April 2, 2015

Big Moe - City Of Syrup (2000)

I don't know how it's taken me this long to review this album, one of my personal favorites. The South has ruled hip hop since the mid-90's in my opinion. There were greats in the second half of the 90's from the West and East, but the volume of quality material put out by the south is simply unrivalled. The hub of southern rap was Texas, specifically Houston. One of the supergroups within Houston rap was the Screwed Up Click (SUC), created by DJ Screw, perhaps the most underrated DJ of all time. If you've ever heard 'chopped and screwed' rap, it's a mediocre knock off of Screw's incredible process of slowing down and chopping tracks, creating new works of art from other artists' material. Screw's body of work is unbelievable large, with something like 270 ~1 and a half hour long tapes. A good place to start is here.

But enough history. Why I bring up SUC is that Moe was one of the greatest members. His other nickname, the Barre Baby, refers to his codeine habit. If you don't know what lean is (what rock have you been living under?), it's codeine with promethazine cough syrup mixed with sprite and jolly ranchers usually. It creates an opiate high, but isn't as powerful as most other opiates, causes itching, and doesn't prevent movement like other opiates at high doses. Anyway, Moe loves lean. And that's important. From the album cover, which depicts Moe pouring purple syrup (the preferred lean mixture) on a city, to his music, to his everyday life, everything revolves around lean. I think every track on this album mentions lean at least once, and a decent number are strictly on that topic.

Anyway, on to the actual music. The production is incredible, with Derrick 'D-Wreck' Dixon as executive producer, who had the same role on Ghetto Dreams, another classic from the region. There's a nice mix of funk and crunk, with tracks ranging from upbeat and hard-hitting to dark and low-tempo. The fascinating part about this is that Moe maintains this sort of openness even during the darker tracks. Even when it's darker, Moe's just telling it like it is- he's the friendliest rapper to ever touch the mic. His flow is fascinating, he sings like Z-Ro on some tracks but not to the same extent. Speaking of Z-Ro, the features on this album are incredible. ESG, Hawk, Ro, Al-D, and Mike D all appear on the album among other Texas rappers. On my review of Snoop Dogg's The Last Meal (an overlooked album), I pointed out that for features to work on an album, the main artist must be in control, as otherwise it just becomes a collaborative album. Moe maintains this, not necessarily through an aggressive hold on the mic, instead it sounding almost like he's hosting the other rappers. They may be guests, but you never forget you're in his house.

DJ Screw died just four months after this, which had a devastating effect on the SUC. Big Moe passed away in 2007, likewise from a Codeine OD. The two left behind one of the greatest legacies in hip-hop, true heads will recognize. RIP Screw and Moe.


City of Syrup