In retrospect I’m not entirely sure why Philadelphia’s Three Times Dope never excelled into the upper echelon during their coming-up in hip-hop’s golden age. Their debut, Original Stylin’, remains a lost classic (demanding an easy $50 on eBay), which is the reason for the ink here – but going deeper I have to question why they stalled after that. Were they too clean (nary a cuss-word in sight)? Too clever (leader EST was known for his imagined Philly neighborhood slang and commanding wordplay)? Too romantic (lots of their themes revolve around EST as the king lover, but that was a position firmly held by Big Daddy Kane at the time)? Too concept-heavy (their convoluted sophomore follow-up made them appear as X-Clan rookies)? The verdict is really still out. Though EST (aka Robert Walker) has made living penning pop schlock, it’s the invention of terms like “ackinickulous” and “the giddy up,” that have kept him afloat in my nostalgia. I was pretty excited in my research to find EST had just recently given an interview regarding Philly’s original hip-hop scene, in which he defines “ackinickulous” as “the utopian state of being nice.”
For a short while there, at the height of Yo MTV Raps, Original Stylin’ was the “utopian state of being nice” in the rap game. Though EST would boast he was the “Greatest Man Alive” (complete with perfectly clipped Muddy Waters sample) it was more a tongue-in-cheek stunt. Songs like the dancehall-inspired title track and “The Giddy Up” possessed a fluid old-school progression that still sounds fierce to this day, even if you can perceive the trio was searching for more than gold chains and bragging rights. Perhaps they never caught on due to their somewhat naïve vulnerability. Take “Funky Dividends” for example – the group’s biggest hit and a top-ten favorite of mine – wherein EST gives a convincing argument that his girl is taking him for his paper, but by songs end fails to really do anything about (except let her know “this ain’t working”). More or less he was a gentleman, but also a pushover, something that didn’t mesh with his street-savvy rhyme-style. You be the judge. Despite the theories about their demise – I’m just going to flow with the fact that Live from Ackinickulous Land was minus the same highlights of their debut – what shouldn’t be judged is the lasting effect of (at least) the two lead singles on Original Stylin’. It’s definitely worth the search. And if you find (or have) a copy for cheap, please don’t hesitate to contact me.