Natives of Brooklyn, New York, Tek and Steele made their first appearance to the world of hip-hop on Black Moon’s 1993 debut, Enta Da Stage. The tracks, "Black Smif N Wessun" and "U Da Man" showcased their fierce and unrestricted lyrics.
In 1994, Buckshot and Dru Ha founded Duck Down Management, signing Smif N Wessun as their first act to Nervous Records. Not only did their debut 'Dah Shinin' sell over 300,000 copies, but it also coined the name of the fourth great wave of hip-hop music. Tek and Steele stormed the masses with hardcore rhymes and a flawless ability to trade the mic without hesitation.
"Dah Shinin was an era when hip-hop was just coming back from the West to the hardcore streets of New York, and you were proud to be a fan of it...that was kind of a renaissance time,” explained Steele. Produced by Da Beatminerz, the album was layered with heavy bass lines, razor sharp scratching and a dungeon sound that basted through any roof.
While tracks like "Timz N Hood Check" told of the underbelly of street life, "Won Time" discussed the results of snitching; "Cession At Da Doghillee" previewed the soon to be Boot Camp Clik; and the jazz influenced Brooklyn anthem, ”Bucktown,” became a Duck Down trademark.
Soon after their initial success, legal trouble arose over the group’s name in a trademark infringement case, with the Smith and Wesson gun company. In an attempt to avoid further litigation, Tek and Steele changed their name to: Cocoa Brovaz.
Buckshot, & The Cocoa Brovaz collaborated with 2Pac on the unreleased album 'One Nation.' Although not readily accessible to the public, the thought of the four working together would only result in being one of the rawest albums to date. In 1997, Tek and Steele joined: Buckshot, Heltah Skeltah, and O.G.C. to release the Boot Camp Clik debut 'For the People.' It received mixed reviews, as fans compared it to Smif N Wessun earlier work on 'Dah Shinin.'
The year of 1998 marked Tek and Steele's return under the name their new name, Coca Brovaz, releasing 'Rude Awakening.' Although the album received mixed reviews, the track “Black Trump” stuck out among the rest. Featuring the Wu-Tang Clan’s, Raekwon the Chef, the alliance would serve as a great moment in hip-hop, allowing for future Duck Down and Wu-tang projects. It would be their only release on Priority Records. Soon after, Tek and Steele were soon dropped from the distribution company.
Appearing as Coca Brovaz Tek and Steele contributed to 1999’s Sound Bombing Volumes 2 (“Every Rhymes I Write”), 2000’s Lyricist Lounge Volume’s 2 (“Get Up; featuring DJ Hi-Tek”) 2002’s Sound Bombing Volume 3 (“Spit Again”). Whether known as Smif N Wessun or Cocoa Brovaz, they could release a single and have it chart with in the top 50 of the Billboard Top 100. The duo came into their own, freelancing on various collaborative projects including clothing ads, defining themselves as true survivors of the game. Teaming up with Gangstarr Foundation member, Afu-ra, on the, D&D Sound Clash (2000), which featured beat composition by producers extraordinaire, DJ Evil Dee and DJ Premier; it ranked #1 on the Hip-hop/R&B Charts.
Later in the year of 2000, Tek and Steele rejoined the Boot Camp Clik on their second album 'The Chosen Few.' The track “Bucktown USA” would become a springboard for their future entrepreneurial opportunities. Additional freelance credits include Talib Kweli (“Gunn Music”), Tony Touch (“Spanish Harlem 2”), and a cameo with Buckshot in the “I Miss You,” tribute video for Aaliyah. She was a close friend.
In 2003, Tek and Steele moved into the driver’s seat founding, Bucktown USA Entertainment. They released their first independent full-length compilation titled 'Glory'. The LP featured artists from New York, Maryland, and Georgia. Through the Bucktown USA label, Smif N Wessun have released several solo projects including; Tek’s 'Amerikka’s Nightmare' (2004), 'I Got This' (2006); Steele’s 'First Famlee' (2004); Smif N Wessun 'X-Files' (2006); as well as serving as an additional branch for Duck Down Music affiliated projects.
2005 was a year of due justice for Smif N Wessun. After years of legal debate, they were finally awarded the reinstatement of the Smif N Wessun name. With a new found confidence they released 'Reloaded.' The album was one of three relapses during Duck Down’s Triple Threat Summer promotion. Tek and Steele came in full force. Tracks “Gunn Rap” and “My Timz Do Work” brought back the classic Smif N Wessun charisma. With cover art by Marc Ecko, and guest appearances by Talib Kweli, Tony Touch, Dead Prez, BCC and more the album resurrected a sound that was thought to have been lost.
The third Boot Camp Clik release 'The Last Stand' featured the entire Timberland boot clad battalion (Buckshot, Smif N Wessun, Heltah Skeltah, O.G.C.), production by Pete Rock, Da Beatminerz, Large Professor, 9th Wonder, Macro Pollo, !llMind, Coptic, Sic Beats, and Ken BB. While “Here We Go,” displayed memorable BCC rhyming ciphers, “1-2-3,” had a macho “knock to the skull” feel.
Tek and Steele returned in 2007 with 'Smif N Wessun: The Album' lead by the Rock and Joell Ortiz assisted single 'Stomp.' The album was met with mix reviews and saw a 4 year gap until Smif N Wessun would return with their next album 'Monumental.'
In 2011 Smif N Wessun teamed up with arguably the greatest hip-hop producer of all time Pete Rock to create a full length LP, 'Monumental.' One thing missing from their 2007 release was a consistent flow. Tek and Steele thought the best way to capture a consistent and complete album would be to have only one producer. What better producer to do so than Pete Rock. It was a match made in hip-hop heaven. As soon as announcements were made of the collab anticipation from fans grew tremendously.
Pete Rock, known for being a perfectionist, noted that he just didn't 14 beats and give them to Smif N Wessun instead he went in the studio with Tek and Steele and tailored beats specific to them.
The album feauted a Styles P & Sean Price on the hard hitting 'That's Hard,' Freeway on the beauitfully sampled and well thought out 'Roses', Hurricane G, Bun B, Rock, Buckshot, Black Rob, Memphis Bleek, Tyler Woods and even Pete Rock makes a few vocal appearances.
The album is best explained in HipHopDX's review: "Sixteen years later, the magic of Dah Shinin' still unravels some of its street wisdom in every play. Tek and Steele have had some solid works since, where they tried new things, while also tried to retain their core. Monumental comes at just the right time, and certainly presents an album that has more excitement and punch than any work since. It is crowded with guests, but Tek and Steele still hold court at their own party. With Pete Rock providing an album's worth of detailed sounds, the group has the foundation that they've lacked since the '90s. Moreover, Smif-n-Wessun reclaim a place at their own family table. As Black Moon and Heltah Skeltah's brands remain focused on solo works, this pair stomps the Boot back into 2011's cement in reminding us all who, along with Jay and Biggie, made Brooklyn so audio cinematic throughout the 1990s."
Monumental was released in June 2011 and serves as Smif N Wessun's 5th album making them one of the most consistent groups in the game. The duo has shown themselves to be more than emcees. Hitting hip-hop music with a raw and un-duplicable style, business sense and survival skills, the name, Smif N’ Wessun, shines above the rest.
Jul 26 TuesdayQueens, NY, US Summerstage, Queensbridge Park