Three Times Dope Lived Up To The Name With This 1988 Braggadocious Gem (Video)
The City of Brotherly Love has always been a bastion of Hip-Hop culture. From an early graffiti scene to the pioneering Gangsta Rap of Schoolly D, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania gave the world a diverse and unique perspective of what East Coast Hip-Hop looked like outside of five boroughs of New York. An essential contributor to the Philly cultural landscape was Three Times Dope.
Consisting of front-man EST (Robert Waller), Chuck Nice (Walter Griggs) and DJ Woody Wood (Duerwood Beale), “3-D” were part of the Hilltop Hustlers Crew (which also included Steady B, Cool C, Mentally Gifted, and others). With business ties to the Pop Art/Word Up Records family of Lawrence Goodman (and a helping hand from his nephew, Steady), this West Philly collective eventually garnered major label support and distribution.
After signing with Arista, they dropped their 1988 debut LP, Original Stylin’. That collection includes, “Greatest Man Alive,” a hallmark of 3D’s excellence. While “Funky Dividends” may be better known, this creation is at the intersection of commanding raps and a dope beat. EST steps out in front with a self-aggrandizing take on mic-rocking, lady-loving, and being a Hilltop hero.
In an exceptional visual for the period, the members of Three Times Dope’s wardrobe, haircuts, and slang, is an extension of the Soul city. The layered samples in the track chops down a famed Blues lyric, some Comedy, and adds a danceable drum track. With compound rhymes in the groove of the beat, EST spits: “Landscapin’, mentally shapin’ / Get the gist, don’t miss / What I’m sayin’ / Hilltop bringin’ in the bass drop / Soakin’ up saps like a household mop / Out to romp, stomp, so you’re no comp / You try to rock, we bump, the whole house jump / Gotta bust a sucker or else it gets boring / Just like you people need your coffee in the mornin’ /And every word is honestly stated / You get it not synthetic or fabricated.”
Not all 30-year-old singles and videos hold up as well as “Greatest Man Alive.” Although it was never “a hit,” the moment endures. The gall and gumption EST used is still part of the gritty Philly identity. Within the three years following Original Stylin’, 3-D’s light had faded. Goodman and the label’s attention shifted to Cool C, then Da Youngsta’z, and beyond. Independently, 3-D lived on, including a late ’90s collection of songs, oddly-titled The Sequel 3.
Meanwhile, EST would go on to become a Grammy-winning producer and songwriter. He formed a partnership with onetime Philadelphia-based super-producer Scott Storch. Together, they wrote some of Beyoncé’s biggest songs, including “Naughty Girl,” “Baby Boy,” featuring Sean Paul, and “Me, Myself and I.” The relationships that EST forged with Storch and Beyoncé led him to produce Destiny’s Child’s 2005 hit “Cater 2 U.” Most recently, EST worked on Freeway’s latest LP Think Free, proving he still has his hand on the pulse of the culture.
#BonusBeat: A circa-1990 interview with 3-D: