From the moment I heard “Tic Toc” I was ready for the next Lords of the Underground album. After a breakthrough effort on their debut the Lords were back to work quick with the same production team of Marley Marl and K-Def to put together their sophomore album, Keepers of the Funk. The lead-off single was a little calmer than the hyped up “Chief Rocka” sound we were used to, but it was still that in-your-face delivery over funky production. However, when the album finally dropped I felt a sense of disappointment. Clearly the general public felt the same as the effort failed to keep their 15 minutes going, but was the album really that bad or did I just not give it a fair chance?
Turns out it’s actually really good. Keepers of the Funk is shorter than their first album but it found the Lords returning to the gutter boom bap production with shouted staccato vocals formula all while displaying a maturity found in tackling subjects more than just “the funk” like discussing their goals on “What I’m After,” and the requirement of “Faith” in one’s life.
Perhaps it was the west coast takeover. In 1994 the G-funk era completely ran hip hop, with the Death Row Records catalog being played on every radio station across the country. Many people, myself included, were bumping nothing but Dre, Snoop and Cube and while the Wu-Tang Clan and Redman were holding their own, there was only so much room in hip hop for that east coast sound. Unfortunately this found such head-nodding beats like the title track falling on deaf ears.
Right from the jump “Ready or Not” brings back memories of first hearing the “Chief Rocka” sample dropped in their breakthrough hit. The more you listen to the album, the more you realize that maybe it wasn’t the Lords’ fault that they couldn’t continue the success. While Black Sheep’s second album Non-Fiction flopped due to the group’s seeming lack of interest in their own material, the Lords stuck to what they knew and it still failed, proving that people are fickle. One day they want what they know and the next day they might want something completely different and in 1994 it was clearly the latter.
If you liked Here Come The Lords for the in-your-face rhymes and neck breaking beats, then Keepers of the Funk is just as good. It’s more condensed which makes it more focused. Growth is displayed in the lyrical content while you’re still getting straight up boom bap joints like “Neva Faded” and “Frustrated.” Keepers is a fine piece of work that’s aged well and deserves to be appreciated. The first album may have the hits and the memories, but the second album proves that the Lords had found their niche and didn’t need to expand. They lived by the old adage of “keep it simple” and it gave us two great albums. — C-Dub
Lords Of The Underground – “Tic Toc”
Lords Of The Underground – “Ready Or Not”
Lords Of The Underground – “Keepers Of The Funk”