Saturday, November 11, 2006


Das EFX's wildly playful, rapid-fire stuttering — dense with rhymes and nonsense words — was one of the most distinctive and influential lyrical styles in early-'90s hip-hop. While the duo completely rewrote the MC rule book, they themselves were increasingly pegged as a one-dimensional novelty the longer their career progressed, despite watching elements of their style creep into countless rappers' bags of tricks. Krazy Drazyz (born Andre Weston; Teaneck, NJ) and Skoob (born Willie Hines) were both raised in Brooklyn, but didn't begin performing together until they met at Virginia State University in 1988. Removed from an active music scene, the two were free to develop their most idiosyncratic tendencies; they started making up gibberish words (anything ending in "-iggity" was a favorite) that added loads of extra syllables to their lines, and wove plenty of pop-cultural references into the tongue-twisting lyrical gymnastics that resulted. Das EFX caught their big break when they performed at a talent show judged by EPMD; though they didn't win, EPMD was impressed enough to offer them a deal, and the duo became part of the Def Squad crew of protégés.Signing to the East West label, Das EFX began work on their debut album, commuting between Virginia and New York and mailing tapes to EPMD (then touring the country) for guidance. Upon its release in 1992, Dead Serious caused an immediate sensation, and is still considered something of a landmark in hip-hop circles. The first single, the instantly memorable signature song "They Want EFX," was a Top 40 pop hit and a Top Ten R&B hit, and helped push sales of Dead Serious past the platinum mark. Wary of being pigeonholed by repeating themselves, the duo slowed down their lyrical flow and downplayed the surrealistic side of their interplay on the follow-up album, 1993's Straight Up Sewaside, which went gold. Around the time of 1995's disappointing Hold It Down, Das EFX found themselves caught in the middle of EPMD's ugly breakup; it led to a three-year absence from recording. By the time they returned in 1998 with Generation EFX, the group was playing more to a devoted but narrower cult audience; they have remained largely silent since.

Das EFX - Dead Serious (Apr 7, 1992: East West)
Das EFX — part of EPMD's Def Squad crew, which also included K-Solo and Redman, among others — made such a wide breakthrough in 1992 with their debut album that their hit "They Want EFX" was even referenced in the lily-white teen serial Beverly Hills 90210. That Dead Serious could have that sort of broad impact and still retain its credibility within the underground hip-hop community says something about its appeal, which was considerable. But the album wasn't just appealing; it was also enormously influential, ushering in an entirely unique rhyming flow that influenced any number of rappers, established and novice alike. What exactly the duo is rapping about is anyone's guess. One thing is for sure: their lyrics are about as far removed from hardcore realism as they could possibly be, and although there are certain elements of boasting, it is so cut up and contorted that it never sounds like there's even a hint of the humdrum here. None of the lyrical clichés that can occasionally bog down even the finest hip-hop artist are present. Members Dre and Skoob (tellingly, "books" spelled backward) instead engage in lightning-fast, tongue-twisted word association and stream-of-consciousness rants rich in pop cultural references and allusions. It was a completely original rhyming style in 1992 — one of the reasons it had such an impact both in the insular world of hip-hop and on the wider public — but it also had an invigorating looseness that lent itself to commercial radio. "They Want EFX" is clearly the creative highlight of the album; the other songs work the same basic template, and each one is nearly equal in execution and charm, particularly the jaunty "Mic Checka" and "Jussummen."

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Das EFX - Straight Up Sewaside (Nov 16, 1993: East West)
By the time Sewaside saw the light of day, the public hadn't fully absorbed Das EFX's innovative debut, Dead Serious. The hardcore rap game had barely caught up with the brilliance of their rapid-fire vocal delivery and sample-laden beats. But then again, another crew from Staten Island emerged in 1993 and took the rap game by total storm, leaving the genius of Sewaside somewhat overshadowed by their dominance. However, this change in climate shouldn't overshadow Sewaside as a crucial record in the Das EFX canon. While the duo's methods of madness were slowly emulated by a large plethora of MCs, Das EFX stayed with the same effective blueprint laid down in Dead Serious. By maintaining this consistency, Sewaside lacks the punch in the gut that Dead Serious delivered, but it's still a solid record that completists and newfound fans will equally enjoy.

Das EFX - Hold It Down (Oct 1995: East West)
Although the duo tries very hard, there isn't much on Hold It Down, Das EFX's third album, that makes it very different from their previous records. The production is a bit leaner and their delivery is a bit harder, yet that doesn't disguise the fact that the beats aren't as strong as their earlier albums, nor are their raps as exciting and inventive. Nevertheless, there are some strong moments on Hold It Down, and it should please fans of the duo, even if it doesn't appeal to the same large audience that embraced their debut.

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Das EFX - Generation EFX (Mar 24, 1998: Elektra)
Das EFX never quite recovered from the perception that their hyperspeed rhyming style was little more than a novelty. Not only were they written off in some quarters, but their hard-edged, rhyme-centric style was overshadowed by the moked-out gangsta funk coming from the West Coast. Hold It Down, their third album, suffered not only from these problems, but the fact that it wasn't very good. On the other hand, its follow-up, Generation EFX, is a hard-hitting return to form. Enlisting a number of guest artists and producers — including EPMD, Tumblin' Dice Productions, Angel "8-Off" Aguilar, Nocturnal, Miss Jones and Redman — the group revamps their trademark sound; it's still recognizably EFX, but it's harder and hipper than before. Like all their albums, Generation EFX relies more on style than substance — not all of the hooks hold, some of the grooves just lie there — but on the whole, it's their best album since Straight Up Sewaside.

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Das EFX - How We Do (Sep 23, 2003: RT/Utr Music)
The rap game has changed significantly since the arrival of Das EFX on the scene over a decade ago with 1992's seminal Dead Serious. And if that seems like a long time, consider that the last time Das EFX released a new record was nearly five years ago, and things seem that much more distant. With How We Do, Dray and Skoob try and reestablish themselves as prominent fixtures in the hip-hop game. And while their trademark rap delivery was originally their ticket to notoriety, it is sadly absent throughout the majority of this record. Succumbing to the predictability of subjects such as hustling, women, sex, and murder, How We Do is simply a tedious exercise trying to pander to the lowest common denominator of hip-hop listener. Rather than attempt to raise the bar, or even meet the outstanding levels of early releases, it all seems like an attempt to regain acceptance by a community they believed forgot about them. And while there are moments of brilliance that still show they have the skills to justify their place in hip-hop history, they're simply too few and far between to make for a worthwhile listen. This one is for diehard Das EFX loyalists only, which is a shame, as it's a reminder of just how diluted rap and hip-hop can become at times.

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alley al said...

dope post. i'm sampling the 2003 release before i buy it.

thank you!

Anonymous said...

wow stop with the fucking huge password. that shit is childish and played out. big deal, u upped a fucking album.

Anonymous said...

yeh for real, enough with the passwords. plus, Hold It Down was far from disappointing. get your shit straight.

CB4 said...

Nice post - thanks!

And to the two "Anonymous" posters - if you have such a problem with the site I'm not sure why you would visit it, and then post on it as well. It's just plain ignorant to use the site, and download albums which he took the time to upload, and then you shit on him for it. Have some respect, and learn some manners.