Top 8 of 08 #3: Heltah Skeltah – D.I.R.T.

January 5th, 2009 by | Tags: , ,

Heltah Skeltah’s Magnum Force was probably the first CD I ever bought. I’d owned tapes, yeah, but buying a CD for the first time? That was a big deal. No more taping songs off the radio for me! It must’ve been probably ten years ago at this point. I knew of the Boot Camp because my uncle was a Black Moon fan, but all I was probably thinking was that I Ain’t Havin’ That was one of the dopest music videos I had ever seen in my entire life. The fact that I got an album with features from Method Man, OutLawz, Kurupt & Daz, Anthony Hamilton (before I was even a fan of dude), and the entire Boot Camp Clik was just icing on the cake.

In a way, the video for I Ain’t Havin’ That is the Cliff’s Notes for Heltah Skeltah’s style. It’s classic Brooklyn smack you in your face rap, ala MOP, but with this air of self-consciousness you don’t see in 99% of rappers. When DMX is talking about beating you up and shooting you and digging you up and eating your corpse arf arf arf what niggaaaaaaa, he’s probably saying it because he thinks it makes him sound hard. Heltah Skeltah knows it’s all rhymes, so they aren’t afraid to let loose with something like

Just in case, I’m renaming both of my hands Laxative and Colonic
They ah, smack shit out any nigga who want it

I don’t even know how to describe it. Self-conscious thug rap? Tongue-in-cheek braggadoccio? Sean Price made a living as the self-described Brokest Rapper You Know after Heltah Skeltah broke up. Rock a.k.a. Al Catraz a.k.a. Da Rockness Monstah a.k.a. look just watch this video.

Da Incredible Rap Team, as an album, a concept, and an album title, is classic Heltah Skeltah. It’s tongue-in-cheek funny, but thugging it at the same time. Magnum Force started off with Sean Price talking about how that record had to be “just like the last album, only better.” It’s true for DIRT, too– it’s just like the last album, only better.

The ten year break between Magnum Force and DIRT didn’t do anything to decrease Sean P and Rock’s charisma and teamwork. Their flows still perfectly complement each other. Rock’s voice is still ridiculously deep. Sean P is still coming with ridic punchlines. The beats are still dirty, dusky, and grimey. There’s even a BCC posse cut and a track that hearkens back to Therapy, off Nocturnal.

DIRT is kind of like innovating while doing the same thing over and over again. It doesn’t reinvent the Heltah Skeltah wheel, but it does add just enough to the formula to keep it interesting. They’ve grown as artists without giving up where they came from or paying slavish tribute to the past. They’re smarter, funnier, and seemingly hungrier than they were ten years ago. The whole album is two guys who are eager for people to listen and have fun to their music. Instead of dropping an overly serious and overwrought LP (hello kanye), they produced the music they, and their fans, enjoy.

How do they feel about other rappers?

Y’all say they nice? We say they polite… y’all like ’em though.
Rappers embarassed to say they rappers… proud to say they sell crack, though!

DIRT, like Magnum Force, is an album I keep coming back to. There’s just something about it that’s attractive, from the beats to the rhymes, and it’s a shame it’s going to end up so underrated. It’s a nice break from generic thug raps.

Also, there’s a ton of references to The Wire on the album.

Official videos:
So Damn Tuff feat. Buckshot & Rustee Juxx
Ruck n Roll
Everything Is Heltah Skeltah

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One comment to “Top 8 of 08 #3: Heltah Skeltah – D.I.R.T.”

  1. Great write up. I love this album…great hardcore east coast feel. Good to see Duck Down hasn’t changed their formula of putting out the classic head nodders.