Review Summary: An unsung east coast classic.
Hip hop is such a fickle genre of music. The way it has ebbed and flowed in the last four decades of it's existence has been a sight to see. From its old school bloc party roots to the beautiful aural mess it has become today, hip hop has taken many shapes and forms, some good and some not so good. Through all this, most die-hard fans of the genre have a special place in their heart for the mid 90's east coast and for good reason. The scene, for it's brief existence, brought us many albums that are considered stone-cold classic by many a people: Illmatic
, Ready to Die
, Reasonable Doubt
, The Infamous
, Enter the Wu-Tang
and the other first generation Wu-Tang releases to name a few amongst the many other quality albums of the era. With so much great material, it's no surprise a few gems get buried.
Heltah Skeltah is one of these groups. Stemming from a larger collective known as the Boot Camp Click (O.G.C., Black Moon, Smif-n-Wessun), the crew (Rock and Ruck) and their peers brought the a gritty, dark, and almost psychedelic sound to the scene. Out of all the releases Nocturnal
is one of the most solid and praised releases from the B.C.C. and a little known classic of the east coast.
It's not hard to see why either. Production-wise, the Beatminerz lay down some of the dankest yet accessible beats from the underground. Whether it be dusty grime ("The Square (Triple R)", "Prowl, "Soldiers Gone Psyco"), noir-esque ("Undastand", "Place to Be", "Operation Lockdown") or even -gasp- radio-freindly ("Therapy"), the Beatminerz create a hazy world for Rock and Ruck to spit their rhymes to. Speaking of rhymes, the group do more than hold their own over the production. Both come with a great sense of wit and wordplay that the east coast was known for at the. Rock brings to the table a slightly unorthodox flow and booming voice, while Ruck (now known as the acclaimed solo artist Sean Price) shows himself finding his voice, but still bringing the skill behind mic he known for today. Lyrically, Rock and Ruck aren't saying anything in particular, but their sense of humor and charisma carry them effortlessly and are an enjoyable listen.
This fun lyricism and stellar production provide one hell of a total package and create a consistent sound that is sorely missing in today's hip hop. It's a shame the album is not as well known as the other classics of the era, as it holds up well today and works just as well, if not better, than other releases of its time. If you're a fan of east coast sound of the mid 90's, then Nocturnal
may just be an album for you'd enjoy.