…Am I bobbing my head to a Benzino track?
Cormega — “Verbal Grafitti” (Prod. by Hangmen 3)
Last week I hit up San Francisco’s oldest independent music store and did a little shopping/politicking with the store’s cool-as-fuck owner. Creative Music Emporium is a goldmine for Jazz/Blues/Gospel as well as underground Bay Area rap, but it doesn’t have a lot in the way of used CDs. That said, I managed to scoop up Cormega’s The True Meaning and EPMD’s latest joint, both used, for five bucks each. As good as both these albums are, the best things I purchased that day were two still-wrapped, classic cassette singles: DJ Quik’s “Jus Lyke Compton” and Wu-Tang’s “Protect Ya Neck.” You know those shits are on display in my room beneath my parents’ house swagged-out bachelor’s apartment. But I digress.
After leaving the store I came home, smoked a bowl, and threw on the Mega album, which by the way is a front-to-back banger. The CD really started to blow my mind on the second track, “Verbal Graffiti,” which finds Cory flowing his ass off over one of the nicest, most original beats I’ve heard in a minute. “Who produced this?” I wondered, picking up the booklet to check the credits. And then my heart sank, and I felt immediately guilty for enjoying the song. Hangmen 3? The guys behind Made Men, that Benzino group with the four-page ads in The Source? Really?
Alas, it was even worse than I thought. Upon further investigation, I discovered that Benzino is a member of Hangmen 3, and that he even has a writing credit in Mega’s liner notes. Yes, readers, Benzino co-produced this track. Now, I’m not one to support anything this dude does. I still remember how he single-handedly destroyed the favorite magazine of my adolescence, and what little I’ve heard of his music has been mediocre at best. Plus I recently read Kim Osorio’s tell-all Straight From the Source, which really makes Zino seem like a massive tool. But I can’t front, “Verbal Graffiti” is dope. Come to think of it, so was the intro to Stillmatic, also a Hangmen 3 production (and yup, just checked, Zino got a writing credit there too.) So either Ray isn’t as talentless as we all thought—he just needs to stick to production—or he muscled his way into Hangmen 3 the same way he did The Source, in which case there’s a good chance he had no input on either beat, but insisted (in true Benzino fashion) that his name be added to the credits. Both equally possible, I guess. All I know is that it’s hard to fully embrace anything with Ray’s name attached to it. Artists would do better to hide his participation at all costs. Although Cory did win a Source Award for this album. And Stillmatic got five mics…so maybe I’m trippin.’