Stomping forth from Long Island in 1991, Leaders of the New School were young protégés of Public Enemy’s Bomb Squad. Their subtle Afrocentric politics came coated in tasty upbeat rhymes. “Case of the P.T.A” and “Teachers, Don’t Teach Us Nonsense!!” are original schoolboy pranks and light protests propelled by the sharp breakbeats of Cut Monitor Milo and the fine vocal contrasts between the ragga-edged Busta Rhymes, the exuberant Charlie Brown and the straight-ahead Dinco D. Turning the high-school experience into a concept album (albeit a none-too-weighty one) divided into Homeroom, Lunchroom and Afterschool sessions, A Future Without a Past is highly amiable, at its wittiest on “The International Zone Coaster” and “Sobb Story.” Others subsequently took different combinations of the Leaders’ formula — Busta’s raspiness, the revivalist old-school routines, infectious high-energy choruses — to greater commercial success.
The Leaders of the New School made all the right moves between albums (check out their cameos on A Tribe Called Quest’s “Scenario”; members also appeared in a couple of movies) and were poised to break out. T.I.M.E.: The Inner Mind’s Eye is thus all the more disappointing. Seemingly trying to play catchup with the West Coast freestylers, T.I.M.E. never really takes off; only the singles “Connections,” “What’s Next?” and “Spontaneous (13 MC’s Deep!)” manage small pleasures. The group subsequently disbanded, freeing Busta Rhymes to get his explosive solo career under way.