Despite being critically acclaimed and having two singles that charted on theBillboard Hot 100 (“Who Got da Props?” and “I Got Cha Opin”), the album sold poorly, and is often overlooked in favor of subsequent East Coast albums such as Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), Illmatic, Liquid Swords, Ready to Die,Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…, and The Infamous. Nonetheless, Enta da Stage preceded those releases and served as a precursor to the resurgence of the New York Hip Hop scene in the mid-1990s.
Much of the acclaim the album received was due to the performance of lead MC Buckshot, who originally went by the name Buckshot Shorty. Ten of the fourteen tracks on the album are Buckshot solo tracks, and he appears on every song but “Son Get Wrec”. Buck, who was eighteen at the time of the recording, was a young man trying to establish himself and his crew in the hip hop world. In a 2005 interview with MVRemix.com, Buckshot described a day in his life while recording his debut:
“Enta da Stage was really rough for me. It was a really rough era. A lot of people don’t know what I went through personally. I think I had just turned eighteen and I had the pressure of running a management company as an eighteen year old shorter than 5’6. I had that problem of people taking my company and my representation seriously. So a day in the life around the Enta da Stage era was based on constant struggle and lettin’ people know you respect Duck Down management as a real management company and not just as some little cute thing that Buckshot is doing. Nah, for real, we’re management type deal. I was battling keeping Smif-n-Wessun in a good deal, I was battling trying to get Heltah Skeltah a good deal. I was battling trying to bring my record company into existence, so it was a really hard time.“
The mindstate described in the above interview rules the content on the album, as the lyrics are loaded with violent narratives and braggadocio and little else, as Buckshot and 5 ft try to solidify their status in rap. Allmusic’s Chris Witt stated that “Emcees Buckshot and 5ft Accelerator attack their verses with an aggressive nihilism not heard since Kool G Rap‘s peak.” 5 ft, originally known as 5FT Accelerator, appears on three tracks here, and his lyrical content does not differ from that of Buckshot’s. Unlike later work by New York City peers like Nas, the lyrical content found here does not peer deeply into social issues or provide much substance. Allmusic’s album review stated that “Theirs is a grim reality, filled with guns, weed and violence. Buckshot displays none of the usual gangster remorse, he is a willful public menace.”
The album features an original style of choruses, which are now known as “Black Moon hooks”, in which they gather a large number of people in the booth to simultaneously yell the lyrics. These vocals were provided by a number of artists, including Smif-n-Wessun, Mr. Walt, Mobb Deep’s Havoc and the trio themselves. “Niguz Talk S***”, “Who Got da Props?”, “Ack Like U Want It”, “Buck Em Down”, “Black Smif-n-Wessun”, “Son Get Wrec”, “Make Munne” and “U da Man” all feature “Black Moon hooks”.
DJ Evil Dee and Mr. Walt of Da Beatminerz, who produced the album, put their samplers to use here, lacing the album with their signature basement sound, filled with hard drums, grimy horn arrangements and deep basslines. In the album’s liner notes, DJ Evil Dee stated: “This album was done on blunted terms. Anyone who is offended by the contents of the album, F*** YOU. Nuff said.” Allmusic describes the dark production: “The Beatminerz production crew craft subterranean beats to match Buckshot’s mayhem. The tracks are dark, layered with muted jazz samples, and seemingly bottomless.” A few of the samples used here were later recreated by a number of Hip Hop artists in the ’90s. The single “Buck Em Down” features a sample from Donald Byrd’s “Wind Parade”, a sample which was later re-used for Organized Konfusion’s 1994 concept track “Stray Bullet”. “How Many MC’s…” features a sample from Grover Washington, Jr.’s “Hydra”, which was used for earlier hip Hop tracks like EPMD’s “Underground”. The iconic “Who Got Da Props” heavily utilizes a looped sample from RoHnie Laws’s jazz classic “Tidal Wave”, which was featured in several Hip Hop and R&B tracks, including Usher’s “Think Of You” from his self-titled 1994 album. Evil Dee and Walt take a portion of the sample and craft it into a different loop.
