A sad day is upon us as we say goodbye to Christmas and 12 Days of Early 90’s Hip Hop but not before we hear from Gravediggaz…
N****mortis/ 6 Feet Deep – Gravediggaz (1994)
Produced by Prince Paul, RZA, & others
Taking the final spot in the early 90’s countdown is an album I love with all my heart. It has so much resonance and meaning for me, it would be difficult for me to accurately convey it in this review. It reminds me of heavy petting inappropriate boys at dark bus stops in Manchester. It reminds me of being on the precipice of adulthood with limitless possibilities ahead. It reminds me of being beautiful, but self-conscious. But it mostly reminds me of the pinnacle of that era of great Hip Hop.
This album has it all.
When we speak of Hip Hop producers (particularly from East Coast US) we immediately think of RZA, Premier and Prince Paul. Or we should. If we’re talking about that era then, you really are looking at one of those three. You might look at RZA if you were thinking of a businessman and empire strategist. You might think of Premier if you are looking at records the industry value. But for me, if you are looking at proper genius you have to look at a true creative. That’s why Prince Paul wins out for me on risk-taking. There’s never a feeling for me that Prince Paul is worrying about replicating previous successes. It’s almost like he looks at his previous body of work – no matter how accomplished or successful – and says, fuck that let me do something new.
The first three De La Soul records are a great example: they are all creatively risky. Buhloone never gets the credit it deserves, and De La Soul is dead was just a huge fuck you. But when you think that Prince Paul produced 3 Feet High and Rising – a more joyous, positive, fun, youthful, energised, potent vibe you’d be hard-pushed to find, before going on to produce this -something the music press defined as Horrorcore – it’s almost incredible.
This album is actually nowhere near as bleak as it appears, relying (as much of Prince Paul’s work does) on humour and some essential self-deprecation. As an artist, it has been documented that there is a darker, more troubled side to the DJ producer – but name me a true artist that doesn’t have demons? There isn’t one. However, although Prince Paul produces most of this album, it is also co-produced by RZA, which is the dream marriage. Even Jay-Z and Beyonce are jealous. Initially entitled N****mortis, but later changed to the less controversial title of 6 Feet Deep for US audiences (I always think of the album as being called the former), the album is nowhere near as gory and horrifying as the genre title would suggest. Like any 80’s slasher film it’s cartoon gore, principally focussed on humour. Nobody does wit and humour like Prince Paul and The Wu. This debut has so much more wit than follow-up music by this foursome. And when you consider it dropped not long after 36 Chambers, the complimentary melding of the egos on this record is actually fairly astonishing.
The strong horror theme, the lyrical cartoon gore and wit, the exceptional use of sampling and fat rounded beats. The entire album is just pitch perfect, and even includes the customary Prince Paul skits (for example a courtroom – “The judge is my uncle, he’ll take the insanity plea” line). Stand out tracks include the hilariously macabre 1-800 Suicide, anthem of the angry Bang Your Head, and funky as fuck Defective Trip (Trippin’).
Contender for greatest Hip Hop lyric of all time comes from Shabazz the Disciple:
“I’ve been examined ever since I was semen. They took a sonogram and seen the image of a demon…”
I love that line. I love Prince Paul. I love this fucking album.
And so ends the 12 Days reviews. I hope you have enjoyed them as much as I’ve enjoyed imposing my youth on you. Happiest of Happy New Years, Elle.