After hearing "Soul Food" by Def Jef which debuted The Funkytown Pros to the world, I prayed to the Hip Hop gods for a Funkytown Pros album and soon after they answered, courtesy their debut album on 4th & Broadway in 1991.
Without a doubt, I'm quite appreciative of Def Jef for introducing me to the greatness of the Funkytown Pros. Yet, in any event, they had a guaranteed purchase even if I had no previous knowledge and just happened to walked in the store and saw an album titled "Reachin' A Level Of Assassanation" that featured cover art with a guy sitting comfortably on the couch, unaware of an infra-beam strategically resting on his domepiece. That's the illness...
I know this is a bold statement, but I don't know of any one Hip Hop album that blew my mind more than this album. Sure there were artists who over the course of several singles and/or albums that had a larger overall influence over me, such as Kool G Rap, Mele Mel, Kool Moe, Dee, Rakim, KRS One, and probably a few others. I just can't think of any album that affected me, on a whole, like this, from the productions, lyrics, concepts, and subject matter.
The production, done by Devastatin' The Rhythm Fluctuator, was creative, interesting, funky, melodic, rugged and at times haunting. Much of the album pulled from sample sources I wasn't familiar with, but had a heavy jazz essence.
However, even when he tapped into familiar sounds the results were intriguing. "White Green" uses the popular "Impeach The President" drums and cleverly mixes in traces of James Brown, but the true characters comes from the drunken sounding horns and unassuming additional textures. "Genius" makes, what is probably, the most creative use ever of Tom Tom Club's "Genius Of Love" and perfectly pairs it with a flute sample, resulting in a song that has a decent amount of radio appeal, but without sacrificing any grittiness.
After "Reachin' A Level Of Assassination", The Rhythm Fluctuator, was the new level of production excellence and inventiveness that I would strive for.
As for Boiwondah, I consider this album to be among the highest levels of lyrical excellence, comparable only to other greats like Organized Konfusion, The GZA and that list of MCs I mentioned earlier. I eventually will do a special "Microphone Mathematics" series dedicated to analyze the lyrics of this album.
I listened to this album nearly every day for a couple years and continually found new hidden meanings being revealed to me. I literally listened to this tape until just about all of the text had been rubbed of and then the day came when it just fell to pieces. Even though I was able to get my hands on vinyl and CD versions of the album, I was unable to throw out the mangled, worn-out tape...I still have it's broken shell as a memento of this album's importance to me.
In Part One, we discuss Dev's early musical experiences and how his "West Coast outlook and Down South upbringing" influenced his unique production style. He talks about how he met Boiwondah and then they added Manslaughter to form their original crew. He reveals that they were originally a DJ crew and they worked with and were inspired by LA pioneers such as General Lee, Jamming Gemini, and Ultra Wave. He gives the timeline of meeting Def Jef, connecting with DJ P (Paul Steward) and how that lead to the deal with 4th And Broadway. He also speaks on how during recording their debut they made trips to New York and rocked shows or had experiences with Ultramagnetic MCs, KRS One, Public Enemy, and a young DMX!
Text & Interview By Kevin Beacham Video Shot & Edited By Adam Stanzak for Oh Boy Films