Monday, June 6, 2016

McGruff's "Destined To Be"

I had first heard McGruff (also known as Herb McGruff) on this album's first single, "This Is How We Do", on DJ Doo Wop's "Bronx Tale" mixtape, but hadn't really heard that much from him prior to that. It wasn't until a several months after the fact that I heard this "Hell Up In Harlem" joint, which also featured the late Big L and Mase:



In addition to "This Is How We Do" making a lil noise, I recall seeing the album being promoted in The Source magazine in the summer of 1998, but didn't get a chance to check out the album (his debut), until now, so this actually marks my time hearing this one after 18 years. Wow. And with that said, let's jump right into the review shall we!


Release date: June 16, 1998


1. "Gruff Express"
Produced by Heavy D and Tony Dofat

Now, I did hear this opener for the first time on a DJ Juice mixtape (I believe it was Volume 37). This was a good song, but not too far from what Bad Boy (and others) were doing at the time in '98.
*4 out of 5*



2. "Harlem Kids Get Biz"
Produced by Spunk Bigga, Co-Produced by Damian "DEO" Blyden

Yes, this apply titled song does let you know right from the jump that McGruff is representing Harlem to the fullest. Speaking of Harlem, that part of New York would enjoy success as '98 continued, thanks in part to fellow Harlemnite Cam'ron. Decent song here.
*3 out of 5*


3. "This Is How We Do"
Featuring Mr. Cheeks (from the Lost Boyz)
Produced by Heavy D and Tony Dofat



As mentioned, I first heard this on DJ Doo Wop's "Bronx Tale" mixtape in the summer of '98. I thought it was very good then and it still holds up today. The Lost Boyz's Mr. Cheeks makes a good appearance here, himself on sort of a roll at this point with a decent array of guest appearances under his belt. This would also be the only single released from the album to the best of my knowledge.
*4 out of 5*



4. "Many Know"
Additional Vocals by Heavy D
Produced by Heavy D and Tony Dofat

Again, a decent song, but nothing different than what we heard in the opener.
*3 out of 5*


5. "Exquisite"
Featuring Shugar Diamonds
Produced by Ty Fyffe

I swear Shugar Diamonds sounds JUST like Remy Ma. McGruff does flow well over a nice Ty Fyffe production, but lyrically he's not saying all that much.
*3 out of 5*


6. "What Part of the Game"
Featuring Cam'ron, Panama P.I. and I-Born
Produced by Heavy D and Tony Dofat

Pretty good collaboration right here, which more or less showcased the guests, especially Cam, who stole the show in my opinion.
*4 out of 5*



7. "Who Holds His Own"
Produced by Spunk Bigga, Co-Produced by Damian "DEO" Blyden

This is probably the most introspective song on the album. McGruff talks about his upbringing, resulting from a single parent home, stressing the importance of the "hustle" and standing on your own two feet as a man (also not forgetting where you came from).
*4 out of 5*



8. "What Cha Doin To Me"
Additional Vocals by Shay Best
Produced by Heavy D and Warryn Campbell

The Shay Best led hook would suggest a joint for the ladies and the desire for a spot on the radio, but overall it's more of the same at this point in the album. Ok, nothing more. 
*3 out of 5*


9. "Destined To Be"
Produced by Ty Fyffe

This is such a laid back, yet rugged title track produced by Ty Fyffe. McGruff was feeling it here and the Mobb Deep ("Eye For An Eye") sampled hook tells you all you need to know about this one. He mentioned '96 throughout this song, and it does have that sound straight from that (stacked) year. I really like this one, played it twice during this review.
*4.5 out of 5*



10. "Freestyle"
McGruff comes through with a few bars, clocking in at 1:06.


11. "Danger Zone"
Featuring Big L and Mase
Produced by Ty Fyffe, Co-Produced by Damian "DEO" Blyden

McGruff, L, and Mase were also collectively known as "Children Of The Corn", and I believe Cam and a few others were part of this as well. Needless to say, this joint is dope as hell, featuring 3 VERY good verses. Speaking of those verses, this had to have been something recorded prior to Mase signing with Bad Boy, because he sounds SO different than anything on the "Harlem World" album, featuring an aggressive side you rarely saw from Mase. L brings it as usual, followed by the closing verse from McGruff.
*4.5 out of 5*



12. "What You Want"
Additional Vocals by Shay Best
Produced by Daven "Prestige" Vanderpool

 This one right here is definitely for the ladies, nothing more or less. Daven really came through with a fly sample of Sweet Sable's classic "Old Time's Sake."
*3 out of 5*


13. "Before We Start"
Additional Vocals by Mary Brown
Produced by Heavy D and Tony Dofat

I heard this one on that same DJ Juice mixtape I mentioned on the opener (if it wasn't that one, it was probably Volume 38). This is another one for the ladies (featuring a sample of another classic, this time in the form of Taana Gardner's "Heartbeat"), but in this case, the lady wants to know what's on McGruff's mind before she, um, gets open for the night or whatever (lol). Decent.
*3 out of 5*


14. "Reppin' Uptown"
Featuring The LOX
Produced by DT, Co-Produced by Damian "DEO" Blyden

Apparently this was (also) recorded circa 1996, several months before LOX would join Bad Boy. All four men represent on this one.
*4 out of 5*



15. "Stop It"
Produced by Med and Quell

I appreciate the nod to Biggie's classic "One More Chance" during the hook ("Stop it, if y'all think y'all gonna make a profit", however, I can't say this one is apply or appropriately titled. I mean, it is what it is, nothing more or less. 
*3 out of 5*


16. "Before We Start (Remix)"
Additional Vocals by Mary Brown
Produced by Michael "Punch" Harper

This remix was a bit better than the original, but man couldn't we get a remix to "This Is How We Do" instead, just saying. I could've pictured that one with a few more names, such as Mr. Cheeks returning, Cam, Lord Tariq & Peter Gunz, etc.
*3 out of 5*



Now that I've finally checked this out (and I was able to find a physical, original pressing of this album via Ebay), it seemed like half of the album was recorded circa 96-97 (but left in a vault) and the other half was recorded in '98. I also recall The Source magazine giving this 3 stars in one of their issues that summer. Overall, I'll give this a solid 3.5 star rating, largely thanks to the title track, "This Is How We Do", "Gruff Express", "Danger Zone", and "Who Holds His Own". McGruff was decent on the mic. His style throughout this album ranged from confident to low-key to slightly aggressive and back, however, not much separated him from his peers in this regard. This album would also mark his peak as far as the mainstream went (it only hit #169 on the "Billboard 200"), and due to its unfortunate lack of success, he would be dropped from Uptown Records and wouldn't resurface on the hip hop scene again until 2009-2010. McGruff, if you're reading, thanks you for the efforts put into this album. 

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