I regularly sing high praise for this album, most often for the way that it is put together in its intriguing, meticulous and masterful fashion. Amplify that with the quality production, plus thought-provoking and innovative rhyme styles and you are embarking on a high caliber situation.
Many first became aware of K.M.D via 3rd Bass with their “Gas Face” single from the debut album “The Cactus” in ‘89. The track featured a uniquely named individual called Zev Love X who essential stole the show.
3RD Bass-The Gas Face featuring Zev Love X:
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/04-04-The-Gas-Face.mp3|titles=04 04 - The Gas Face]
Soon to follow, was the K.M.D debut single/video “Peachfuzz” which introduced the rest of the crew, Subroc (Zev’s brother) and Onyx The Birthstone Kid (Childhood Friend)*. “Peachfuzz” deals with the trials and tribulations of growing up, particularly being in that “tween” time of your late teens and man-hood. On the songs chorus, the guys are chastised by a crew of ladies who chant “Peachfuzz” and giggle profusely, as the MCs try to convince them they are old enough to handle their bizness. Despite their attempts, they are continually judged by the lack of hair on the chin. The flipside finds Zev Love and Onyx trading rhymes on a remixed version of “The Gas Face”, titled “Gasface Refill”, which is more in line with the tone of the album. Onyx steps in strong with his debut, “Well if the face fits, take it/eventually you’ll have to make it/if some state their word is bond, well then break it/see my word is bond, that I will never dye my hair blond/because of my culture I am fond.” He continues to steadily drop jewels and ends on a high note, “and if you fight for other than the cause/then the gas face is truly yours.”
The single definitely left you curious and hungry for more and when "Mr Hood" dropped it did NOT disappoint**.
I still find it mind-blowing today the way the album is constructed. The album concepts and messages are heavily carried thru out the album by a cast of characters taken from children’s stories/skits, spoken word records, and other sources. That was actually original enough, but they take it even further and engage in detailed conversations with these characters. To this day, I haven’t heard anyone do anything remotely as intricate as this on an album***.
"Mr Hood" begins with a seemingly desperate Zev Love X attempting to sell off a bracelet to Piocalles Jewelry because as he says, “This rhyming for nickels business ain’t making it.” He is refused by Mr Piocalle, who reminds him, “This is not a pawn shop.” Just then Mr Hood comes in to make an abundance of purchases, such as gold rings, earrings for his wife, and a Rolex watch for his cousin. To give a unique perspective the “so-called” hood isn’t the common slang talking street thug that usually is envisioned, it’s a well spoken older-gentlemen, who’s probably wearing an expensive suit.
Mr Hood makes appearances thru out the album to further develop the plot. Another reoccurring character is Bert from Sesame Street. Bert makes his first album appearance at the end of “Who Me?” First, Zev spends three verses challenging the racist imagery used for years to illustrate the black race, often in the incarnation of the Sambo Character. This idea is also contested in the K.M.D logo, which is the Sambo Character with an “X” over it, as a statement to end the racist views. Lyrically he vents his frustrations, possibly best captured in these few bars, “Does on top of my head stand seven thick/ hairs, that even if I wanted I couldn’t pic/Pigment, is this a defect in birth?/Or more an example of the richness of earth/Lips and eyes, dominant traits of our race/(but) Does not take up 95% of ones face/But still I see/In the back two or three ignorant punks pointing at me!” In the end, Bert comes in with an idea to help fight the racism and gets his props from Zev Love and crew.
Bert, along with Ernie, return later on the mesmerizing, “Humrush”. It consists of slowed down sparse beats, supported with some 808 percussion, enchanting pianos, and of course, the perfected humming skills of our co-star, Bert. The beautifully odd rhythm forces them to find their own personalized cadence. Subroc, comes in the most choppy, but halfway thru zones out and consequently comes away with the most memorable verse and flow.
The albums only guests are Brand Nubian, who appear on “Nitty Gritty”. It starts off with a re-creation of the “Basketball Throwdown” opening skit from the Wildstyle Movie. Then all six MCs proceed to go for theirs. There’s an abundance of styles, flows, and punchlines dropped. Stand outs include; Lord Jamar, “You say to try is to fail, I say try is an attempt/It’s when you stopped trying that makes victory exempt”or Sadat X with his “It’s a modern type style, look at what I did/A Devil still can’t build a Pyramid.” Subroc seems to take a shot at another Long Island crew**** on the come up at the time with his, “You simple teenage, you thought you had the knack to black/State of mind ain’t like mine, I got soul that you lack.” This ended up being their third and last single for the album and had a remix featuring Busta Rhymes and a B-Side, called “Plumskinz”, which was the closest they ever got to a sound similar to “Peachfuzz”*****.
