This is that shit. So much significance in this video of Suga Free, then Royal Rock, cracking a beat on a table and spitting some trademark advice with seriously sinister pomp. This video was reportedly recorded in 1995, a full two years before Free debuted under that most excellent of monikers with that most intimidating of Quik-made debuts: Street Gospel.
The first thing to notice is that that’s Suga Free. Like, of course it is but what I mean is it’s not The Dude Who Would Be Suga Free or The Man Who Would Create Suga Free. It’s all already there, right down to sage advice expressed with tattoo-worthy brevity and eloquence. As has been noted previously, one of the most astounding things about Suga Free is that even in his Royal Rock days, almost every element was already in place.
This would be impressive for any memorable rapper but Suga Free has such a specific, itricate character, a wise Jedi of Misogyny with an endless supply of filthy and noirish slams, that it’s genuinely humbling to see he apparently had it all locked down so young. Appropriate, considering the above song’s title.
Witness this even-earlier video of Free in which, aside from rhyming like merely a great rapper instead of The Only Rapper and looking disturbing young, his entire stylo was already laser precision.
To paraphrase the most-quotable:
“At the beginning of his mannishness, he was already the mannishest”.
Take a closer listen around 1.20 for signs of Free To Come. Although embryonic Suga Free above has some pretty muscular chops, Suga Free fully-formed genuinely lays it down like no one I’ve ever heard.
His deceptively complex raps involve some pretty deft slight of hand. Free keeps it extremely conversational, going deep with the old sayings, the pauses and exclamations. Occasionally though he’ll throws out insane flourishes that let you know he’s not just in the pocket, he owns the pocket and if you try to sell him a different pocket you’d be buying it back off him at twice the price by the end of the transaction. It’s sounds like someone throwing a ball at full speed and then sauntering after it with what appears to be a crawl, only to catch it one-handed and backflip into a touchdown.
Any true player can tell you that so distinctive is Suga Free’s flow it has inspired no significant copyists. How could it? The intense technical skill involved in delivering Free’s raps is only a cog in the machine, it’s significant and unachievable for most but it only exists to deliver the information and honour the intelligence. It’s can feel like Suga Free’s just talking so many hilarious circles around you it just ended up turning into rapping. You can’t rap like this, even a little bit, cause you don’t live inside that head and your fuckshit synapses aren’t built for this heat. It’s also impressive that the few tributes he’s gotten,including some turtles and a 20 year-old native american woman, seem to ignore replication of the flow and riff off the unimpeachable oddness.
It’s also interesting to see how the the bangin’-on-the-table rap evolved in the subsequent two years before it was immortalised as I Wanna Go Home on Street Gospel. The Pimona Pimp is pretty proud of his preternatural proficiency at P poppery, flamboasting about P pronunciation gets mentioned in many of his tracks. He sounds a little more unhinged and relaxed on I Wanna Go Home whereas Do It Like I’m Use To It is, partly because of the closeness of the video, a clinic in how to enunciate clearly while coming correct.
I Wanna Go Home kind of feels like the Miracle Mile of rap skits. It starts as a fairly decent example of a routinely-terrible thing and then takes a bizarre, jolting turn part-way through which is as shocking as it is satisfying. By the end it just may have redeemed not only itself but all its brethren. Just listen to 15 seconds between 1.45 to 2.00 of I Wanna Go Home and tell me that isn’t a hypnotic thizzface-trigger.
Special mention too must go to the dudes in the background who subtly but definitely go in for both videos. It’s a bit of a pity Clue Dogg didn’t do a bit more (it would have been off-the-wall by default) but the adlib and back-up stuff all the lads do is still class. In fairness just getting to say “dawwwggg” like that probably already feels like a privilege.
If you believe the story about the mythic meeting between Suga Free and DJ Quik, the most underrated and hilarious producer since Blowfly and rapper of my favourite diss track of all time, then the table-wrap rap takes on even more significance (and this is a blog so we’re in full “PRINT THE LEGEND, JIMMY OLSEN” mode here).
Starting at 2.35 of this video, Quik explains what led him to produce Street Gospel for Free. This video also explains the real genius behind wrap-rap far more succinctly than I ever could.
But since apparently I can’t embed that video on Tumblr, you may as well go to Youtube and watch the whole thing. Aside from getting to hear Why You Bullshittin’, you also get a glimpse of the comedic chemistry between one of the most shamefully-neglected musical duos of all time.
Look, everyone says their favourite musicians should have a talk show. Probably. Although honestly I doubt there’s lads on the Animal Collective Message Board fiendin’ for a Geologist/Panda bear talk show and getting into serious altercations about who’d be the host and who’d be the sidekick (Deakin for barely-shown bandleader though, no doubt).
