The filthy and furious revolution, “Enta Da Stage”
Nervous Records, 1993
“The New York Rap Revival”
In 1993, we didn’t have the distance to observe the changes that were taking place in Hip Hop. Today, we know that 1993 was a year of transition in New York Hip Hop, and even more generally in global Hip Hop. There is a before 1993 and an after 1993. The late 1980s marked a great period of innovation in rap, with groups like Rakim & Eric B., Big Daddy Kane, Slick Rick, Boogie Down Productions, EPMD, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Gang Starr all distinguishing themselves with a distinct style, usually rather conscious or on the contrary rather entertaining. But none of them were fundamentally gangsta, with the possible exception of Kool G Rap and DJ Polo, but this is an exception. If this generation laid the foundations of Hip Hop, it was beginning to suffer a slight decline in the early 90s. The public seemed to be asking for something else.
While New York had always been at the forefront and the great innovator in Hip Hop, and consequently the biggest seller of rap records, the limelight was taken over by Los Angeles and Dr. Dre’s G-Funk with Snoop Doggy Dogg starting in 1992. For the first time in the history of Hip Hop, New York found itself on the back foot and as a result had to react. Certainly the success of Los Angeles gangsta rap had an impact on the future of New York rap. It’s not that they copied their competitors from the Pacific coast, but they also moved to a much more aggressive Hip Hop from 1993 with a style that still remains typically New York.
The year is consequently divided between the achievements of the old generation, in particular A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders, De La Soul’s Bulhonne Mindstate, BIg Daddy Kane’s Looks Like A Job For, and the albums of a new emerging generation which will draw its inspiration in the filthy slums of the bad streets of New York. The conscious or entertaining Hip Hop is no more, a harder, more street, more gangsta Hip Hop appears. The goal is no longer to rise up, to denounce or to gather, but to show the world the stench of the street and the difficult living conditions of the underprivileged areas. Artists like the Wu-Tang Clan, Fat Joe or Onyx will be the precursors of this new style of rap that will revolutionize rap for years to come.
“A nighttime adventure through the dark and grimy streets of Brooklyn”
Another group will mark this transition with red iron, red as the fury that reigns in them, red as this cover where they stand with a threatening air dressed in their most street appearance. This cover alone will have a definite impact on Hip Hop, the Paid In Full covers where we appear rich with gold chains give way to covers that make us feel the fury of the street. Black Moon had this fury, this rage in them, a desire to express themselves, to tell the dark stories they live in everyday, the darkness of the dimly lit streets of Brooklyn, with a black moon dominating a cold night.
The trio from Bushwick, Brooklyn led by Buckshot alongside 5ft and DJ Evil Dee will be the embodiment of this dark moon, a moon that we don’t see, or don’t want to see, the dark side of New York. A moon tarnished by the coldness and harshness of the street. Black Moon will bring to light what goes on in its dark streets. The two rappers embody this raw aggressiveness from the street with menacing growls, violent lyrics and raging verbal intensity. The duo makes us feel the stressful emotions that can put us in discomfort, a form of embarrassing fear. Hip Hop didn’t usually take us into its territory, but Buskshot not only takes us there, but makes us live its universe, its daily life, with the sensations that follow. A nocturnal adventure in the dark and dirty streets of Brooklyn that provokes a form of anxiety.
“A raging expression on anxious and uncomfortable rhythms”
If you can feel the grime of the street in the raw lyrics and performance of the two emcees, the production team conveys that anxiety in the same way. The Beatminerz, accompanied by DJ Evil Dee, craft beats that make you feel uncomfortable, drawing from old jazz and soul record crates, but for obscure beats. Where their predecessors used known sample loops to bring a groove, the Beatminerz will dig into unsuspecting records ranging from Funk to Jazz to Reggae. They use gritty, moody, almost irritating loops, accompanied by scratches for heavy beats.
Jazzman Ronnie Laws’ whistling Tidal Wave loop on Who Got Da Props creates a raw, ominous rhythm. The saxophone on I Got Cha Opin from The Art Ensemble of Chicago’s Odwalla is another example of the Beatminerz’ genius. More classical, Buck Em Down takes a loop from Donald Byrd’s Wind Parade for a dissonant beat. Meanwhile, the few notes of Grover Washington Jr.’s Hydra on How Many Mic’s provokes an alarming and dramatic feeling.
Buckshot’s raging expression makes us feel his fury, his diction and intensity convey that stench and reinforce the anxiety communicated by the lyrics. Slave’s repeated and incessant alliterations show an unflinching aggression. The rapper’s vocal variations and versatility are exceptional. Buckshot’s verbal dexterity must be highlighted but 5ft’s raw lyrics are also exceptional, unfortunately he only appears on three tracks.
“An impact on urban and Hip Hop culture”
The slang used allows us to get up with them in their daily life, to live it, to feel it. This slang will be used for several years by Hip Hop fans, in New York but also elsewhere, that is to say the impact of Enta Da Stage on the Hip Hop culture. And if that wasn’t enough, the outfit they proudly wear, the famous Timberland boots and the First Down coat, will become another symbol of the group’s success and their imprint in the 90’s culture.
If Enta Da Stage had an impact on urban culture, its impact on Hip Hop culture is even more powerful. Beyond the cover, which will serve as inspiration for The Infamous, the grimy and gangsta style will be taken up by all the future generation of New York rappers, from Nas to Notorious B.I.G., without forgetting the most obvious successors, Mobb Deep. Enta Da Stage laid the foundations for the second part of the golden age of Hip Hop, which partially freed itself from the legacy of the previous generation while using its technical and artistic innovations.
Following this album, the group will temporarily split and leave Nervous Records. Buckshot founded Duck Down with his former manager Dru-Ha. Together they will continue the legacy started by Black Moon with a new underground collective, the Boot Camp Clik, including Smif-N-Wessum, Originoo Gunn Clappaz and Heltah Skeltah. Partially or entirely produced by the Beatminerz, the eachievements of these groups will be among the most hardcore of the second half of the 90s.