Filed under: Steady Bootleggin',Tragedy Special
Written by: Robbie Ettelson
1993 was not a good year for rap. Shitty Onyx and Das-Efx clones clogged record shelves, and major labels began their attempt to kill off vinyl by limiting many albums to small promotional runs on wax. Sure, we had quality releases such as Midnight Marauders, Enter The 36 Chambers and Enter The Stage to keep us entertained, but they were the exception rather than the rule.
Tragedy‘s long delayed second album went through a few changes before it was released, as the “Cop Killer” fiasco resulted in the song “Bullit” being removed, while sample clearence issues saw Large Pro‘s excellent “Da Funk Mode” removed. Trag’s vocal style had also changed to reflect the times, but it came off a little stitled as he adopted a stop-start, Shout Rap delivery that was a step backward from his first album. Marley Marl left production duties in the hands of his right-hand man K-Def for much of the album, although it’s been rumoured that he remixed many of Marley’s original tracks for some reason.
This is pretty much the least essential release in the Intelligent Hoodlum‘s catalogue, and despite a couple of nice remixes on the singles, much of the material on “Saga of a Hoodlum” is forgettable, especially the Mario Van Peebles commissioned “Posse (Shoot ‘Em Up)”. “Grand Groove” is notable as it marked Trag’s first attempt at addressing personal loss – the death of his grandmother – in an honest and sincere manner, a skill which seems to elude most tough guy rappers. More recently, he recorded a couple of equally effective dedications to his deceased mother, and it’s this ability to wear his heart on his sleeve that puts Tragedy a notch above the competition.
“Death Row” is short track, and half of it’s an introductory skit, but the beat is dope and Trag keeps the vocal performance “in the pocket”, making it one of the stronger selections on the album. Since I already covered the original “Funk Mode” on the old Steady Bootleggin’ site, I’ve included the LP mix, which features the well-worn “Pot Belly” loop. Not a patch on the Johnny “Guitar” Watson version, but still worth checking out.
Saga of A Hoodlum was released by A&M subsidiary Tuff Break,
and only a very small run of promo vinyls were originally produced, but it was recently bootlegged in Japan with an altered tracklisting which includes a few of the remixes and original versions, which is good news if you really want it on wax and don’t feel like shelling out $100.
Tragedy – Death Row (Saga of A Hoodlum, Tuff Break, 1993)
Tragedy – Funk Mode (LP Version) (Saga of A Hoodlum, Tuff Break, 1993)
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