Def Squad's El Niño Is A Tour-De-Force Of Rap Delight | Album Review

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How Classic? 5 out of 6

Released: June 30, 1998

One of the illest groups ever assembled. Highly lyrical and engaging, with amazing fantastic beats. The Def Squad were formed in the aftermath of the Hit Squad which ended in drama and even violence (Redman's room at Erick Sermon's house was shot up). Redman was already a Hit Squad member and he went with the Erick Sermon side of the camp (the other side went Parrish Smith) and eventually Keith Murray came along and they formed the Def Squad. 

 Keith Murray (in front), Erick Sermon (left) and Redman (right)

Keith Murray (in front), Erick Sermon (left) and Redman (right)

Many people don't know that Keith Murray is a really smart guy who was in college when he joined the Def Squad. He was just an ill rapper known to kill it on the mic so they just had to have him in the group. Interestingly there was also another highly skilled lyricist who badly wanted to join the group namely the one and only Canibus. Unfortunately, he couldn't join because Lost Boyz had him under contract.

 The ''Full Cooperation'' single with the dope Def Squad logo

The ''Full Cooperation'' single with the dope Def Squad logo

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Straight off the bat, El Niño is sizzling hot like the grill at your favorite steakhouse! Redman goes out full metal jacket style on the lead track ''Check N' Me Out'' which has a bassline as funky as a Haitian underarm. The whole Squad kills it from the Green-Eyed Bandit schooling us on what it means to have juice while Keith Murray steadily drops quotables throughout.

Next E-Dub hits us with a beat that brings that heavy metal thunder type bass with ''Countdown''. On the chorus, we get a classic delivered by PMD (sounds like a sample) while Def Squad affiliate Jamal drops some fire on a guest spot. This album is so full of highlights (songs), next, we have another fire song.

Usually, we (CHHM) don't do track-by-tracks (we only write about the highlights/lowlights) but El Niño is so solid that we have to basically address every track...so up now is ''Full Cooperation''. This track is time-capsule from 1998 because it has a sound that was hot, hot, hot during this year. According to Erick Sermon the track ''moves'' like Busta's megahit ''Put Your Hands'' although it's a loop. In fact, Erick says Pharrell Williams told him that ''Full Cooperation'' changed his life who employed the same feel to his own megahit songs ''Danger'' and ''Shake That Azz'' with No Limit soldier Mystikal.

 A great photo from the  El Niño  inlay

A great photo from the El Niño inlay

Next up the Def Squad team-up with Bay Area legend Too Short on the lowkey (and funky) ''Ride Wit' Us'' although it's all good, it's a slightly less interesting track. Next, we get another legendary guest in the form of the Diabolical Biz Markie from the Juice Crew (who need to be in the hip-hop hall of fame). The beat borrows from Big Daddy Kane's (also Juice Crew) classic song ''Rhymin' Wit' Biz''.

The next track ''The Game'' sees another 80s classic beat in the form of Kurtis Blow's ''Christmas Rappin'' and it's sort of a tribute to the founders of hip-hop. Next Keith Murray plays the role of the character Cyrus delivering his famous speech in the classic movie The Warrior. Leading off the end of the speech they delve into to the next track ''Can You Dig It?'' which has an unusual ''riffing' sound. 

 The only full- color photo from the  El Niño  CD inlay

The only full- color photo from the El Niño CD inlay

Next, we get a more average track, ''You Do, I Do'', which isn't as fun as the other tracks. But the next track ''Y'all Niggas Ain't Ready'' brings it in a serious way. It features a danceable low-key beat and the Squad rapping in the (at the time fashionable) down south ''skipping along'' flow that was hot and new in '98. 

 A nice CD shot for all you Compact Disc fans out there

A nice CD shot for all you Compact Disc fans out there

Then in a 180 degrees turn they return to their east coast roots with a badass beat which has a thumping bass line which is real nice sounding. It has that 90s jeep sound but without the hype and shouting. One word...nice...''Say Word''.

 Another great b&w photo from  El Niño

Another great b&w photo from El Niño

The next up we have a ''rhyme contest'' titled ''No Guest List'' which Keith Murray absolutely kills on the first verse before Redman ''gets on the mic like bu-du-ba-dup, kick roundhouse'' while E the assassin tells fuckers to ''go back-to-basics'' because he's ''bigger, better and deffer''.

Next, the boys rightfully (the Def Squad members are great fathers) make fun of deadbeat dads on the ''Baby Father Committee'' skit. It's hilarious, yet sad-but-true (it showcases some deep set truths).

The boys end El Niño with a cover of the second rap song ever recorded on wax (1979), the Sugar Hill Gang's famous ''Rapper's Delight'' titled ''Def Squad Delite". It's a song that everybody and your mother knows and a fitting end to this tour-de-force of rap delight which is El Niño.

 The back cover of the  El Niño  CD showing the tracklist and another classic b&w photo

The back cover of the El Niño CD showing the tracklist and another classic b&w photo

Alexander Ramalho