Top 6 tracks – Black Sheep
I say Native Tongues, you say De La Soul. I say it again, and you say A Tribe Called Quest. I say it again, and 90% of people will say the Jungle the Jungle, the Brothers the Brothers. After the holy trio of groups have come out, its then that most will talk about the duo of Dres and Mr Lawnge, more popularly known as Black Sheep. Its always been tough for the Sheep to get their true props despite putting out an album that’s arguably one of the top 50 Hiphop releases of all time (1991’s “A Wolf In Sheeps Clothing”), and a followup (“Non-Fiction”) that was criminally slept on by the majority of heads due to its extreme non-Native Tongues feel and distinct lack of any label help with promotion.
As commercial Hiphop came to the fore, and the classic Tongues sound was usurped by the
boring different production techniques of the Ummah, the Sheep disappeared with rumors of a breakup ringing in their ears. Dres came back briefly to release “Sure Shot Redemption” but, like an E-less PMD, the sound was missing that spark that made the original duo so listenable on wax.
Now in the 2000’s the Sheep are back together. Their release of the ‘Red Light, Green Light’ 12 last year was meant to be followed by a full length, but somehow things have slowed again, with “8WM” lost in the mists. Their site still promises a summer of 2005 release, so God knows what its going on. In the meantime, grab the mix cd from their site, and use the tracks below to reminisce.
1) The Choice Is Yours (Revisted)
The defining track for the duo, with the beat, the ‘this or that’ hook, and the ‘engine engine’ breakdown all being pushed into the public arena by Coca Cola, VH-1, MTV, and the Crooklyn Clan amongst others. A glossier, more refined version of the original album mix, this party-rocker supreme was back upped by an equally excellent video which saw Lawnge and Dre ripping the actual video footage from the TV screen as it played.
2) Flavor Of The Month
My personal favorite due to the way they hooked up the Herb Albert sample, this clever attack on society’s penchant for elevating certain music or people to ridiculous heights before trying to pull them back to earth takes place over melancholic strings and a bouncy trumpet solo. Dre’s dry wit and sarcasm made his lyrics stand out in a way which none of his Native Tongue comrades could ever hope to achieve, and helped the Sheep carve a niche of their own amongst the talent and output of the others.
“I never boned a honey that I didn’t like,
I never saw a mile that I couldn’t hike,
I never had a spliff to make me choke,
I never had a pocket that was broke,
Hate no one but love only a few,
Franklin, Grant and yeah mom too,
I run buckwild for self or with the crew,
But then again, I thought you knew,
Now I hear the voice,
Is it what you want?
I hope it is kid –
You’re the flavor of the month”
3) Gimme The Finga
Oh yeah, that niche? Well ‘Gimme The Finga’ describes exactly where that is on the Native Tongues chain. Y’see, the JBz, De La, and Tribe were getting megaprops for their laidback afrocentric-concious rhymes, and all of a sudden here come the Black Sheep duo describing how much they enjoy the high life, how much they enjoy fine food and wine, and how much they enjoy your… woman. Tongue-in-cheek it definitely ain’t – this is straight up brag rap without the aggressive undertones that many other other emcees often bring to the table when commiting such boastful lyrics to wax. Its hard not to crack a smile as Dres burps on cue to prove how fat he’s living…
My favorite meal is anything with meat,
My favorite quote, “Can I have a receipt?’
My favorite show is ‘Who’s the Boss’,
And my favorite ho, is yours of course,
And everyday is Saturday my friend,
Go to sleep wake up,
Yo its Saturday again,
It’s fly, gettin paid to do what you want,
Don’t believe me, BURP, see?
4) Pass The 40
One of the best posse cuts ever recorded, with quotables coming from all angles over a looped Jimmy McGriff sample, ‘Pass the 40’ features both Dres and Lawnge on the mic, as well as Chi-Ali, and rare mic appearances from Violater Chris Lighty and the legendary Dave Gossett. Lawgne’s member-focused verse is spectacularly wicked, while Gossett’s job description is superb…
“Thinkin’ I’m easy to beat.
Cause I’ll be up in that ass like a bike seat.
And when it comes to boning I’m Mr Erection, see?
Hoes come by the crib for a free hysterectomy.
I’ve got a dick that I brag about.
I put it in fast then I drag it out.
Girls, I’ll be the special friend see,
Cause your man suffers from pseudo-penis envy.
I do damage, oh, um.
The Sugar Dick is guaranteed to make you come…”
…I live large, caviar and limos.
Spent most of my time refusing bullshit demos.
Can you understand, do you you understand.
Well let me explain I’m the A and R man.
Dave Gossett. Yes I rock it.
I rip the mike and I stuff pockets.
Don’t believe me, ask the Sheep see.
They got the money, think it’s funny,
Always scooping all the honey.
‘Bubblin’ Brown Suga’ sums up the feel of the second album, “Non Fiction” perfectly – clean jazzy loops with heavy kicks and snares layered underneath. Personally I feel that “Non Fiction” failed commercially not just because of the lack of attention from Mercury, but also because heads simply weren’t ready for the direction that the Sheep went in after the lighter vibes of the first album. Although a strong album in its own right, “Non Fiction” didn’t have any tracks that could be pulled off as viable singles – instead this was a real ‘album’ that was crafted to be listened to from start to finish. It was this lack of attention-grabbing, breakout joints that stopped more people from checking for it… your loss, idiots.
6) City Lights
Horns. Strings. If this had been on the first album, muhfuckas would have been memorised the lines here the way they do ‘The Choice Is Yours’ and co. On ‘City Lights’ as with much of “NF” Lawnge gets much more mic time than on the debut, and his back and forth with Dres on this and many of the other cuts is extremely entertaining. This is Hiphop perfection right here – layers and layers of samples, hungry lyrical delivery and neck-snapping beats – what more could you ask for?
“Here comes a hundred watts of force,
I shine and blind but don’t feel remorse, I burn of course, nigga,
I know you see so many lights but remember which,
Yo I’m the big nigga, the one with no dimmer switch,
I’m the surreal from the powers I use,
That’s why your ass is in the dark when I blow a fuse…”
Other shit that just missed my cut:
U Mean I’m Not (classic, but too short to qualify as a ‘real’ song), Strobelight Honey, Gotta Get Up, Summa Tha Time, Black With NV, Havin’ Fun Wit It, Have U.N.E. Pull, Still In The Ghetto
Black Sheep Top 6
The Choice Is Yours (Revisted)
Flavor Of The Month
Gimme The Finga
Pass The 40
(download it here)
As with other top 6’s – opinions are like arseholes… everybody has one. Feel free to leave yours in the comments section.