When I say Suga Free and DJ Quik should have a talk show though, this isn’t some kind of passing, catch-all compliment. To further the madness, I’m not even sure this couldn’t co-exist with the Quik-solo tv show I have previously proposed (Here’s Quik driving around Compton, try to watch the part where he wistfully wishes he could go back to his alien friends and tell me you don’t feel like catching up on him once a week).
Although I obviously like the above origin story video a lot, this bit from the making of the Nobody video is the real deal-closer. I don’t think there’s any episode of a suspiciously-pitchy comedy podcast released in the last 12 months can even hold the faintest candle to the comedic rapport and casual-brilliance of the Doobie Brothers Mustache Hypothesis.
Honesty, I might even be willing to paypal some euros to whichever necessary illicit location to get someone to throw some accurate subtitles on this video where Free’s mostly in the background. You know some shit is going all the way down there.
But of course it’s a pipe dream that either of these shows become a reality. Galling when you consider the thousands of feeble internet motherfuckers using Kickstarter to fund (almost) anything with the word “steampunk” attached to it. In fact: if your personal capital went to gluing gears on laptops instead of the theoretical pilot episode of The Dejuan And Dave Show, I offer you the same sentiment Free offers a woman, presumably his now ex-wife, in this video (said ex has inspired some pretty evil bars, even by Free’s lofty rubric).
But not only is that clip relaunch-Insomniac-but-with-these-dudes great, it’s also really fitting for these dudes to speak on talismans relating to musical power. Firstly and most obviously: not only would you be lying if you said you couldn’t almost see the Samson-style power flowing from mane to brain in that video, you’d be sendin’ out a press release begging for a punch into the jaw.
On a slightly more serious note: these dudes seem to function as talismans for each other. Suga Free’s flow is almost tailor-made for Quik’s beats, the musical equivalent of the slick smirk with which Free’s best lines are delivered. Quik is also a better rapper when he raps with Suga Free, in a way that diametrically opposes Busta Rhymes giving Chris Brown a quick lesson in High Speed Tedium during Look At Me Now.
When Free raps with Quik, he becomes an even more laid-back, funnier bastard. It’s a specific kind of stepping up to an extremely specific challenge and Quik kills it, much in the way he kills everything else, as if it was somehow taking the easiest option.
The really valuable inspiration Suga Free gives Quik though, is the challenge of creating beats worthy of that flow. Good as he is at table percussion and internalised basslines, Free being 14-year-old-Djent-fan-on-Christmas-morning shite at the guitar kind of confirms his need for producers. And while his non-Quik beat selection is better than some people seem to think, Quik still seems to have the best understanding of what will make The Pomona P’s nastiness sound even nicer. Maybe it’s whatever he locked onto the first time he heard the table rap or maybe it’s the sheer joy of the “this dude sounds this good on his own, what the fuck can I do?” challenege. Whatever it is, it always pays off.
The pimp mind meld is evident in the conversations linked above. Both men have mastered the same discipline, complete unflappability, in totally different yet completely complimentary ways. Neither needs the other, necessarily, but each operates on another level when in the other’s presence.
Neither Quik nor Free are even close to perfect people. They’ve both had their careers fucked up by prison and beefing, including the ultimate example of them beefing with each other for years. Their discographies aren’t even as flawless as I might have made out either but that doesn’t go anywhere near excusing how slept-on both of their respective outputs seem to be.
So it was a definite happy moment for fans like me when this video arrived last year. What better way to announce their reunification than this? Seeing the two of them unleash some professionally laid-back pimp nihilism over that bouncy summer slap was a perfect reintroduction to the rarefied air Quik and Free exude.
This post was genuinely supposed to be a one line thing with the Do It Like I’m Use To It video and some indecipherable bullshit about how excited I am about the upcoming Quik/Free collabo album Street Gospel II. Forgive the prosthelytizing mania that overtook me. Still, hopefully, on the off-chance you weren’t excited about Street Gospel II, you are now.
Even if you were already familiar, it at least maybe my incoherent babbling servered as a reminder that you gotta stay ready so you don’t have to get ready. (You owe it to yourself to watch that video again by the way, it’s a masterclass in how to be in a rap video.)
Oh and before I go, here’s some silky Suga Free shit that somehow evaded my radar near the end of last year. It takes a genius to make Fleetwood Mac worthwhile but the way the man nails it to the ground with such preposterous smoothness cannot go unrecognized, dog.