Lords Of The Underground Showed New Jersey MCs Were Chief Rockas Too
Along with New York, Philadelphia, and Boston, New Jersey was one of the main city-centers of Northeast Hip-Hop in the early 1990s. The Garden State produced numerous commercially-successful and critically-acclaimed acts, most of which originated in the cities of Newark and its nearby East Orange.
Since the ’70s, Jersey had a footprint in Rap records, thanks to Sugar Hill Records and its Sugarhill Gang. A decade after “Rapper’s Delight,” 45 King had launched The Flavor Unit, which eventually grew to include Queen Latifah, Naughty By Nature, Lakim Shabazz, Apache, Chill Rob G, and many others. Trenton’s Poor Righteous Teachers showcased a unique style. Brick City’s Redman was running around with Biz Markie and Erick Sermon in the battle circuit.
The area became a hotbed of talent and labels took an active interest. Enter Newark triumvirate Lords Of The Underground. This trio of DoItAll, Mr. Funke, and DJ Lord Jazz, were mentored by production pioneer Marley Marl. Marley, who was diversifying from his legendary catalog with the Juice Crew and LL Cool J, also enlisted his beat-making protege K-Def. The crew signed to Pendulum Records, which was also home to eclectic acts like Digable Planets and the Boogiemonsters.
In March of 1993, LOTUG dropped their debut album, Here Come The Lords. The offering was sandwiched in-between two other big New Jersey Hip-Hop releases that year: Naughty By Nature’s 19 Naughty III and Queen Latifah’s Black Reign. However, the Lords catchy second single “Chief Rocka” made enough noise to establish them as a significant force in the New-Jeru scene. The video hit the airwaves in May of 1993, and the look and vibe are definitive 1990s Hip-Hop. From the Carhartt vests, camouflage gear, and Timberland boots, to the jazzy sample and rowdy flows, this is a prime example of one of Hip-Hop’s most beloved eras. The video even features cameos by some of the culture’s most influential names, including Marley, Crazy Legs, and Funk Doc (who had served as DoItAll’s DJ back in the day).
In the cut, DoItAllDu stylishly rapped, “I’m the, Chief Rocka so I guess I am in charge / I freak it with a twist so you’ll boom it in your cars / I’m the, one with the flow and the grip like G.I. Joe / I snatch, I grab, and then I grab the dough / See, if I was an Indian I’d still be the chief / The only other difference—I’d smoke weed in a leaf / To the hip, the hop, to the hibby, to the hibbidy / Hip-hop, oh no, I don’t wanna go pop,” he spits, nodding to Sugar Hill 15 years earlier. “I got, too much soul, Rhythm and Blues R&B, ya see, all that’s cool / But hip-hop and rap, yeah, that’s where my heart’s at / Even back when I used to break on a box / Backspins for backspin, even while I’m rappin’ / Before I had a record, I always kept ’em clappin’ / Freestyling on the block, now I Chief Rock.”
Nearly two years later, Easy Mo Bee would re-purpose Mr. Funke’s proclamation: “But they don’t understand how I feel about the Funk / I walk with the Funk, I talk with the Funk / I eat with the Funk, I sleep with the Funk / I live for the Funk, I’ll die for the Funk,” into some “Machine Gun Funk” for Biggie Smalls.
A year and a half after the debut, the crew stayed the thematic course with Keepers Of The Funk. The triumph of New Jersey Hip-Hop in 1993 opened up the door for another wave of rappers like The Fugees, The Artifacts, Miilkbone, Rottin Razkals, and The Outsidaz. And although the area’s scene hasn’t had the spotlight shone on it for a while now, new names like CRIMEAPPLE and Arsonal are looking to put it back on the Hop-Hop map.