I am adamant in my claim that Dres stood ably amongst the very best to do it circa ’91. On the microphone he was just as smooth as Grand Puba, as witty as BDK, as distinctive as any of his Native Tongue Brethren and undeniably a virtuoso with the flow. He never appeared on a posse cut where he didn’t steal the show and I dare any rap nerd to make a claim to the contrary. He murdered “Roll Wit Tha Flava,” killed shit on “Let The Horns Blow,” and beasted some cut from Fu-Schnickens’ first album that nobody remembers, just to name a few. His rapping was trancendent even when backed by a tepid funk band like Brand New Heavies or shoehorned onto an insipid Vanessa Williams single. Mista Lawnge’s deep crates production fit the raps so perfectly that the expectations for the duo’s second album were probably unreasonably high.
Non-Fiction was either ignored by those who thought of Black Sheep as one hit wonders or panned by those who wanted them to recreate A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing. Both responses are extreme. “The Choice Is Yours” is catchy, but only because Black Sheep convinced you – it’s as unlikely a hit as any and yet has somehow avoided wearing out its welcome. Their debut album was a strange flower in the late 80s/early 90s meadow of tolerated absurdity. It would have been laughed out of existence had they attempted to release it in 1994, by which time screwfaces and camo had supplanted goofy grins and day-glo. They had to bend with the wind to some extent, especially after such a long break between albums.
Admittedly, their attempts to ingratiate themselves into the whole D.I.T.C. uptown aesthetic felt a bit forced, and Mista Lawnge’s increased mic time was a horrific error of judgement. Some of the songs on Non-Fiction are admittedly wack, almost to the point of being embarrassing. “North South East West” is the kind of pandering drivel that had to have been inspired by the pressure of trying to recoup some rent money from a shady contract. But amidst a little detritus there are genuine jewels. Dusty, hardcore, jazzy, dare I say sophisticated songs.
“Autobiographical” has literally no equal. Almost all life writing in rap winds up melodramatic, self-indulgent, solipsistic or just corny, but this song is just … on another level altogether. “Bubblin’ Brown Sugar” is pure debonair Harlem Nights flamboyance. “Freak Freak Ya’ll” has the kind of stream of consciousness that good rappers gave up on years ago, for reasons I’ll never fathom. “Me & My Brother” and “Peace To The Niggas” extol brotherhood and unity over bassy beats without sacrificing cool. Throw in some great remixes to the anemic singles “Without A Doubt” and “North South East West” and you have yourself one hell of a seven track EP. Sit back, enjoy, and pulverize your prior misconceptions.
3. Freak Freak Ya’ll
4. Me & My Brother
5. Peace To The Niggas
6. Without A Doubt (Lawnge’s Mix)
7. North South East West (Buckwild Remix)
Let us know what you think!