April 1, 2015

Kokane - Funk Upon A Rhyme (1994)


Funk Upon A Rhyme is basically "Our G-funk Is Better Than Your G-funk: The Album". Kokane released this and another album in 1991 called Addictive Hip Hop Muzick under the name Who Am I? and both should be considered forgotten West coast classics. In those short 3-4 years a lot had changed at Ruthless, Dre had left on poor terms and Eazy-E loc'd up with his primary crew, Above The Law, which Kokane was officially and unofficially a part of at different times. Not only did Eazy have shit to settle with Dr. Dre in terms of politics and street-realness, but the leading producer at Ruthless crown member of Above The Law, Cold 187um had his own battle to fight as he and Dre were both working towards (sometimes together, like on Addictive Hip Hop Muzick and Livin' Like Hustlers) an ultra-funky, bass dominated style of West coast gangsta rap that would come to be known as g-funk. Dre released The Chronic months before Above The Law's second album, Black Mafia Life and thanks to the easily identifiable hooks, simple exaggeration his own sound, and Snoop Dogg, it remains regarded as the start to G-funk. Cold 187um worked hard with this competition in mind, I'd guess, and before anyone knew it, he had quite the catalog which includes this bangin' g-funk creation.

The intro features a shady character dressed in a fake coke-head British accent who introduces Kokane and the music that's about to be played in the style of an interview. He mentions that Kokane (and therefore everyone at Ruthless) had discovered or made the formula to funk; they were using live bands and staying away from sampling or using it in an original way. While they don't say it here, it doesn't take a genius to identify the jab at Dr. Dre (probably for biting Mothership Connection). To be completely honest, while I think Dre dressed up the Chronic well, Kokane and Cold 187um display a much higher sense of musical integrity here; granted Dr. Dre did redeem himself of possible controversy on Doggystyle the following year. Kokane is pretty much as crazy as 187um and this album remains very raw despite its smooth g-funk label. The feel of the album is more based on the progression of the jams and dialogue these dudes lay down than the actual rapping. If you've listened to any post-Dre Ruthless albums before this (which you should) you can expect much of the same, Funk Upon A Rhyme is sharp, dark, barring nothing, jamming, and fun all at once with some clever rapping and production techniques in terms of mixing, sampling, and yes live guitar and keyboards.

Kokane

Funk Upon A Rhyme