Monday, November 16, 2015

Y’All So Stupid, Van Full of Pakistans – Just For the Hell of It Mondays Review

Today This Album Title is an NSA Search Trigger

Artists: H2O, Unkle Buk,
Sha Boogie, Spearhead X, Logic
Produced by: Rowdy Records
Price: Approximately $25.00 on eBay
Release Date: May 25, 1993

*Songs ahead, score at the bottom*

Despite having sold millions of records for nearly a decade, hip-hop’s rising popularity escaped the notice of mainstream record labels for most of the 1980s. Once MTV aired Yo! MTV Raps and suburban parents began cringing at the militaristic assertions of NWA, labels great and small began snapping up rappers left and right, a small gold rush right as ostentatious jewelry fell out of favor. At this point, however, the A&Rs signing artists and acts had some connection to the culture, and so we get seminal debut albums by groups like Brand Nubian and the Pharcyde. But not every artist can be groundbreaking, and not every album can be classic, as we will come to learn in this review of Van Full of Pakistans by Georgia-based group Y’All So Stupid. Wait, I sort of gave my opinion away right there, didn’t I? Oh, well keep reading anyway, there are snippets of rap music to listen to.

Let’s take a trip back in time to the long ago year of 1993: Bill Clinton was a new president in his first term, people were getting free CD-ROMs from a company named America Online, and episodes of Saved By the Bell: The College Years began airing in prime time. It was a simpler time, and one that can be noted for the fact that rappers smoked a lot of weed A lot. It was pretty much all they rapped about. It had never been a taboo subject, but in the early 1990s many rappers like Cypress Hill and Snoop Dogg revolved around their celebration of marijuana. It was in this environment that five gentlemen from Decatur, Georgia: H2O, Unkle Buk, Sha Boogie, Logic, and producer Spearhead X endeavored to tell the world how they liked smoking pot as well, but in their own way.

What is so interesting about Van Full of Pakistans is that, despite coming from an area flanked by an existing Miami Bass scene and a growing New Orleans-based rap community, their album sounds like it could have come from Brooklyn. Largely peppy but repetitive soul loops under competent battle rhymes, Van Full of Pakistans is similar to many also-rans of the era, but is still compelling enough to give a listen. So let’s give a listen.

The first track, “Introduce Me,” couldn’t be more straightforward: the members of the group introduce themselves over a staccato organ loop and in between a hook that repeats the title several times. Considering this came out the same year as the first Wu-Tang album, it really falls flat. It does get you a little amped, but the feeling dissipates long before the song is over.

This song is rendered moot by the fourth track on the album, the titular "Van Full of Pakistans," which is a fairly meandering bunch of traded verses about Industry Rule number four-thousand and eighty. It's not a great song, but it's a heck of a lot better than the first and even has a pretty engaging R&B chorus, one that has nothing to do with vans or Pakistanis.

We get to know the group more intimately in the song “Bowl Full of Soul” (where they even name check the Pharcyde) as the team kicks Diamond D-style rhymes over a beat that could have easily played behind any D.I.T.C. track from the same era. The verses aren’t great except for the last one by H2O, who weaves pop culture and commercial references in a pretty standard party rap.
I can recall “Bootleg Beatdown” being a popular song in 1993, and I believe the slow-moving indictment of American racism and lynch mobs “Family Tree” was a single. But to me, a much better song is “Dirt Road White Girl,” which has a much more layered, bass-heavy beat and a better bunch of rhyme patterns.
Y’All So Stupid comes closest to a Southern anthem with “Y’All,” a slow, drawling beat that evokes a sticky, humid Alabama summer day. Unfortunately, the rhymes are the same New York-sounding street raps that could have been heard on Video Jukebox at the same time. The hook features an interesting horn treatment, but you could listen to a third of this song and fairly well get the gist.
Perhaps the best thing on the album are the interludes that appear between nearly every song, which consist of prank calls to women or conversations between Spearhead X and unknown persons where he asks what people think of Y’All So Stupid. Which frankly comes across as more than a little needy.

There are a lot of albums released between 1990 and 1993 that lost their promotional push or perhaps didn’t get the marketing they might have due to Ice-T and Body Count’s “Cop Killer” controversy. About many of these albums, we wonder “what might have been” had things been different, if the Rodney King trial had never resulted in the Los Angeles Uprising and changed America’s relationship to black music; would some of these groups have excelled in a world that might have been devoid of militant rap artists like 2Pac and Nas? And the answer, in the case of Y’All So Stupid, is probably not. But there are worse things you could be listening to in this world.

Bits and Pieces:

Sometimes there are reasons albums are less than well-known, and in the case of Van Full of Pakistans, it’s because the offering is mediocre. Y’All So Stupid were talented and I’m sure played well on the college circuit, but ultimately the music was less good than hip-hop coming out of New York which it aped. If you saw this album used for a few bucks, it’s not a horrible way to spend an hour. But then, you could spend that hour listening to something a lot more unique and interesting.

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