In the late 1980s, hip-hop had burgeoned into a new conceptual genre of music, as controversial as any other. This was due most in part to the accomplishments of the artists hailing from the U.S.’s West Coast. Groups such as NWA
were the launching point for many MCs, DJs, and producers to make names for themselves in this golden age of rap music. By the early 90s, many members of influential hip-hop groups had gone solo, unleashing themselves on the world like a hurricane, and catapulting their hip-hop sub-genre known “gangsta rap" to the top of the musical charts, essentially making it the most profitable area of the music business to this day. However, as much as prominent West Coast acts were doing to reinvent the way we view music in a socialistic sense, thus, counterparts were obviously soon to spawn. Said counterparts would first appear in what could be considered the direct contrast to the West Coast: America’s East Coast. By the mid-90s, albums such as Illmatic
, Ready to Die
by The Notorious B.I.G.
, and the like, were ruling the airwaves, and were showcasing their artist’s subtle (yet effective) differences from their peers across the country. As important as all of these albums were, there was one that started it all. It’s an album that hasn’t stood the test of time as well, yet is no less a monumental achievement, and worthy to join the annals of “essential hip-hop." This album is called Enta Da Stage
and it was the debut of gangsta rap trio Black Moon.
Black Moon consists of MCs 5ft Excellerator [sic] and Buckshot (then known as Buckshot Shorty), as well as DJ Evil Dee (also of Da Beatminerz
). The three came together in the early 90s, and immediately set to work on creating a new brand of hip-hop. The result is Enta Da Stage
, which could easily be the single spark for igniting the hardcore rap tendencies of East Coast hip-hop artists. The album sported a pair of Billboard Top 100 hits; the songs “Who Got Da Props" and “I Got Cha Opin." For the next several years, some of the most pivotal gangsta rap albums to be released would draw heavy influence from Enta Da Stage
. Many of these albums would be the breakthrough reasons for their respective artists, selling multi-millions of copies, and turning a style of music into a way of life. However, Enta Da Stage
, for all of its recognitions, hardly achieved the mainstream success of its following peers. The album has, to date, sold a mere 350,000 copies in the U.S. While this is still marginally impressive success, it’s paltry when compared to other albums of the same age and era that are nearing diamond (10,000,000 copies sold) status in sales. And so, Enta Da Stage
has become somewhat shrouded in obscurity, being regarded as an underground hip-hop classic. While it’s true that this record is an underground hip-hop classic, it’s also a hip-hop in general classic, simple as.
Enta Da Stage
features a grimy, guttural Brooklyn (NY) style of vocals and lyrics, which proved to be very inspiring to mid-90s Northern East Coast hip-hop artists. MCs 5ft and Buckshot compliment each other perfectly, delivering a healthy mix of ambition, attitude, and power. Enta Da Stage
is decidedly more laidback than its West Coast correlatives. The same could be said about the Eastern gangsta rap that it influenced. Beats are slower, lyrics are hookier (and oftentimes more emotive, and less rancorous), and there’s a feeling of total control. Black Moon have simply commanding presence, an almost God-like rapping complex. 5ft and Buckshot’s delivery is spot-on for this type of mood: it’s relaxed, calm, slow, and extremely distinctive. Enta Da Stage
exudes a sense of serenity, and quiet strength, which make up the juxtaposition of the album. The music holds up to the vocal quality as well. DJ Evil Dee proves to be a wonderful composer, employing everything from straight-up electronic soundscapes, to simple beatbox samplings, and even jazz and soul influenced tunes. This only accentuates the tranquility of Enta Da Stage
. The instrumentation flows with perfect synergy with the overlaying vocal work of 5ft and Buckshot. This is exactly the kind of feeling of slow and steady, rhythm and flow that proves that all gangsta rap doesn’t necessarily need to sound violent, to get its message across.
Such a message can only be conveyed by way of the lyrics sheet. The wordplay on Enta Da Stage
is phenomenal. Don’t let the album and song titles deceive you: they’re merely for aesthetic purposes. Black Moon prove to be fathomlessly deep lyricists, writing some of the most poetic words to find their way into a hip-hop album. 5ft and Buckshot’s superb vocal styles are the perfect mate for the brilliant lyrics found on Enta Da Stage
. You could easily sum up the entire album based on the strength of just a few lines from “Sh*t Iz Real:"
Check how I kick it, when I was wicked, around the way/Hold my Tec, cuz my niggaz pump by day/Drugs and thieves hit the eve of the night/Niggaz who fake real, come on a real flight /Six feet deep in the creep/Mic technique got a nigga locked down for a week/Word is bond, sh*t is on like this/Gotta move, cuz I'm on a nigga hit list/You know the kid with the rock from up the block/Hit him up with the glock now his pops on my rooftop/Ridiculous to think you're hittin me/You're not hittin me you're gettin me upset with the threat/But I'm a little nigga from the heart of Buck town/My stomping ground is Brooklyn bound/ F*ck what you heard, it's about what you hit/And if that's your girl, then your bitch ain't sh*t/F*ckin all my niggaz cuz they know Black Moon/Sh*t iz real yo, pass that boom
To think, that song with that much power, and sheer prescience begins with a relaxing little saxophone piece. Songs such as “Act Like U Want It," “Black Smif-N-Wessun," “I Gotcha Opin," and “Who Got The Props" feature the darker, more straightforward aspects of Black Moon’s music. These are the songs that don’t hide anything: they blatantly are what they are, and that’s all they need to be. “Powerful Impak!," the album’s opener, is a fine example of the more eclectic moments of Enta Da Stage
. It features a more dexterous, multilayered texture of music and vocals, that’s both ballsy and conservative at the same time. “How Many Emcees (Must Get Dissed)" proves that Black Moon can have something of an ego. Even this song proves that they can keep their personal aspirations in check, whilst contributing to the betterment of the group as a whole. “How Many Emcees" is a fantastic piece of exuberant forward-thinking, and it’s all over some nondescript “beef" that hip-hop seems to revolve around in many cases. Other songs, most notably “Slave," “Nigguz Talk Sh*t," and the title track, make up the lifeblood of the album. They are the glue that binds everything together in a coherent fashion, while maintaining style and substance. Enta Da Stage
ends with “U Da Man" which features get appearances from Smith-N-Wessun
, Big Dru Ha
, and Havoc of Mobb Deep
. This all-star cast of “Bucktown" rappers ends Enta Da Stage
on a very strong note. As if it could be any other way for such a classic.
While Enta Da Stage
might not be as prominently featured as Illmatic
, or as commercially successful as Ready To Die
, it is by no means anything less than a hip-hop classic. I honestly can’t find anything wrong with this album (which is a very rare thing). While I’m sure this record isn’t perfect, I’d say it’s pretty damn close to it. Enta Da Stage
may always have a place in the annals of hip-hop history, and its legacy will forever endure. Buy this now. It deserves to be heard, and cherished by the masses.