In 1992, the Hip Hop paradigm had shifted to a West Coast perspective. Spice 1 and MC Ren had released their debut albums, and DJ Quik dropped his second titled “Way 2 Fonky” that was certified gold within three months.
Then the left coastal Godzilla of musical marijuana dropped in Dr. Dre’s classic debut “The Chronic” that December. The world was now all G-Funk courtesy of his Parliament Funkadelic tempo riffs and Starchild bellowing of “swing down I wanna ride,” from the Houston 1976 P-Funk show, on the hit single “Let Me Ride.”
(Black Moon circa 1993, Photo Credit: Nervous Wreck Records)
It was then that Brooklynites Buckshot Shorty, Evil Dee, and 5ft decided to re-invoke the mystique that is the Empire State’s grimy musicality by forming the group Black Moon.
The name was a reverse acronym that meant Brothers who Lyrically Act and Combine Kickin’ Music Out On Nations.’ Of course, this was the nineties, so everything had a deeper meaning than its surface.
By 1993 they released their first single, “Who Got Da Props?” which evoked an entire sound shift from Dre’s funk-centered rhythm to production enclave Da Beatminerz’ dark, sample-heavy sound. The song reached number 86 on the Billboard Hot 100 making the underground trio an above-ground sensation.
Black Moon’s debut album, ‘Enta Da Stage’, set the tone for a new militarized sound that opened the door for the platoon-centric raps of groups Smif-N-Wessun (Tek and Steele), Heltah Skeltah (Ruck and Rock) and O.G.C. (Original Gun Clappaz), collectively known as the Boot Camp Clik.
Remember, this album preceded later nineties staple debut albums like Nas’ Illmatic,’ Biggie’s Ready to Die’ and seminal hip-hop super group Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).’
The BCC gave Brooklyn a detour from the smooth player images of Big Daddy Kane tearing up the Albee Square Mall. Black Moon’s initial offering was a soundtrack that made you hit the Army surplus store to don fatigues and combat boots for a Che Guevara and Fidel Castro sound coup.
(Smif-N-Wessun’s Tek and Steele, Photo Credit: Duck Down Records)
When Buckshot and friend Dru Ha formed Duck Down Records, after beginning on Nervous Wreck Records, they began to release projects from the Boot Camp Clik membership. Smif-N-Wessun was up first with album Dah Shinin’, with the single “Bucktown”. Follow-up singles Wrekonize’ and Sound Bwoy Bureill’ solidified the group’s extension of the provocative sound.
But it was on the soundtrack of the Newark, NJ car jacking film “New Jersey Drive” that the Boot Camp Clik released their first joint track entitled “Headz R Ready.” The joint displayed the unique styling of each member with each verse more intriguing than the last.
The music video’s bare bones pugilistic rawness was so indicative of the no frills, all meat aspect of nineties NYC Hip Hop that it makes today’s so-called MC’s look like dandies in comparison.
Heltah Skeltah and O.G.C. eventually formed the sub-group The Fab 5, which dropped the groundbreaking single “Leflaur Leflah Eshkoshka.” If the BCC seemed like a hodgepodge of Bushwick meets Crown Heights with a dash of Flatbush patois with no individuality post-Black Moon, this morsel deconstructed who was who.
Heltah Skeltah’s Rock laced the hook with:
Yes, yes y’all
O.G.C. Heltah Skeltah be the best y’all
Fab Five slams from east to west y’all
Sound pound straight through your bubble vest y’all
And check your chest y’all
O.G.C.’s Starang Wonder set off the first verse with:
Ay curumba strang gun clappa number
One on tha set man, I cut ya like lumber
Still play the back in my thunder gear down to my underwear
Make all you motherf****** wonder where I come from
‘Cuz motherf*** Dapper Dan
I’m a gun clappa fan plus I run rappers stand
Fab 5, mad live blow up the spot
Dru Ha gets the paper Black Moon still gets the props
(Sean Price, formerly known as Ruck from Heltah Skeltah, Photo Credit: Duck Down Records)
Heltah Skeltah’s late rhyme smith Ruck, who eventually used his government name of Sean Price, set off what would become his trademark whimsical bully raps that have cemented him as one of the best lyricists ever:
I control the masses, wit’ metaphors that’s massive
Don’t ask if the n**** Rucker bash shit like Cassius
I’m drastic, when it comes to verbs I be flippin’
‘Cuz herbs jus be shittin’ off the words I be kickin’
I scold you, double headed swords for the petty
But I told you, b**** n***** that headz ain’t ready
Now I mold you, back to the b**** that you are
F****** wit’ the ruckest get bruised, battered and scarred…
(Tek, Steele, Dru Ha and Buckshot, Photo Credit: Duck Down Records)
The Boot Camp Clik was the secret weapon of New York City to deafen the West Coast vibration like a West Indian Day parade DJ selector’s sound system. Although underappreciated and rarely mentioned, the group of militaristic consciousness even enticed Tupac to build an audio bridge.
Shakur invited Buckshot and Smif-N-Wessun in to his California recording sessions in hopes of squashing the media-pumped East Coast-West Coast beef.
Trendsetters that helped create the independent music hustle and the NYC preamble to eventual southern and western dominance; Hip Hop was blessed to have birthed the Boot Camp Clik.