K.M.D-Nitty Gritty Remix:
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/21-Nitty-Gritty-Remix.mp3|titles=21 Nitty Gritty (Remix)]
“The album allows each MC to shine with solo offerings. Subroc has “Subroc’s Mission” which unveil his other talent, beyond the mic and the turntables, the hair clippers. I suppose his first mark on the scene was that skill set, such as the acting barber for MC Serch’s famous haircut with the “3RD” design. Onyx’s solo is “Boogie Man”, which is an exercise in wordplay. It deals with the perception of black people being considered something to fear, but suggests that title only fits if the boogie you are referring to is getting down on the dance floor. Furthermore, I believe “Boogie Men” were the name of their dancers, J Quest & Deak.
As for Zev Love X, he is actually the lone rapper on about half the albums tracks. Three of those songs focus on his story-telling skills: “Hard Wit No Hoe”, “808 Man”, & “ Boy Who Cried Wolf”. All of them are filled with great detailed visuals & concepts with a twist. I still don’t know if I fully understand what he is trying convey at times. The beauty of it is that he does things in such a way that you can understand enough to enjoy, but leaves enough uncertainty to increase the replay value. Whether it’s “Hard With No Hoe” which takes the De La Soul “Potholes In My Lawn” concept a step further or “808 Man” that personifies the classic Drum Machine of the same name as a “Hood” on an attack mission of our albums hosts for talking to his girl.
“Boy Who Cried Wolf” finds him tackling several subjects, including “The N Word”, clothing brands marketed to inner city youth, and those who seek to live the single life, “Some wish to live the single, single/They know the half, I know the 360/If we all lived the single how could we sing?” Zev Love’s style is a perfect marriage of classic poetry, spoken word, and unique rhythm. The message is driven home on the breaks with the unlikely, but fitting, pairing of the classic children’s tale of the same name and the powerful words of Malcolm X. This song has become one of favorites over the years…
K.M.D-Boy Who Cried Wolf:
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/14-Boy-Who-Cried-Wolf.mp3|titles=14 Boy Who Cried Wolf]
If you are looking for the songs that best exhibits his eventual transformation into MF Doom, you should look no further than “Figure Of Speech” & “Trial N Error”. There are plenty of the witty multi-syllabic rhyme schemes and abstract thought that have become synonymous with MF Doom. Particularly on “Trial N Error”, “I’m serving this with no preservatives/into sections inscribed from a plank, I’m a splinter/chip off the new block, Zev Love X…spell it/and how I tell it shall remain a relic…”
K.M.D-Trial N Error:
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/10-Trial-N-Error.mp3|titles=10 Trial 'N Error]
You can’t talk about this album without mentioning the production, which can easily set among the other great productions of this era. It’s predominantly produced by K.M.D, with the exception of “Hum Rush” and “Boogie Men”, produced by Stimulated Dummies (a.k.a SD50s). The K.M.D tracks pull heavily from mostly untouched samples sources, tapping into a vast array of snappy drums, jazzy horns, melodic pianos, vigorous guitar lines, & complementing basslines.
Personally, I think the album is a masterpiece. However, I can see why it wasn’t as commercially successful as some of their peers at the time such as A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Brand Nubian, etc… With the exception of “Peachfuzz”, none of their singles fit in to what was on the radio. In fact, they were all filled with heavy topics, such as racism, black empowerment and other things that generally scare radio away. Even “Peachfuzz” had a message behind it. However, although the album stayed on target of serious subject matter, there was generally a element of humor or light-heartedness to make it easier to digest, but no less effective in making it’s points. In the end, it’s not to say they weren’t looking to sell units, they just choose to do so strictly based on the creativity and skills, rather than subscribing to any formulas, a noble intention.
K.M.D went back to the lab to work on a sophomore album that was vastly different, but nearly equally creative as their debut. It never saw a proper release as planned due to a series of record label politics and personal tragedies (R.I.P Subroc), but that is a story for another day…
*Zev Love X a.k.a MF Doom, once told me that Onyx didn’t even rhyme until they started making this album. He was just always around and Zev wanted to added another element to compliment him lyrically so he decided he would give it a go…making it a rather impressive debut.
**Before the album dropped there was one additional 12”, “Who Me?” b/w “Humrush”, but for the purpose of showcasing the albums conceptual side I wanted to jump right into that.
***Doom once told me that he got the concept for doing the spoken word vocals from listening to the World Famous Supreme Team Show on WHBI in the mid 80s. He took that influence and flipped it nicely.
****Around the same time as Mr Hood, the Bomb Squad was promoting and releasing the debut album from their very talented, but controversial group, Young Black Teenagers…of which none were, in fact, black.
*****This single also had “Peachfuzz” as a B-side and listed as the “Last Chance For Radio” version. Suggesting they probably also recognized this was their best chance at impacting from the albums selections