Year of Release: 2002
Label: Murder Inc Records/Murda Management
Continuing with my special on Murder Inc compilations, the second one that The Inc had put out had seen the roster expanding a lot more than before. One could argue that the Murderers compilation had a lot more content considering there were more tracks on that one, but during the time this album had come out the roster had gotten new talent, and also had some selling albums in the process. Ja Rule had come out with “Pain is Love” the year prior, as well as “The Last Temptation” on the way later that year. Ashanti had come out with her self-titled debut album earlier that year, which had hit songs in “Foolish,” “Baby” and “Happy.” So The Inc had found its mark in the hip-hop and R&B industry at that point, which had the label put out another compilation album which showcased the talents and skills of the performers of that label.
While a few familiar faces had returned such as Ja, Vita, Ronnie Bumps, Black Child, 0-1, and Caddillac Tah (Formerly known as Tah Murdah), this compilation included the likes of new talent such as Chink Santana, Jody Mack, D.O. Cannon, and Young Merc (Pronounced “merce,” not “merk” like how it is often pronounced) as well as Ashanti, who had quite a presence up to the point of the release of this album, and Charli Baltimore, who was known before signing to The Inc and had an album that was shelved (I will try to hear “Cold as Ice” one day if I find a way). So she was a veteran in the game up to that point.
So with a lineup like this, it would seem that the best way to let the world hear what they are made of is through a compilation or mixtape. So did The Inc offer some good talent and songs to go with it? Well, let’s see.
Like the previous compilation before this, most of the songs were collaborations between different artists. However, unlike The Murderers album, there were less solo songs. In fact, there were only two this time around. In fact, the only solo tracks on here were from Black Child and Chink Santana. “O.G.” from Black Child has a laid-back beat to it but the content from the lyrics and the chorus left more to be desired than the beat. While “Hold On” from Chink Santana was actually a deeper track. He sang about struggles in the ghetto and also life in general. He also a good job in the production of this track.
When I said that there were a lot of collaborative songs on here, I meant that. Many of the songs have the subject matter of being thugs and gangsters and anything of that nature. Even the intro to this album was more of a song than an interlude with some of the rappers providing some verses here and there. “Gangstafied” is a definite example about living the gangster life with a good beat and chorus to go with it. The only part that seemed to be the one flaw of this song was Ronnie Bumps’s verse. It was not terrible, but it felt a little out of place. It was still a good song, though.
Every time I hear “Down 4 U,” it reminds me of the summer of 2002 because that song was everywhere during that time. People can say what they want about how Ja did a lot of R&B and love songs during that time, but there is no denying that he had a lot of hits that charted, including those lovey-dovey songs that he did. This was one of them, by the way. Ja had assistance from Vita, Ashanti, and Charli Baltimore in this song. Ashanti provided a good chorus with her vocals as well as a good verse. Vita and Charli Baltimore did a good job in their verses, too. Plus, the beat was nice, too. I have to hand it to 7 Aurelius for providing some influence in the production.
Speaking of 7 Aurelius, he also did some production for a couple of other songs on this compilation, which are “No One Does It Better” and “The Pledge.” The former is a collaboration between Charli Baltimore and Ashanti. It is really more Chuck’s track as she actually had verses while Ashanti mostly did the chorus of the song. Charli has a good flow and I have always thought that she was an underrated female rapper. While “The Pledge” is basically the closest to a solo Ashanti track on there. Bear this in mind, this is the original version as the more known version is the remix with Nas and Ja. Anyway, this song also had Caddillac Tah providing the rap on this song. I have always thought that this version was more underrated as it’s a good R&B track and it seems to be overshadowed by the remix. Ashanti did a good job on this song, with both the verses and the chorus, while Tah’s verse was actually pretty good.
Many of the other tracks are mostly songs with a lot of the then-new artists from the label showing the world what they have. Some of them stood out in some areas, others didn’t exactly measure up. One thing that I had noticed is that the song “Tha Nexx N****z” is a collaboration with a couple of Death Row artists from that time, Crooked I and Eastwood. I remember reading about how Death Row and Murder Inc were sort of collaborating at that point, which was the reason why there were appearances from those two. I am more familiar with Crooked I (This was way before Slaughterhouse, by the way) than I am with Eastwood, although I remember reading about him way back when. I think that this song is the only appearance from Dave Bing, who had a few more tracks on The Murderers compilation than he did here. Still a decent track, though.
One standout track in particular is the song “We Still Don’t Give A Fuck,” which is obviously a follow-up to “We Don’t Give A Fuck” from the previous compilation. One exception is that there is no sample of a Rocky song (Well, it’s actually Bill Conti’s score, but you probably would know what I mean) and that there are more people this time around. Also, Ja was not on this track at all, neither was Vita. However, it gave some of the other artists a chance to shine. This was song was also among the very few appearances of 0-1.
Although “Down 4 U” was the main single from this album, there was another song that was a single on this album, but it had existed before it came out. That song is “Ain’t It Funny,” the Murder Remix from Jennifer Lopez, Ja Rule, and Caddillac Tah. When I first heard this, I was a bit surprised to find it on here as J-Lo’s remix album had already been out before this one was released, but I guess because there was a Murder Inc influence to it that it was inevitable that it would be on this one. I am not complaining as it had a good beat, even though it was a direct sample of Craig Mack’s “Flava in Ya Ear.”
In the end, this album was not bad. It was decent, if good in some areas, but my main issue is that it felt like there was more focus on the newer artists on this. Also, being that Charli Baltimore was a seasoned veteran, there could have been a lot more songs that she could have rapped on. I have read that she even had an album on Murder Inc that was set to be released, but it didn’t happen. I wonder if there is a way to listen to it. Irv Gotti did a good job with the production. Of course, this compilation was mainly to give music fans a taste of what the label had to offer at the time.
Next Up: Irv Gotti Presents: The Remixes
Top 5 Tracks:
- Down 4 U
- We Still Don’t Give A Fuck
- The Pledge
- Hold On