When digging through a clearance rack, only one thing is certain: If there is a quality release somewhere in the rows of forgotten CD’s stashed on the ground, you’re going to have to go through a lot of worthless bull shit, most likely covered with computer generated images of diamonds, cars, money, women, wild animals, and mansions to find it. Thanks No Limit. But how do you know if you are better off buying an album you’ve never heard of, or spending your $2 asking the homeless guy selling newspapers out front to freestyle for you? Although there is never a guarantee, the best way is to stick to names that you recognize. It doesn’t have to be your favorite rapper, it could easily be someone you’ve only heard spit a few verses, or that you know is affiliated with other artists that you like. Yet, sometimes the album cover is so incredibly horrible that you don’t take the time to even read the words written on it. That nearly happened to me the other day.
Check the scenario: I’m looking through the racks at Amoeba, and already have around 5-6 CD’s that I’m happy with. Yet you never know where the gems are, so I don’t stop there, I push myself to look through every Hip-Hop album available on clearance. In the last row of seemingly worthless discs I peep an album cover way too stupid to not take a moment and laugh at. It’s a low budget cartoon of a cigar smoking turkey, adorned in glistening jewelry, a top hat, and coat. Whatever group of people agreed that a fucking turkey was a great way to sell gangsta rap albums deserve to have their eyes gouged out with rusty nails. Yet right as I’m about to move on, I see that it’s actually a King Tee album entitled Thy Kingdom Come. Really? Then hidden under the $1.95 price tag, I make out the words “Produced by Dr. Dre, DJ Quick (Yes they spelled his and practically everyone else’s name on the album wrong), Battlecat, Ant Banks, etc…”. What the fuck? Then I remembered, wasn’t King Tee one of the many rappers signed to Aftermath, who never had his project released? Could this possibly be that album? Astonishingly, despite the pathetic attempt at a cover, and the unforgivable error of misspelling the artist’s name (it’s Tee not T), this is actually the project that Dre was supposed to release in 1998. 4 years later, Greedy Green Entertainment made the album available to the public, but apparently dedicated zero funds towards marketing it. With misspelled names galore, and not even a picture of King Tee anywhere on the product, it is unclear if the artists had anything to do with releasing the material. Still, regardless of the shadiness most likely involved with this record, buying a King Tee album with beats from my favorite West Coast producers for $2 is definitely a hell of a come up.
King Tee – Speak On It (Produced by Dr. Dre)
At the same time, the good doctor didn’t release Thy Kingdom Come for a reason, so I wasn’t going to get riled up yet. I put the disc in, and after a very forgettable intro by Ice T, the record opens up perfectly with the hard hitting, Dre produced, “Speak On It”, which erased all sense of doubt I had about the authenticity or quality of the disc. Straight up, the shit knocks, and it’s West Coast to the core. Lyrically, King Tee gives a solid performance throughout the entire project. While no one verse on any track blew me away, I can’t think of a song which I felt he totally flopped on either. As always his delivery stands out as his most endearing quality. The man exudes ridiculous amounts of confidence with every word. Yet unlike the artists of today, Tela does not allow his swagger on the mic to dumb down his flow. Although his subject matter is pretty much limited to repping the West Coast, destroying his enemies, macking on hoes, getting trashed, and stacking cash, he manages to not get too bogged down in monotony by weaving a fair amount of stories and choosing instrumentals that convey a variety of emotions.
King Tee- Monay Featuring Dr. Dre (Produced by Dr. Dre)
While King Tee is definitely one of the few West Coast MC’s that hip-hop heads can be proud of due to his combination of flow and lyricism with hardcore gangster subject matter, the production on this album is what really stands out. As hard is it may be to believe, there is literally not a single bad instrumental on the whole project. “Let’s Make A.V.” is a classic, smooth and laid back DJ Quik track. When Mexican rapper Frost comes in to spit his verse, the beat seamlessly transitions into a salsa influenced portion, that perfectly exemplifies the superior level of musicality that Quik brings to his beats. Ant Banks provides a great example of 90’s Bay Area Mob sound on the Too $hort assisted “Big Boyz”, and Battlecat provides two funky ass head nodders as well. Yet most fans want to know how Dre sounds on his 8 offerings. While none of the beats would probably make it to your top 10 Dr. Dre instrumentals, he does not disappoint. His sound is most akin to “Keep Their Heads Ringin’” rather than the commercial genius of Chronic 2001, or the super clean yet pretty played out piano based tracks that he’s been delivering for the past 4-5 years. On Thy Kingdom Come Dre provides that heavy, bass laden, West Coast sound that makes you feel bullet proof while listening. Although none of it would have that much of a real chance of topping the charts, it meshes perfectly with Tee’s ultra confident style.
If you love the West Coast sound, this shit will make you want to roll up a fatty, buy a few 40‘s and reminisce on when being from California universally meant that you were not to be fucked with. It’s definitely one of the most impressive albums I’ve found on the clearance rack in a while. It sucks that Aftermath never released it, and as a result the majority of the world will never know that it exists, but I guess that’s how the music world works. At least we don’t have to wait for Tee’s death to experience the fruits of his labor. With this in the library, I’m now waiting for Rakim’s work with Dre to surface, and Crooked I’s Death Row material to hit shelves as well. Far fetched? In this day and age, you never really know.