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Written by: Robbie Ettelson
*** Audio Added ***
Following the lyrically satisfying Sean Price album, the second and third installments of Boot Camp‘s “Triple Threat” are a mixed bag. Other than finally being able to complete the Marc Ecko picture by joining-up the three CD covers, the question remains…are the Buck and Smif ‘N Wessun albums worth you hard earned? More or less. Buckshot‘s Chemistry is produced entirely by 9th Wonder, while Reloaded features a variety of different contributors. In theory, this gives Buck’s project more consistency, however I found that listening to thirteen songs with the same tinny drums only served to highlight the weaknesses in Wonder’s beat science, despite some nice loops on a couple of tracks.
When I caught the Beatminerz additions to the Bucktown duo’s third album, I realized that Evil Dee and Mr. Walt are just as essential to the BCC as “Timz and Hoodz”. Considering that they produced all the best tracks for Black Moon, Heltah Skeltah, OGC and Smif ‘N Wessun on their debut albums, getting them back on board seems like a no-brainer. The reasons behind the split in the ’90s range from “wanting to vary our sound” to complaints that the Minerz were “too sensitive” when people weren’t happy with the beats, but despite any personality clashes, the two crews certainly bring the best out of each other.
This is clearly demonstarted on “Tools of the Trade”, the obvious stand-out on Reloaded, and “Stay Real” from the last Black Moon album. The biggest difference is in the drums, which knock way harder than anything else on there, plus they deliver a nice variety of musical styles from Spanish to reggae. A few of the other beats from other people producers like poor imitations of the Just Blaze / Heatmakerz ’80s rock sound, although Krysis‘ use of the sample last heard on Akinyele‘s “No Exit” distracted me from his weak percussion effectively enough.
The other issue is that while Sean P‘s music wasn’t always that great, he more than compensated with his new and improved rhyme style, while both Buckshot and Smif ‘N Wessun are same as they ever was – recognizable and distinctive, but not always captivating. This comes as no major suprise, since it’s been over ten years since these guys first made their mark, and to be fair they’ve lasted the distance in better shape than many from that era, but at the same time these two projects aren’t going to convert any Boot Camp doubters. That being said, there is some dope shit on both of these albums if you stick with ’em.
Buckshot adapts an elder statesmen role by dishing out advice for kids on the come-up, which makes sense considering his extended tour of duty, but he also mixes in conceptal tracks like “Food For Thought” and an amusing dedication to getting in bar fights while on tour. LB’s Big Pooh and Sean P drop by on “U Wonderin”, and Big Ruck delivers another verse full of memorable lines, letting us know that “I’m 32 but the guage is 12″ while he “pop E pills with top ten models”. The problem being, after that I just wanted to throw on Monkey Barz again! “Now A Dayz”, “Sidetalk” and “Money Makes The World Go Round” are all enjoyable, and feature the best production on the album.
Tek and Steele travel a lot better, though their latest release is a mix of the superb and the mundane. If the somewhat bloated tracklisting of fifteen songs was trimmed of it’s five weakest selections, it would have made for a tighter package, but as it stands there’s still plenty of quality material. As a duo, they’ve maintained their vocal tag-team approach and deliver all the gun talk you could possibly ask for, which will please long-time fans of their take-no-shorts attitude.
If I had to decide, I’d recommend picking up the Sean Price, then the Smif ‘N Wessun, and if you’ve got money left over grab the Buckshot. In the meantime, I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that we’ll hear more Beatminerz work on the next round of Boot Camp releases.
Smif ‘N Wessun – Tools of the Trade (Reloaded, Duck Down, 2005)
Review copies supplied courtesy of Shogun Distribution.
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