Saturday, August 23, 2014

Revisiting Flipmode Squad's "The Imperial"

Comprised of Busta Rhymes, Rampage, Lord Have Mercy, Spliff Star, Baby Sham, and Rah Digga, the Flipmode Squad was definitely a force to be reckoned with in hip hop heading into 1998. After a respectable number of solo albums from Busta ("The Coming," "When Disaster Strikes," and "E.L.E. Extinction Level Event" coming on 12/15/98) and Rampage ("Scout's Honor: By Way Of Blood"), the buzz was there for their first album as a group/crew. How does it hold up today? We will definitely find out!!

Release date: September 22, 1998

1. The Imperial Intro
Produced By Busta Rhymes

Busta introduces himself and the crew as only he can.

2. To My People
Busta Rhymes, Spliff Star, Baby Sham, Rampage, and Rah Digga
Produced By DJ Scratch

Although songs like this had been done before at this point, make no mistake about it, this was still a very good way to start the album. Everyone does their thing, but this would be the first of many songs that feature simply inspired, show stealing verses by one Busta Rhymes.
*4 out of 5*

3. Settin' It Off
Busta Rhymes, Spliff Star, Rampage, Baby Sham, and Rah Digga
Produced By M.D.

Hot damn, Busta just kills this joint with his opening verse, with the rest of the crew not too far behind. They set it off indeed.
*5 out of 5*

4. Run For Cover
Produced By Swizz Beatz

When the Squad is in town, reppin' as only they could, you better do what the song says: run for cover.
*4 out of 5*

5. I Got Your Back
Busta Rhymes, Rampage, Rah Digga, Spliff Star, and Baby Sham
Produced By DJ Scratch

Much like "To My People," if you've heard a song like this, you've heard them all, however, what makes this one so dope is the running story throughout. It's clear that no matter what goes down, they got each other's back. Lord Have Mercy should've been on this one too.
*4 out of 5*

6. This Is What Happens
Rah Digga and Rampage
Produced By DJ Scratch

Digga and Rampage display the same chemistry she had with Busta Rhymes on this apply titled banger.
*4 out of 5*

7. Everybody On The Line Outside
Busta Rhymes, Rampage, and Lord Have Mercy
Produced By DJ Scratch

I've always liked this one. Busta, Rampage, and Mercy flow well over the nice beat. It was a definite fit for clubs and parties, not too rugged for radio and TV.
*5 out of 5*

8. Last Night
Busta Rhymes and Spliff Star
Produced By Busta Rhymes

This was decent, nothing more or less.
*3 out of 5*

9. Where You Think You Goin'  
Produced By DJ Scratch 

"Ay yo where you think you goin' (repeat 2X)/Ay yo what you doin' nigga, where you think you goin'/Where you think you goin' (repeat 2X)/Ay yo what you movin' for, where you think you goin?!"

Well, that hook just about says it all here; good song too.
*4 out of 5*

10. We Got U Opin (Part 2)  
Featuring Buckshot
Produced By Da Beatminerz

Flipmode and the Boot Camp Clik linked up for this DOPE revisit/reprise/remake of Black Moon's original classic "I Got Cha Opin." I guess it was wise to leave Busta's verse towards the end, because man he killed this joint; even when Buckshot begun, he sounded like "damn, how do I follow that."
*5 out of 5*

11. Straight Spittin'
Produced By Tony Touch

Whether all involved were actually freestyling or not, it doesn't matter. They all "straight spit" over a simple yet effective breakbeat. And again, Busta just kills this one with a highly dope verse. On a sidenote, Rah Digga would make "Straight Spittin' Part 2" on her "Dirty Harriet" debut.
*5 out of 5*

12. Money Talks
Busta Rhymes, Rampage, Rah Digga, and Spliff Star
Produced By DJ Scratch 

Much like "To My People" and "I Got Your Back," songs like this have been done before, but when done right, they usually turn out to be very good, which is what we got here.
*4 out of 5*

13. Cha Cha Cha
Busta Rhymes, Spliff Star, Rah Digga, and Baby Sham
Produced By DJ Scratch

I remember my long time friend Shaun always rapping this hook and laughing. He was laughing because of how (hilariously) dope it is, and that word "dope" describes this underrated gem.
*5 out of 5*

14. Hit Em Wit Da Heat
Produced By Rockwilder

The hook? Heat. Lyrics? Heat. Production? Heat. With all that right there, it was only fitting that the entire crew rep to the fullest on this one. A heated banger indeed.
*5 out of 5*

15. Do For Self
Spliff Star and Baby Sham
Produced By DJ Scratch

I may be overrating this one, but it scores major points with me for its creative storyline, which finds Spliff Star acting as a mentor for the seemingly still wet behind the ears Baby Sham, who has been very good throughout this album. It reminded me of Jay-Z and Memphis Bleek's "Coming Of Age" and it's just as good.
*5 out of 5*

16. Everything 
Busta Rhymes, Spliff Star, Rampage, Rah Digga, and Baby Sham
Produced By L.E.S.

Even in closing (the album), the squad, minus one, still promises to keep giving you everything you need.
*4 out of 5*

Oh man, much like Rah Digga's "Dirty Harriet," which I recently revisited, "The Imperial" has aged incredibly well all around and I find myself liking this one more than I did in 1998. Rampage, Spliff Star, Baby Sham, Rah Digga, and Lord Have Mercy really stepped up for this release, however, the star of the album no doubt was Busta Rhymes. This man was still in his prime and came with some awesome verses. One thing I really liked about this album was its vibe, with the correct impression that everyone was not phoning anything in and it's clear they enjoyed themselves when making the album, clearly inspired, creative, and competitive. Sadly, this was the only Flipmode Squad album. I recently checked out a Rah Digga interview where she said the plan was for a second album (likely in 2002 or even 2003), but with everyone seemingly going their separate ways and J Records selectively picking songs intended for the next Squad album but would eventually make Busta's "It Ain't Safe No More" album, unfortunately the days of the Squad were over. Let me be the first to ask for a Flipmode Squad reunion. I'd love to see it. 

Overall, 4.5 stars for this album and a strong recommendation if you haven't checked it out before, and if you own it but haven't played it in a long time, throw it in your ride, CD player, computer, etc, it holds up very well. Much love and props to all involved!

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