Warlock Records, 1988
Re-release: Traffic Records, 2005
DJ Royal Rocker and MC Grand Poobah (not Grand Puba of Brand Nubian fame) hail from Camden, NJ (not Philadelphia, as their Tuff Crew affiliation might suggest) and are collectively known as the Krown Rulers. Paper Chase sounds very much like a record from the ’88 era: the drums are loud enough to wake up the dead and mixed way the fuck up in front, at times coming dangerously close to drowning out the other sounds. The main difference between Krown Rulers and the numerous underground crews of the era might very well be their respectably rigid adherence to a high standard of quality control in all aspects of their music.
Grand Poobah boasts an authoritative if slightly nasal voice, an impeccable sense of rhythm and enviable breath control. His rhymes are very carefully enunciated and match the precision of Royal Rocker’s swift cuts and scratches. At his best, Poobah complements and adds something special to the album’s catchy combination of looped breaks and programmed drums provided by the Tuff Crew and Ced Gee.
In spite of their highly technical approach, the Krown Rulers manage to infuse plenty of personality into their music. The anti-skeezer anthem “That’s Not Where It’s At” and the rousing “Let The Party Rock,” for example, are just as hilarious as similarly clownish songs by Cash Money and Marvelous from the same era. Even in moments of levity, the duo maintain a high skill level and Poobah doesn’t let down his guard for too long. The duo sounds best, however, where the song is not attached to an explicit concept and instead showcases Poobah’s literate rhyming.
Just about every song reflects the era’s unmistakably energetic vibe: the hooks on songs like the two mixes of the invigorating “Kick the Ball” and the twice-covered (by High and & Mighty and friends) monster jam “B-Boy Document” are designed to move the crowd. Although this sound may seem dated to nubile ears, Paper Chase’s nearly myopic emphasis on competitive in-your-face showmanship is warmly welcomed in today’s era of glammed-up detachment. Peep the title track and “32nd Street” for some flawless ’88 rap.