Following up on last night’s post, I was a huge fan of Raheem’s first album when it came out in 1988, but then he disappeared. I tried looking him up for info, but there’s not much out there. Wikipedia just says that his real name is Oscar Ceres, and that he was an original member of The Geto Boys, although he never actually recorded with them. I found one article that interviewed him, back when his album The Vigilante came out: No Hick Jokes, Please and I found a few other reviews for The Vigilante on CHOM.COM, and a much more thorough review on FIFTH ELEMENT by Kevin Beacham, which, interestingly enough, mentions that a year after the album was released, Raheem was featured on the Lost Angels Soundtrack album, with a new song called SELF PRESERVATION, which I found uploaded on YOUTUBE
Wow, that’s one dope track! Powerful pro-Black rhymes, set to a rock n roll-style beat, with electric guitar and sampling the voice of Malcolm X. That may be an even better song than anything on The Vigilante, which shows the potential growth that Raheem could’ve taken if his career had continued uninterrupted. And then I found THIS REVIEW FOR THE VIGILANTE from Feb. 2006, and in Sept. 2006 a man claiming to be Raheem left a comment:
this is raheem the vigilante. thank you all for the article and the comments. im currently living in philly recording tracks producing tracks for up and coming artist you couold find me on myspace. com and i also have a new cd about to drop at the start of 07.
Well, I checked the profile which takes me to an empty blog. I did actually find three profiles on Myspace, THIS ONE, and THIS ONE, and THIS ONE, none of which looks like it’s been updated in years (not that anyone is on Myspace anymore). I can’t find him on Facebook or Twitter, or even Google+. And I can’t find any news of Raheem producing any other artists, nor or any CD by him released in 2007 or beyond. Most links on the internet seem to mis-identify Raheem with either R&B singer Raheem Devaughn or rapper Raheem The Dream. So I don’t know what he’s up to now. All I know is that in 1992, Rap-A-Lot Records released Raheem’s 2nd album THE INVINCIBLE, which I had been unaware of all these years, and I managed to find a used copy on AMAZON, which cost me $25, that was the cheapest one I could find at the time. But I had to hear if Raheem was able to progress from his excellent debut.
The album lists 16 tracks, but it’s really only 13, as 3 are just silly skits. The first full track is 5TH WARD, a mellow track, rapping about the gangsta life in his old home town. “A lot of ignorant motherfuckers out of 5th Ward’ll deal with petty crime and maybe snatch a bitch’s purse/You’re probably sayin’ how you still livin’ to tell the story, when you live in the jungle you learn to shoot a man first.” Then KISS THE BRIDE, rapping about all the various guns he’s owned, which he gives female names and treat like his “brides”. The title track INVINCIBLE is a hard beat, with braggadocio raps, threatening his rivals. BOMBDUDCLOT continues his experiment with singing reggae in a Jamaican accent. DEATH IN THE ARENA has him calling out a bunch of other rappers. “Now Big Daddy Kane, all of the sudden you’re sexy/I know you upset with me, but my gun protects me.” This song is further discussed HERE. PRESSING FOR TIME is a bunch of stories about him hooking up with different ladies (including Dawn, whom he mentioned in “Freak To Me” and Kim, who he mentioned in “Peace”, on his first album), but how he always has to hurry because he’s got work to do. So he’s always “pressed for time.” SCHOOLDAZE is all about him skipping class, getting high, drinking, and have sex, back when he was school. STYLE (YOU GOT IT), is an uptempo song about his rap style and career. I’m the original V, there ain’t a match for me, and everything you heard me say was made originally/So baby check the rhyme, because the style is mine, and when the girls hear me voice they gotta stop rewind. SHADE TREE GANGSTA is about fake wannabe gangstas. You ain’t hard, you a shade tree gangsta/still get a allowance and your mom still spanks ya/But get outside and he a whole new person, try to smoke cigarettes and always cursin’ ORIGINAL MACK DADDY is a typical braggin’ about getting ladies song, rapped over a smooth R&B track. BORN AGAIN CHRISTIAN is all about him going to church as a kid, and getting a crush on a girl in his Sunday School, but she won’t give him the time of day because she’s a devout christian and he’s just a hood. BADNESS AGAIN is another reggae song, and likewise, the final track UNDERGROUND JUGGLIN’ has a reggae flavored beat, while he raps about him shooting and robbing in the hood.
Overall, this album is a HUGE disappointment, representing a step backwards in Raheem’s creativity. While I could listen to the entire first album straight through without skipping a single song, “Style (You Got It)” is the only halfway decent song on this album. I don’t know if it’s the timing, since this album was released in 1992, which would have been when gangsta rap was really starting to take off, and eventually dominate the rap music landscape, it seems like Raheem was trying his best to fit in with that genre. While the first album may have occasionally flirted with some gangsta themes in a few tracks, he goes overboard here, embracing and celebrating the gangsta lifestyle, in a way which just leaves me cold. Perhaps the lack of success of his brilliant first album made him more desperate to follow the trends of the time? He certainly wouldn’t be the first rapper to make that mistake, even Run-DMC went “gangsta” for a minute (on “Back From Hell”). It’s just very disappointing to me, because I know Raheem could have done better than this. As it stands, I don’t think I can give this album even ONE star. It’s best forgotten.
Still, I would love to know exactly what Raheem is up to these days, and how his recording career turned out the way it did.
1/24/14 – EDITED TO ADD: Since this entry was originally published there has been some discussion in the comments. And last night, after listening to the recent internet interview with Raheem (link below), where he gets into the many problems that he had with Rap-A-Lot Records, which stalled his career, I decided to give this album a 2nd listen, with fresh ears. Now I do think I was a little too harsh. As I mentioned in the comments, I think my initial impression was clouded by how much I loved the first album and hadn’t heard any new music from Raheem in the 25 years since then. Well, I still think THE VIGILANTE is the superior album, but this one isn’t so bad. The harder tone and more gangsta themes is a major change, but judging strictly on lyrical ability it’s evident that Raheem is talented. The songs Kiss The Bride, Pressing For Time, School Daze, and Shady Tree Gangsta are all standouts, and I also appreciate Death In The Arena as a showcase of Raheem’s battle-rap skills (he said in the radio interview that he was foremost a battle-rapper). I think now I’d give this album THREE STARS.