Do Remember When AZ & Pete Rock Made A Gem That Was Rather Unique (Audio)
Almost exactly a year and a half after his show-stopping appearance on Nas’ Illmatic, AZ Tha Visualiza released his debut album, Doe Or Die. In October of 1995, AZ carefully refrained from any further features between his 5-mic debut and his solo set-up. Fans were starving, and the East New York, Brooklyn MC who was mentored by Stetsasonic’s Daddy-O was focused on delivering.
AZ walked a fine line on D.O.D. The proud MC was not out to live in his famed rhyme-partner’s shadow—and he wouldn’t. So years before The Firm would become a reality, Anthony Cruz wanted to make an album that built upon Illmatic, but showed how he was “Rather Unique.” AZ brought two of Nas’ producers with him for his debut: L.E.S. and Pete Rock. The former would lace the hit single “Sugar Hill,” and the latter created two of the album’s other renowned tracks, including “Rather Unique.”
In 1995, Pete Rock was branching out too. He and C.L. Smooth appeared to be on one of their several breaks. The Mount Vernon, New Yorker was fast at work on bringing out INI (care of Center Of Attention) and Deda (The Original Baby Pa). Due to woes at Elektra Records, neither project went as planned (but would release years later, after bootlegging). However, Pete seemed set on making hits for new voices. Tha Visualiza was one of them. In hindsight, AZ remains one of the strongest rappers to ever bless a Chocolate Boy Wonder track (evidenced on Ambrosia For Heads’ comprehensive Pete Rock playlist).
“We was already molded into people’s minds as ‘mulignanes’ / Now we more f*cked up with a mayor named Giuliani / You can try to blind me, analyze but can’t define me / My mind’s divine, heavily entwined with Gandhi’s,” began AZ, care of a verse as focused as rich with meaning as “Life’s A B*tch.” He would follow with jewel-encrusted lines like “My mic devotion brings out my deepest emotions,” “Where it all begins is here, destiny and me finally meet,” and song closer, “The word’s on the street so keep your ears to the concrete.”
Beyond introspective lyricism, the song had deeper meaning. AZ was from one of New York City’s toughest sections. He did not chase trends but rapped with a specific, old soul style and perspective. Moreover, AZ made vivid Gangsta Rap that could also be highly conscious. The MC was unique and his style foreshadowed a balance in Hip-Hop that exists today.
AZ came into his own with a Top 15 charting LP. “Rather Unique” deserved a video. However, Pete’s drums and samples coupled with A’s smooth delivery create a distinct vibe that is picturesque on its own. “Gimme Yours,” the other P.R. production (and a 2010 update) got a video, and became another fan favorite from the project.
In 1995, AZ showed great patience, and asked his fans to do the same. Hopefully, 2018 promises to be the year that Doe Or Die 2 arrives, as one of Hip-Hop’s most consistent voices follows up an album that showcased his individuality. However, contrary to reports, nobody is hoping that it will be S.O.S.A.’s final album. Notably, whenever it arrives, it reportedly will feature more Pete Rock chemistry.