The B.U.M.S. aka Brothas Unda Madness were a Hip-Hop duo from Oakland, California consisting of rappers D-Wyze and E-Vocalist. The pair released their one and only album Lyfe ‘N’ Tyme in 1995 but it was ignored by the masses despite being a highly enjoyable LP. The group was also extremely underexposed and underrated, I mean when was the last time you ever heard anybody speak about The B.U.M.S.? You rarely hear their name mentioned when people discuss the Golden Era, you don’t even hear about them in conversations about West Coast Hip-Hop or even rap from the Bay area and that’s a real shame.
With the left coast being known predominantly for making G-Funk, the non-traditional West Coast Hip-Hop created by underground groups such as Souls Of Mischief or The Pharcyde has been described as “alternative” by mainstream music critics. The music by the Brothas Unda Madness is similar to these aforementioned artists; there’s no typical G-Funk whines here but with the use of ’70s samples laid over slow tempo beats, the producers have crafted a sound which evokes a warm and relaxed Cali feel. The production by Joe Quixx (who is responsible for most of the tracks) along with Fredwreck Nassar, Baka Boyz, and King Tech, makes for a wonderfully chilled, sun-baked soundscape. I’d say that the production is one of the strongest elements of this LP and yet along with The B.U.M.S., you hardly ever hear these producers spoken about.
The album for the most part is understated with a summery feel. The first track for example, is “Non-Stoppin’ The Groove” which sports a relaxed, head-nodding vibe. Lines like “I never been greedy, 10 percent of the cash that I earn goes to the needy” is very unique considering all the money-hungry, spending cash on superficial crap that Hip-Hop was (and still is) known for. Along with the saxophone sample, the duo’s slightly pessimistic (“Figured if this shit don’t work I gotta have something to fall back on, but for now, I stand strong”) and witty lines (“Sammy Davis Jr. with a glass eye full of crack”) set the tone for the rest of the album.
“Wreck Your Ears (Can Do)” is next and it too features some fantastic laid-back production. It also contains the line “but still say a rhyme after the next one” a sample of “Eric B. Is President” by Eric B. & Rakim.
“Take A Look Around” contains a Jazz-infused, Beatminerz-esque production with a West-Coast flow making it something entirely different. There’s the inclusion of a Jeru The Damaja sample “Leave your nines at home and bring your skills to the battle” (from “Come Clean”) and a great singing hook. I’ll acknowledge that there’s a basic rhyme structure here but the delivery raises it to something much more memorable (“use your mind to process the data, my sound hits hard like a real Oakland Raider. Never been a player hater or a Phi Kappa Beta, but if you front on me now, E-Vo’ attack that ass later”). There’s also some great witty lines (“I stick my dick your eye so you can see where I’m coming from”) and the whispered chorus “Take a look around” is very effective against the horns. The Fredwreck Remix was used as the single but it was inferior compared to the album version. A strange decision to make which may have contributed to the album’s commercial failure.
Here’s the original version and the remix below it…
“6 Figures And Up” contains a mellow sample from the Edison Electric Band. There’s the sample (“I got money, money I got”) from Audio Two’s “Top Billin’” and there’s a Donald Trump name-drop (an unfortunate mainstay in Hip-Hop that now looks retrospectively idiotic).
“Flex Uv A Finga” follows and it contains a very catchy singing hook showing how an R’N’B element doesn’t necessarily ruin a Hip-Hop track. Then it’s “Let The Music Take Your Mind” which uses samples by Smokey Robinson and The Blackbyrds making it a captivatingly mellow, old-school track.
