The 90s were a bittersweet symphony for Heltah Skeltah. Piggybacking the success of fellow Duck Down members Black Moon and Smif N Wessun, the Twin Towers of the Boot Camp Clik obtained an immediate loyal following with their 1996 debut Nocturnal. Unfortunately, that momentum as underground royalty was stifled by the mainstream centered follow-up Magnum Force; an album whose commercial failure caused the group to disband officially for a decade.
Now ten years later the question is can Ruck aka Sean Price and Rock, especially after crafting distinct solo careers, regain the chemistry that made them the secret weapons of the Boot Camp Clik? On D.I.R.T. (Da Incredible Rap Team) (Duck Down), the Brooklyn duo seeks to answer that question and more.
After a humorous intro that interpolates NWAs Prelude off Niggaz4Life, the duo get straight to business over the menacing, thin piano chords of Insane. Here Rocks booming voice dominates the track, and despite the hardcore rhymes he maintains his trademark tongue in cheek humor (Listen Im a B-Real / I commit Sen Dog / Put slugs in Muggs / Im insane in my membrane gone!).
The group chemistry begins to gel more by mid-album on Everything Is Heltah Skeltah and D.I.R.T. (Yeah). On the former the duo effortlessly lampoon the state of Hip-Hop culture, while on the latter the group eviscerates a standard piece of boom-bap production with crisp battle rhymes.
No Duck Down release would be complete without assistance from the BCC, and D.I.R.T. does not disappoint. Buckshot and Ruste Juxx stop by on the confrontational So Damn Tough to deride some of the overt political correctness in todays Hip-Hop scene. On WMD Smif N Wessun nearly steal the show before Rock shuts down the festivities with a poignant closing verse.
Occasionally hampered by mixtape quality tracks (Chipmunk 3000, Twinz), D.I.R.T. nonetheless succeeds in reaffirming for long-time fans what they loved about Heltah Skeltah, and provides just enough accessibility to peak the curiosity of potential listeners. For many of their 90s peers, they wish could be so lucky.
“Art Of Disrespekinazation”