After Queens rap group Screwball released the controversial "Who Shot Rudy?" single in mid-1999, they discovered who really had their back. The song, which featured group member Solo fantasizing about the murder of New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, was the main reason, according to the group, that Tommy Boy, its record company at the time, pushed back the release of its debut album, Y2K, until early 2000.
No longer with Tommy Boy, Screwball is gearing up for the arrival of its second album, Loyalty, dropping Tuesday. The album's title has special meaning for the group, which said it experienced many problems from its label, law-enforcement agencies and others following the release of "Who Shot Rudy?"
"Contracts and lawyers don't care about you at all," said KL, who rounds out the group with Poet and Hostyle. "We were able to make music, do another album, through loyalty. It's more than just contracts, cash and having new clothes with us. It's dedication and sacrifice, staying real with it."
But don't expect to hear another "Who Shot Rudy?" on the Queens quartet's second album. "We didn't go there this time because we had so many problems with the last album," KL said. "That was the reason the last album got pushed back. Nobody wanted to touch it. Time Warner [Tommy Boy's parent company] didn't want any part of it. Everybody we figured would be there for us wasn't. People were like, 'Nah, you can't say that.' This album is more street. We're trying to get our market strong."
On Loyalty, Screwball trade lyrics with M.O.P. on the rugged lead single, "Torture," and rap alongside veterans Noreaga and Kool G. Rap on the forceful "Gorillas."
Group affiliate Matrix Bars appears on "Like a Gangsta." A friend of the group named Screwball was killed a few years ago while breaking up a fight in which Bars was involved. Featuring Bars on "Loyalty" has multiple meanings for the crew, who named itself after their dead friend.
"Every time we drop an album, it's like our man Screwball lives on with us," KL said. "That's what Screwball stands for: My man is still living."
Screwball plan to keep their friend alive with a slew of other releases, including an EP they plan to drop by the end of the year. As time goes on, expect to hear more politically charged work from the group.
"When we're in total control of our situation, that's when you're going to see the 'f--- the police' records, you're going to hear it all," KL said. "This album is a street album with street politics. We're trying to get more personal with the people so they can get more familiar with our personalities as opposed to us coming out like a bunch of Al Sharptons."