“Elevation (Free My Mind)” is another relaxed and beautifully-crafted Hip-Hop song with a fantastic sample of Teddy Pendergrass. Despite there being yet another R’N’B chorus (“I gotta free my mind”) it keeps a sense of credibility by intersecting the rap lines. There’s some brilliant lyrics mentioning the music business (“Your A&R like C&R got many styles to suit ya, but if it’s false to me, I’ve never been an ass smoocher. Since I don’t brainwash minds with talking nines and how I shoot ya, it seems no multi-million dollar contracts in my future. Others swallow the bait and get gassed like petroleum, but contracts break like Rock Steady on linoleum”). This was the single in 1994 before the album dropped but despite the song being enjoyable with a radio-friendly hook, it didn’t exactly set the charts alight…
“West Coast Smack” sounds very distinctive, I have no idea where the sample comes from but the end result sounds like a sitcom or a gameshow. The line “I’m gonna show you how the West Coast spanks kids” is a sample from fellow Oakland rappers Souls Of Mischief’s “That’s When Ya Lost”.
You could argue that the next two songs are a little average but the title track “Lyfe ‘N’ Tyme” (which features Mystic and the sound of sleigh bells) and “For My Brothas” (another Jazzy track with a slow tempo) are still satisfying.
The final song is “Can You Do Without?” and it’s a fantastic track with a horn and a bass-heavy beat. This joint is fun, like a freestyle cypher with back-to-back impressive verses interrupted by sound effects, juxtaposed samples, and even an interpolation of Brenda Russell’s “Get Here” (or Oleta Adams depending which version you’ve heard). The album then ends with “Who Gives You The Right” a spoken word piece touching on politics and racism. It’s a strange choice of ending to an album that isn’t overly conscious or political but it’s good to know that aside from making head-nodding music, the group also had an opinion.
In terms of skits, there’s lots of them. Most of them are unneeded but almost all of them are quick and painless (“Food For Thought” and “Harry Joenick” are very short). That being said, “Diggin’ In The Crate” (a Wakeup Show radio skit) gives the album a setting in terms of time and location and a skit such as “Wake Up” (which includes a Marvin Gaye sample) actually contain sounds that I would have liked to hear raps over. The skit “Suck My Dick” is long but it at least takes aims at A&R’s similar to Screwball‘s anti-A&R ode “Attention A&R Department”.
This album was released on either the 1st or the 13th June 1995 according to online sources, but regardless of when it was actually released, I just remember it being a part of my summer that year, the time I visited Alameda. Lyfe ‘N’ Tyme is an album that’s not trying to be high-brow or high-concept, it’s just enjoyable, fun Hip-Hop music, a typically East Coast sound with a West Coast slant, perfect for laid-back listening. The stand out songs are “Wreck Your Ears”, “Take A Look Around”, “Let The Music Take Your Mind”, “Elevation (Free My Mind)”, “West Coast Smack” and “Can You Do Without?” but that being said, even the “average” songs are listenable and replayable.
Priority Records possibly didn’t have the resources or the marketing prowess to push this album to the masses. There’s also the argument that a West Coast group sounding too East Coast amidst the East Vs. West beef wasn’t a good idea. Whatever the reason, the public didn’t buy this album and even though I’ve read that it was “critically acclaimed”, I personally don’t recall this LP getting props at the time of its release. I can only find one review by Rap Pages and their critic calls it “average” which goes to show how underrated this album was.
Aside form this solitary LP, The B.U.M.S. had a song on the Street Fighter soundtrack (“It’s A Street Fight”) and a single titled “Rain” with Saafir but without any mainstream success the group unfortunately disbanded.
There’s 22 tracks on The B.U.M.S.’s one and only album but because there’s a skit between almost every song, there’s only 11 or 12 actual joints which aren’t that many. At 55 minutes long, Lyfe N’ Tyme doesn’t outstay its welcome and more than two decades later, knowing that there’s no more music from The Brothas, you actually hanker for more once the album finishes.
Lyfe ‘N’ Tyme is one of the most slept on albums of all time and The B.U.M.S. are one of the most underrated rap groups from the Golden Era of Hip-Hop. This LP is a must for any fans of ’90s Hip-Hop music and even today it works as a summer soundtrack: play it, lay back, relax, and enjoy.
Free Your Mind.
Spot on man. This album is “forever” in my 90s playlist. I remember haters calling it “Christmas rap” because of the sleigh bells, but they just didn’t get it.
I totally agree. This is an excellent album that was perhaps ahead of its time.