When you talk about ‘hip-hop’ artists that provide you with that raw ENERGY, no one does it better than M.O.P. Alongside many classic MCs hailing from Brooklyn, NY, the duo has carved their way into rap history with 4 incredible albums and countless club bangers. I cannot name a record that I have played more than M.O.P.’s gigantic, jump-up-and-get-stupid, throw-your-body-uncontrollably, yell-as-loud-as-you-can anthem, ‘Ante Up’. You just can’t help but get amped when those horns start buzzing, and when the kick hits – mayhem. It has never, ever failed. Honestly.
My admiration for the group dates back to the day I bought their second album, Firing Squad. After only one listen, I was a fan for life. They just made me want to go out and do whatever I was doing as intensely as I could. At the time, that activity was mowing lawns, and believe me, if you rolled by my block (which I had on lock), you could see me wilding out with my headphones on, mowing the lawn as quickly, efficiently, and raw as possible. My friend the Kuttin’ Kracker and I would drive through the city and actively promote the album by blaring it and even stopping people on the street to let them in on the good music.
When I started DJing in clubs, you couldn’t hear a Bastid set without hearing an M.O.P. track. ‘How About Some Hardcore’, ‘World Famous’, ‘Brownsville’, ‘Stick 2 Ya Gunz’, ‘Breakin’ The Rules’, ’4 Alarm Blaze’, ‘Cold As Ice’, ‘Stand Clear’, the aforementioned ‘Ante Up’, and many more. They became part of my sound. I was privileged enough to open for them in 2004 in Ottawa, Ontario, and I’d like to share a story with you. There’s some fresh vinyl rips at the end of it, so bare with me.
After setting it off as heavy as I could (which was hard to do in the absence of their music), I grabbed a prime seat in the audience for the show I had been waiting my youth for. Lead MCs Billy Danze and Lil’ Fame stormed the stage alongside manager/female MC Foxx and longtime DJ/producer Laze-E-Laze. From the minute they stepped out until the final ‘UNGH!’ f show-closer ‘Ante Up’, I saw a well rehearsed crew put on one of the best rap sets I’ve ever heard. Danze and Fame showed off the skills that come with countless years of rapping alongside one another. Lil’ Fame, who produced ‘Cold As Ice’ as well as many others of the crew’s hits, actually stepped behind the turntables at one point and juggled doubles of Nas’ ‘Thief’s Theme’, a big record at the time. I had no idea that he was a DJ also! We’re talking accurately cutting up doubles for the others on stage to rap to.
After the show ended, I dug into my crate and ran up all fan-boy-like to get my “Rugged Neva Smoove” 2×12″ signed:
With the goods in hand, the promoters (Kapacity Entertainment, along with DJ illo) and I headed over to set up the afterparty at a small sweatbox of a bar named ’56′, which was a downstairs club that held about 100 people MAX. Before long, the room was packed by the time we got there and the energy after the show was (almost literally) through the roof, you know, smack-the-ceiling type liveness. Jam after jam after jam and people were wilding out. This was back in the ‘records only’ days and I had brought all my favorite NY rap records and it was pretty much the perfect setting for it.
Just when it couldn’t get any better, Lil’ Fame and Laze-E-Laze come through to the party. They make their way through the crowd and head to the DJ booth (which was actually the far end of the bar in this sardine can) and stashed their coats. Then Fame asked if he could play a set with some of my records.
ARE YOU CRAZY?! Of course!
‘Uh, yeah sure’, I said.
‘Well, what you got?.’
‘Classics, rap, you know.’
‘Pass me one and I’ll play it. Wait, do you have ‘Cold As Ice’?’
I reach inside the withered sleeve and hand him his classic record. He drops it and Laze hops on the mic to hype the crowd, who are by now losing their minds. One after another, he dropped anthems. I hand him Gangstarr records (‘Code Of The Streets’, ‘Just To Get A Rep’), Nas records (‘Made You Look’, ‘Nas Is Like’), Special Ed’s ‘I Got It Made’, EPMD ‘So Whatcha Sayin’ and a few more, some of which he turned down, all of which he dropped with the precision of a NY club DJ. Then he looks at me and says ‘You got ‘Full Clip’ by Gangstarr?’. ‘Yeah, right here’, I replied. (You were stupid not to keep doubles of that record at the time).
As he places the record on the open deck, he waves over to Laze and they have a little chat about the next record to be played. Fame cuts off the music and Laze gets on the mic and says, ‘Alright hold up, hold up, hold up. We’re going to pay respect to one of our fallen MCs. When Fame says ‘Big L’… I want y’all to scream Big L back at him’.
Fame cues up the record with a scratch.
The crowd responds: ‘BIG L’.
In rhythm, Fame plays it back at them. ‘BIG L’
Again, crowd roars: ‘BIG L’.
Back and forth 5 or 6 times, Fame then drops the entire phrase. ‘Zigga-zigga-zigga-BIG L REST IN PEACE, REST IN PEACE’ and the ‘Full Clip’ beat drops and everyone in the room LOSES THEIR MIND. At once 100 people jump and wave their hands in the air, proclaiming that they had just witnessed a hip-hop sermon. It was one of those times were you couldn’t really process what was going on. I felt like I was underwater, drowned in the moment and pretty much oblivious to everything except that room at that moment. Laze-E-Laze and Lil’ Fame rocked out to the track for a while, gave a few pounds and took off to the next city soon after.
It’s so dope when you see a group that does the music because they LOVE it. For years, this is a group that unwaivering-ly did ‘their thing’, and did it at the top of their class without much commercial recognition. Seeing what I saw that night showed me that no matter what, keep doing what you love and share it with people, whether you’re in front of thousands or hundreds.
For a thorough collection of M.O.P.’s classics, check out my man DJ Eleven’s classic ‘Best of M.O.P.’ mix: FIGHT MUSIC. A release that bonded us as brothers.
Here’s some vinyl rips of some of there earliest work with the original sample from their breakthrough single.