Saturday, March 1, 2014
Growing up 25 minutes from Rahway State Prison (now East Jersey), I was well aware (and oft-threatened) with their Scared Straight program. For those who weren't rebellious teenagers, it was a program started in the 80's where "problem kids" would spend a day in the clink with real convicts trying to do some good behind bars. Say what you like about the concept - just driving by Rahway on Rt. 1 you can tell that place is no fucking joke. In 1991 some of the convicts got together and jumped on the hip-hop bandwagon, releasing a pretty respectable EP and bringing significantly more awareness to their message then the PSA's we had to sit through during Saturday detention. While the record boasts 9 tracks don't be fooled, only 2 are actual songs. In addition you get a couple radio edits, instrumentals, remixes and an acappella by "Crazy" Chris Deluise, entitled "The Nightmare Man" (astute samplers will recognize his quotes from House Of Pain's debut LP). For a prison production the songs are not bad at all, the beats are not particularly original but still bump - and actually have some real bass drops. The MCs show some significant skills and will leave you wondering "what if" they hadn't traveled down their criminal path. "Belly Of The Beast" is my preferred of the two - just a fucking cool song and lyrically sounding like something Rakim would have written. Solid shit. Of course these days it isn't anything you haven't seen or heard before on Oz or "Beyond Scared Straight" but 23 years ago it still packed a quite a punch. The group released a full-length in 1993 which is also worth checking out.