Friday, September 29, 2006

Heltah Skeltah

Boot Camp Click affiliates Heltah Skeltah delivered a celebrated debut album, Nocturnal (1996), but struggled to follow through with subsequent output as their reputation simmered despite a fine follow-up, Magnum Force (1998). The Brooklyn duo of Ruck and Rock began as two-thirds of The Fab Five along with O.G.C. (The Originoo Gunn Clappaz) and together scored an underground hit with "Leflaur Leflah Eshkoshka." The group split in 1996 to record solo albums for Duck Down Records, Heltah Skeltah's Nocturnal and O.G.C.'s Da Storm. Of the two, Heltah Skeltah's garnered the most acclaim, and the duo thus became a small underground sensation, appreciated largely for their vocally inventive yet strictly hardcore style. Their contributions to The Boot Camp Click's For The People (1997) furthered the acclaim, but by the time Heltah Skeltah returned with their follow-up, Magnum Force (1998), the hype had died down, and the album unfortunately met a mediocre acceptance, partly because the duo toned down their hardcore posturing. Following this minor disappointment, Heltah Skeltah maintained a low profile and were not invited to join the long-awaited Boot Camp Click follow-up, The Chosen Few (2002).

Heltah Skeltah - Nocturnal (Jul 1996; Priority)
Heltah Skeltah is MC Ruc and MC Roc, two members of the loose-knit East Coast congregation Boot Camp Clik. The duo's debut establishes the crew as one of the most powerful members of The Clik, both in terms of techinque and prodcution. Most of Nocturnal is straightahead East Coast gangsta rap, with layered soundscapes and even if they are seamlessly crafted, they are only there as a backdrop — the main intent of the entire album is to showcase the talents of Ruc and Roc, and do they ever display their talents. Throughout the album, Ruc and Roc create a series of intertwining rhymes that are lyrical, hard, and insightful. Naturally, there are some moments that are little too predictable for comfort, but by and large, Nocturnal is first-rate mid-'90s hip-hop.
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Reupped: Heltah Skeltah - Magnum Force (Oct 13, 1998; Priority)
Heltah Skeltah, the duo of Duck Down family members Rock and Ruck, released their second album Magnum Force, a declaration of the prowess of their clique of the same name. The first song, "Worldwide" (produced by Self), sets the tone with a refrain that lets the listener know: "we gonna rock the world...if not mutherRuck the world!" The following selection, "Call of the Wild," is also produced by Self and again uses an altered string sample that makes the song feel threatening and dangerous. Featured on "Call of the Wild" are Starang Wonder (from OGC), The Representativz, the young Hardcore, and Doc. Holiday. Method Man joins Heltah Skeltah for a thug anthem, "Gunz 'N Ones," produced by Smoke. Starang Wonder comes back with Doc. Holiday to spit lyrics with Rock and Ruck on the uptempo "I Ain't Havin' That," which uses a Redman vocal sample plus the bassline and sounds from A Tribe Called Quest's "Hot Sex." More collaboration occurs on "Brownsville II Long Beach," where Tha Dogg Pound lend their West Coast lyrics and production (by Daz Dillinger) to make a respectable track. "Magnum Force," the album's title song, was produced by GrandDaddy IU and features The Representativz added rhymes and Rustee Jux's vocals on the chorus. The theme of the album switches with "Hold Your Head Up," produced by NOD and featuring Anthony Hamilton's vocals. The uplifting message in this selection and optimistic plea for all downtrodden to endure is an effective break in the violence and gun talk that predominates on this album. The album ends with one of its stronger selections, "Gang's All Here," which features the production of Smoke and nine minutes of lyrics from members of The Magnum Force Crew and The Boot Camp Click. (Buck Shot delivers the most notable lyrics in this song.) This album offers only one major sore point: for those who dislike poorly executed efforts to mix R&B and rap music, they will find "Chica Woo" a skippable song. The skits are mildly amusing and make it appear as though there are 19 songs on this album, while there are actually only 14 songs and five skits or interludes. A strong album, but hardly more advanced than their last effort, Nocturnal.
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1 comment:

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