Any true Hip Hop head knows who MF DOOM is. Any true MF DOOM fan knows who KMD was. But only true Golden Era heads have heard more than 3rd Bass’ “Gas Face” (featuring KMD) or KMD’s surprise hit single “Peachfuzz” off of Mr. Hood, their debut album on Elektra Records. However, Black Bastards easily qualifies as one of the most slept-on records of Golden Era Hip Hop. Due to complications with controversial cover artwork and the untimely death of Subroc, MF DOOM’s brother, Elektra dropped the group and never released the album. It was only until years later in 1998 that Bobbito Garcia made Black Bastards’ demos and some instrumentals available on his Fondle ‘Em indie label, and Sub Verse made a proper release in 2001. As a result, the album never got the credit it was due, and never will. So, let me educate you on what makes this album a slept on icon of early 90’s East coast Hip Hop.
Black Bastards was a logical yet nonetheless jarring departure from the lyrical content on Mr. Hood, which were juvenile and playful street rhymes (the group had only recently graduated high school) from the vantage point of young black kids from Long Island. On Black Bastards KMD grows up, rapping about frustration, amusing distractions such as drugs, sex, drinking, and street life observations of injustice and disadvantage, all laced with a liberal dose of profanity. Black Bastards is at times humorous yet not a single line is a joke, with the storytelling verses volleying between threats and odes to excess. This is rebel music without being militant or myopic. There’s a definite party vibe going on throughout, but not a celebration, more so a party to gain a reprieve from the pollution, corrupt cops, and gritty goons in your neighborhood.
On the topic of gritty, the production on Black Bastards is straight, unfiltered boom-bap with no chaser. Snare breaks crack, snap and sizzle over syncopated jazz horns and basslines, film and television samples are so obscure you need your grandparents to source them for you. Some standout tracks that separate KMD’s beat-craft from the rest of the East coast efforts of the 90’s are “What a N**** Know?”, the stoned paranoia of “Contact Blitt” and the drunken swagger of the titular “Black Bastards”. No doubt influenced by his brother, Subroc, who handled most of the production duties, you can hear a bit of what would later become MF DOOM’s signature production style. Atypical, seemingly inappropriate samples that through some twisted alchemy are arranged into what is still undeniably Hip Hop, float through clouds of haze smoke and dance over sidewalks littered with broken 40 oz. bottles. Congruent with the street aesthetic the lo-fi and shoddily mastered album lends only more credence to the authenticity of Black Bastards, the lost ark of the 90’s.
Enough words: cop this record, play it for your friends, and you will be their god.