Thursday, January 04, 2007

Def Squad

Rap supergroup the Def Squad comprised Redman, Keith Murray, and Erick Sermon. After scoring a hit with their cover of the classic "Rapper's Delite," the trio issued their debut LP, El Niño, on Def Jam in 1998. Dreamworks released their second album, Def Squad Presents Erick Onasis, two years later.
Jamal Phillips is considered an honorary member of the Def Squad. Before officially forming as a group to release an album in 1998, they had each been featured on tracks by each other.
They are known for their remake of Rapper's Delight by Sugarhill Gang.

Def Squad - El Niño (Jun 30, 1998: Def Jam)
As the first album from a genuine hip-hop supergroup, the Def Squad's El Nino has all the makings of a classic release. After all, Erick Sermon, Redman and Keith Murray have all appeared on each other's albums before, but this is the first time they've had the opportunity to tear it loose for the length of a full album. Unfortunately, El Nino doesn't have the power of a full-force storm and, given the combined talents of the crew, it should. Instead of hitting hard and moving into new territory, the group plays it safe, keeping the productions spare and simple, relying on old school breaks and beats. At times, they pull it all together, as on the propulsive "Can You Dig It," but considering the Def Squad's pedigree, El Nino should have been better.
Erick Sermon, "the Green Eyed Bandit," the premier East Coast funketeer, and one-half of one of hip-hop's pillar groups, EPMD, returned as Erick Onassis alongside the Def Squad in the summer of 2000. Featuring a host of guests from the four corners of hip-hop, the E-Double took his funky experimentation into the next millennium with Erick Onassis. Claiming millionaire status and taking on the moniker of one of America's old money clans (similar to Jay-Z's Rock-A-Fella title), E lays his brand of brash and bouncy beats as the background for a slick gangsta-player persona trading in his trademark lisped, laid-back flow. Erick Onassis and his cohorts for the album are in-your-face, claiming cash money as king. There is precious little else on this album but bragging over funk tracks. But to the E, the funk is all that matters and the musical and emotional range consists only of how deep into the river of funk he wants to take the listener. E teams up with an eclectic and well-chosen mix of artists, all of whom play off of his down-bottom grooves expertly. "Why Not" features "the Ruler" Slick Rick in a rehash of the hook from Rick's classic "Mona Lisa." Def Squad heavy-hitters Redman and Keith Murray throw their hats in the ring for "Hostility." The West Coast-inspired "Focus" features Cali's Xzibit and DJ Quik. Eazy-E appears posthumously on "So Sweet." Def Squad crooner Dave Hollister adds his vocal styling to "Can't Stop." But the best cut is arguably "Van Gundy," a posse joint in which E's old tag-team partner Parish Smith bats clean-up. While musically this album drives along in basically one gear, overall the ride is pretty smooth and enjoyable.

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