Tuesday, November 3, 2009



In Full Gear, 20 Years Later

Posted: 03 Nov 2009 10:00 AM PST

Some people use candles on cakes to determine their age. Other do the math = this year minus year born. I use Stetsasonic's "In Full Gear". I was only 12 years old when my mind was flipped inside out after being exposed to this majestic album.

This was the record that brought me into the hiphop mindstate that I would never leave again. This is how they should all be: full of clever rhymes, impressive sound, deep layered production and riding on an impressive varying show of musical/hiphop styles in one album.

"Freedom or Death" continues to be my personal motto. Daddy-O says "If I gotta die to be free, well then I guess it gotta be, 'cause I aint never been a sucka see", leaving you no gray area at all in the philosophical arena where second-guessers lose their heads to fully convinced gladiators. These political stands are what made the golden era of hiphop an educational tool that has never been equaled by later generations.

Strong arm beats and lyrics are all over the album, thanks to Delite and Daddy O's unwavering lyrics. "We're The Band" (sampling the same music that BDP would later use for "Blackman In Effect") defines what they are over the sound of a hardcore marching beat. Prince Paul on the production and turntables. Frukwan dropping science on the mic. Wise spitting on the mics, sometimes with beatboxing, at other times with rhymes. Some of the wisest lyrics though, come from MC Delite, who already sounded like an elder on the tracks. DBC was the keyboardist/drummer/DJ. Bobby Simmons has something to do there.. but I don't think he was around for In Full Gear. Anyone wanna school me on him? I just know he has a shitty ass myspace.

To complete the band, we have the ringleader, no doubt; Daddy-O. His gruff voice mixed with his raging lyrics make up the poisonous darts he throws out in every verse on every track of this album. Even when he says "I tape the daytime soaps on the VCR", you come out convinced that daytime soaps are straight gangster. If not, you'll give him his respect after you remember what he spit a few lines before:

"And though I'm not a politician I know all my rights
I had a fight with a cop just last night
Address my girl 'my dear', been shootin guns for years
And I never been a sucker givin in to my peers"

"Stet Troop 88" has Wise on the beatbox mixed with some perfect uppercut-punch-strong programmed beats. "Float On" is just a soft love song, coming equipped with all the rappers horoscope signs and some silly ass whispering. "Pen and Paper" is just a dope hiphop track, an ode to writing your lyrics over a kick ass bassed-beat, and a climaxing simple-but-so-well-placed wicky-wicky scratch. "This is it Y'all" rolls into your ears like that all hiphop tracks should. A perfect beat. A perfect horny stab. A perfect drum roll. Three MC's rolling over the beat like airplane wheels over tarmacs. To lighten the atmosphere, interludes come in and add comedy, "Extensions" would be a perfect track for Chris Rock's latest documentary "Good Hair". "Sally", a song about an ugly but loveable girl. The album just goes all over the place from utilizing heavy metal riffs, ("It's In My Song"), to some deep dubb Miami Bass (with the obvious title "Miami Bass", but actually talking more about), some of you may not need to be reminded how big that bass sound was in the late 80's. Daddy-O had to bring at least one trade mark dancehall track, this one called "ODad".

Music for the Stetfully Insane

The one track that probably get's skipped by a lot of people, just happens to be my all time favorite Prince Paul production (and my funny ass ringtone that gets ALOT of attention when I'm at the bank). "Music for the Stetfully Insane" is an interlude consisting of a fat, real sounding drum loop scratched over a Funkadelic's "Atmosphere", a lengthy Bernie Worrellathon keyboard solo track. Side note: Interesting how 15 years later Paul would work with Bernie Worrel in their monumental album "Baby Elephant".

This album was all about that open-minded theme that so many late 80's records boasted with pride.

But the song that I haven't mentioned yet was the one that would change hiphop single-handedly. "Talking All That Jazz" was an impressive 4 minutes and 49 seconds pièce de résistance that would put Stetsasonic in a whole new plateau. The song talked about the importance of sampling in hiphop, to respect the original artist, help make them relevant to a new generation.

You see, you misunderstood
A sample is a tactic
A portion of my method, a tool
In fact it's only of importance when I make it a priority

Sadly only one year later De La Soul would be taken to court and lose a legal battle over the use of a sample. Biz Markie would lose his battle too. Too many songs have been shelved due to lack of sample clearance. In this respect, the old school will always have that one edge over anything newer. They had way more creativity with samples before the law abiding record industry fucked up the sample-game.

It's borderline insane that this track, that was so historic and iconic in it's prime, usually gets more play on European dancefloors than anywhere else. Let's make up for lost time then, and bump it now, and bump it loud: "TALKING ALL THAT JAZZ"

-- cenzi stiles