A product of the tightknit Bronx underground posse D.I.T.C., Runaway Slave is a cornerstone album of hip-hop’s middle school phase. Building on and borrowing from the layered, jazz-influenced sound of such contemporaries as Gang Starr and Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth, Showbiz & A.G. affixed a gangster mentality to grainy, fortified beats, etching their own unique style. While the crossover “Soul Clap” and “Party Groove” are club cuts, the rest of the album is more densely expressive. Showbiz and his talented peer Diamond shape their beats around simple, deep drum tracks — but add subtle loops of chaotic horns, loose strings, or abrupt piano notes to create concise and hard-hitting overtures.
Tasteful flute swatches light up “Silence of the Lambs,” an ear-ringing saxophone buzzes on “Still Diggin’,” and the motor mouthed late legend Big L introduced himself on the classic down-the-line jam “Represent,” pulling such punchlines as “MCs be braggin’ about cash they collect/But them chumps is like Ray Charles ’cause they ain’t seen no money yet.” The young A.G. (aka Andre the Giant) flows effortlessly throughout this album, an MC whose skill and unique voice would only mature in the future. While some of the import of this album is muted by modern-day technological sound booth advancements, Showbiz & A.G. did it raw and undiluted and the resulting sound was fresh, innovative, and most of all satisfying for hip-hop heads.
by M.F. DiBella
Showbiz & A.G.-RUNAWAY SLAVE