What Went Right With… Ghetto Millionaire by Royal Flush?

A review of the Royal Flush album Ghetto Millionaire with an image of playing cards showing a royal flush by

Royal Flush is known for combining lyrics about crime, drug-dealing, money-making, and family life, and this Q-Borough native made some noise during Hip-Hop’s golden era with these various topics. Flush released a few 12” singles during 1996 and a year later he dropped his début album “Ghetto Millionaire” which whilst appealing to the underground Hip-Hop community, also tried to entice a Pop audience. Had the album not been so under-promoted, Royal Flush and “Ghetto Millionaire” could have made an impact on the Hip-Hop genre which during the latter half of the nineties was beginning to be accepted by the mainstream.

After the slightly pointless “Intro” the album begins with the first song “I Been Getting So Much $” which features an interpolation of Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight”. The lyrics are a little simplistic but Flush delivers them with panache… “Escape the boroughs, 850 beams, stone pharaoh. Royal stack dinero, the hydro got me limbo. Fly bright like UFO, my chain always let show. Hop back then I let go, Police got me petro’. Swervin’ through the Metro, it’s too tight, you need to let go. But overall, I cop the Lex though, and see the next ho. Doing 90 on the intro, to get some indo...” – you get the idea. The chorus however, contains some very bad singing by Flush but the production by Buckwild makes the overall track a decent listen. This is followed by “Iced Down Medallions” a fantastic song that bumps along thanks to the beat by EZ Elpee and the chorus by C-N-N‘s Noreaga. These first two songs centre around an unfortunate topic which we all know ruined Hip-Hop music in the end, but during the mid-nineties these particular tracks about jewels and champagne was at least done with style and listenability in mind. These first few songs aren’t indicative of the entire album, sure there’s talk of money here and there, but this doesn’t overpower the LP, and Royal Flush who blends this topic with tales of street-life and even personal experiences, makes what could be corny content into something great.

“Ghetto Millionaire” contains some fantastic examples of East Coast 90’s Hip-Hop – there’s “Illiodic Shines” which sports some beautiful production by Prince Kaysaan and which contains a slight crime-based narrative by Flush and Mic Geronimo. There’s “Movin’ On Your Weak Productions” which is one of the best joints on the album. The song features great production by Mr. Walt and Black Moon‘s DJ Evil Dee (collectively known as Da Beatminerz) and a sample from Nas’ line in Mobb Deep’s “Eye For An Eye”. This song also features a verse by Phenom Pacino who outside of this album I have no idea who he was or is, or if he was a member of Wastlanz (if anybody out there knows let me know).

Speaking of Wastlanz, “Ghetto Millionaire” also contains a couple of great songs which feature guest spots by Royal Flush affiliates Wastlanz (sometimes spelled Da Wastlanz, The Wastelanz, or Wastelandz). Firstly there’s “Conflict” which incorporates some nice production by Sha-Self with some great verses by Royal Flush, Wastlanz, and Phenom Pacino. There’s also “International Currency” which has a more relaxed sound juxtaposed against violent crime-based lyrics. A member of Wastlanz amusingly raps “I’ll chop your hands off and hand ’em to you” and the catchy chorus (“To executioners, murders, drug dealers, burglarers [sic], interstate traffickers, gun runners, gat clappers”) makes you rap along with the song. On the topic of Wastlanz, the group (which consists of Big Ran and Kwaze Modoe) sadly never released anything beyond a 12” single but they had the potential to make some great Hip-Hop music of their own. But I digress…

“Worldwide” is without a doubt the most memorable song on the album and it’s also one of the best tracks on the LP. With the intro to the song directly referencing the East Coast vs. West Coast beef (specifically Tha Dogg Pound’s song “New York, New York”) and then adding more fuel to the fire, this was a mean underground track with brilliant understated production by L.E.S. (using a sample of Billy Preston’s “You Are So Beautiful”) not to mention some great lyrics by Flush. I remember playing this track loud in ’96, ’97 through to the summer of ’98, and the strength of this single alone was enough for me to buy the album. The chorus was also catchy as fuck… “Worldwide, worldwide, whenever beef is startin’, keep your mind on Queens when the dog’s start barking” – this was one of the best tracks of 1996 and fans had to wait a while to get this full-length album from Royal Flush.

