Click photo to download the mp3s off the vinyl EP
One of the hardest … EPs to find information on? Absolutely. Recently, a denizen of the T.R.O.Y. Forum named Fak uploaded this seven track vinyl EP, which is for sale here and appears to have been released in 2005 on the equally elusive Drive-By Pimp Slap label (DBPS2-1). But confusion ensued in the thread – fellow blogger Markshot, among others, had come across an album of the same title but with eight tracks, two of which, “Back Up Off Me” and “Less Work,” are similarly titled to songs on the vinyl version, but no exactly. Major WTF here.
Google Blog Search was not immediately helpful in this case, but with a little bit of sleuthing I was able to put the puzzle pieces together. A blog post from December 2006 that is now in 404 limbo proclaims that Saafir’s One Of The Hardest EP is a limited edition: “saafir returns! 8 unreleased tracks (not on any other release) recorded between 1997-2002. hella limited. look out for a new album in the near forseeable future.” This post apparently included a tracklist but the blurb visible in the search result only shows “1.less work 2.bad b*tch 3.touch somebody (feat. xzibit),” which matches the first three selections from Markshot’s tracklist. That plus the “hella” suggested some pure west coast authenticity to me.
Further in the past, back in August 2005, SergDun from We Eat So Many Shrimp blogged about a Saafir concert he attended, in which the Saucee Nomad insisted on performing some brand new material which included songs called “Crispy” and “Cash Me Out.” Now we’re on to something! Afterwards, SergDun purchased a CD titled, you guessed it One Of The Hardest, which he described as “archived material from ’97-’02.” He then goes on to four of the songs that appear on his eight track CD, all of which appear on Markshot’s playlist. Good then. Inspection of both files suggests that “Back Up” and “Back Up Off Me” are in fact the same songs with the same Ras Kass and Xzibit guest verses. Ditto for “Left Work” and “Less Work.” Or at least the beats and lyrics are the same – they could be different takes for all I know, as the recording quality is much greater on the CD versions.
In any event, the music on these EPs falls far short of the bar Saafir set on Boxcar Sessions, but you probably knew that already. Even if you’re of the belief that Saafir’s more accessible reinvention beginning with Trigonometry was a step in the right direction (and this argument admittedly Â has some merit) these EPs are not essential unless you’re a completist. Saafir has rhymed better over iller beats elsewhere, point blank. But this is Saafir, so the EPs are filled with those sublime moments where he just goes the fuck off and says something totally unexpected in his trademark anxious robotic freestyle way. For some this will be reason enough to collect these semi-rarities.
For others who are unconvinced, peep this article from 2007 which explains that the lyrics from the song “One Of The Hardest” comprise a true-to-life account of Saafir’s near brush with death as a survivor of a plane crash: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/01/03/DDG2JNAD6O1.DTL