Tuesday, May 03, 2005

It's only Tuesday and We're All in the Same Gang

However it feels like Thursday.

Why? It's been a long couple of days. Sunday morning I decided to be proactive (gah, I hate that word) and go into work early so I could catch up on some work. Jumped in the car around 9:15 and made it to Marblehead at about 10 or so. Walked into the office and stopped at the door. I forgot my keypass. The stream of swears that came out of my mouth would make Tommy Lasorda blush. I got back in my car, drove back to Brookline and then turned around and came back to Marblehead.

A task that should have taken me 15 minutes, ended up taking almost two hours as I found more and more stuff that I needed to do. I also found out that a delivery that was supposed to go to an Orlando warehouse was in some sort of FedEx limbo until Wednesday. Since it was Sunday, FedEx wasn't open. I ended up calling them yesterday and they were complete dicks. They wouldn't give me any information, would not speculate on anything and generally were unresponsive about the situation and then hung up on me. I was able to get some answers from the hotel that the packages were supposed to go to, so while I am still a bit nervous, I am less so.

Monday morning I had to be in Manchester, NH by 7:00 am, which means I was up at 5:00 and out of the house by 5:45. I was working a New England Health Information Management conference. It didn't go too badly. Traffic was nil, the hotel was easy to find and the people putting on the conference were nice as hell. This is the part of my job that I enjoy, getting out and schmoozing with people. I don't think that I could be a full-time salesman, but doing it for a few days out of the year isn't that bad.

Today, I had to be in New Hampshire by 8:00 and the show was over at noon. That's not a bad day. I ended up going home after the confernece ended because I worked over 12 hours yesterday and worked a bit on Sunday. I guess I deserved some time off. Tomorrow should be interesting though, there is always drama and backed up emails when I come in after a few days out of the office. Plus, the in-limbo packages. By 11:00 tomorrow morning, I'll figure out whether I completely fucked myself or not. Fun.

On Friday afternoon, I was bored for about 15 minutes. On SoSH I came up with this post about the greatest All-Star collaboration ever, The West Coast Rap All Stars, who busted out "We're All In the Same Gang." This record was done to combat the gangland evils of the inner city of Los Angeles. It was a pretty good song, but listening to it now, it is sort of cheesy. The original post was shorter and just talked about the rappers, which will be interspliced with the lyrics from this seminal song.

(I'm King News and I come to you with the truth
The mean streets took six more lives overnight
all the result of gang-bang stupidity
By the way, you gangsters should know
one of your victims was a three year old girl
Well, you gang members, you still don't get it, do ya?)

I have never heard of King News before or since this song came out. His claim to fame, I guess was that was sort of like a newscaster who came on and set the stage. I like a song that begins with an editorial ... usually during the news, that comes at the end. Way after the weather, sports, and the human interest story. I'm glad that King News isn't regulated to the back of the song. Hell yeah.

(With your badself)

[King Tee]
It's straight up madness everywhere I look
Used to be a straight a student, now he's a crook
Robbin people just to smoke or shoot up
Used to have a crew cut, now he's a pooh-put
Dropped out of school and he joins the neighborhood gang
Hangin on the streets sellin caine
To his own people
Now when I say people I mean color
You a stupid muthaf...
I'm tryin to stress the fact that you're dumb
Get yourself presentable, son, and just come
Together, you better, cause pretty soon it's gonna be too late
A message from King Tee The Great

King Tee - This wouldn't be an early 90s rap song without a sample from Jame Brown. Not only does James Brown make an appearance, but he brings up Issac Hayes when he calls the listener a stupid "muthaf ...". With the way that he brought back a lot of the old guys, it's a wonder why he doesn't still have a carrer. He now sells bootleg t-shirts outside of San Jose Earthquake games using the name King's T's. Actually that's not true. Though I must say that the word "pooh-put" should be used more in the every day speaking.

