Da Lench Mob: Who You Gonna Shoot With That?
From Guerillas in the Mist (East West, 1992)
Kam feat. Ice Cube: Watts Riot
From Neva Again (East West, 1993)
It’s gross understatement to suggest that 1992 was a watershed moment in L.A.’s hip-hop evolution. Without getting into too extensive of an analysis, let’s just say that two momentous events forever changed the landscape: the L.A. Uprising and the release of The Chronic. The former unleashed all the pent-up frustrations that Ice Cube, in particular, had been prophecying following the Rodney King beatings and leading up to the not-guilty verdicts that dropped a match on the tinder of L.A.’s social tensions. The Chronic transformed all that cathartic energy into a new paradigm, a new way to g-roll. Flush off the gang truce, feeling like the baddest MFers on the block post-riot, the kind of world that Dre and Snoop painted was less about Ice Cube’s proclamations of bowtie/bean pie-lead revolution and instead, it was time to celebrate the ascension of the gangsta and his lifestyle.
That left groups like Kam and Da Lench Mob (both Ice Cube protoges, not coincidentally) traveling down the wrong road at the very beginning of their careers. While they sought to extend the fiercy rhetoric that Cube had laid down, the rest of the rap nation had moved on to sip gin and juice and get their G Thang on.
I’m not mad at those changes per se – one of hip-hop’s special qualities is how dynamic it is, never rooting in one style for very long. It’s just a shame that Kam and DLM would become so marginalized in the post-92 era, especially since both artists put out pretty damn good albums. Both have a lot in common, the least of which is Cube’s presence, but both also seem infused with the same kind of ghetto righteousness (instead of fabulousness) that powered their pro-Black/anti-devil stances aganist white supremacy. Kam was probably the more nuanced of the pair – DLM sounded like they were off their meds at times.
What held it all together on both albums was superior production, though even by ’92, the use of Southern soul samples (think Sir Jinx’s style) was on the cusp of becoming passe. Personally though, I’ll keep the door open to let songs like these two, plus others like W.C. and the Maad Circle’s “Dress Code” or some of Yo Yo’s 3rd album songs slip in without penalty. Kam’s “Watts Riot” sounds like a Sir Jinx, DJ Muggs and Bomb Squad collabo – chaotic and fierce as hell with its growling bassline and squeaky guitar scratches. Meanwhile, Da Lench Mob’s “Who You Gonna Shoot With That?” flips the 5 Stairsteps (what’s up Cubie!) as other rappers have used but makes it sounds darker than, say, Positive K or Brand Nubian. The song also contains a line that always cracks me up everytime I hear it: “why does your gun say “ni**ers only?/but you need to get an angle/on an Anglo.” West up!