First in line for Friday’s five for the Funk series is a look at Busta Rhymes and the Flipmode Squad, in their late nineties heyday rather than the rather lame Conglomerate version. LONS might have been the original template for Busta to bring his madcap genius to the fore (case in point that Arsenio performance), but his late nineties crew were mad underrated as well, winning a source award and dropping a decent album in the form of ‘The Imperial’.
Although later line-ups would include emissaries such as Papoose and Noreaga, this was the genuine golden era of the group – alongside Busta they had one of the nicest female emcees of the period in Outsidaz’ Rah Digga, Ragga voiced Serious (who left before the Imperial was recorded and then went on to produce for No Limit) the pre-pubescent looking Baby Sham, the fairly wack on his own but decent enough to hold court in a crew Rampage the last Boy Scout, Busta’s greatest ever hype man Spliff Star and the quite simply amazing Lord Have Mercy.
Like Chali 2na of Jurassic 5 on crack, Lord had one of the greatest voices hip-hop has ever seen and a ridiculously short career. Anyone that makes you stop and listen more than Busta Rhymes on a posse cut nigh n every time he dropped a verse is a true star despite a relative lack of consistent quality, and the acrimony behind him leaving probably had something to do with said ability.
So here’s five of the best records the crew produced, from a point when Busta really was at his creative best. Enjoy.
‘Cha Cha Cha’
The quintessential Flipmode joint, Spliff Star sets the tone, Rah Digga drops her gravel voiced niceness, Busta has that madcap hook locked down and even Baby Sham does well. And the video has Busta as a matador! Awesome beat too, easily one of the best hip-hop tracks of the last two years of the nineties.
‘Everybody on the Line’
Following on from the flamenco theme of ‘Cha Cha Cha’, the other single off ‘The Imperial’ is also firmly rooted in that late nineties production mindset and the type of banger you can imagine being moodily lapped up in the Tunnel and on Hot 97 (it also made Westwood’s show on more than one occasion). You can also see Lord ripping it up on BET here as well.
‘We could Take it Outside’
As stated previously Lord’s sheer vocal presence often outweighed even that of Busta on wax, and arguably the greatest example of it is here. The Swizz Beatz production has that joyous 90s feel about it (his at the time futuristic strings were unlike anything else on the musical landscape), Rah Digga drops a trademark killer line (‘waiting on mine like I’m the LL comeback’) and then Lord just savages proceedings before Busta tries to claw the focus back at the end. A proper good posse cut.
‘Against all Odds’
Off the ELE album from Busta; and his apocalyptic fascinations get fed into by his crew brilliantly. The late nineties hip-hop obsession with the end of the world and the millennium bug was a bit silly though, wasn’t it?
‘Flipmode is the Squad’
Rampage wasn’t the best emcee but he could hold his own in a posse cut, and this one from his ‘Scout’s Honor… by Way of Blood‘ is certainly a great example of that. Boasting the same raw and at ’em bass driven production from DJ Scratch which was a big part of ‘The Coming’ era Busta, this is straight up mid 90s head nod brilliance. The frantic delivery, ODB style wailing, Serious’ rough hewn singing-cum-rapping, obligatory show stealing verse from Bus-a-bus and, of course, Lord Have, make this the kind of cut you imagine soundtracked weed smoking car journeys in NYC at the time.