Living Like Hustlers vs. Black Mafia Life

Another day, another “who started the g-funk era?” argument to mull over. They certainly weren’t calling it g-funk until The Chronic dropped – but then again sampling Parliament and the Ohio Players was nothing new before Dre took the reigns. In researching Above the Law (from Pamona, not Compton) I found that Cold 187’um, the intriguing and humorous leader of ATL, has made many claims that he was the creator of gangster funk long before the good doctor spiked his flag near Roscoe’s. Above the Law’s debut, Livin’ Like Hustlers, is most definitely a classic from the ‘90s and perfect addition to the Bo Jackson HOF. It was a constant in the Walkman, as I was drawn to their more organized form of crime and street storytelling – the combination of 187’s soprano-svelte rascal-raps and KMG’s gruff strong-arm was, as the single goes, “Untouchable” and their Ice-T-esque sagas, while exaggerated, electric in delivery. I’m still trying to figure who the genius was here – was it DJ Total K-Os or (now proclaiming himself pioneer) 187’um? Regardless Livin’ Like Hustlers is dense with prime funk samples, many used repeatedly in the pending years, but never like they’re used here. Stuff from Quincy Jones, Sly Stone, early Prince, standby JB, broadcast as if a live band is playing behind them on every track here.

I have to admit that by the time Black Mafia Life was released I was a Snoop-Dre devotee, so even when Mark Humenik smuggled the long-box out of Camelot in his Raiders Starter jacket, I was not interested. The concept wasn’t about fun, it was too heavy, to crowded with non-essential skits and non-descript characters. After “What’s My Name?” there was no need for “Process of Elimination.” Now, I’ve come to find my folly. While Black Mafia Life is flawed and overlong, the template they used on their debut, is here extended – kind of like moving from GTA Vice City to GTA San Andreas. Here there was live instrumentation, the themes got darker, deeper, and the parties got harder (try on the Bootsy sampling “VSOP” for proof). It’s hard to judge against the rage and immediacy of Livin’ Like Hustlers, but it’s an entirely different monster all together and lends credence to Cold 187’um’s claim that he had a heavy hand in inventing, perhaps not gangster-rap, but gangster-funk.

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