The Ghetto’s Been Good To Me
Livin’ Large Records, 1993
Along with his numerous public beefs with fellow rap artists, stoic demeanor, and commendable ear for beats, Trenton, NJ native YZ is known for his unpretentious articulation of 5%er wisdom. While some of his contemporaries incorporated the Nation of Gods and Earths’ coded concepts into their raps to maddeningly cryptic effect, YZ favors an earnest, simple, focused ministry. The Ghetto’s Been Good To Me is YZ’s second full-length effort and an arresting extension of the enlightened program he proclaimed on his legendary “Thinking of A Master Plan” single back in 1989.
The album’s centerpiece, the bombastic “It’s Got To Stop” reprimands rappers who either oversimplify their message in order to sell out or front as prophets only to mislead the masses with circular logic. This statement of purpose serves as a bridge between the LP’s halves: the first, a bass-heavy, fast paced walking tour through the decrepit but inspiring backstreets of New Jeruz and the second a sparse, enwised treatment of the real life issues a young man faces as he exits adolescence. Brand Nubian associate Mark the Spark provides superbad jeep beats to YZ’s allegorical, non-moralizing tales centered around the local “Barbershop” and watering hole (“Drink At the Bar). The Trackmasterz loop funky horns to frame the title track’s pragmatic but assured sermon on the finer points of raising hell until it’s heaven.
On the second, more introspective half of Ghetto, YZ himself provides the catchy, understated beat on the sunny but far from saccharine “Newborn” and programs the drums on the live instrument-backed “Dead Love.” His versatile inflection consistently matches the various moods heard on these songs. YZ rarely drops a frivolous or corny rhyme, and to his credit, makes moderate and convincing use of patois phrasing. Ghetto is a fun, digestible listen whose conceptual progression from inner-city survival doctrine to dark and introspective journal is gradual, unforced, and thus believable. Cop this shit and it will not disappoint.