Armed with a rich, febrile, foul sense of humor and an unmistakably idiosyncratic delivery-a syncopated stutter with dancehall syllable scattering and stop-hold-rush gear-shifting-Das EFX came to market under the production wing of EPMD. The Virginia State University-formed, Brooklyn-based duo of Dre (aka Krazy Drayz, aka Andre Weston) and Skoob (aka Books, aka Willie Hines) don’t push the topical envelope any — geography, rhyming and sexing are pretty much the alpha-omega of their menu on the sarcastically titled Dead Serious. Fortunately, the pair’s rereading of old news yields fresh and funny angles, and they pack the rhymes with ridiculous TV and music references (“like Chico, I’m the man … I gave a crew cut to Sinéad O’Connor”) certain to tease a smile out of the hardest roughneck. Vocalized in their original and entertaining (not to mention influential: former EPMDer Parrish Smith virtually stole their act on his 1994 solo album) style, songs like “Mic Checka,” “Jussummen” (one of two cuts with guitar by future solo blues-rapper Bobby Sichran), the way-rude “Looseys” and “Straight Out the Sewer” make Dead Serious a monstrously entertaining debut.
Lines like “I rolled two spliffs, so I guess I’m double-jointed” show that Skoob and Dray [sic] have their brain-teasing wits about them on Straight Up Sewaside, but the sophomore album is a let-down, with dull production, streamlined vocals and too many go-nowhere stragglers like the repetitive “Check It Out,” “Baknaffek” and “Kaught in da Ak.” “It’z Lik Dat” and “Rappaz” are bright moments, but Das EFX’s decision to downplay their strengths-combined with such filler as an interview and the majorly annoying gimmick of spinning a radio dial-makes the album a sorry also-ran to the first.
Which still leaves it miles better than the pitiful Hold It Down. An audio representation of two minds on drugs-“40 & a Blunt” is all she hadda write-the album finds Hines and Weston dull-wittedly stuck in a mental end groove, repetitively rhyming about skunk and blunts, about getting and staying high, as if they were rehearsing for parts in The Cheech and Chong Story. Boring, casually offensive (“faggot” is essential, if non-sexual, vocabulary here; a passing reference to Long Island Railroad mass-murderer Colin Ferguson is in extremely poor taste) and slack to the max; the occasional “diggedy” scat syllable dropped in is a sad reminder of the duo’s once-phenomenal skills.