Monday, January 12, 2015

The BCC Files: Cocoa Brovaz's "The Rude Awakening"

Last year, I did a series on the first wave of albums from the Boot Camp Clik, titled "The BCC Files." I covered the debut albums from Black Moon, Smif N Wessun, Heltah Skeltah and O.G.C., and you can find all of those in the blog archives. What I'll be doing here is returning to the "BCC Files," covering a few albums starting with 1998 heading into the 2000s, beginning with Smif N Wessun's sophomore album, "The Rude Awakening." (Smif N Wessun briefly changed their name to Cocoa Brovaz after being sued, with a cease & desist order, by the firearms company "Smith & Wesson." Changing their name allowed them to avoid a full lawsuit.)

Release date: March 17, 1998

1. "Off The Wall"
Featuring Professor X of the X-Clan and Jah Dan of Black Hearted Skavengerz
Produced By Shawn J. Period

This was a very good way to start the album, which finds Tek and Steele shedding additional light on why they had to change their name from "Smif N Wessun" to "Cocoa Brovaz." To let the company Smith & Wesson tell it, it all boiled down to "confusion in the marketplace," and how something like that could be possible is beyond me. Tek and Steele made a smart decision by (temporarily) changing their name to avoid a pointless lawsuit.

*4 out of 5*

2. "Still Standin Strong"
Co-Produced By Steele and Face N Triple Beam

This one builds nicely on the strength of "Stand Strong" from "Dah Shinin," focusing on the importance of staying strong no matter what life throws at you. Considering recent happenings in my own personal life, I can relate to a song like this.
*5 out of 5*

3. "Won On Won"
Produced By Sean Cane and 12 Nations

Tek and Steele come with an aggressive, tag team style on this classic banger, going back and forth between their verses with no hook in the middle (only at the beginning).
*5 out of 5*

4. "Live At The Garden (skit)"
 A couple of hecklers interrupt Tek and Steele while they're trying to watch a basketball game, and trying to get them to smoke something no less. The hecklers are pretty much dismissed for obvious reasons. I'm not sure if it was just me, but this skit sounded real.

5. "Blown Away"
Featuring Buckshot
Co-Produced By Baby Paul and Steele

This joint right here can be best described as "one for the smokers," even though they're talking about more than just "gettin high" throughout the song. Also, it's clear to me they were sending a lil nod to 2Pac, thanks to the song "Krazy."
*4 out of 5*

6. "Money Talks"
 This was basically a skit, not an actual song. Nothing more to say on this one.

7. "The Cash"
Produced By Filthy Rich

 I'm sure most would think this is another song about money when looking at the title. While that may be the case, Tek and Steele come with a different perspective of sorts. Both men tell easy to follow, albeit somewhat brief, stories about a drug kingpin and a "young sexy bunny" and what their clear motivations for money are.
*4 out of 5*

8. "Black Trump"
Featuring Raekwon
Produced By Lord Self

 For the first ever pairing between the Boot Camp Clik and Wu-Tang, this was pretty damn good, featuring all 3 men flowing over a dope beat with a well timed sample courtesy of Rae's own classic "Incarcerated Scarfaces." The chemistry here was largely very good and I still wish we could've received more BCC/Wu-Tang collaborations post 1998.
*5 out of 5*

9. "Dry Snitch"
Featuring Smack Man and Head Arabic
Background Vocals by Deidre Artis
Produced By Suite 1200

A fairly decent song, talking about the ills of snitching in an era when it became a cool thing to do (Jay-Z expanded on this further on his "Vol. 2.... Hard Knock Life"  album with the excellent "A Week Ago," which also came out in '98). Tek and Steele bring their usual dope verses, however, guests Smack Man and Head Arabic tried, but their verses came up a little short.
*3 out of 5*

10. "Game Of Life"
Featuring F.L.O.W.
Co-Produced By Suite and Steele  

This one sort of picks up where "Still Standin Strong" left off and it reaffirms the same notions: stay strong through any and all endeavors as well as doing what's necessary to survive.
*4 out of 5*

11. "Back 2 Life"
Produced By JB

The following closing lines from Steele effective describe this song:

"To all my people locked down comin back to life
We workin hard to bring you home so we can do this right
I know it's rough in the day even rougher at night
Hold ya crown, cause we ready and we down to fight"

A true dedication to the homies that were locked down ready to come home.
*4 out of 5*

12. "Bucktown USA"
Produced By Mr. Walt

While this sequel, official or otherwise, to their 1994 classic "Bucktown" doesn't hold a candle to its predecessor, it's still dope in its own right.
*4 out of 5*


13. "What They Call Him (skit)" 
Featuring words from the Big Ol Pimp Cook

14. "Hold It Down"
Featuring Storm
Produced By Sir Gav and Greg "Keylord" Johnson, Co-Produced By Self

 The title here would suggest, again, that it's something we have heard before. That may be true, but like I always say, if it's done right, it can be a very good song (which is the case here) and if not, it just becomes another song. "The struggle goes on, so hold ya home." Indeed Tek.
*4 out of 5*

15. "Spanish Harlem"
Featuring Hurricane G and Tony Touch
Produced By Mr. Walt

In the most creative song on the album, Tek, Steele, Tony Touch and Hurricane G successfully blends Harlem styled slang with a hip hop Spanish flair to great results. Speaking of Hurricane G, not only was she not out of place on this song, but her closing verse almost steals the show. Dope stuff here.
*5 out of 5*

16. "Myah Angelow"
Featuring Sean Price aka Tall Sean and Deidra Artis
Produced By Baby Paul

Unless they were coming with a sense of "street poetry" here, which they probably were, I'm not sure why this was titled "Myah Angelow" when "Only The Strong Survive" would've been a much better title. Either way, this is a very good song, another tale of survival.
*4 out of 5*

17. "Memorial"
Featuring Eek-A-Mouse
Produced By Shaleek

They couldn't have closed this album on a better note. Tek and Steele show mad love and respect to the "good ones that died." Simple yet very effective.

"While you're still here, accomplish your deeds/Cause you never know when it's your time to leave" -Steele
 *5 out of 5*

Overall, I found myself liking this album a lot more than I did previously, taking it up from a 3.5 star rating to a solid 4 stars. Granted, this album in no way, shape, or form is on the level of "Dah Shinin," but it's a damn good follow up. Yes, Tek and Steele were fresh faces on the scene in the mid 90s with a respectable amount of hunger, but in '98 they were trying to change things up a bit by growing as artists (even with the temporary name change) and I respect them for that. Also, aside from "Black Trump" and "Won On Won" making a decent amount of noise on BET and the mixtape scene, this album was largely slept on when it came out in '98, plus the same can be said for the other sophomore albums released under the BCC banner, including efforts from Heltah Skeltah, O.G.C., Black Moon (their "War Zone" album will be covered next), and BCC as a group when all of their talents were pooled together. If you avoided this for some reason in '98 or even now, I'd recommend you check it out and show support to Tek and Steele by copping a brand new version of the CD if you can locate a good deal or the legit MP3 version of the album via iTunes or Amazon. For those who own this and haven't bumped it in a while, throw it in sometime, whether it's in the ride or at the crib. It's worth the revisit.

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