, my finger could use a little exercise to the skip button now and again anyway.

Don’t let those couple of shortcomings put you off however, the vast majority of the album is dope. From the crazy, to the raw, to the hard, to the smooth – Yaggfu got all bases cover. The only real downside for me is the fact that despite the big gap between this and their debut – this album is just too damn SHORT! These guys really need to get back in the studio – they haven’t lost a step at all….

Get your ass to the Mends site and pick this up.

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