The other stand-out tracks include “War” which has fantastic production by Royal Flush himself and the song sports a better flow than some of the other songs on the album. There’s also “Makin’ Moves” featuring Mic Geronimo, which contains some mellow and summery production by Buckwild with a nice saxophone during the chorus. “Family Problems” is another stand-out track in terms of lyrical content, I’m not sure whether this tale concerning an abusive father getting his comeuppance is true or not, but either way it’s one of the more heart-felt songs on the LP.

There are of course some songs that aren’t as brilliant as “Worldwide” and “International Currency” but that’s not to say that these other songs aren’t worth a listen. “Shines” which features production by Hi-tek and which also contains a sample from Mobb Deep’s “Just Step (Prelude)” is an example of this – the song is decent enough but it doesn’t stick out once the album is over. The same goes for “Regulate” which has some nice production by EZ Elpee and some decent raps from Royal Flush and Mic Geronimo but a lacklustre chorus weakens the overall track. “What A Shame” featuring Noreaga (fresh off “The War Report”-fame earlier that year) giving his unique vocals (including his typical “what what!”) is another one of these slightly average songs. These three songs aren’t bad in any way but in terms of the LP as a whole, they’re slightly forgettable against the more stronger offerings.

The album also contains a few songs which try to appeal to a wider audience and a couple which have R’N’B choruses such as the upbeat-sounding “Can’t Help It”. The chorus (which is an interpolation of the Michael Jackson song of the same name) features vocals by Khadejia who does a good job, in fact this song is an example of how to successfully mix Hip-Hop with R’N’B (there was also a remix version back in the day with a different beat and a chorus by Tara Thomas which also worked well). But having said that, at the same time as this well-constructed Hip-Hop-R’N’B song, there’s also “Reppin’” featuring Michelle Mitchell which is probably the worst track on the album. This attempt at making a crossover track with a corny, badly-sang chorus by Mitchell would be better left off the album, even the production by L.E.S. is below-average. There’s also “Niggas Night Out” a Hip-Pop song featuring Ja Rule during his Cash Money Click days (no, not that one, the original group from Queens). This song was part of the jiggy shit that New York Rappers began making during the mid-nineties and I was surprised to discover that D.I.T.C.’s Buckwild was responsible for this type of sound. But, having said all that, on a 22 track album, 2 bad songs don’t exactly ruin an LP which contains some credible and highly enjoyable Hip-Hop music. While I’m criticizing “Ghetto Millionaire”, I’ll also add that the album contains some pointless skits and an unneeded intro but at the same time this LP contains some great beats, in fact the production alone is enough to make you forget about the unnecessary skits.

“Ghetto Millionaire” ends on a more sombre note with the final track “Dead Letter” which takes the form of a letter or a message to a deceased friend. Similar to Jay-Z’s “Regrets” this seemed to be a mid-to-late nineties trend – to end an album with an emotional song. This tactic kind of works if it were not for the fact that in the case of this particular LP, this song is preceded by the horrendously tacky “Reppin’”.

The stand-out songs on this album are “Illiodic Shines”, “Movin’ On Your Weak Productions”, “Conflict”, “Family Problems”, of course “Worldwide”, “War”, and “Makin’ Moves”. The other tracks I mention above may not stick out but collectively they work as part of a complete album, and when it comes to the less than satisfying songs, there’s only two, and even the worst songs are listenable in retrospect, in fact the aforementioned Hip-Pop-slash-R’N’B songs act like a time capsule and serve as a permanent example of an evolving (or devolving) genre. So taking all this into account, “Ghetto Millionaire” just makes it past a 7/10 score, albeit narrowly.

Incidentally the CD I bought back in the day had the wrong tracklisting making listening to the album in 1997 very annoying, but thankfully this is now fixed on Spotify and iTunes. That being said, the tracklist on “Ghetto Millionaire” could have been jigged around a little so to make it flow a little better and if “Reppin’” and “Niggas Night Out” were removed altogether, “Ghetto Millionaire” could have possibly been a 9/10. As it stands, this album does work as a whole and you should listen to it or buy it as an example of credible mid-nineties Hip-Hop straight from Queens, New York. “Ghetto Millionaire” is a pleasant trip to the latter half of the Golden Era and this voyage through the crime-filled world of Royal Flush is a very satisfying listen.

Keep Your Mind On Queens.

Beats: 8/10

Rhymes: 7/10

Overall: 8/10

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