Review Summary: I will never, I will never learn free rhyme, learn free rhyme
The early ‘90s marked a bit of a turning point for hip-hop, from the end of the sound’s Golden Era to the more prominent and, perhaps accessible sound that developed with gangsta rap and more media attention, as the genre proliferated throughout the various boroughs of New York and the developing hubs on the east coast and in California, and popularity bourgeoned in the mainstream. The Golden Era had been a hotbed of innovation, sparking themes of unity through Afrocentrism and rebellion against oppression, as well as fostering legends like Rakim, Chuck D, Big Daddy Kane, and countless others. Towards the late ‘80s and into the turn of the decade, gangsta rap was emerging in a small town called Compton, and Public Enemy was continuing the sociopolitical trends of Melle Mel and KRS-One. And by the coattails of groups like Kid ‘n Play, who had booked movie deals on House Party
and its infinite hip-hopcentric sequels, and DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, whose renown earned them a classic television show, hip-hop as party music was beginning to take flight – so much so in fact that A Tribe Called Quest’s jazzy debut album People’s Instinctive Travels…
was criticized for not being danceable enough by a writer at objectivity’s alpha-omega Rolling Stone
, who wondered how people would ever “put [the] music to use.”
Coming into the ‘90s, hip-hop was still gathering its roots; several groups were bursting onto the scene and releasing their debut and sophomore albums, the explosive tensions between the east and the west coast were still mostly under wraps as hip-hop was just gaining its footing and learning to walk. The Golden Era styles of the ‘80s were still in high regard, but groups like A Tribe Called Quest were developing alternative hip-hop styles to the straight boom bap that was being held in increasing favor by the prominence of gangsta rap and street tales in the mainstream. And amid this blossoming state of hip-hop bloomed the Fu-Schnickens, a three man group from Brooklyn with ties to late night juggernaut and hip-hop enthusiast Arsenio Hall as well the aforementioned Tribe. The group consisted of Chip Fu, Moc Fu, and Poc Fu, and were armed with an affinity for kung fu (although the Fu in their names is an acronym for “For Unity”, not a reference to kung fu) and pop culture as well as a penchant for jovial, agile raps and anything fun, but who, despite being ahead of their time on so many levels, might have been a little late to their own party.
Despite their affiliation to A Tribe Called Quest (whose hand in a lot of the production on F.U. Don’t Take It Personal
is one of the Fu-Schnickens’ calling cards), the Fu-Schnickens had almost no stylistic similarities to the jazzy styles of Phife Dawg and Q-Tip. With hard driving, booming bass backed tracks, the Fu-Schnickens cultivated their own separate style, most comparable to Das EFX (whose debut album, coincidentally, was released just two months after Don’t Take It Personal
). The album is filled to the brim with an abundance of humorous pop culture references like “What are you, Bullwinkle or Rocky, don’t start no beef or broccoli” (“Movie Scene”) and the batshit Chip Fu hoopla “the super the cala the fraja the listic the expialadope Chip, when the mic is gripped, paribidibipdip bip da be bong be dang, (Bo!)” (True Fuschnick), and in the same way that Das EFX originated the flow-enhancing “iggity” style, the Fu packed their bars tight with dexterous rhymes that even the nimblest of rhymers might have stumbled over. In fact, Chip Fu might have been the first MC to popularize the lightning fast style of rap that has become colloquially referred to (largely by Tech N9ne) as “chopping”, almost schizophrenically rapping circles around the beats whenever he graces a track. The group also has a phenomenal sense of mixing outlandish and fun witticisms into their music, as well as incorporating [self-created, incredibly comedic] kung fu movie samples (yeah, before Wu did it) and Jamaican accents and rap styles (“Generals”, “Ring the Alarm”, and to a much more subdued extent, “Back Off”) to create a thoroughly convivial album, with the emphasis on fun so strong that it is comparable to the party-hop of The Pharcyde (whose debut album also was released mere months after the Fu-Schnickens hit the scene).
Unfortunately though, for all the innovation that the Fu-Schnickens brought to the landscape of hip-hop, their name isn’t as well kept as it perhaps should be. Rappers who owe their success to the speed at which they spit rarely cite Chip Fu as an influence, and despite fathering so many styles, so many hip-hop heads still are ignorant to the Fu-Schnickens, but it’s perhaps because the group missed their window to forge a strong name for themselves in hip-hop. Although they developed styles that had been yet unseen, their debut came during a time when hip-hop was changing shape and acts like Wu-Tang Clan, Nas, and The Notorious B.I.G. were modulating the hip-hop world by crafting styles that would influence the game for years to come. Because ultimately, F.U. Don’t Take It Personal
is a uniformly jovial and quick ride, an album made to be heard by party-foul referees and enforcers of elation, and although its recipe consisted of so many foreign ingredients, it was always a party rap album that dropped during the decline of party rap, and it’s unfortunate that because of their timing, the group never received the recognition they deserved, despite putting together such an incredibly fun and easy listen in their debut album.