After All These Years
(5th & Union)
In 1984, I was growing up in southern Mass. I was seven. I found hip hop and was enamored. By 1989, my white rural peers had finally caught up. Run DMC, Beastie Boys helped; but truly NWA and 2 Live Crew brought the forbidden into our small town. Mostly I grew up with BDP, Run DMC, Whodini, LL Cool J, Fat Boys, Word of Mouth, Slick Rick, Public Enemy. That’s all New York. When West Coast came in the picture, the world changed. Geto Boys from Texas impressed me immediately. But 1991 brought rap home.
At that point my dad was driving to Roxbury and Dorchester every day to run juvenile lock up units. I was born in Boston, but my dad moved us out for a safer existence. Ed OG released Life Of A Kid in The Ghetto. Boston was on the map. Streets I knew from tagging along with day to the city, home of my beloved Sox. Even though I had no actual tangible connection, I was proud of a home town dude being heard nationally; especially with smart, frank videos with “I Got to Have It” and “Be A Father to Your Child”. Edo and the Bulldogs came with some fun with “Bug A Boo”. The album balanced songs about the ladies which were laced with antics. But the songs that shook me were “Stop (Think For A Moment)”, “I’m Different”, “Speak Upon It” (with Def Jef), “Dedicated”, and the title track. The album still holds up to today as flava-full boom bap.
Twenty three years later, Edo still making classics. He put out two more albums with Da Bulldogs; which I still feel have great rhymes and beats, but they weren’t the classic material of LOAKITG. Although his prior album, Intelligence & Ignorance, carried strong themes, the beats were soft with some singing. And that prevents me from going back to the album as a whole. But when a rapper still cranks out an album each year, or every year, different albums fit different moods. And while I still love early 2000’s with The Truth Hurts and Wishful Thinking and , it was 2004’s collabo with Pete Rock, My Own Worst Enemy, that introduced Jaysaun and held bangers in each track slot. His collabo with NY’s doppelganger of Edo, Masta Ace, leaned toward sparse beats, but still hit hard. 2011’s A Face in The Crowd was a solid declaration that Ed was repping the Bean in this rap game and headed nowhere. His Special Teamz project (2008) spring boarded Slaine and Jaysaun into the industry as all would learn what Boston had for lyrical kings.
As we review his catalogue, what promises a crushing Ed OG album. His flow is slow and defiant. His lyrics are based in wordplay, metaphors, and repeated multis. To me, he just needs to make sure that he has boom bap beats behind him. Edo continually pushes himself. He could tour as a retro novelty act at this point. He could half-ass his rhymes and still sell albums. But Ed challenges his prior output with each new album. SO he got lyrics, beats and the street cred and legend status. So what separates him from the crowd and allows him to flourish? his content. Yes he acknowledges the city attitude that he embraces; a realistic aspect of his life. But he confronts the listener with context and consequence. Edo is an intelligent man that encompasses his experiences into his view on people’s choices in life. He has that thug in him, but as an elder. Ed is a teacher.
After All These Years:
Bangers. What hip hop misses these days is the complete album. Rappers chasing that hit single for the club detracts from the listenable full album. Another hindrance is how rappers have a different producer on each track. Ever since GZA and Muggs teamed up, rappers began paying attention. Muggs, Apollo Brown, Statik and more saw the cohesive result of actual working with a constant producer and MC. Edo did it with Chocolate Boy Wonder for amazing results. Edo did not do that here, but he brings him back for 3 joints here. And recruits 9th Wonder and Marco Polo for more; having the same vibe in their beat helps found a head bobbing base for Ed’s lyrics. Ed also calls on DGZ favorite, Vanderslice, Blezz, Explizit One, Obatron, Jas and LMD.
On the 9th Wonder joint, Back and Forth, he recruits AOTP member King Magnetic. 9th brings his famous chop approach with a symphonic beat similar to his work with Murs and Skyzoo and Little Brother. A small guitar drum sits low in the mix but catches your brain enough to to get that head moving. Drum pad below the sweeping string-like feel pushes as King Magnetic spits my favorite line, “I don’t need to rap, I’m just here to balance out the Macklemores”. Ha! KM also works old Ed OG album titles into his rhymes. Nice.
The album opens with the Pete Rock track, “2 Turntables and A Mic”. This is a fitting introduction to this stellar album. A signature deep funkay-funkay bass interweaves with hard drums and a harp rippling. This is the essential base for Ed to explain why he still deep in the game. Pete also provides beats for “Make Music” and “Let the Horns Blow” (perfect name for a PR joint!). “Make Music” has a dream-like strum with reverb, snares and a small organ in the back ground. This reflects the elements of the golden era and why this boom bap will neva die. This is a complex beat that has a dynamic feel that adds variety under Ed’s flow.