[Body & Soul]
Sisters, since we are the mothers of this earth
It's time we start being good mothers from the birth
Of our children, no time for sleepin
Teach em to fight and win for the right reason
It's your time, it's your life, live it
Proud to be black, young and gifted
Lifted by the knowledge and takin the right route
Gang violence needs to be wiped out
A-l-m-i-g-h-ty C and E-z-i-r-e
We see the f-u-t-u-r-e
Should be a positive thang
Body & Soul and you, we're in the same gang

Body & Soul - Should've been renamed Down & Out. As bad as this rap is, here is the beginning of an interesting diachotomy in this song. The first four lines are telling the listeners to pick up the responsibility for themselves. As you will see, this line of reasoning does not last long in this song. BTW, there should be more spelling in rap these days. For some reason, it's completely disappeared from the landscape.

[Def Jef]
One and the same
Everyone came in the same chains
Caught with the same aim
Brain games and names changed
To protect the innocent by-stander
Lies, slander and the master-planner
Destroy the black male
Crack jail and semi-automatic
For static if the crack fails
So since we all talk the same slang
Stop killin, my brother, cause we're all from the same gang

Def Jef - The coolest voice on the record hasn't done a hell of a lot since then, as far as I know. I could be wrong though. He builds on Body and Soul's theme of "we're all in this together", however he gets muddled and out of focus in the last 2/3's of the stanza. Who this innocent bystander and why Def Jeff doesn't think he or she should be protected is beyond me.

CHORUS: Don't you know we've got to put our heads together?
Make the change cause we're all in the same gang

Michel'le - She was Dre's high-voiced girlfriend, which is how she got on this record in the first place. Last seen at in a Watts Dairy Queen, no lie. Ahead of it's time by a few years, the song used to bridge one part of the song to another makes a rare appearance. She's a trend setter.

Now as a youth I used to get my bang on
And on the ave get my part-time slang on
Upon a time for me was no joke though
They knew I was crazy, so they labelled me Loco
Khakis creased, golf hat, feelin sporty
Low ridin and tossin up a forty
Thinkin in my mind that no one could handle us
The downest brothers ever touched Los Angeles
I found life was much more suitable
Cause I'm the brother that makes black so beautiful
I ain't slippin or down with a head trip
I'm talkin to all the Bloods and all the Crips
Throw down your rag and get on the right track, man
It's time to fight, unite and be a black man
Tone-Loc is on a positive change
Cause remember, we're all in the same gang

Tone-Loc - Movie roles and cartoon voices is what this former street hustler gets now a days. Not a bad way to make cash and increase street cred. The best part of this rap is that he talks about himself for at least 80% of his lines, then he throws in "Yeah, get together. Do it to be like Tone!" If they really did it like Tone, they'd sell drugs, make a record, get famous and rich. Easy equation.

[Above The Law]
Bein the pimps that we are
We're here to speak on a situation that has gone too far
Here at home in the ghettos of LA
Where a young black brother's not promised to see the next day
Cause we used to clock on the streets before we made beats
But fools just lay and prey on the weak
It don't depend on the color of a rag
Cause if you got what they want you know they gonna take what you have
Cause violence don't only revolve from drugs and thugs
And gangs that bang
Most times it's a political thang
Yeah, a couple of spots'll get popped
And if the government wanted to freeze it it could all get stopped
But they don't because they want it like that
Because the system been set up to hold us back

Yeah, Above The Law means that we can do whatever
So why don't we stick together?
(You got it)

Above The Law - NWA proteges whose first album was pretty good and then fell on tough times and has since broken up, reunited and broken up. While above the law, they ain't above the drama. Here is where the song comes untangled from a "take responsiblity, do-it-yourself" jam to "it's the government's fault" whine. Read the bolded parts, that sounds pretty preposterous and gives the audience an excuse to continue fighting. They also go the Tone Loc route by bragging how they used to do the same thing that the listeners do, but decided to rap instead (like signing a recording contract worth millions of dollars is simply a choice.)

