Expanding on their idea of live instrumentation and tons of rhyming, the Boys found some clear ways to communicate their message even if Ma Bell couldn’t hack it. You might think that there isn’t much of a difference between Check Your Head and Ill Communication and you might be right to a certain degree. By this time MCA had taken the spiritual journey of Buddhism to a new level and we can hear the Boys interjecting messages of tolerance, non-violence and awareness throughout the album — and the grooves are a little better here too. Whereas CYH sounded fun and laid back at times this album is about the business.
When I bought this, way back in the 90’s, all I wanted to hear was “Sabotage”‘,”Sure Shot” and “Root Down” so I didn’t pay attention to the rest of the material. This was my fault since I should have paid this album the proper dues when I bought it. My first MP3 player brought out many of these extra tracks when I played music on shuffle, and since I’ve been engrossing myself for the past few weeks, I developed a new appreciation for this album. The Boys took the CYH formula and made it much better with the same crew, and they flex plenty of musical muscle all over the place.
The best track on this album comes right in the middle with the steamrolling bass line of “Futterman’s Rule”‘; funky guitar and quick drumming boil over to make it impossible to stay still. Speaking of boiling over, some of these tracks do bleed into one another and that makes for a solid listen as well. If you happen to enjoy most of the instrumental pieces from here and CYH then I suggest you go and find the import CD The In Sound from Way Out which collects most of those tracks in one space.
The guest appearance by Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest is great, as he and the Boys bounce back and forth on “Get It Together”, then you can hear the serious punk influences on “Tough Guy” and “Heart Attack Man” or check the flow on “The Update” and “The Scoop”.
This album did yield one of their biggest hits and one of the most recognized videos of the 90’s, but it also helped to establish the Boys as being far more than a rap group. They rhyme smarter and work harder to bring their message to the masses. Are you still reading this far down? Go out right now and buy this on CD or vinyl and let it spin all afternoon.