Do Remember The Lady Of Rage Rocking The Mic Rough With Her Afro Puffs (Video)
It was a monumental year when Dr. Dre released The Chronic on his Death Row Records imprint in 1992. The multi-platinum album was a street sensation that marked a new era of Rap. It delivered G-Funk to the mainstream, with videos that displayed the laid back vibes, set against menacing lyricism, and cautionary tales of life in Compton, Long Beach, and South Central Los Angeles. Like Marley Marl with his “Symphony,” Dre’s solo debut introduced an ensemble of stars on the mic, behind the boards, and helping supply the smoked-out party. Snoop Doggy Dogg, RBX, Warren G, and Kurupt were some those names. But most notably, The Chronic also showcased a fierce female MC who matched the grit and toughness of her Compton and Long Beach counterparts, although she was raised in Farmville, Virginia.
The track “Lyrical Gangbang” wouldn’t be as hard-hitting if The Lady Of Rage didn’t set the stage with her memorable, hardcore delivery of the lines: “Now I’ma kick up dust, as I begin to bust, On the wick-wack, f*cked up suckers you can’t trust.”
The former Chubb Rock protege known as “Rockin’ Robin” showed up again on The Chronic rapping from the spot of cellblock H on “Stranded On Death Row.” Cellblock H, as she would explain to XXL, is a reference to a women’s prison cell. She explained to the magazine as apart of their 20th-anniversary piece on The Chronic: “I ended my verse with ‘cellblock H’ ’cause I remember running across a television show called Prisoner: Cellblock H, and I think it was about a women’s prison. Me being the female in the crew, I just referenced a female’s prison, cellblock H.”
Snoop Doggy Dogg got his solo album shot less than a year after The Chronic with Doggystyle. Rage is actually the first rapper to set off Snoop’s debut with “G Funk (Intro).” It was there that she rapped the lyrics, “I rock ruff and stuff with my afro puffs / Handcuffed as I bust, ’bout to tear sh*t up.” Just a few months later, in 1994, for the Above The Rim soundtrack, the woman born Robin Allen reiterated those lines as a hook for the first solo Death Row Records single, “Afro Puffs.”
Her solo single was supported by Snoop Dogg making an appearance for some background vocals and a music video cameo. Through G-Funk synths and a heavy bassline, Rage set the track off rugged: “I rock on with my bad self ’cause it’s a must / It’s the Lady Of Rage still kickin’ up dust / So umm, let me loosen up my bra strap / And umm, let me boost ya with my raw rap / ‘Cause I’ma break it down to the nitty-gritty one time / When it comes to the lyrics, I gets busy with mine / Busy as a beaver / Ya best believe-a / This grand diva’s runnin’ sh*t with the speed of a cheetah / Meet a / Lyrical murderer… I’m servin’ ’em like two scoops of chocolate / Check out how I rock it.”
Featuring some of Dr. Dre’s hardest production of the period, the track hit #5 on Billboard’s Hot Rap Songs and served as the second single for the Above The Rim soundtrack, following Warren G & Nate Dogg’s “Regulate.” The album, however, peaked at #1 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums in 1994.
Despite the success of the track, The Lady Of Rage has expressed her initial distaste for “Afro Puffs.” In an interview with Billboard’s Erika Ramirez from 2014, Rage revealed how it almost never happened –– or, at least, it wasn’t supposed to:
“That song almost didn’t happen,” she said. “I just so happened to go to the studio that day, and Dre was playing this beat. He was like, ‘You got something for that Rage? Let me hear it.’ I spit a rhyme that I had written a few days prior. I didn’t like [the song], but Dre was like, ‘Damn, Rage, will you just shut the f*ck up? It’s not even done yet.’ I still didn’t like it, but everybody else did. I asked Suge [Knight] to not put the song on the soundtrack, and he was like, ‘Alright Rage, we won’t do it.’”
The MC continues, “I was riding in the car with Suge’s wife [Sharitha Knight], and I told her, ‘I’m so glad they got rid of that song.’ And she said, ‘Girl, they didn’t take that song off the soundtrack.’ I had a fit! I said, ‘They’re going to ruin my career. That song cannot be the one.’ My style was more East Coast. I’m from Virginia and ‘Afro Puffs’ was this G-Funk sound. [Interscope Records Chairman at the time] Jimmy Iovine called me and told me to calm down because the song is such a hit. That became my claim to fame.”
“Afro Puffs” might’ve been a huge enough single to warrant Rage’s solo debut. However, despite the song’s success, Rage waited while Tha Dogg Pound dropped their Dogg Food debut in 1995. By the end of that year, the label’s priorities had shifted entirely with the arrival of Tupac Shakur. By March of 1996, Dr. Dre, who had worked so closely with Rage, left the label he co-founded. Her first and only studio album, Necessary Roughness, released in June of 1997. The record was released via Death Row and Interscope and featured production by DJ Premier, Daz Dillinger, Easy Mo Bee, DJ Kenny Parker, and Rage herself.
Not long after her album, Rage left Death Row. In 2005, she spoke to Jake Paine (now with Ambrosia For Heads) for AllHipHop about her frustrations. “I went up there one day to pick something up. I’d been going up there all the time. Suge was locked up at the time; things were run differently. When I got to the lobby, the guy there told me I needed an appointment to go upstairs. I was like, ‘I need an appointment? For what?’ All I got was, ‘Things are different now.’ I was insulted by that. I’m one of the artists—one of the reasons this office is here, I feel. I didn’t sell millions of records, but I was on those things. This is mines, like Dre’s, Snoop’s, Suge’s, whatever. I said, ‘Can you go get the package for me?’ When he went upstairs, I picked up something and I broke some things up, and really give them a reason for not lettin’ me in here. I never went back again until I couple of months ago. I was just mad. I was pregnant, I was mad, that was slap in the face.”
Rage’s persona, on the mic and real-life, earned her a role in Next Friday. At a time when her music career was limited, the MC made a convincing bully as “Baby D.” However, Rage has never beat down anything as badly as that amazing Dre production on “Afro Puffs.”
#BonusBeat: The Lady Of Rage’s pre-Death Row debut on wax, Chubb Rock’s “Bring ‘Em Home Safely,” featuring 3rd Bass’ Pete Nice and Lucas Secon: