September 17, 2016

DJ Big Mac - Ridgegrove Maufia (1994)


This is a guest post by our friend Griffin at https://rateyourmusic.com/~gangstapoltergeist and https://drugdogrecords.bandcamp.com/. He also orchestrated the Memphis hip hop Mega archive so give him credit for that.

In listening to underground Memphis tapes you often encounter an element of musical ineptitude. For instance, when listening to certain songs produced by Tommy Wright III you realize that he may not have been the most well versed producer as far as traditional music theory goes. However, because this music has an inherent element of dissonance built into it such inexperience is not always completely obvious. This is not the case on this tape.

While the opener, ("Face to Face") starts the album off with the Memphis mainstays of 808s and hazy sampling, once you arrive at the sheer cacophony of "187 Killa Bitch" its pretty hard to shake the feeling that DJ Big Mac may not have Zaytoven-level chops or the atmospheric discipline of DJ Paul. This gets pretty much impossible to deny once you realize that just about every song on this tape contains him playing damn near the same tone clusters in the background. In a remarkable subversion of expectation, however, much of this production works very well and even shows a bit of variety. From the bouncy, ominous "Degrees Of Robbery" to the frantic 808 cowbell programing on "Just Kickin Shit On The Track" Big Mac does a lot with very little. The smoldering "Tha Chicken" is another production highlight as well.There is certainly not a single boring moment on this tape musically.

But what about the Ridgegrove Maufia themselves? These guys seem to be in a similar mindset to most of their local contemporaries, rapping about the usual psycho gangst-isms and jacking people. They do a very good job at this though, the aforementioned "Face to Face" has some great verses that DJ Sound would go on to sample quite a bit. Actually, these guys do change things up a bit, "Day To Day Fight" sees them talking about financial turmoil and the vicious cycle of living in the ghetto with a stark honesty and vulnerability. Its pretty surreal to hear the same guys who wrote the occult murder fantasy of "Face to Face" rapping on the same tape about living in a "three bedroom small shack" and how he and his brother "share the same clothes, but we go to different schools so the hoes will never know".

Honestly, this tape is a bit of a gem. The energy these guys bring is pretty visceral, perhaps even more so because of the perpetually strange production choices and often overly aggressive rapping. There's also a certain anthropological element I suppose as it sort of lets the listener in on the creative process with its raw creativity. Certainly recommend for fans of Memphis rap and underground rap in general who are looking for something different to listen to after running out of their go-to Street Smart Records tapes.

Sample

Ridgegrove Maufia