Natural Elements Took The Torch From BDP Into The Late 90s and Beyond (Audio)
In the realm of 1990s New York City Underground Hip-Hop, the Natural Elements are often, and wrongfully overlooked. With later members including Brownsville Ka and producer-turned-fam Charlemagne (Jay Z, Talib Kweli, Capone-N-Noreaga), the group still permeates the sound today.
In 1998, however, the crew was less than five years old. Still as a trio, L-Swift (n/k/a Swigga), Mr. VooDoo and A-Butta would release one of their biggest records to date. Teaming with Tommy Boy Records (specifically the fledgling “Black Label” subsidiary), the label responsible for introducing a number of key artists of the previous decade, Natural Elements’ “2 Tons” would be a key addition in a burgeoning catalog of 12″ releases before any EPs.
“2 Tons” was clearly influenced by Boogie Down Productions. The song’s first 10 seconds made that readily. Once things got going, the dense, overstuffed verses were a product of the late ’90s Underground zenith. The recording captured the urgency and crowded feeling of a live show, with a dynamic DJ-inspired sound from Charlemagne. Like Joey Bada$$ and Pro Era would do a decade later (and beyond), Natural Elements waved off convention. The song is essentially, five minutes of non-stop rhyming. Voodoo, L, and A all seemed to be waxing words for themselves, at an elevated level of pattern, mobility, and structure.
This work is a living example of the artistic energy, thoughts, and feelings of the late ’90s NYC experience. Street and Underground had to be synonymous, and A-Butta, Swigga, and Mr. Voodoo thrived in both of those worlds.
The group would make a statement together in 2013. Here is hoping Hip-Hop has not heard the last from Natural Elements.
BonusBeat: The B-side of the 12″, official audio: