Das Efx "Hard Like A Criminal"

Das Efx “Hard Like A Criminal” [Listen]

The EPMD-cosigned Das Efx blew the fuck up in ’92, pushing a style that was unquestionably stupid and somehow instantly appealing. The silliness of their signature “iggedy”pig latin-esque prefixes and cartoon references was only accentuated set against their deadpan deliveries and rough on-camera demeanor.  While their playful singles “They Want Efx” and “Mic Checka” were fan favorites, the most interesting and arguably best song of the earlier part of their career is “Hard Like A Criminal,” the b-side of their less popular “Straight Out The Sewer” single, which was curiously left off their platinum debut, the amusingly titled Dead Serious.

Not surprisingly “Hard Like A Criminal” boasts hard-hitting funk beats, courtesy of in-house producers Solid Scheme, and hard-edged deliveries. The song’s greatness lies in its attention to detail — Das Efx forgo their usual shtick to engage their audience through skillful storytelling. Listeners of the song are granted omniscient access to interior and exterior monologues as well as the dialogue that occurs between Drayze’s arrogant and naive party seeker and Skoob’s volatile, unrepentant thug.
Drayze’s character swaggers cockily en route to a party, reveling in his  fly-as-fuck stature (“freshly dipped … but money I’m rugged”) until a subway car full of Whites and Asians takes too much notice. He pre-emptively denounces their supposed racist paranoia in an angry, mocking tone, suggesting that their suspicions stem from a historicized fear of inter-racial rape resurrected in the wake of the Central Park Jogger media firestorm (” ‘They must be wildin’ ” a mock-White inflected ad-lib proclaims). It is uncertain whether or not his defensiveness is justified or  if the conflicted dialogue exists entirely within his head but one is inclined to empathize with the narrator as he exits the train disgusted by his perceived treatment.
In the next verse we are introduced to Skoob’s dark but similarly likable character, an unapologetic repeat offender who “packs steel” and drives “the phat wheels” and actively seeks violent confrontation. His infectious bravado gives way to a telling, chilling observation: the public loves his performance of gaudy nihilism (“living the lifestyles of the rough and rugged”) even as they loathe its social impact. He just happens to be on his way to the same party and in the third brilliantly constructed verse the two characters and their respective crews inch closer to collision as Skoob and Drayze exchange lines. Drayze’s hard-headed narrator roams the unfamiliar East New York housing complex oblivious to impending danger, even ignoring the fact that someone (the listener knows it to be Skoob’s character) is “bustin’ caps.” 
When the two young men inevitably cross paths, a heated exchange of mutual shit-talking results in an entirely preventable homicide. The partyseeker lies dead and his killer returns for a bar and half speaking as a convicted inmate, quickly silenced by the sound of a closing cell. Although the narrative is straightforward, the message is actually quite nuanced. Both killer and victim share the tragic flaws of arrogance and myopia, as well as similar outer appearance, comportment, and most disturbingly, a life outcome devoid of success and happiness. One might deduce from the narrative that the skyrocketing street crime of the time had a complex myriad of causes, no discernible single solution, and the paradoxical effect of defaming the very group of people most commonly victimized, many of whom actively internalize the stereotypes emerging from the media’s incessant scrutiny.
Pretty heavy commentary for a crew mostly remembered for nonsensical tongue-twisting and rocking Band-Aids as fashion accessories.  — Thun

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67 Responses to “Das Efx "Hard Like A Criminal"”

  1. Philaflava says:

    Your writing can make a painfully average track into a classic. In this case you made a painfully obscure gem into a VVS diamond.

  2. Anonymous says:

    WOW.Great review.

  3. Anonymous says:

    This song is good but it think you're giving it a bit too much credit. The piece is so well written, by the time i was done reading i almost believed you.

  4. T.R.O.Y. says:

    How am I giving it too much credit?

    Are there two narrative voices employed?

    Is one a naive but non-violent young man on his way to the party who is mistaken for a criminal but then ironically victimized?

    Is the other a violent criminal?

    Do they confront each other? Is this confrontation played out in the verse structure?

    The answer to all of these question s is "yes". I am highly skeptical that this is a coincidence that I have fallaciously contrived. It's in the song, plain as day. — Thun

  5. drizzle says:

    really hitting your stride with this one, good shit

  6. Travis says:

    I have always loved this track, it's easily one of their best. I remember trying to nominate it for the obscure tracks and Gloss shot me down with the quickness…haha

  7. Howard Lloyd says:

    das efx were both english majors in college…when they got signed

  8. Ted Da Bear says:

    I know I've just stumbled onto this a year later than the date you posted, but I have to speak my mind: At first when I listened to this track, I thought Das EFX might be racist–I've also heard that the original, unedited version contains the words "Ch!nk" and "Jew."
    Now that I've listened more carefully, and read your analysis (great work, by the way), I think Drayze is simply PLAYING A CHARACTER, and that his character is racist–which makes sense, him being a sensitive, young hothead.
    A question to the writer: Do you think Das EFX is racist, or were they just playing as characters? I am a huge fan of their first album, and as a fan of pure hip hop I would realy hate to remove them from my music collection because of their racism.

  9. Ted Da Bear says:

    If they are racist.

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