Review Summary: When you rap but it's not from the heart, that's a gimmick. - Lord FinesseLord Finesse
hails from the Bronx, New York, a place that can lay claim to some of the greatest MC’s of all time, and to get noticed in the Bronx in the early 90’s, you couldn’t fake it. In ’89, Finesse and his then performing partner DJ Mike Smooth, signed to Wild Pitch Records, a label at the time, that was home to some of the biggest acts in the hip-hop scene, Gang Starr, OC, Percee P and Main Source, among others. In 1990 the duo debuted with their album, The Funky Technician
which featured production from major producers such as DJ Premier, Showbiz, and Diamond D. Though the album itself had a star studded cast, it did not give the listener the insight to what Lord Finesse was about. A direct quote from Kid Capri himself attests to the mystery around Finesse's first release, “A lot of records wasn’t made up [back then], it wasn’t shipped to the DJ’s, so you didn’t get a chance to really know what Lord Finesse was all about." Lord Finesse then went on to form the classic hip-hop crew, D.I.T.C., consisting of Big L, Showbiz & AG, Diamond D, OC, Buckwild, and Fat Joe.
Finesse went single in ’91, releasing Return of the Funky man
, and this time Finesse himself added much to the production of the album. Lord Finesse’s production prowess would go on to garnish him a spot on The Notorious B.I.G.’s famous debut, Ready to Die
, with Finesse producing the track Suicidal Thoughts
. Finesse would then play a large role in the production of Big L’s conspicuous debut Lifestylez Ov Da Poor and Dangerous
, as well as performing in the album himself. It would be a long five years until we would receive a new full length release from The Funky Technician
, this time the album was entitledThe Awakening
, and an awakening it was.
would prove to be the release where we saw the “real” Lord Finesse
, he would take it upon himself to produce the entire album, excluding a “hidden” track. The album starts with the church style skit Da Sermon
, where Finesse tells us “…It’s time, for the coming of the Lord, …you know a great Awakening”, among many other foreshadowing comments, following this would be an interlude, and then The Awakening
would truly begin.
True and Livin’
would be the first full track for the listener to hear, the song is packed with the punch lines and metaphors that Finesse had become famous for, but there was also a message behind all of the rapping and beats, which can be expressed with just two lines “Wanna wear my shoes? You can’t fit ‘em. In years to come I’ll be true and livin’
.” Leaving the listener with the idea that Lord Finesse would stay true to himself, no matter what would happen to him in the future, a theme that would be explored more thoroughly later in the album. The next song on the docket is a star studded one, Brainstorm
starts with a short monologue from an anonymous source, who will appear again throughout the album, soon after the monologue, the listener is met with a very dark beat, uncharacteristic of Finesse. KRS-One, OC, and Lord Finesse spearhead this hip-hop endeavor, and they don’t disappoint. All of them rip the mic up, with some dark lyrics, repeatedly referring to “gimmicks” and attacking nameless MC’s while dropping metaphors and lines that can leave you speechless.
As the listener progresses through the album, they will be met with songs that have lyrical themes that vary considerably. Finesse serenades an anonymous woman on the track Gameplan
, then a punch-line oriented Flip Da Style
, where believe it or not, the whole first verse was taken from a freestyle Finesse did with KRS-One. Lord Finesse then displays his story telling skills in the song Food For Thought
, a song which depicts a young man’s rise, and eventual fall, in the ghetto.
As far as the production goes, this is easily Lord Finesse's best work on a solo project. The skits are short and sweet, the guest spots add new elements to the album, and they are all provided by hip-hop greats. However, most importantly the beats are impeccable, though some may sound simple, if you listen to them on a good set of speakers, car stereo, or headphones, you'll hear whole new elements that would go unnoticed if you were listening with the run of the mill headphones. For instance, bass tones go easily unnoticed without a good sound system, and upon purchasing a new stereo for my car, I heard things that I had never thought existed. To put it simply, the beats will either have you bobbing your head or wanting to grab your 9mm and commit drive by's, what more could you ask for?
To give you insight into Finesse’s punch line skills, which I have referred to many times, I’ll quote a few from various songs:
“I drop facts when I rock raps over hot tracks, that’s why niggas be on my dick like a jock strap”. “Whether weekends, Monday through Friday, I know this aint Burger King, but I’ll still have it my way.” (When he was serenading the woman from the song Gameplan
.) “I’m out to make large figures, you could be a casino dealer, and still couldn’t pull my fuc*ing card nigga!” To culminate a brief glimpse into the world of Lord Finesse’s punch line skills, I’ll leave you with this, “I rock rappers frequently, I’m like Stevie Wonder, I can’t see a brother beatin’ me.” However, though these lines could be considered the acme of some MC's writing skills, they are just the tip of the ice berg when delving into The Awakening
The eye opening factor The Awakening
presents, which makes it a classic, is the underlying theme which had been alluded to throughout, and that soon became overwhelming, and this theme is fully revealed in the last two tracks on the album, before the “hidden” one. The first song, Hip 2 Da Game
is one in which Finesse tells the listener that he’ll never change his style, his values, no matter what happens, and in this case, the chorus is easily the clearest way of showing the listener:
I’m Hip 2 da game (right) I’ll always be the same (true) ‘Cause whether I’m broke or got fame, sunshine or rain, aint a damn thing changed
The fact that the chorus holds the strongest meaning is an anomaly, because traditionally a chorus holds little meaning and is meant to be catchy, and easy to sing, so it can stick to the listeners as an attention grabber, rather than the verses, which traditionally hold the theme of the song. No Gimmicks
is a track in which Finesse and KRS-One call out all fake MC’s every where, ruthlessly attacking them, accusing them gimmicks, while re-iterating how they would never themselves stoop to their level. In today’s state of hip-hop these two tracks could be considered anthemic, covering themes that would prove to come to fruition in less than a decade.
would prove to be Lord Finesse’s magnus opus, and address issues that would run rampant in today’s state of hip-hop, well over a decade after its release. Lord Finesse would have to deal with these issues with a close friend, Fat Joe, who has since then succumbed to the temptations radio friendly albums present. The fact that one of his own original crew members would lose his principals due to temptations gives this album a much more profound meaning and adds even more depth to it.
has a timeless message, and for that reason it should always be considered a classic.