Filed under: Album Reviews
As we all know, making your mark on hip hop and staying relevant as times inevitably change is no mean feat. I’ve spoken before of the comings and goings of those involved in hip hop and as we all know, the genre has had its fair share of casualties along the way who were unable to build sustainable careers from the music. The Intelligent Hoodlum, now better known as Tragedy Khadafi or simply Tragedy, is one of the lucky few who has managed to go against this trend, going back as far as the Juice Crew days in his home of Queensbridge to build a career in hip hop that has spanned seventeen years and six full length albums.
Tragedy’s ‘Intelligent Hoodlum’ moniker back in the day clearly hinted at his personal history of crime and violence. Indeed, his first album was released after he had completed a sentence on Riker’s Island for robbery in 1988 (I saw this go up recently over at Biff Hop in Alley’s massive 300th post). Whilst doing his time, he immersed himself in literature concerning the teachings of Islam and African-American culture (hence the ‘Intelligent’). This is clearly reflected in the rhyme content throughout ‘Saga Of A Hoodlum’ which comments on life on the streets with eloquence, insight and intelligence but whilst steering clear of being overly preachy: these are the words of a man who has been there and done that, simply stating his experiences of his time on this planet without ramming it down your throat or falling into self-loathing or glamourisation. This is matched with an engaging flow that means the Queensbridge MC manages the near impossible feat of combining both content and style.
The beats don’t disappoint either, with K-Def assuming responsibility for the majority of the production here with Marley pitching in from time to time as well. Given that this was released in 1993, I’m sure that you can hazard a guess at the type of sound we’re looking at here: straight up NYC boom bap. Samples are well chosen and beautifully simple, the drum tracks are heavy and have real momentum and basically speaking the production is flawless. Having said this, I would argue that K-Def has produced better work (check www.kdef.biz for a full discography with samples that you can listen to), but given his pedigree this should not be seen as a criticism of ‘Saga Of A Hoodlum’: this is still bangin’ from front to back.
Apart from this and his debut, I haven’t really checked out much of Tragedy’s other releases as I suspect that they will only serve to be a disappointment. Still, you have to admire a man who has built such a successful career in hip hop and however you feel about his later work, his first two albums are fine examples of early-mid ’90s hip hop and should be regarded as essential material for any discerning fan of the genre.