While East Coast hip-hop heads often complain that West Coast rap is
abstract and esoteric, M.O.P. is a favorite target of West Coast
rappers. West Coasters claim that The Mash Out Posse represents a New
York aesthetic that doesn't travel well beyond Brooklyn and its
surrounding boroughs. And whereas West Coast MCs finesse the mic, New
Yorkers M.O.P. choose instead to berate the mic, whipping out
their signature "yeeeeeooow!" at the beginning of most songs.
While this yelp catapults M.O.P. pretty high up the annoyance scale, the
group still possesses an oddly compelling quality. The trick to
unearthing said quality isn't to avoid M.O.P.'s loud and abrasive style
so much as it is to attempt to understand why they feel they have to
scream in the first place (this touchy-feeliness being representative of
the West Coast approach, of course. The East Coast approach? Turn down
the g.d. volume!). All this yelling ... it must have something to do
with New York ...
M.O.P.'s conception of Gotham City is something along the lines of a
blaxploitation fantasy updated for the '90s -- one in which Priest (from
"Superfly") and Willie Hutch's "The Mack" assume informal civic
leadership positions. Their domain is a masculine free-for-all, as
thugs, pimps and pushers rule (boss?) with unstable power and
questionable morality. It's an atmosphere in which ghetto pride is the
everyonlygod, an atmosphere in which people yell because that's what the
environment calls for -- Godfatheresque, whispered threats will get you
nowhere in M.O.P.'s 'hood.
Essential to M.O.P.'s power is Gang Starr's DJ Premier, who turns what
could easily have been a mediocre gun-clap album into something a bit
more sublime. Premier has emerged as this decade's most talented
producer, and he captures a sound that has come to define the essence of
New York hip-hop. His kick-snare (listen to "Breakin' The Rules" and
"Salute Part II") manages to conjure the calm to counter the storm.
"Down 4 Whateva" kicks in with a vicious guitar riff and a chorus that
scratches out every important hood in Brooklyn (though it has Premier
written all over it, M.O.P. actually produced this one). "Down 4
Whateva" rocks hard, with special thanks due to O.C., another Brooklyn
bad-boy who puts in a cameo appearance.
After awhile though, the repetition of the songs gets a little wearing:
"Facing Off," "Downtown Swinga 98" and "Fly Nigga Hill Figga" make use
of the same formula. Still, the only really flat track is "4
Alarm Blaze," in which the unfortunate song "Eye of the Tiger" (of
"Rocky" fame) is sampled (M.O.P. is assaultive enough without the
addition of '80s cock-rock). On the flip-side, M.O.P.'s lighter touches
are surprisingly successful. Songs like "Blood, Sweat and Tears," "New
York Salute" and "What the Future Holds" employ soft keys, piano chords
and vibes to pleasing effect.