Artist: Plan Bee (ft. Poohman and Saafir)
Title: Quest 4 Survival/Runnin' From 5-0/Grindin'
Label: One Hundred 20 Records
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Hearing an obscure Saafir track called 'Runnin From 5-0' on a DJ Serg mix CD a few years back, I spent a long time trying to track this cut down.
As it transpires, this track is one of several on Plan Bee's 'Quest 4 Survival' 12". Why the hell couldn't I track this one down? I stupidly thought that no-one was looking for it and it'd turn up cheaply somewhere. Three years later, I *finally* had it in my hands, after one previously-obtained copy went missing in the mail.
Some background information is required first: this wasn't a mindless release without any background.
Well-respected West Coast graf writer Mike 'Dream' Francisco put this record out, shortly after Plan Bee (his godbrother) was killed in a drive-by shooting in a case of mistaken identity in June 1992. The label name, One Hundred 20 Records, makes reference to Bee's birthdate, 20th January, and although only 300 copies were pressed up in 1993, the reputation of this record has spread like wildfire. Sadly, street violence also cost Dream his life in February 2000. He left behind an incredible (seriously, you have no idea how good this guy was) legacy of graf artwork - and this record. Dream and Bee were also two of founding members of the Hobo Junction, the faction who set the foundations for Saafir and his excellent debut album on Qwest, 1994's 'Boxcar Sessions'.
Back to the matter in hand. Plan Bee had a raw microphone technique. His legendary status was built-up over many freestyle sessions around Oakland, rhyming alongside Saafir and other contemporaries such as Spice 1. His voice is really listenable and he's urgent in his delivery without sounding forced. 'Quest 4 Survival' is a killer opening track. Bee controls things totally, not allowing his more well-known guests Poohman and Saafir upstage him at all.
"I don't wanna pack a gat, but I feel that I have ta.
Brothers doin' what they feel they gotta do, and it's a factor.
I ain't pleased, but goin' off or I read 'em (?),
I don't wanna join so I gotta do something to beat 'em.
And keep cool, I refuse to lose,
Brothers keep condemning my decision to go to school, cool.
But I'ma stay down - keep my head up, so I don't drown,
Eyes on the prize and yellin' peace to pound."
Ironically enough, considering the circumstances of his death, Bee comes across as a young guy who's not too into the gangster lifestyle. He rhymes eagerly, with a slice of passion, and I can't help but feel this guy might have risen up as one of the strongest members of the Hobo Junction. The production from Mista B is really damn good, with a dope rolling bassline and some squeaking synth and horn sounds.
On verse two, he hands over to his man Pooh, who's voice contrasts wickedly with Bee's. Pooh's laid-back drawl is classic 'Westside' in my mind. The guys go back and forth real nicely, using the distinct difference in styles to catch your attention. Check the opening diatribe, for example:
(Plan Bee) "Confrontin' my brother Pooh, 'why are you the dealer?' Simple, he explains..."
(Poohman) "I don't no-one else feels the...
Pressures of a black man living in the ghetto,
I'ma live my life, so you know I ain't let go.
You wouldn't like it, so put yourself in my shoes,
Every day before I get, I have the motherfuckin' ghetto blues.
Livin' in the roach trap, runnin from the rats,
Now I run from nothin, 'cause I always got my gat.
I be packed, fully strapped, no-one will cross my side,
If he does, I'm the man and the motherfucka' dies."
(Plan Bee) "That's the way we livin'?"
(Poohman) "Yeah, that's the way it is, Plan.
Actin' like you don't, but I know you understand, man.
Livin' in the city, where the dope run the people,
Where I live, what I give - and the gun's my only equal."
As you'd expect, Saafir delivers a killer third and final verse. Sounding hungrier than you've ever heard before, he spits verbal venom continuously, as he portrays the life of a street hustler hardened by the experiences he's had:
"I ain't down for no motherfuckin' prison time
I'd rather be dead and come off the head with vicious rhymes
It leaves my mind, don't hang with the brothers on the block
I'm thinkin' to myself, 'How can I clock?'
Bang! An idea came straight to my brain, for fame
I got hip to a tip of 25 thangs.
My brother got my back for the jet ride, stockings under my hat, my gat's at my side
Never went to school, I was hustlin' niggas in pool.
It played out, now I'm jackin' motherfuckin' fools
Moms is gone, pops never came back - how in the fuck do you expect me to stay on track?"
Presenting life from a different perspective, you feel that Plan's track is a morality check for the gangsters out there. Plan's closing line in the outro chatter sums his point of view up perfectly: "In my quest for survival, whatever it is I'm doing, I'ma try to bring it to peace"
'Runnin From 5-0' is different: although labelled as 'featuring Saafir', it's clear that this is a Saafir track. Checking my crates, it looks like this is the first vinyl appearance of Mr. No-No, recorded shortly before his appearance on Digital Underground's 'Body-Hat Syndrome'. The early mark of his characteristic off-beat flow may be apparent here, but the chop-chop beat is clearly a perfect match and for those of you who've never got your heads around the whole Saafir phenomenom, this could be the introduction you need to hear.
Saafir uses the first verse to take you on a chase through woodland and backyards, avoiding the security measures ("Motherfuck the dog - he don't notice me - two more fences and I'm home free"), jumping into his homey's ride before 5-0 pull him up. Ty's frantic production matches the vocal flow perfectly, with some heavy-hitting drums that flip backwards and forwards in places, making you pay attention. It's a killer fuckin' track.
Flipping things over to the b-side gives you 'Grindin'. Now, I'm not so into the regular mix (way too synth-heavy for me), but the remix is really dope. Whilst I think Bee sounds better on 'Quest 4 Survival', he still rocks nicely on here. Here he's kicking more of a story, which is cool, about the dope-selling game : after a while he gets a reality check and starts to feel remorse for the way he's living. At the end of the tale, he quits selling his produce, despite the outro reminding you how he's viewed by the neighbourhood. The BDP sample in the chorus is kinda unexpected, but works nicely, and the almost-hidden stabs of 'Nautilus' are much appreciated.
This record represents all that I love about the Hobo Junction and their associated artists. Captivating rhymes and beats, topped up with a healthy dash of imagination and gusto. Plan Bee and Mike Dream's project deserves hunting down: alongside the 12", there's a tape out there too, which we've also uploaded scans of. Big thanks to Matthew Africa for hooking me up with a missing label scan. Check out his excellent blog over here.
- Reviewed on 04th November 2006, 17:21 by Chris
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