Ice-T rippin the microphone the way I do
Listen close, my brothers, cause I'm talkin to you
The problem is we got a suicidal lifestyle
Cause 90 percent of us are livin foul and wild
I say job, you say ([Hen-G:] bad joke
I rather jack another brother, watch the gun smoke)
Livin in the fast lane flippin like you're insane
You won't stop until your blood runs down the street drain
I got an idea, give me a minute
And if it makes sense, then get with it
What if we could take our enemies, feed em poison
Undereducate their girls and boys and
Split em up, make em fight one another
Better yet, make em kill for a color
All my brothers need to know one thing
No matter what you think, we're all in the same gang

Ice-T - He's on a Law and Order series now, no one else has that kind of clout on Friday nights. But back in 1990, he was angling for a spot on "Unexplained Mysteries" with his government conspiracy picking up where ATL left off. While I wouldn't put anything past our government sometimes, I honestly doubt that a bunch of middle-aged white dudes got together and thought up the whole gang war thing as a way to eradicate the earth of black people. That is one of the most preposeterous things ever said.

[Dr. Dre & MC Ren]
Yo, we're not here to preach because we're not ministers
We're tellin like it is cause Ren and Dre is like sinister
Reality speaks for itself when it's spoken
A basehead cluck can't blame nobody for smokin
Yo, bullets flyin, mothers cryin, brothers dyin
Lyin in the streets, that's why we're tryin
To stop it from fallin apart and goin to waste
And keepin a smile off a white face
N.W.A never preachin, just teachin
The knowledge of the streets to each and
All that don't understand, that's why we came
To let you know that we're all in the same gang

Dr. Dre & MC Ren - Taken together, they've done the most in the decade and a half since this record was release, with Dre far outshining anyone in this project. He still keeps doing the thing he does. MC Ren once released "Kizz My Black Azz" and that's gotta count for something. This really isn't much of a rap and is a precurser for the inanity that is EFIL4ZAGGIN. Ice Cube was such a great writer that they became just shadows of themselves. One thing that bugged me about this though is that NWA was supposed to be "the most dangerous band on Earth" and they weren't supposed to give a shit about anything, yet they are trying to increase the peace. That doesn't jive with their reputations. I wonder if it suffered because of this?

[JJ Fad]
The J double, F, the a, the d, that is
And if you want the solution to the quiz
What's black in black, yo, and kills another?
An ignorant sucker that isn't labelled as a brother
But another
So now it's time we evolve
And get together and solve it
Cause the world is revolvin
Around a terrible situation
One will kill another for a reputation
So it's time we stop and realize that we're all the same
Yo Dre, tell em (We're all in the same gang)

JJ Fad - S stands for Super, U stands for Unique, the P stands for perfection and you know that they ain't no freaks. The E stands for energy, the R is for Rap, if you see them bagging at the 'hood Walmart, tell them to come right back. That line, which I probably killed is from their hit "Supersonic". As dumb as I thought that this band was, they did have a weird voice and styling that sort of gets in your head. Plus the riddle, "What's black in black and kills another?" is one that would have the Sphinx scratching its head. An aside, I thought that they were advocating violence against gay people because I misunderstood the second line as "And if you want target practice, just shoot for the queers." Sadly, I am not making that up.

[Young MC]
Brothers killin other brothers
I thought the idea was to love one another?
Open up the paper to one more death
If y'all keep this up then there'll be no one left
I try my best to set an example
Sayin hype lyrics over hip-hop samples
Not just a bragger to boast but to inform
Cause we're livin in the calm before the storm
You see, I believe that the children are the future
But what's it all about if in the future they shoot ya?
We're all human beings, if we're cut we'll bleed
And I want to see all young people succeed
Do 9 to 5, not 5 to 10
Just go to work and not the state pen
Cause you live better when you're out there free
And that's comin straight to ya from the Young MC

Young MC - He's getting Old Navy money now! Yee haw! He Busted a Move past the Principal's Office and into thousands. Good for Marvin Young. The one thing is that Young MC must've done well in school because he stuck to the original theme of the song.

