Back when I was making minimum wage ($4.25/hour so very long ago) 4 hours of work meant a CD, 5 meant a CD and single. That’s how I calculated my work schedule. That this happened in the early 90s was very fortunate for me. And I did love the singles. I love that the ones with art on them complement the concept of the album they represent, and that they have instrumentals to some of the dopest songs made. Some of them even had remixes, which was all the better. Far fewer had unreleased b-side songs on them. Songs that, for whatever reason sounded congruent to the album, but weren’t released on them. I guess the reason was to buy the single. I’m sure later on, in the mid-90s, as these songs disappeared from singles they showed up on bloated we-only-made-the-movie-to-make-a-soundtrack soundtracks. But for some of hip hop’s best, they gave us a little gem that even though was on a single, was not for radio play. It was for the fan.
Ice Cube “U Ain’t Gonna Take My Life” 1992
Cube’s open letter to the police in his neighborhood, saying he won’t back down if confronted. Over a chunky, chunky sampling of the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s “Sir Psycho Sexy” (who appear on the A-side of this single, Wicked), Sistah Souljah starts by saying it’s “open season on Black men” before Cube says a word. Given his previous foray into police practices and the fact that Ice-T was embroiled in controversy as Snoop was saying “187 on a muthafuckin cop”, this could be seen as a backing down if Cube didn’t drop as hard a track as them, but it’s a different beast altogether. Not as incendiary as “Fuck tha Police” perhaps because as he mentions in the song, he has a kid, a wife and a job, it almost comes across as an understanding to “talk right and I’ll talk right back, show some goddamned respect to the Black”. A maturing of Cube’s stance, but still as strong and forceful as before, this would have easily fit in on “The Predator” in content and sound. Perhaps he just wanted to give us something to buy the single. Of course, this was later included on the appropriately titled “Bootlegs and B-sides” self-explanatory compilation of his.
Paris “Lights, Camera, Revolution” 1991
B-side of “The Hate That Hate Made” off of his debut, this is “The Devil Made Me Do It” signature bass of a song where Paris spits for the whole short song (no chorus). And his style is, as would be guessed, in the type of forceful yet restrained vocals that he is known for. Clocking in at just 2:30, with the last 40 seconds being a ride out beat there are still instrument changes, from a fast drum to guitar all while maintaing the slow bass. And not only does he spit on it but he produced it as well. If you can’t find this on 12”, or if yours is scratched to hell like mine, Paris has kindly assembled his early B-sides and remixes on one CD titled “The Devil Made Me Remix”. As with everything Paris drops, it is well worth the money.
Above the Law “Pimp Clinic Anthem” 1994
Hutch explicitly saying “something for the B-side” indicates where it is to reside, although it sounds more like the slow funk on Kalifornia than anything else on “Uncle Sam’s Curse”. I guess that’s why it’s on the Kalifornia single. Hutch, Kokane (rapping, not singing), Triggaman all contribute verses but unsurprisingly KMG steals the show with lines like “we believe in dumpin out the window, in the Lacs with 4 doors/and jumpin off the stage after shows”. Pair this with the other unreleased “Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust” and instrumentals of all 3 on the actual B-side and this is one of best singles you can get for your money. Like the other songs, I have no idea why these weren’t released on the album, but at least they were released.
Spice 1 “Smooth Ass Getaway” 1993
Classic ‘93 Spice 1, this is too good to exist solely as a B-side to the Murda Show single. I guess when you’e in such a zone of quality you can have stuff like this laying around and only drop it like this. Sporting Bay funk by Ant Banks, some of Spice’s classic reggae-influenced chorus and sounds of gunshots, sirens, tires screeching and people arguing this is a track that checks off all the items that made “187 He Wrote” such a classic. A crime tale where Spice doesn’t kill all the cops but instead gets caught is also a refreshing take compared to today’s fantasies. Completely in keeping with the sound and style of his album at the time, add this song along with the “Trigga Gots Not Heart” and “Murda Show” remixes to make your own deluxe version of the best album of ‘93.
MC Eiht and NOTR “Westsiders”
Not content to just be king of the remixes, Eiht gifts us a posse cut from the B-side of the “Geez Make the Hood Go Round” 12”. Eiht, Boom Bam, Tha Chill and Tha Foe all drop the kind of lyrics you would expect (this is a good thing), with no chorus but with Eiht spitting at the beginning and ending of the song. I can understand how this didn’t make “We Come Strapped” as it’s bouncy piano and bass combination doesn’t sound as dense or dark as that album. It also has more guests than that whole album combined. I’m sure it was just to introduce NOTR to the world outside of passing through legend as a constant source of Eiht references. And at that it succeeds. Too bad that nothing more came of that, but at least this exists to document it.