“Honesty, astonish or admonish me/ my modesty’s a prophecy on an odyssey/
You wanna be/ swear like you solemnly/ My Mobb’ll cause havoc like Prodigy/
I spit quality/ It’s a commodity/ chronologically/ with no apology/ my philosophy possibly
Bitch niggas gossipy/ can’t stand the speed or ferocity/ I’m consciously…”
Now while the Mobb Deep phrase is overdone, the stanza is still a fun romp through a syllabic playground. “Let the Horn Blow” expresses interplay between a fluttering horn and some vocal moans by Walter Beasley. That bass! Another gem from this combo. Ed is on some bragadocious shit here and his wordplay is entertaining through many listens.
The jazz samples of “The Anthem” provided by Obatron is sweet. The drums are true to the souns od quiet bebop; rolling in the background. An elongated trumpet blow threads throughout the song. His is a good contrast to the piano and soft cymbal sweeps which add a lush feel to the chill vibe. The hook is the catchy Jay Z phrase , “That’s the Anthem/Get your damn hands up”. Obatron plays with elements which construct it like a song and not a loop.
When Guilty gets on a track, “16”, I listen. Guilty is one of my favorite rappers right now. The deep gravel of his voice promotes the same factors that I laud about Ed. GS is a newish rapper, but an elder with intelligent flow telling of his Detroit streets. The beat by Explizit One comes with that Marco/ Preemo/Pete Rock/Ev boom bap feel. He unleashes whiny pitch blend over lighter bells and a guitar strum, all chopped and gritty. Both Edo and Guilty bust raw verses.
“UNI” beat by Blezz is interesting and nasty. He has a weird Japanese atonal instrumental bit in there along with stark horn blows every few measures. Layers of funk bits – bass and drums and more – handle the track nicely, with scratches of a voice, mixed low that sparks a chaotic atmosphere; but slowed down; like The Bomb Squad smoking with Redman. Ed does his thing as he compares the fictional rapper; comparing all facets of the game to his better ways. His words aren’t too intricate, but it is pure Edo exploring wordplay that keeps you hanging for the next line.
Edo, backed by the mighty Marco Polo’s beat of layered vocals and deep bass, attacks the fake rappers and internet soldiers on this track, “Neva Die (Boom Bap)”.
“Update you status bar/ running your mouth with an avatar/ Probably couldn’t feel a padded bra
Feed you shit, make you think that its caviar/ For talking war without battle scars”
This is a quieter but fun and punchy beat for Ed to spit real shit over.
“I’m on the scene like the first cruiser/ second place is the first loser”
This begins the second half of the LP which never slows. After this track, out of Nowhere, Ed brings Camp Lo on a LMD beat for “Love”. This is a definite head-knocker that delivers a harsh bass drum and an emotional piano; coupled with a sparse echo of a horn. This ain’t no slow love song, just exploring the elements of love and where we place it.
The ST joint, “Da Beef Goes On” is another gem that explores the mistakes women make and for some unknown reason continue to revel in poor decisions. The lyricism and energy of Jaysaun and Slaine flow ell over the cool beat of pitch shifted vocal “ooohhs” and piano clap repeating. A xylophone adds a small but altering element in there. Each verse is a criticism but with an extending hand of help. The reworking of the sampled music keeps it as a solemn soul song with a message.
“Listen” follows this formula well. The tempo pushes Edo to increase his flow speed, which pushes the energy of the song. Jas, most likely unknowingly, delivers a beat with the same elements as the ST joint. Looping females’ voices, a thumping bass, and an ethereal feel with light percussion of chimes and guitar strings. G Dot and Born come with powerful verses to exploit their chance.
The odd duck closes the album. Vanderslice gets down like he does. Changing the speed of the sampled voice with an energetic infusion propels with a taut rock guitar chord looping while big brash horns visit sparsely. The slow rock of the the hiits behind the beat is perfect for Ed’s flow of comparisons. And like I got to pick the guests myself, Chuck D spits a verse. His eclectic flow fits as well, while contrasting Ed’s. This is a joint where you shut up and turn up the volume.
After all these years, it’s invigorating the Ed can still deliver an album like After All These Years. Boom bap beats with straight rapping on it. With solid production, defined by a common feel of an album, it is refreshing to hear a full hip hop album yo can play front to back. Speaking of, you can pick this up on cassette (orange), cd, and limited foil wrapped orange vinyl. This marks his new label (with Jamieson Grillo), 5th & Union. Ed still conjures up that hungry kid from the Bury, Humboldt Ave. His wordplay has the listener yearning for what’s next while still molding a laid back flow. His balance of street rhymes and cautious tales feel almost like a contradiction; but the seasoned fan knows this is how Edo slips life lessons into his songs. But mostly Ed just wants to tell you why he is a better rapper than most of these fools today. And he continues to, after all these years.
“You’re a follower, not a purist/ I’m a traveler, not a tourist
Your beats are broke, you’re malnourished/ I spit that boom bap with ill chorus”