Filed under: Album Reviews
There is something satisfying about discovering early releases from major players in the current mainstream rap game. Jay Z’s verse on Mic Geronimo’s first album comes to mind as does Mos Def’s work on the Urban Thermo Dynamics’ joint. It is not like Leaders Of The New School were ever minor figures in the world of hip hop, but it gives me a warm feeling inside to know that people who now feature in the rap charts and make regular appearances on MTV used to be able to kick it with undeniable style. Of course, L.O.N.S gave birth to one of hip hop’s most instantly recognisable MCs: Busta Rhymes.
Whenever I discuss L.O.N.S. with anyone it seems to be ‘Future Without A Past’ that gets mentioned first. Perhaps this is natural as it was the more commercially successful album, but if I had to keep one and lose the other, I’d go for ‘The Inner Mind’s Eye’ every time. The beats are on point and the MCs exchange verses with skill and an exceptional sense of timing with brief forays into reggae style delivery. Busta is without doubt the most enigmatic of the crew, but this is not to degrade the work of Charlie Brown and Dinco D who also have strong senses of personality along with technical ability. Ultimately it is the effect of the MCs as a collective that proves the key to this album’s success.
Although ‘What’s Next’ and ‘Classic Material’ were the leading singles on ‘T.I.M.E.’ there is very little filler on this release and favourites for me include ‘Quarter To Cutthroat’ and ‘Understanding The Inner Mind’s Eye’. Drums roll with neck-snapping ferocity, the loops are simple yet effective and basslines rumble underneath the roar of the MCs. The album has a straight up, no frills attached vibe with a classic early ’90s feel. As you may now be aware, this is a formula for quality in my book.
Busta was the only member to emerge with a career intact and as soon as he started to make strange roaring sounds every other word I feel like he kind of lost it. Saddeningly, affairs turned sour for the crew post-1993 and they now have little contact with Busta going as far as to call Dinco D a ‘dickhead’ at some stage. This is a pity as the MCs did have such a chemistry that will now never see the light of day again. Still, they certainly had it in 1993 and this album is a must-have for collectors of this era of rap music. As the crew professed themselves, you know you love the way it’s going down…