E. Play Smooth - Basements II Billboard CD
eps_cdARTIST: E. Play Smooth
TITLE: Basements II Billboard
LABEL: M.A.L. Records
Being the vinyl (and cassette) addict that I am, buying compact discs isn’t something I do on the regular. Every once in a while though, I find myself in a situation where I simply have to settle for the cd release of a certain album for the simple fact that the album is only available on this format or because the vinyl release (often promo-only) is way too expensive. The list of dope (especially early 90s) albums that were put out on cd (and/or cassette) only is endless. Wouldn’t it be nice to have the self-titled Class A Felony full length, P-19’s “100% Dope Out The Ghetto”, Sha’dasious’ “Phunk Wucha Heard”, Barsha’s “Barsha’s Explicit Lyrics” or Ill Biskits’ “Chronicle Of Two Losers” on wax? Now I’m sure that all loyal visitors of this website have their own list of releases that never got the vinyl treatment, but I doubt a lot of those lists will include E. Play Smooth’s “Basements II Billboard” cd.
About a year ago I noticed the cassette single of E. Play Smooth’s “Gangsta Story” in the eBay store of a seller I buy cassettes from regularly. Now I had never heard of E. Play Smooth or the single before, but the artwork looked kinda nice and the cassette was only $2, so I decided to take a chance with it. And I’m glad I did, because the single is dope. Being impressed with the tracks the cassette single had to offer, of course I had to dig up some more E. Play Smooth material. On the back of the cassette slipcover (is that how you call those cardboard things?) a full length titled “Basements II Billboard” is mentioned, but I kinda ignored that at first because I wanted some E. Play material on wax. I found out that the “Gangsta Story” single was issued on vinyl as well, so I had to get that one first. Took me a few weeks to find an affordable copy, but I managed to grab one off Discogs for $10. Shortly after that I came across the album in digital format and after hearing the first few tracks I realised that I had to get the cd as well. And so I did…
Released on an independent label named M.A.L. Records, the cd was distributed by 4-Sight Records, a Florida based label known for its Miami Bass releases. Maybe that is why this release didn’t get noticed by the hungry masses, I don’t know. All I can say is that this album sounds nothing like the stuff 4-Sight Records is known for. Now the 4-Sight Records connection might suggest that E. Play Smooth was from Florida, but you couldn’t be more wrong actually. And no, E. Play wasn’t from NYC either, even though you can definitely hear the influence from groups like EPMD, Ultramagnetic MC’s and Gang Starr throughout the tracks. There’s even a ‘special note’ to EPMD in the liner notes: “EPMD, ya’ll Brothas ought to get back together ya’ll inspired us the most with that straight ass underground funk aka no sellout Hip-Hop”. E. Play Smooth was actually reppin’ Milwaukee, Wisconsin. With all the Milwaukee based releases that have been put out by Dope Folks Records and Jamille Records in the last two years and now this E. Play Smooth feature on Vinyl Addicts I guess Milwaukee hip-hop is making somewhat of a revival. Let’s just hope that we’ll get to hear and discover more overlooked rap talent from Milwaukee.
Having said that I think it’s about time to dig a little deeper into the tracks on “Basements II Billboard”. The cd comes action packed with a total of 15 tracks (one intro, fourteen full length tracks) and all of them are dope. Yes, ALL of them. Hard to pick some favorites, but for me “Testing 1, 2”, “Klutch Da Nutz”, “Hard Core Flava”, “Back-N-Da Daze” and the title track stand out. If someone would have told me that E. Play Smooth was actually a secret member of the Hit Squad I would have believe it right away. With the exception of a few tracks the production - courtesy of A-Z Brothers Productions a.k.a. A.Z. Attic Bros. - has pretty much the same dose of funk that every release from the Hit Squad catalog is known for. Some might say that those Zapp, James Brown, Sly Stone and Jef Tex samples are a bit played out, but when executed correctly I never get tired of hearing them. And lyrically I guess E. Play Smooth fits into the same category as Erick Sermon, Parrish Smith, Redman and K-Solo. Not the best or most skillful emcees out there, but definitely emcees with a dope and unique style.
Now apparently the album also exists on cassette, but I have never seen an actual copy being sold somewhere so I would appreciate it if someone could confirm its existence. The cd also turned out to be a bitch to find by the way. It took me a lot of time and energy before I finally scooped a sealed copy off eBay for $30 plus shipping. A crazy price for a cd, I know, but considering the fact that there are online stores that have it listed for $60 or more I think I did pretty well. Peace.