From Shinin' to The All
I was at the record store sometime around the summer or fall of 1995. I saw two CDs in the used section that I wanted: “2000” by Grand Puba and “Dah Shinin” by Smif-N-Wessun. Luckily, I had enough money and bought both of them from Coconuts Record store in Evansville, IN.
I liked Grand Puba’s album just fine, but it was “Dah Shinin” that really inspired me. I could not relate to their lyrical content. But, I could listen and I did. I listened to Tek & Steele describe what life was like for them and their community in Brooklyn, NY. That was fascinating.
What struck me the most about that album was the music and the way the two emcees traded bars back and forth. The musical landscape, crafted by the Beatminerz, was like mixing early Mobb Deep and Tribe Called Quest. It had a very dark feel like Mobb and a smooth almost jazz feel like Tribe. The samples were often subtle, just sitting on top of the filtered baselines for a moment here and there. Horns stabs would whisper. Break beat drums would grab your neck and force it to bob your head. Nothing on the beats competed. The baselines complimented the samples. The samples complimented the baselines. The drums held it all together and perfectly set up Tek and Steele.
Tek & Steele were borderline perfect. Neither outshining the other, they met the beats with the right amount of energy. Tek’s slightly animated voice was the counter balance to Steele’s slightly laid back voice. They wove their voices together throughout songs instead of spitting individual verses. They went back and forth in the verse and shared duties on the hook. They were just as much a unit as the beat maker duo that set them up with the lovely production.
I was inspired. Three years later in 1998 they released their sophomore release “The Rude Awakening.” It was good, not great. Then they went silent for 7 years. In 2005 they came out with a pretty solid offering in “Reloaded.” But, two years later they released “The Album” and I failed to connect with that one. Then they teamed up with Pete Rock for a really good album “Monumental.” But, that was 8 years ago!!! They gave us an EP in 2013, but that’s it. It has been nearly a decade without a proper Smif-N-Wessun album. That changed on February 22, 2019 with the release of “The All.”
The wait was well worth it in part due to 9th Wonder and the Soul Council who produced the entire album. Tracking in at 12 songs, The All is a wondrously crafted soulful boom-bap Hip-hop album. It features elements reminiscent of Da Shinin’ but this is far from a part two. This is a new album that stands alone all by itself.
Like their debut, the musical landscape has a very cohesive feel as the drums, the bass, and the samples all work in unison to create fresh landscapes for Tek & Steel to till. And they do. Their energy combined with their back and forth rhyming style go hand in hand with the music. Plus, they are more introspective on this album than any of their previous work.
Smif-N-Wessun has come full circle. They gave us a darn near perfect album nearly 25 years ago. And in 2019 they have given us something similar. Most agree that their debut album is a solidified classic. Will we agree that The All is too?
Let me know what you think.
“Mind of a Man” by Justo the MC & Maticulous
“Big Fly 3” by Big Kahuna OG & Fly Anakin
“The Proletarii” by Grim Moses
“Black Ninjutsu” by Kyo Itachi & Haile Ali
“From the Soul” by Revolutionary Rhythm
“Cigarettes & Coffee” by A.J. Munson
“Sincerely, The P” by People Under the Stairs
“86 Witness” by Sean Price & Small Professor
“Czarface meets Ghostface”
“The All” by Smif N Wessun
Noteworthy Release Dates for March
“Hell’s Roof” by DJ Muggs & Eto - March 1
“A Long Red Hot Los Angeles Summer Night” by Blu & Oh No - March 1
“Guns” by Quelle Chris - March 29
“Black Beans” by Choosey & Exile - March 29
More to come…
Skyzoo & Pete Rock
Nolan the Ninja
De La Soul