(note - can't imagine another mag where dissidence to 'higher ups' would be so tolerated. whole paper going mad about g-funk at the time and like a stroppy sod I have to stick my elbows out. looking back, i was wrong, snoop n dre were awesome from the off (and realness is a helluva duff thing to be boosting) but editors trusted you back then to the point where they'd be happy with a 'you're fired' interruption and then onwards)
MELODY MAKER, September 10th, 1994
TRY and tie down hip-hop with yer baggage and it always finds a way to bust loose. Never mind asking “Has Rap Gone Too Far”, you should be asking why rock ain’t going nowhere. Sorry, but Gravediggaz make the point; tonight they are stunning.
When Snoop and Dre combine their mindless vacuity of lyrics with a kinda gloopy, Reaganite yuppiness of sound, it’s not just irresponsible, it’s a lie. It’s the ghetto as just another capitalist terrain, an apolitical place where Snoop cruises by and niggaz with the problem die in the gutter.
Cypress, Wu-Tang, Onyx and now Gravediggaz strike me as being a hell of a lot more real. Listening ot them no one would dream of living in black America; nobody could get away with shit like “I Wish I Was Black”, no one could anaesthetise or ignore the sickening truth of the ghetto condition. These bands are the truth behind Snoop’s lies and it ain’t pretty.
Gravediggaz sound like a hideous revelation, the vocals always coated with an echo of horror that breaks in the mouth of rapper Rakeen into gabbling hysteria, a constant agitated yelp falling over itself in its rush to say everything. Anything. The terror in his voice becomes terror of what he’s saying, becomes terror of his being becomes absolute terror. It’s the old hardcore world view that shit is all there is, but rapped out over the most addictive, ghoulishly fat funk you’ve ever heard. And Christ, the music!
Gravediggaz may come from a good pedigree (Wu-Tang, Stet, De La, Too Poetic) but they’re doing their best work here, creating a sound to literally die for. 1994 has been a good year for people making connections, mixing it, making those dream fusions you always wished they would but never did. “Defective Trip” is where New Kingdom’s acid-fried trip hop has you sick and paranoid, brain high in hell, fingers twitching between roach and razor. “6 Ft Deep” is as slow and atonal as rap could possibly get and I keep coming back to Pram nowadays cos so much hip-hop recalls them – stumbling, brain-jangling, unearthly. Get their LP the day it crawls out the crypt. Gravediggaz are GODLIKE.
After this, Ice Cube can’t help but come across as flat. Or can he? He stomps on with “Wicked” which tears the roof off the sucka in no uncertain terms and the crowd are lovin’ it. So, it’s down with the notebook and into the fray, and Christ he’s good. He does fake JB exits, faces up to his co-rapper, who gets the whole crowd to chant “F*** YOU, ICE CUBE” and runs through a series of skits and monologues. The command he has over the crowd is made evident when his mention of a the kid who got stabbed at his Glasgow show is accorded a genuinely touching silence. I could do without the “Lethal Injection” material (you’re fired – Ed) and the old NWA stuff but “No Vaseline”, “When Will They Shoot?”, “The Nigga Ya Love To Hate” and “It Was A Good Day” are all classics of our time.
If this was the first time I’d seen him I could imagine it being keck-creaming awesome; as it is, the stage flashiness (spotlights sweeping, sirens wailing, the crowd holding lighters that turn into flamethrowers) and the crews’ call/response machine-gun delivery, is enough to fill the Tube home with smiling, sweaty bliss and loads of people shouting “BIG UP” to each other.
But, Gravediggaz, man. This week’s New Band Of The Year.