[Digital Underground]
I'm in a rage
Oh yeah? Yo, why is that g?
Other races, they say we act like rats in a cage
I tried to argue, but check it, every night in the news
We prove them suckers right and I got the blues
Get busy, Humpy
The red, the white, the blue and
The blue and the red
For Clips and Bloods
The white for who's got you doin
Time bustin caps on one another
The Underground's down for peace among brothers
Kill a black man?
Yo, what are you retarded?
Tell em, Hump
Yo, do you work for the Klan?
Do what you like
Unless you like gangbangin
Let's see how many brothers leave us hangin

Digital Underground - Since "WAITSG", their biggest hit, "The Humpty Dance", is a staple at weddings, let's see Dr. Dre match that. Also, they gave rise to Tupac, though I doubt that he was in the area for the recording of this song. Damn Shock G and Humpty Hump hog every mic within a 50-mile radius. Jerks. This is easily my favorite part of the song, even though he's a novelty, Humpty Hump has a cool voice. It's different. Like Young MC, they stuck to the theme as well. Good for them.

[Oaktown's 3.4.7.]
The gang that should hang is the one that contains
The sisters and the brothers who are all in the same frame of mind
Now listen, get loose, it's unity time
Yeah, yeah
Peace is a presence that we all need
The future's in our hands, in word and deed
I'm Terrible T and I'm Sweet LD
We're 3.5.7. totally

Oaktown's 3.5.7. - I get that they're from Oakland, but why did they go with the odd name. What the hell does 3.5.7 mean? Maybe they're looking for the answer with Robert Stack. Alright! Two "Unsolved Mysteries" jokes in one entry! The shortest verse goes to the crappiest group. They were MC Hammer's back up girls. This was supposed to be their debut. Ironically, they're leading off in front of the Hammer, who was the most popular rapper at the time. In baseball terms, this would be like Wayne Housie batting in front of Manny Ramirez for a year and then wondering why Manny had a total of 10 RBIs.

[MC Hammer]
Kickin on the ave 'bout a quarter to 9
All the homies gettin blind in an eight ball line
Now on this tip they started runnin at the lip
Jumped in their deuce and took a little trip
Hit the block about 12 on the tick
The windows went down and the nines went click
People started yellin, bodies started bailin
Bullets cold flyin sendin some to hell and
It's gotta stop, we don't need all the violence
Peace in the hood and a moment of silence
We got together not for ego or fame
We got involved cause we're all in the same gang

MC Hammer - He's sort of a nostalgic touchstone now. People look back, see the genie pants, watch the Behind the Music and Surreal Life stuff and remember a much simpler time. People are happy when the Hammer is mentioned. And that's true in the early 90s, Hammer had so little of an ego, he was the second-to-last guy rapping, even though he probably should've been the last one. Usually the last guy mentioned is the star. His rap is filled with lame imagery, but that's Hammer. You either like it or you hate it.

Last but not least, yo, Eazy's no sell-out
And if you can't hang in the streets, then get the hell out
I'm not tryin to tell ya what to do
You have your own freedom of choice who to listen to
You knew good from bad, fair from foul, right from wrong
Now your mother's singing that sad song
(My baby ain't never hurt nobody!)
But he still got smoked at Bébé's party
But you're not the first or the last
You're nothin but a short story from the past
You're dead now, not number one but a zero
Take notes from Eazy-E, the violent hero

Eazy-E - While dead, he posthumously still gets most of the credit for starting the gangster rap craze that still runs through the veins of today's teens. I wonder what he'd be up to if alive. I can guarantee that he wouldn't do this shit again, he seems apologetic through his entire verse and pretty much summed up the confusion of the song by utlimately telling people that they can do whatever the hell that they wanted to do, he isn't going to tell them. Sort of ending the song on a weak note. Ten out of the 15 biggest California rappers just preached nonviolence and Eazy just says, "Eh, do what you want to do, I don't care." The one question that I wish was answered was who is Bebe? Was he the guy who had Bebe's kids? What kind of kid's party ends in death? Dammit, I wish Eazy was alive so I could ask him.

BTW, this is how I figured the ladder of success would look for these dudes since the song was released all those years ago:

1. Dr. Dre & MC Ren
2. Ice-T
3. Eazy-E
4. Tone-Loc
5. MC Hammer
6. Digital Underground
7. Young MC
8. Def Jeff
9. Above The Law
10. Michel'le
11. JJ Fad
12. King Tee
13. King News
14. Body & Soul
15. Oaktown 3.5.7.

I dare you to say I'm wrong.

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