An Enta da Stage review on OhWord.com praises the production work, stating “Though the album’s success is largely attributable to Buckshot’s performance, one cannot ignore the phenomenal production from the Beatminerz. They took the already dark sound of The Low End Theory and one-upped it, filtering out almost all treble and using spare, hardcore drum samples. The compositions of Mr. Walt and Evil Dee are also cleverly structured, propelling Buckshot’s raps directly into the listener’s psyche.”…”The crackle of scratched vinyl pervades the album, contributing to the feel of warmth and timelessness. Thanks to the Beatminerz, there is something inviting about Enta da Stage, despite its confrontational lyrics.”
Enta da Stage featured four singles and music videos, including their debut “Who Got da Props?”. In mid-1993, the “How Many MC’s…” single was released; it became popular in the underground rap circuit, but was not able to find success with mainstream audiences, barely breaking into the Top 50 on the Hot Rap Singles chart. The third single from the album was a remix of “I Got Cha Opin”, which utilized a smooth jazz sample, courtesy of Barry White’s “Playing Your Game Baby”. The remix featured a new chorus and all-new verses to go along with the new production. The single became the group’s second Billboard Hot 100 hit in 1994, peaking at number 93. The last single, “Buck Em Down”, was released in mid-1994, with the music video featuring the remixed version. Both original and remixed versions featured sampled portions from Donald Byrd’s “Wind Parade” and similar lyrics, with the remix featuring a different vocal delivery and edited lyrics.
The album spawned additional remixes. Along with “Buck Em Down” and “I Got Cha Opin”, the tracks “Ack like U Want It”, “Son Get Wrec”, “S*** Iz Real”, “How Many MC’s…” and “U da Man” all featured remixes, which were later included on Black Moon’s Diggin’ in dah Vaults compilation.
Though not as widely heralded as similar groundbreaking East Coast albums such as Nas‘ Illmatic, The Notorious B.I.G.‘s Ready to Die, Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), Onyx’s Bacdafucup and Mobb Deep‘s The Infamous, Enta da Stage was critically acclaimed on a similar level. Though all of the albums mentioned above were able to reach at least Gold status, Enta da Stage, released before all of these albums, has not sold nearly as well, selling just over 350,000 copies in the U.S. as of June 2006. Allmusic described the importance of the album: “It set the tone for much of the Hip Hop to follow. Biggie Smalls suicidal thoughts and Noreaga’s boisterous thuggery both have their roots here. The album marked a turning point in Hip Hop.” Enta da Stage has also been described as “Era defining” and was one of the pioneering releases during the return of New York City’s street Hip Hop resurgence of the mid ’90s, after the West Coast’s reign of the early ’90s. Enta da Stage is still prominent among Hip Hop artists today, such as lyrics from “How Many MC’s…” being used as a hook for Jedi Mind Trick‘s song “Speech Cobras”.
The album also served as the introduction of the supergroup Boot Camp Clik. The collective was a prominent underground rap group in the 1990s – also producing the acclaimed Smif-n-Wessun’s Dah Shinin’, Heltah Skeltah‘sNocturnal, and O.G.C.’s Da Storm. Enta da Stage heralded the debut of Da Beatminerz. After producing here, and on other Boot Camp albums Dah Shinin’, Nocturnal and Da Storm, Mr. Walt and Evil Dee went on to expand their sounds, and produce for popular artists like Afu-Ra, Big Daddy Kane,Craig G, De La Soul, Dilated Peoples, Eminem, Flipmode Squad, Jean Grae,KRS-One, M.O.P., Naughty by Nature, O.C. and Black Star. The album is extensively broken down track-by-track by Buckshot, DJ Evil Dee, and Mr. Walt of Da Beatminerz in Brian Coleman’s book Check the Technique (2007). (Wikipedia)