Single Review: The Wizard Of Rap (Renegade Records 1989/Dope Folks 2011)

December 22, 2011 4 min read

PRE ORDER The Wizard Of Rap (Renegade Records 1989/Dope Folks 2011) NOW!!

For their latest release Dope Folks is reissuing the super duper rare “Escape From New York” 12”. The internets suggests the original version, which dropped in ’89 on Renegade Records, was limited to only 100 copies. This Dope Folks Reissue is limited to only 300 copies so don't miss it a second time!!

This is a very solid late 80s 12”. The production is really good, with a combination of popular break-beats and some unique samples layered on as well. The true key to the music’s strength is in the well-orchestrated programming and arrangement. Production is credited to DJ Jay Swift, also responsible for the excellent scratching on the single, and Wiz Swift, who I assume is also the MC.

The MC has an approach similar to Rakim, with a smooth voice and calm demeanor, but is still assertive enough to be classified as hardcore.

The lead track “Escape From New York” uses street-smart story telling to illustrate the dangers of the crime-ridden streets of Brooklyn. He relies heavily on his punchlines as quick jabs to paint vivid pictures of grim reality. He’s particularly prolific in this on the first verse, “Escape from East New York/Walking the streets at night is just as bad as eating pork/Everyone is catching trigger-fingeritis/Only if they had arthritis/the earth would be less populated with tombstones/15 year olds smoking bones, swear their grown/Shooting down the zone, they feel large once the gun is blown/It’s time to open your eyes, don’t blink/The Black Man is becoming extinct/Every night I hear shots before I go to bed/On the corner, another brother dead/Bodies full of holes, meat hanging, blood gushing/9-1-1’s not rushing/(Sirens) There go 5-0/’Who witnessed the murder?’, now everybody don’t know/Now days you can’t even talk/The walls have ears, escape from East New York.” I just noticed while reading this without the music how awkward the flow sounds on its own. He uses a series of pauses and slight elongated pronunciations to fill in spaces, which leads to lots of breathing room in the verses.

While verse one acts as a overview of the issue, verses two starts to go into details of a specific, assumed non-fiction, incident of him and his partners, AZ & Sha-bar*, teaming up for vengeance of their murdered friend. He does a great job of building the story as his crew assembles, gathers information, plots and by the third verse they execute the plan. However, the story separates itself from most tales of glorified violence with a new nice twist ending.

The “Escape From East New York” Remix picks up the pace and smooths-out the mood by adding some more musical elements, in contrast to the rawness of the original.

“Excuses” is essentially a love ballad in the vein of Rakim’s “What’s On Your Mind”. Although the Wizard Of Rap track would pre-date that song it is likely it was ultimately influenced by Rakim’s “Mahogany” anyway. In any event, it definitely is done well and stands alone in it’s own right. For the main sample, it uses what sounds like it is a larger portion of the same sample used for Method Man’s “All I Need”, again a track that was released years after this. I suppose considering both of those things one could safely cite this track as ahead of its time.

The star of the four tracks is the overly obvious titled, “Murder By Death”…as if there was another way…ha. Regardless, it’s a great uptempo joint that allows him to fully flaunt his swift style & creative imagery. One of the songs best lyrical moments is when he drops, “I don’t play games, bona fide rebel/Last time God played he made the Devil”.

[audio:|titles=04 Murder By Death]

Finally hearing this release makes me very curious if they had any other music. It’s hard to believe you could be working with this level of talent and only manage to produce four songs ever. Hopefully, there is more to be heard and plans to make it available. Even if there was a lack of more completed rap material, I would find it hard to believe that they were that proficient with the sampler and didn’t do any other production work. These are the kinds of things my inquiring Hip Hop mind need to know… Thanx Dope Folks for supplying me with new quests to partake upon and an excellent soundtrack for the mission.

*Curiousness also peaks in the mention of his cohorts on “Escape From East York”. I wonder if AZ could possibly the same MC known for his association with Nas via “Life’s A Bi**h” and his own solo work, since he was also from East New York. The other name he mentions is Sha-Bar. There’s a Sha-Bar who had a indie 12” single on Prison Records out of New York (718 area code) in ’90 called “Three Stages Of Rampage” b/w “Lethal Weapon”, which featured cuts by J-Swift, despite the different name spelling it’s likely it is the same DJ.

Hmmmm…after I wrote that note above I decided to do a quick online search to see if I could confirm any of this and I was lead to a link for El Shabar, who was a member of The Rose Family (Rawkus Records), from Brooklyn, and he also appeared on a couple of AZ’s later records, so perhaps they are indeed who The Wizard Of Rap is referring to or a whole lot of coincidences are at play here…


Written By, The Curious Mind of, Kevin Beacham

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