Cracker Jax a.k.a Cracker Jacks are one of the most mysterious crews from the 90s. The crew is probably best known for their appearances on Leaders Of The New School Posse cuts "Sound Of The Zeekers" & "Spontaneous".
The Cracker Jax spark off both tracks and set the bar high for the rest of the crew. While "Zeekers" gives a glimpse of their potential with their excellent use of style, personality, and flow, it is "Spontaneous" that really bares witness to their skill level.
Back in the day, I figured it was guaranteed after those two excellent vocal performances, that a Cracker Jax album was due at any time. After the Rumpletilskinz album (the other crew featured on both tracks), that was even further confirmation in mind. Yet, it never materialized. It's stories like this that taught me that success in this business wasn't (IE: "isn't") based on skill alone. Clearly, based off those brief cameos, the Cracker Jax were as nice as just about any new artist dropping at the time, nicer than most actually.
The frustration and curiosity was even further peaked on the 3rd Bass "Derelicts Of Dialect" album, courtesy of the K.M.D produced and featured track, "Ace In The Hole". At the end of the track they are giving shout outs and one of the names is reversed, as in "we change our mind on that shout out"...ha. Soon as I got my hands on the vinyl version, I reversed it to see who they were "dissing" and that name was the "Cracker Jax". However, that answer only lead to more questions; why? what was the connection? No answers were to be found anytime soon.
By the time '94 settled in, I had given up on a Cracker Jax album, figuring they had been simply over-looked by the industry and moved on to other things without an outlet for their music. Then while working promotions for American Records, I got to work the 5one6 12", "Mystic Microfon" b/w "Rap Attack". This was underground hit and one of my favorite projects ever on American. I connected with Producer/MC for the group Erik Romero and we would kick it sometimes via telephone talking about rap and what not.
On the "Mystic Microfon" track there are a couple lines directed at someone; "But I had to wake up/You and him did break up/went solo, sold no records, now you got to make up" and "Time to put away the cane and learn how to speak". My lyrical analytical sense deduced that the most likely target for the diss was Prime Minister Pete Nice (of 3rd Bass). I once asked Erik Romero about the diss and he said it was about a deal that The Cracker Jax, which he was affiliated with via The New School Society, once had with Pete Nice that went sour. The plot thickens...
Two years later, in '96, I'm in New York at Fat Beats Records and see a 12" on the wall, Cracker Jax "Sly Rhymes" b/w "Nickel and Dime"... I thought could it be the same crew? I guessed it must be, how many groups named Cracker Jax could there by, even thought I thought it was spelled Cracker Jacks. Both tracks were produced by Rob Swift, who I was fan of from his work with The X-Men. I decided it was definitely worth checking out.
Pleasantly to my satisfaction, it was the same crew. They had switched up the flow a little bit from the rapid fire technical flows of the Leaders posse cuts. However, they were still focused on lyricism, styling and their own flavor. Much later I discovered that this was actually the first 12" on Fat Beats Records and Rob Swifts debut as a producer, marking it's importance in history.
They actually also released a 12" the year before ('95), "Never Change" b/w "Don't Go There" which is apparently pretty rare, as I've never seen it. Speaking of rare, their debut isn't even on "Sound of the Zeekers" in '91. A little earlier they were featured on yet another Leaders Of The New School posse cut, "Mt Airy Groove" a.k.a "Levels Of Imagination". This one is also difficult to find and was only on the Rubaiyat Elektra Records 40th Anniversary Compilation. I remember reading about the track in The Source back in the early 90s, but never heard it myself until about a year ago.
Finally last year at Soundset I moved forward on getting some answers. We booked Rob Swift as one of our DJs and he came out and killed it! However, I couldn't let him get away without asking if he was still in touch with The Cracker Jax. He directed me to Joe at Fat Beats (why I never thought of that is beyond ridiculous...ha). Joe put me in touch with Brittle a.k.a Moses Miller and this is what ensued...
A full length interview breaking down the crews history from the beginning up to where they are now. Many mysteries are answered, but honestly their story is so detailed and interesting that I didn't even get all my questions answered, so a follow up piece is definitely in order. In the meantime, check out this incredible 3 part interview!!
Part One Talks about their influences, battling (including trying to track down Big Daddy Kane for a challenge!), & the forming of The New School Society [Leaders Of The New School, Cracker Jax, Rumpletilskinz, & The Leftovers), and how the ingredients of the Cracker Jax were determined!!
-Levels Of Imaginations a.k.a Mt Airy Groove:[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/leaders-of-the-new-school-mt.-airy-groove.mp3|titles=leaders of the new school - mt. airy groove]
Sound Of The Zeekers: :
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/07-Sound-of-the-Zeekers-@^___-1.mp3|titles=07 Sound of the Zeekers @#^___! 1]
Come back tomorrow for Part 2 discussing how they connected with L.O.N.S, the Pete Nice "beef", and their various label talks/production deals, including deals with Jive, Rowdy, Flipmode, and working with Funkmaster Flex! Then Part 3 on Friday breaksdown why the crew broke up, what they are doing now, the Long Island Hip Hop scene, and if they'll over record music again!!
Also, Moses Miller a.k.a Brittle spends his time now as a successful author. You can and should check out work out here: www.MindCandyMedia.com