Thursday, August 23, 2012

Forgotten albums: Session 2

To begin things, to a certain extent, this album hasn't been forgotten specifically by me, however, later in this post I'm going to go into why it's forgotten by most fans. Before we get there, I want to talk about this album for a bit. Most of us remember hearing "Affirmative Action" off of Nas' excellent "It Was Written" album, featuring the original Firm lineup that consisted of Nas, AZ, Foxy Brown, & Cormega. I remember playing that song often in the summer of 96, and after seeing them perform this same song on "Showtime At The Apollo" that summer, my anticipation for the group album exploded, figuratively of course, lol.

When you looked at the original members' credentials, plus there was going to be production from the legendary Dr. Dre (and the Trackmasters), this seemed like a can't miss prospect, but as you read on, you'll see why that wasn't the case. As 1996 turned into 1997, there was a change in the lineup, as Cormega departed from the group, mainly due to creative differences in my opinion (and I'm sure Cormega didn't shed any tears either, lol), and a largely unproven but decent MC in the form of Nature took his place. I had heard a few freestyles from Nature in 97, and for the most part they were good, but I wasn't sure about his spot in The Firm, until I heard this B-side on Foxy Brown's "I'll Be" single. That song was in slight heavy rotation for a minute, and it only built up my anticipation from there. Now, hearing "Firm Biz" for the first time would've turned the average fan away from this album, but for some reason (probably Nas, lol), it worked, at the time, lol.

Tuesday, October 28th, 1997 was the day of its release, and I was excited, I sure was! I went to my local Target in Colonial Heights, VA, and I was a little disappointed to see that the associates on the floor did not put any of the CDs on display, and this was around 6:00pm mind you. I had to ask one of them "did you get the new Firm album today", and that's when I got my copy, paying $13.99 ($14.62 with tax) for the album (yes, I remember EVERYTHING, lol). Listening to the album later that night, well, I thought it was one of the best things I'd ever heard, honestly, but with hindsight being 20/20 and all, I was wrong.

Before I get to why I feel this album is forgotten, I'm going to do a first time thing on my blog, and that's dissect this album track for track. Follow me please!

1. Intro (nothing noteworthy here)

2. Firm Fiasco (Kind of an ironic song title isn't it, lol? This song got the album to an ok start. Dre's beat was very good, lyrically it's nothing special.)

3. Phone Tap (Intro) Well, this album was heavily influenced by the "gangsta/mafia" theme, and I'll touch on that more later.

4. Phone Tap (Nas, AZ, and Nature blessed this tight Dre track and it's the best song on this album. Video was nice too.)

5. Executive Decision (This almost sounded like it could've been on either Nas' "It Was Written" or AZ's "Pieces of a Man". Decent Trackmasters beat, lyrically it's nothing special, again. Chorus left a lot to be desired too.)

6. Firm Family (I like the beat on this one. A Dre feature was a rare thing at this point, and I don't think he disappointed on this one. Nature did good also. The chorus, again, left a lot to be desired.)

7. Firm All Stars- Oh God, totally forgettable here. And again, I gotta attack the chorus, lol. This is it, from Nas I might add, singing too, in a way:

"We are the Firm all stars/F***** yo b****, we don't care who you are"

Man, this might eclipse "Oochie Wally" as one of the wackest things Nas has been a part of. Foxy Brown and guest Pretty Boy did no better on the mic either.

8. F*** Somebody Else Intro (Nothing to speak on here. Dumb interlude.)

9. F*** Somebody Else (Another forgettable track here, and remaking The Jones Girls' "You Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else" was NOT needed for this typical female hardcore, borderline sexist song.)

10. Hardcore (Why oh why did they have to sample ANOTHER classic, this time Cheryl Lynn's "Your Love-Encore". NOTHING special.)

11. Untouchable (SHORT song here, featuring Wizard, of the not yet named Bravehearts, and a tight Dre beat. Nothing to listen here overall though.)

12. Five Minutes To Flush Intro (There was nothing funnier than listening to AZ talk with a puesdo gangster accent.)

13. Five Minutes To Flush (Nature did well on this Dre track, which creatively sampled Whodini's "Five Minutes of Funk".)

14. Desperados Intro

15. Desperados (Dope track, featuring a complete show stealing verse by Canibus. AZ and Nature did their thing also over this good Trackmasters beat. Second best song on the album easily.

16. Firm Biz- SMH, they jacked ANOTHER classic, THIS time in the form of Teena Marie's "Square Biz", for this blatant attempt at commercial success, and it didn't work at all. Nuff said.

17. I'm Leaving (Good chemistry displayed by Nature and Noreaga on this one.)

18. Throw Your Guns (AZ and the late Half A Mil closed this album a little better than how it began.)

Why I feel it's forgotten
I'll narrow this down to 5 main things:

1) It was TOO overhyped

2) Nas, AZ, Nature, & Foxy Brown really tried to come off as gangsters on this album, and to say it failed miserably would be an understatement. The gangster trend was a heavy influence on this album, even down to the album cover (borrowing from my 6th favorite movie of all time, "Casino"). That affected this also.

3. It wasn't that good overall.

4. Cormega not being part of the lineup (that probably wouldn't made much of a difference either).

5. The production from Dr. Dre and Trackmasters not living up to expectations, much like this album.

I remember they were on an episode of Rap City promoting the album in 97, and Foxy Brown mentioned, and this is a direct quote, "after this album, you're going to see 10 more Firm albums". SMH, yeah right. A sequel was NEVER hinted at, for obvious reasons, and no one even mentions this album these days.

Rating: I'll give this 2.5 stars, which is VERY generous, and that's mostly because of "Phone Tap" and "Desperados".

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