In 1988 came the debut solo album from The Juice Crew's producer, Marley Marl. A first for Hip Hop, it sees him pulling together a range of tracks (mostly outtakes which couldn't be used for individuals' albums) from Juice Crew members on the Cold Chillin' label. On it the likes of Biz Markie, Big Daddy Kane and Kool G Rap all come to held him out by rapping over the hardcore beats which he throws down here.
1. "Droppin' Science"
The album kicks off with one of the most well-known tunes from the album. A straight-up classic cut, it's the perfect way to get the album underway as we get a funky cut that has Craig G showing off what he has to offer (as one of few within the Juice Crew who hadn't recorded a solo release yet). The tune is one that stands out and although I wouldn't say its the best here, it stands up well as the opener.
2. "We Write The Songs"
For this one we see that in addition to having Biz Markie bringing forward his humorous stuff, we also get an appearance from Heavy D here as they get into a little something that I felt really represented the crew and the times well a Biz does his thing and rolls with his bouncy flow and just takes control with his approach to things, and then Heavy D shows that he has the skills to support him too.
3. "The Rebel"
With Tragedy Khadafi on his side, we see that here Marley Marl puts down some of his flyest beats for this one and shows how well he can cut things up with the limited production equipment he had to work with. The MC (who would grow to become the Intelligent Hoodlum) comes out with some fresh rhymes which show that he has come to take control of the game with his complex approach to flowing.
4. "Keep Your Eyes On The Prize"
This one has Marley making the beats for Masta Ace and Action. As this album was designed to help out artists from the crew like Action and the MC who performed on the last one, you expect to see quite a bit here as they show what the younger talent (yet to shine) have to offer, and he seems to do a good job at giving them time to showcase this with a pretty strong tune coming through on this one.
5. "The Symphony"
The one and only track recorded specially for this project, this is a classic join and one that had to come as the record's lead single. On it we get the all-stars of the Juice Crew all coming to lay down their rhymes. We have Big Daddy Kane, Masta Ace, Kool G Rap and Craig G all doing their thing over a pretty simplistic piece from Marley Marl, just something that does enough to set off the MCs and give them what they need to come out with their freaky flows.
6. "Live Motivator"
Tragedy shows his face for this one too as he gets another solo piece and I felt that it was a great time for him to do it as Marley marl unleashes a gem of a composition and a little something that you really wouldn't have expected to get when you consider just how many times he's already killed it with his beats through this thing. It goes hard and it stands out for the originality in the production.
7. "Duck Alert"
Here we get a massive change to things on the production side of things once again, and the reason for this is that Marley Marl shows us how things go when he gets to the sampling and comes out with James Brown's "Funky Drummer" and sets it off in a way that you won't be able to take yourself away from as once it has started you are forced into a heavy head bob along with Craig G's fresh rhyming.
8. "Simon Says"
This is another track for just Masta Ace and Action to do their thing on and I felt that it was a great time to unleash it as we see just how well they (Masta Ace in particular) come out with rhymes which have them proving why at the time they were regarded as the biggest name in the Hip Hop game. It is a heavy one and a track that forces you to take notice as they come out with a speedy approach. We hear a shout-out to Tim Westwood end this one off.
This is a heavy cut on the album and one that picks things up again (not that we've really had any issues on it so far) as we see that a more experienced name; MC Shan, gets his chance to rip things on this album and he comes out on a cut that uses a little snippet of a cut which Kanye West would also sample on John Legend's "It's Over". Represents the older generation of the crew, and shows that he still remains relevant.
10. "Wack Itt"
To end this one we see that the MCing is handed over to Roxanne Shanté. I felt that it was a great time to see her (star of the 'Roxanne Wars') not only make an appearance here, but end the thing off and give us the final lasting impression of the album. It has a bit of a different feel to the rest of the album as the thing gets much more mainstream-directed and so appeals to a new crowd as an apparent rushed final inclusion. It's not the best, but it represents the times well.
This is a strong album from Marley Marl and with the all-star line-up which it features; it was bound to attract lots of attention. I have to say that there were many more albums of a higher standard at the time and so it can't really be said to have made as much an impact as "Strictly Business", "The Adventures of Slick Rick" or "Straight Outta Compton", but having a producer as an actual act was a big step forward.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Intro 1
2 Droppin' Science - Marley Marl & Craig G
3 Intro 2
4 We Write the Songs - Marley Marl & Biz Markie/Heavy D
5 Intro 3
6 Rebel, The - Marley Marl & Tragedy The Intelligent Hoodlum
7 Intro 4
8 Keep You