Da Youngstas + K-Def = Better Than You Remember

Da Youngstas were exposed to every inset photo gimmick devised by A&Rs up to that point.

Revisit the musical memories of your adolescence with wizened discernment and you run the risk of besmirching your halcyon days. The music you held dear as a youngster tends to remain cordoned off in a sanctified spot where adult discernment is unwelcome. This remains the case until a mediocre song whose positive attributes were magnified in your mind by the forgiving lens of nostalgia innocently reappears on your Itunes playlist.
It is sad when a song ages poorly. The path to obsolescence is cold and unfair – a breakbeat that was perfectly serviceable in 1989 might induce nauseated groans in 2009. Ditto for references to “catching wreck” or “kicking mad flava.” And this also applies to any number of currently laughable trends that were inflicted on the populace in the late ’80s and early ’90s, including of course, kiddie rap.
The kiddie rap that stood one its own as quality material in the golden era is difficult to tolerate in adulthood. Chi-Ali’s prepubescent musings on sex and violence, while hilarious in retrospect given his murder rap, just seem to mar the godly blessing of early Beatnuts production (instrumentals, stat!). Illegal were ruff, rugged, and raw … to the point that you just want to slap the little crumbsnatchers for their insolence. And this brings us to Da Youngstas.
O-Dub once wondered aloud how the hell Da Youngstas managed to release four albums in four years, three of them while signed to a major label, all the while procuring beats from the likes of Pete Rock, Marley Marl, and DJ Premier. Jesse Serwer got to the bottom of the mystery in an interview with founding member Qu’ran, who explained the group’s history and ties to elder Philly rap luminaries like Steady B and Cool C with great attention to detail.
Now, while I am impressed by Da Youngstas impeccable pedigree, their true crowning feat is one that was probably unintentional. Their third LP, 1994’s No Mercy, was recorded for the most part at Marley Marl’s famed House Of Hits, and when Marley himself was not behind the helm, his protege K-Def was in control. K-Def’s five contributions to No Mercy, much like his work on Real Live’s The Turnaround LP, are nothing short of brilliant. The beats are beautiful, sweeping, orchestral. They just sound big, even grandiose. Da Youngstas are not budding Rakims on the mic but they hold their own competently, even showing signs of a sincere social consciousness on “Reality.”
Taken alone, these five tracks comprise a stellar EP within a decent if forgettable LP. This is the tootsie roll center of a footnote career, one of those rare gems that can only be reanimated in the age of Ipod. “Ill Filly Funk” in particular soars high – you’ll reconsider whether or not the Beatminerz deserve to be credited as geniuses for Black Moon’s “Reality.” Revisit, re-listen, and enjoy.

— Thun

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