Although the YGz EP Street Nigga has its moments, I can clearly see why the Pete Rock affiliated crew disappeared rather swiftly after their decent but unexceptional 1993 drop. Given that The Chocolate Boy Wonder handled the majority of the production duties, it’s no surprise that the majority of the beats bang here, and ‘Street Nigga’, ‘Ghetto Celeb’ and ‘Sumthin’ 4 Da Head’ all deserve to be viewed as prominent pieces in Rock’s expansive jigsaw of work.
The real problem with this release is the performances of MCs Kenny Austin and Tommy Guest, whose combination of pedestrian flows and complete submission to cliche puts the whole project at risk, and it is only through the production prowess of Mt. Vernon’s finest that Street Nigga is narrowly rescued from the jaws of total obscurity. ‘Ghetto Celeb’ represents the clear standout for me, a chunky slab of Pete Rock soul that is accompanied by some of the more palatable verses from Austin and Guest. Sticking to straight braggin’ verses suits them relatively well, and it means the crew steer clear of the ‘rhymes by numbers’ misogyny and homophobia that can be found in abundance elsewhere on the EP.
Rock gets his fingers dusty in the Funk Inc. back catalogue for inspiration here, jacking bass and horns from their track ‘Goodbye, So Long’ that appears on their fourth studio album from 1973, Superfunk. The original sample source is itself a joy, and its rumbling bass (played by Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson) and funky horn stabs are tailor made for a little Soul Brother reworking. Using filters to remove the organ and guitar tracks from the opening section of the song strips the break down to its core, and the reverberation added to the horns and the way in which they playfully rebound between left and right audio channels adds a welcome depth to an otherwise simple formula. It’s also interesting to note Rock’s sung hook at the chorus, a feature rarely seen in his work that adds another of layer to the composition that helps maintain its rolling, funky vibe.
Below par lyrics + above par beats: a formula so often seen in hip hop during the second half of the genre’s golden era and one that perfectly encapsulates Street Nigga. Still, at $0.64, there’s little excuse not to add this to your collection and its highlights, most notably ‘Ghetto Celeb’, are more than worth the price of admission. Pete Rock opening proceedings here at fromdabricks.com: who would have guessed it?