Mr. Shadow - Born Without A Konscience
Undoubtedly, the 1990's served as the most prolific era of West Coast rap. No one can deny that. Chicano Rap was on hit, too, and San Diego was cranking out hit after hit like a Julio Cesar Chavez pay per view match. In my middle school years, formative time when I was developing my taste for music, I was hanging out with an older primo in Santa Ana playing "Ready to Rumble" on the Dreamcast - yeah I know: throwback!
I remember flipping through his CD binder and something caught my eye. I saw a burned copy of "Born Without A Konscience" (BWAK from here on out) written in the notorious neighborhood font. My primo explained to me that Shadow was from my neck of the woods, right away I thought "Mr. Shadow is a dope name, and he's from SD? Play that shit!". There are few albums I instantly click with, BWAK was infectious from the very beginning. The intro to the first track (named after the album) was captivating. It sounds like he had fun recording the track, the energy simmers off the song, the beat isn't all that entertaining but it's his vocal delivery that solidified this Knightowl diss. I didn't much like the second track, sounds like it may have been recorded in the same session (get a similar vibe) but the instrumental forces me to hit skip nine-outta-ten times. Having said that, however, from the moment I heard "Take Yo Bitch" I was hooked on the song, consider it a return of "Excited" with Lil One on the track and VMF on the production boards. The beat is a hella thumping sample of "I Can Make You Dance". Instant favorite.
There's a lot of potential for mainstream crossover all throughout the album, "Freaky" had that club appeal, if the verses were shorter and the hook was more repetitive I can see this being on the radio. Usually, I find monotone raps a little boring but Shadow has an incredible appeal to his flow, more of a vocal incantation over a dark and funky jam ("Party Goes On") and it's catchy as fuck. As if his name isn't cool enough, his aka's are just as dope: Night Stalker and One Man Batallion (the latter of which is his the title to the 6th song). I'm a sucker for the "Funky Worm" samples and I wasn't disappointed. The dark tones continue with a lyrical onslaught over piano keys and cynical informative raps like "San Di-Eh-Go, capital city of the Meth-am-pheta-mines, supplying fiends that don't believe in dreams". If you don't know, the Salty 619 is the busiest border in the world, bet your favorite contraband makes it through here.
"My Krime Payz" is like an addictive auditory substance, the piano keys compliments the snares and drums laced with paranoid raps. Now, I know I say this a lot but what Chicano Rap album is complete without a "More Bounce To The Ounce" sample or element? Of course the next song contains such element: "Da Mistahs". Some times I am really into it and others I can go without listening to it, regardless the chemistry is clear as day, Shadow and Lil One are an incredible duo. Marijuana ballads never get old either, and I'll admit the first time I heard "Smokerz Groove" I didn't dig it. The chorus bugged me. But the less you focus on it the more prevalent Shadow's lyrical prowess becomes, can't compliment his skills on the mic enough.
As I am paying attention to the guest appearances on this album, me cayo el veinte and realized it's nothing but San Diego heavy hitters. The incomparable GPA laying down verses alongside a young Shadow on "Negative Behavior" is like listening to lyrical acrobatics over the magic laid down by the one and only VMF. This song sits on rotation in my top 25 most played rolas. Moving futher along, the sampling is so deeply layered it took me a while to realize Rockwell's "Somebody Is Watching Me" is what was used for "My Strategy". In retrospect it is a no brainer when you listen to the chorus. Returning to the sinister piano keys (Halloween? Exorcist?), "Evil Deedz" creeps up in your speakers with more paranoia and anxiety fueled verses.
When I first copped this, I thought there was some defect when track 14 played a few seconds of silence and then abruptly ends. I picked up the jewel case, skimmed the playlist and I realized the subtle diss. The versatility of beats is only matched by Shadow's own lyrical genius. The beat on "Put It Down" is dope but the prolific rhyming is the star of this song. So much potential for the mainstream. I find myself quoting and reciting this album a lot "it's me and my dawg D-R-double-0-P-Y/ from the S.D side, rolling in a g ride". I mean, who doesn't? "Kali" is a dope track, hands down. To quote my boy Milo Mindbender from an earlier conversation: "Never really knew the names of all the members of the Aztec Tribe I was listening to "Shakin In Your Bootz" song on "Wasted Days And Wasted Nights" and it just hit me: "still I feel the urge to emerge for the kill spit up on your face roll you down a big hill (Madman) ... then I seen you fly (Spanish Fly)/ deep into the night I wanna be like lil one so muthafuck mike/ I came to put it down wipe the tears from the clown (Clown) don't even have an attitude but claiming to be rude (Rude Dog)/ finally I send those (Sendo) claiming to be fools to that other level you cant fuck with the devil"". Yes, there was no mincing words here, they were feuding hard with the Tribe, and Little and GPA were like sharks sensing blood, aiming straight for the kill. Shadow can be that glue that makes a feature sound like a great duo (with Lil Rob, Lil One or GPA) but a San Diego trio with Lil One and GPA would have been amazing.
I once read an online review about this album, the fan mentioned something about this album not having any candy-ass beats compared to his debut. More than a decade after reading that I still agree, this was superior to his first album. The record is solid all around, the cover is an homage to Led Zeppelin and the the beats are even doper. Rarely do I feel that full length albums (13+ tracks) are worth their length, I'm a firm believer that less is more. However, BWAK is the exception and the standard that should be followed. Classic? Without a doubt.
01. Born Without A Konscience
02. Stalker Of The Night
03. Take Yo Bitch (feat. Mr Lil One)
04. Freaky (feat. Young Sicc, Droopy)
05. Party Goes On
06. One Man Batallion
07. Don't Stop Now (Keep Bangin) (feat. Young Sicc)
08. My Krime Payz
09. Da Mistahs (feat. Mr. Lil One)
10. Smokerz Groove (feat. Gato)
11. Negative Behaviour (feat. GPA)
12. My Strategy
13. Evil Deedz
15. Put It Down
16. Kali (feat. Droopy)
17. Shaking In Your Bootz (feat. GPA, Mr. Lil One)