MUSIC

RAHEEM THE VIGILANTE

I notice that the blog I posted back in May about M.C. BRAINS continues to multiple new hits, all these months later. It got my thinking about other little-known rappers from back in the day. This particular one, Raheem Bashawn, released his debut album in 1988, at only 17 years old. I remember buying this album on Vinyl, and absolutely loving it. I was positive that this guy would big a huge star. His first single Dance Floor was powerful. He came out swinging, dissing LL Cool J (whose style and mannerisms he reminded me a lot of), Run-DMC, and Eazy E in one fell swoop. But then he just seemed to disappear. I never heard of a second single being released from the album. And that was that. I recently looked up and found a copy of the CD, and re-listening to it after all these years, it’s just as good as I remember.

Released as one of the earliest major albums on Rap-A-Lot Records, the album featured 10 tracks (which was standard length for albums, back in those days). All the lyrics are written by Raheem witht the music composed and produced by Karl Stephenson and James Smith. The first track, DANCE FLOOR heavily samples the Eddie Kendricks hit, Keep On Truckin’, giving it an irresistible beat. But Raheem’s lyrics live up to the beat, and right from the opening lines he shows he’s not playing.

I turn on the radio, and hear rappers flow/they can’t beat me, and neither will they grow/to be anything more than a joke or fraud, rappers comin’ and comin’, but they don’t come hard/I got a new style, because I’m goin’ the long mile/a vigilante, never wearin’ a smile/I’m gettin’ physical, cuz that’s the way it’s done/Despised outlaw, and I still won’t run.

He follows that up with FREAK TO ME, about a local girl named Dawn whom he tried to hook up with for years, because she was known to be a freak, but she never gave him any attention because he didn’t have a lot of money. But then after he became a “rap star”, she finally gave it up to him, and then he dissed her, as payback for the way she used to reject him.

She got a body like Janet and a face to match, and you could see she was more than the average catch/Raheem The Vigilante tried to get some soon, so I would think of ways to do it as I sat in my room/I didn’t have transportation all the others had, and she was jockin’ nine thousand cuz the ride was bad/tried to talk of porno action and the girl said please, and gave me looks in sheer terror like I had a disease.

Kinda misogynistic, I admit, but relatively tame for it’s time. He follows up that same theme with the next song, I’M MACKIN’. Rapping about a girl that didn’t give him the time of day before he was a rapper (Before I made my record you were oh so fly, you used to diss the every-livin’ as I passed you by/but now you’re clockin’ and jockin’ thinkin’ of rockin’ my world, just to get a small percentage of the money twirled), but then switched styles with the next track, a reggae-flavored tune called PUNKS GIVE ME RESPECT where he essentially sings in somewhat convincing Jamaican accent. Then he shows his softer, romantic side, in the rap-ballad YOU’RE THE GREATEST, which was sort of a trendy thing for rappers to do back then, after the success of LL Cool J’s I NEED LOVE. But instead of just copying LL’s style, he give the song a unique twist, as it’s about him being in love with a girl who just sees him as a friend, because she’s older than him, and he’s nervous about telling her how he feels.

The mood is right and I’m excited, it’s time for romance/my mind says yo Raheem, buddy, here’s your chance/I’ll make the move to get you ready, break out in sweat/but still I’ll wait another night because it ain’t right yet

Then SHOTGUN is the obligatory rock-track, a thumping beat with electric guitars, as Raheem delivers a message callin’ out other artists and praising his label.

Y’know the time y’all, it’s time to think Rap-A-Lot, and all you other crews this is what you got/A pocket full of money, you was screwed on the contract, I read the same one look boy read that/Percentage, a small one, you better look son/but now you signed, real dumb, real dumb

Next up is the title track THE VIGILANTE, full of braggadocio (You wanna hear me, tricky, you better swing all night/or you’ll be stomped and erased, like the shit you write). And lyrically in the same vein is YOU’RE ON NOTICE, which is infectious due to the fact that the music is heavily sampled from the theme to the 1960’s Batman TV show. But then he slows his flow down, and take a more socially conscious vibe on PEACE, reciting cautionary tales from of boys and girls in the Hood, who ruined their lives (Renee was a good girl, never did a thing wrong, who would ever think that she’d get hooked on cane/Saw her on the avenue, doin’ what she shouldn’t do, now she’s just a dope fiend, a neighborhood pain), and he ends it with the anti-drug track SAY NO, which has another reggae beat, and he uses the fake Jamaican accent. A fine way to end the album. The CD contains the bonus track VENOM, but it’s just a musical mix song, no lyrics, done by his DJ, who was called Venom.

Overall, I’d give this album FIVE STARS. If this album had hit the way I believe it should have, there’s no telling how big Raheem could have been. He had the style, the look, and the lyrically talent. I seem to have gotten the last affordable copy of the CD on Amazon, the rest can be rather expensive. But many of the tracks are uploaded on Youtube, so you can listen to them there.

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