Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Full Blooded - Memorial Day (1998)

Here we are again with some more evidence in support of our thesis quantifying just how badly the No Limit label screwed up at the peak of its success towards the close of the last century. The story, so far as I understand it, runs with No Limit blowing up against all expectations around 1996, shifting shitloads of records on newly minted reputation alone, then assuming this situation would continue indefinitely, the No Limit brand having effectively become a license to print money. I recall the Full Blooded album being relegated to one tiny corner of a two page spread in one of those glossy rap magazines, taking up not even a sixteenth of the advertisement as a whole, more like a thirty-secondth or something. So Memorial Day bombed because apparently its being on the No Limit label wasn't enough to guarantee nationwide sales, and it doesn't seem like it really had a lot of promotion.

Whilst we're here, the inlay of those No Limit discs were always abrim with in-house advertising, specifically promising forthcoming works from upcoming artists for which Pen & Pixel had already done the covers, possibly before the things were even  recorded; and yet so few of them ever dropped so we never got to hear those albums by Short Circuit, Two for One, DIG, QB, Popeye, Porsha, A-Lexxus, Samm, Tank Doggs or any of the the rest; and I always thought this seemed a bit crap - maybe not quite a broken promise, but like the diamond encrusted No Limit sphincter just couldn't cash the cheques its mouth had been writing; or even worse, like somebody somewhere didn't quite have as much confidence in the material as claimed and was terrified of backing anything less than a triple platinum disc. This looked bad - to me at least - because ideally you want a label which gets behind its artists rather than its shareholders, artistically speaking.

I wouldn't ordinarily give a shit, but it nevertheless seems a shame because Memorial Day is a fucking good record, and at least as distinctive as anything by Fiend or Mystikal or any of those other No Limit regulars who might be credited with changing the face of rap by some definition, or part of that face.

Memorial Day lurches into gear with weird swells of strings and nothing quite pinned down to a rhythm as Full Blooded loses it in front of a microphone, rapping with all the desperate menace of the guy in the parking lot who staggers towards you begging a dollar or a cigarette or the fuck whatever you got, man...

It's a dark album, in case that isn't obvious from the cover, and probably dark enough to qualify as gothic in some sense. In fact, fuck it - screw gothic, this is more like the real thing. Gothic may as well be kids in black clothes for whom a crap drawing of a skull and a shitty Neil Gaiman comic will serve as metaphor for the endless torment and pain of your dad expecting you to get a job so he can have his basement back; whereas this is more concerned with surviving day to day whilst trying to avoid being shot at, and with bereavement as a daily event of such crushing familiarity that singing pretty songs about it whilst wearing eyeliner somehow just doesn't seem quite enough. Oddly, whilst Memorial Day is hardly an uplifting album, neither is it entirely in the vein of grunting black metal types, and probably because it's all about surviving under grim circumstances rather than celebrating the details of the same; and this is greatly helped by the music, a dirty, sweaty, sludge of bluesy southern gospel with a few arcade games thrown in.

Wikipedia refers to this guy in past tense which seems a shame as he clearly had a lot to say, and was saying it entirely on his own terms without really sounding like anyone else out there, gruffly cramming those bars into beats with just the rhyme at the end of each line to let you know it was still entertainment, that we were still listening to a compact disc, and we hadn't quite crossed over into real life. Memorial Day may not quite represent some lost and unappreciated masterpiece, but I have trouble comparing it to anything else which has happened since, and it really deserves to be heard.

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