Kid Frost Takes Us On A Trip Down The Volo | East Side Story Album Review
CLASSIC RATING: 4 OUT OF 6
Kid Frost is a legendary Latino rapper from Los Angeles who released his second album, East Side Story, on April 21, 1992. The album tells the story of a young Chicano growing up on the streets of East LA: which is a place where the cars ride low, the vatos dress Chicano style, the barrio is primero, and last but not least the firmas are rola.
The intro titled "The Man" is narrated by famous actor James Olmos taken from a movie called "Zoot Suit" about the Zoot Suit Riots in 1943 in Los Angeles which happened over the killing of a young Latino man in a barrio near LA. The track is intense with a dark piano melody riff making for a good intro and sets the mood for the first song. The first song is the title track, "East Side Story", and one can immediately hear the Latin rhythms mixed in with the funky hip-hop beat plus the horn playing which is a huge part of Mexican music. It's clear this isn't just another hip-hop album, but a Hispanic hip-hop album. Here the horns mimic the sound of sirens and they actually mix in with some real sirens creating a really atmospheric effect where you can almost see, smell and hear the East Side streets that Frost is rapping about in his lyrics. His flow is very laid back and the way he blends English and Spanish (Spanglish) makes for a very flavorful & exotic mix. Next Kid Frost takes us on a trip down "The Volo" which Spanish for "the boulevard", on a faster but no less chilled track. The main section of the beat is hard hitting then transitions into a smooth electric guitar riff which you can just kick back to and just chill.
On "I Got Pulled Over" Frost gets a visit from MC Eiht of Compton's Most Wanted. This track is a live recording with drums, bass, and keyboard. It's a good track and Eiht's verse is dope but they could have cut A.L.T's verse which makes the track too long. Next up is the hard-hitting "Penitentiary" Frost says he could have lived a crime but now he lives a life of rhyme over a nice track that has some funky guitar playing. Boo-Yaa TRIBE also guest on this track although their parts sound totally different than the rest of the track ranging from a Public Enemy style verse to a smooth crooning R&B part! Next up is one of the singles off the album, namely "No Sunshine" which samples Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine" which is slowed down making Bill sound more like Barry White. The lyrics tell two stories of men in prison, the first is about a young vato who stabs someone and goes to jail for life, and then is forced to think about the error of his ways. The next story is about a man who is prison while he writes letters to his girlfriend about how things will better when he gets out, but she can't wait and "now she's going on dates with every Tom, Dick & Harry."
"Thin Line" was another single off the album and is a smooth R&B track about relationships featuring some great singing by female vocalist Denetria Champ and Boo-Yaa TRIBE and Kebade singing harmonies, while the music features keyboards and a saxophone solo. After the "Spaced Out" interlude, Frost dives into "These Stories Have To Be Told" which is one of the best tracks on the album. It features Spanish guitar, bongo drums and a latin bassline which is totally danceable. The chorus is another smooth R&B hook, of which there are many of on this album which just adds to the musicality of the album. Next, we have "Home Boyz" which is an uptempo number featuring organ, a hard bassline and a Dancehall chorus provided by Scringer Ranks.
Now it's time for another cinematic interlude called "Chaos On The Streets Of East L.A." which depicts the sounds of a drive-by and it's very intense and realistic. Fittingly the subsequent song is a stop the violence type of song titled "No More Wars". NMW is a great song to chill out to with its funky bassline, energetic and passionate chorus sung by Rich Garcia and it's great message of peace. After this song, we get a futuristic sounding interlude titled "Raza Unite" before Frost launches into another great track titled "Smiling Faces" which features Joe Harris singing the chorus on this groovy and uptempo number. Next, we're treated to another banger titled "Another Firme Rola (Bad Cause I'm Brown)" which translates to "another hot song". And it's muy caliente with its ultra-funky bassline which makes you wanna get down and boogie. Frost mixes in plenty of Spanglish on this track showcasing his formidable skills on the mic while DJ Ralph M scratches Ice-Cube's voice "B-B-B-B-Bad 'cause I'm brown" as Mike Sims lays down some howlin' guitar licks.
We're now at the second to last track and it's lengthy shout out song titled "Throwing Q-Vo's" which means "throwing greetings/hellos". The beat begins with scratching session before launching into pretty badass hard rock/hip-hop beat while Frost throws out Q-Vo's to his homeboys in the music industry and on the streets. Next up is the last track on the album which starts with a little intro:
Vato: Hey vato, that shit was pretty dope ay, but uh, kick another rola for tha home boyz ay?
Kid Frost: Aaight man, look I'ma kick the first verse. But for the rest of this shit you're gonna have to wait for album three loco...mi vida loco
And then in comes the last track on the album "Mi Vida Loco" in which Frost chronicles his life before he opened the doors to showbiz, detailing his loco ways as a young vato. The beat has a smooth latin vibe and it's filled with soulful saxophone solos by Danny Padilla as well as some more great vocals by Rich Garcia.
All in all, this is a great album that features almost too many great tracks to be true. Is this the greatest Latin/Hispanic hip-hop record ever? Kid Frost has an amazing voice that is instantly recognizable, a great flow and great lyrics that are easy to listen to although being deftly structured. He's an underrated MC and this is an underrated album that has gotten lost in the passing of time likely due to other huge west coast records that were being released around 1992. What stands out the most on this album is the production which is very melodic and features a lot of live instrumentation which was and is unusual in hip-hop. Another aspect that makes the album special is the great singers that guest on nearly every song providing memorable choruses (another rarity in hip-hop). Other than said qualities we also have the extra appeal of its latino influences on the beats and in the lyrics which incorporate just enough Spanish to keep it interesting without losing the English meaning. Go listen to this album now, won't regret it and you'll probably be playing it for a long time to come!