Of all the albums presented in this recent post/article, this is the group that I would of thought the most likely to succeed by the traditional definition (dare I say it – “commercially”). The B.U.M.s debut (& only) CD is an outrageously slick, gigantically accessible banger pitching two unknown Oakland MC’s (at least out of their immediate locality) directly at Hip-Hop stardom. Considerable lyrical deftness, with conscious & even recusant elements enmeshed amongst ya’ typical brag-fest & lexi-arse-whupping that is massively complimented by immaculate beats & production from DJ Sway that’s honestly in Premier territory (seriously). The album’s quality is consistent throughout, the label is Priority, the year is 95 & even the sleeve design & photography are screaming for high margins. Somehow though, despite bulls-eyes in all boxes, this album derailed & fell into the “slept on classic” sub category that has claimed so many great efforts afore. This is a frequent phenomenon, but I am particularly surprised by this unique case considering all the conspicuously overt merits & market-malleable motions that have been secured here (& secured well evidently). Lyfe ‘N’ Tyme is by & large a Hip Hop album but with regular Hardcore Rap occurrences & topography with some amazingly perceptive breakdowns on residing in a hostile & hazardous environment & dealing with all the unavoidable shit that travels in tandem. The dichotomy & struggle of treading the grey threshold between aggressor/ criminal/ victim/ civilian out of necessity & all the anxiety, coping methods/moral & psychological toll that comes with maintaining such an equilibrium are profoundly articulated & observed to an extremely high bench-mark that cuts deeper than many other examples. Sway also needs further praise for his ridiculously slick production & beats. It’s high art, with lots of attention to phonics, all clearly extracted from a heaving record collection with intimate knowledge & attention to fine & nuanced details.
So what sunk it? My suspicion is some in label rivalry (where another artist received preferential favouritism & therefore the competition needed to be neutralized) or more likely the final track of the album – “Who Gives You The Right” an absolutely fuckin’ withering pro-black anti-capitalist emancipatory-earnest fanfare that sounds like a missing Malcom X chapter. Maybe someone objected to such potency & wheeled in the artificial tranquilizers in an act of industry nullification (“he’s talking about us y’ know”)? Some kind of synthetic sabotage clearly transpired here. & so it was that Brothas Unda Mandess only cut one album that’s now dormant in the esoteric graveyard! Well worth digging in the crypt to retrieve, & What Gives You The Right would probably terrify these shits even more today than it did in the 95!
Label: Priority/All City Productions