The 90s are infamous for many things, including “Shelved Rap Albums”. Pretty every record label is guilty of it. There’s a range of reasons why albums got shelved. Sometimes the A&R responsible for signing the artist got fired, as that position is often a revolving door, and then the artist was left in limbo. Sometimes labels got excited seeing MCs in national competitions like the New Music Seminar and signed them up right away, often because it was a great publicity moment and then they didn’t put any real effort in releasing the album. Or the most ridiculous and damaging, several major labels had moments when they felt “rap wasn’t in” and completely dismantled their whole rap departments; dropping all the artists and shelving all the projects. Truthfully, it is not always the labels fault, sometimes the artist is too difficult to deal with or perhaps just vastly unproductive and never turns in an album in within a timely fashion. Those stand out as the most common reason I often would hear about.
These types of situations would often kill the motivation and/or spirits of the artists. It was the experience of having that feeling of “finally making it”, just to have it all stripped away. A lot of the time these artists would disappear, never to be heard of again or perhaps reinvent themselves. All that would be left from these projects is the rumors, magazine one-liners, appearances on mixtapes and record label samplers…
Nyoo was one such artist. I honestly don’t know anything about him, except what is revealed in the 4 songs I have. If he was speaking from real life experiences, then he was definitely living the street life. He was signed to Priority Records circa ’96 and appeared on at least 4 different label samplers that year and then on one Soundtrack in ’97.
“Neva Like This” comes from the Priority Records ’96 Sampler, “Snatchin’ The Gold”. In reference to my previous, “living the street life comment”, this song is a reflection of that. However, it doesn’t really glorify it. He seems to feel trapped in it, even to have inherited it, with lines like, “I’m ill mannered, branded a bandit, misfit/My bloodline’s criminal mind and I was born with it.” He details his “illegal tendencies” that date back to “6th grade”, but at every turn he recognizes it as evil, sinful or the quick route to a casket. He seems concerned and/or bothered by it, although not necessarily apologetic.
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Nyoo-Never-Alone.mp3|titles=Nyoo Never Alone]
“Slave To The System”, from the Priority Records “Spring Line Up ‘96” Sampler, is my favorite of his tracks and takes the basic idea of “Neva Like This” a few steps deeper and delivers a powerful concept. This song is a perfect example of being able to enjoy a song for its creative nature without really agreeing with the content. More importantly, it is a reminder that sometimes you need to look beyond the surface of the topic and realize there’s a bigger issue at hand presented.
“Slave To The System” finds Nyoo’s Mother happy that he had graduated from High School and looking forward to his continuation on to college. He’s not as convinced, “but for what/four more years of busting my butt/and learning all this stuff, then end up at Pizza Hut.” He offers another option, drug selling, and spends the next 3+ minutes making clever comparisons to the two options. Again, he never suggests that drug selling is “right” or that College is “wrong”…he merely explores both sides of the coin.
Ultimately, the main issue isn’t that HE has decided to sell drugs over college. The bigger problem is the he is among many youth living in poverty that actually feel that is their best and/or only option to survive and be respected. Rather than avoiding or dismissing the song, we should instead be dissecting it to understand why kids feel this way and work towards changing those perceptions.
I’m not sure who does his production, but the somber mood is reflected perfectly by the track. The mellow vibe allows the moments of frustration to clearly stand out. One such instance tackles another option often proposed to youth, “The army giving n***as guns and GI Bills/You gotta KILL to get to college and pick up trade skills”, he later he adds, “It’s twisted, whether you thug or pay tax/no matter what side of the tracks, we trapped/but I don’t wanna be a slave to the system…”
It’s actually the songs title that presents the main flaw in the concept. The title deals with Nyoo questioning submitting to College or the Military as to not be a “Slave To The System”, yet his chosen path is no less a form of slavery to that same system.
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Nyoo-Slave-To-The-System.mp3|titles=Nyoo-Slave To The System]
“Hardly Hardcore”, from the Priority Records “How Can U Bow Down?” Sampler, has the same primary loop as the original version of Chino XL’s “Deliver”. It’s the one song in this collection that is in a battle rap mode. He’s not so much stating that he is “Hardcore”, as he’s challenging those who claim to be but are actually “Hardly Hardcore” in comparison. It’s aggressive, well written and an excellent display of his swift flow.
A online search for him yielded that a song of his, “Famous”, was on another Priority Sampler in ’96. I haven’t tracked that one down yet.
The only other Nyoo song that I know of is actually his only officially released track, as far as I know. He was featured on the Rhyme & Reason Soundtrack with “Business First”, alongside DeCoca. The credits say they both appear courtesy of “Plead Th’ 5th”, which I assume was a management company or indie label.
“Business Fist” dropped in ’97, a year later from the sampler tracks, and it’s the most commercial sounding track with the sing-song hook and background vocals. It’s also the most upbeat of his tracks. This might suggest that Priority wasn’t getting the response they wanted on those sampler tracks and was pushing for something a bit more universally appealing. That’s my working theory at least. All that considered, Nyoo, as well as Decoca, still maintain quality lyrics. They pass the mic back & forth essentially focusing on tough guy talk, but drop some nice punchlines. Nyoo kicks, “My game is game tight, like Dolemite/Courvoisier, no mans protégé, the prototype.”
The ATL is referenced in this track, suggesting Nyoo is probably from Atlanta. Which makes sense, as there was a decent amount of attention on Atlanta Hip Hop at the time.
Not sure what happened with Nyoo after this. What I do know, with the four tracks I have heard, he was well on the way to making a quality album. Unfortunately, it’s probably just sitting in some office, storage room or locked away in someone’s basement or worse, lost forever. I suppose the best we can do is share these tracks with the world and see if Nyoo and/or his music will resurface
*Although today I may have had a minor break thru, but waiting to hear back…stay tuned
DOWNLOAD THE SAMPLER TRACKS!: Includes "Hardly Hardcore", "Neva Like This", & "Slave To The System".