An Unhearalded Classic
Mike J | Central Coast, CA United States | 09/23/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When I saw that there were so few reviews for Livin' Like Hustlers, I couldn't resist putting my two cents in. The debut album of Cold 187um aka Big Hutch, KMG, Total Kaos, and Go Mack is a true gangsta rap classic in the same vein as Straight Outta Compton, Rhyme Pays, and It's a Compton Thang. While not as well known as these predecessors, Livin' Like Hustlers is one of those rare albums that both pushes the production envelope to new heights and takes risk in it's delivery with almost perfect results.
To truly appreciate this album, several historical and technical facts must be stated. First, this album was not, I repeat NOT, produced exclusively by Dr Dre despite what liner notes may indicate. The majority of the production and sample selection on this album was in fact done by ATL themselves and the result is a smoother, more "pimpish" quality to their beats. While the production definately had the clear influence of Dre, the overall sound does not reflect Dre's production at the time. Because of 187's silky high-pitched delivery and KMG's gravelly monotone, samples from both jazz and smooth r&b sources worked particularly well and set ATL in a class entirely their own.
Second, ATL are NOT from Compton like their other Ruthless labelmates. They're from Pomona and their attitude was far less of a "gang" mentality than NWA in their lyrics, despite the association. These guys clearly had their own identity and vision for what they wanted to do. And while songs like "Murder Rap" and "Another Execution" certainly represent the more violent side to street life, they are more in the vein of "someone tested me so I had to show him who's boss" rather than killing everybody in sight. In fact, the opening ramblings of KMG on Murder Rap are spoken to 187 stating "Yo 187 they tryin' to get you for a Murder Rap and you ain't even like that". Another difference in content is the clear attempt to try to win the ladies over by sweettalking them rather than calling them out their names. In truth, compared to other Ruthless releases, there is very little profanity from the emcees.
Finally, this album was released early in 1990. At the time, the personnel problems in the NWA camp were unknown to the general public. Livin Like Hustlers was released prior to the announcement of Ice Cube leaving. When fans noticed Cube did not appear on the supremely impressive posse cut "The Last Song", the official word became that Cube was working on his solo album. No one really knew that "Cube solo" meant that he was no longer with NWA. In fact, it may not have been clear to even NWA or ATL at the time. This uncertainty meant that this was the last true project released from Ruthless prior to the NWA breakup.
So what does all this information mean in regards to me calling this album an "unhearalded classic?" It sets up the listener with the mindset that they need to have when first embarking on the journey into the minds of Above the Law on their first listen. Whether it's the hardcore rantings of "Another Execution" and "Just Kickin Lyrics" or the political commentary of "Murder Rap" and "Freedom of Speech" or the pimped out mackery of "Ballin'" and "Flow On", the listener is treated to a variety of different subjects and styles that keep on entertaining. And with first time uses of beats like Quincy Jones & Bill Cosby's "Hicky Burr" or the theme from "Ironsides", (which Kill Bill fans will instantly recognize), ATL shows that it wasn't only the East Coast that could dig in the crates. In fact, many of the beats foreshadow future hits such as Lil Kim's "No Time". The album is truly ahead of its time but unfortunatley became overshadowed by the impending supernova breakup of NWA and the eventual arrival of the Lench Mob and Death Row camps."
Old school cool.
H3@+h | VT | 04/11/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I first heard Above The Law on the "Pump Up The Volume" movie soundtrack, and the track "Freedom Of Speech" was one of the stand-outs on that disc. This is just one of the great forgotten albums of the early 90's, much like Da Lench Mob's "Guerillas In Tha Mist". If you're a fan of N.W.A., checking this out is a must, as Dr. Dre produces and drops a few rhymes of course. The delivery and flow from these guys is excellent. Overall "Livin' Like Hustlers" is dope, right down to the "Last Song"."
Not Their Best, But Their Most Popular LP (Rating: 8 out of
Chandler | Atlanta (College Park), Georgia | 03/18/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Above The Law has been the victims of one of the most slept on groups in hip hop, which is very unfortunate because these guys can put out some quality music. Even with the backing of NWA back in 1990, really didn't give them the push that they wanted, but only a limited fanbase. Possibly because of the fact that since NWA's fingerprints are all over this album, everyone was expecting for the album to seem like a remake of Straight Outta Compton, and just looked the other way for that moment in time. Especially since "Murder Rap" was their lead single for this album, had a close resembilance of NWA's style.
Above The Law's line-up was Big Hutch (Cold 187um), KM.G., Total Koss, and Go-Mack. Their group had some solid rhymes that flowed throughout the album. After their single, came "Untouchable" which was a dope song with a nice beat. Next would be the title track "Livin' Like Hustlers" which is a huge standout on this album. "Another Execution" is great track with a great story. "Menace To Society" has a nice beat, as Cold 187um and KM.G. kicks rhymes in a fast pace. "Just Kickin' Lyrics" is dope and nead nodding. "Ballin'" has a recognizable sample ("The Whole Wide World"), but KM.G. and Cold 187um go back and forth inbetween verses. They speak about how censorship tries to shutdown the group on "Freedom Of Speech", and gets their point across easily and swiftly. "Flow On" is a solid track. The final track "The Last Song" features NWA to close off the album on a good note.
Overall "Livin' Like Hustlers" is a dope album. It's not their best, but when people think of ATL, they will think of this album here. Like I said before, this album has NWA written all over it, so expect a lot of familiar sounding material on this album here. Either way its great, as The Source rated this as one of the top 100 rap albums to be realeased. The album is a must have for early 90's rap fans, but be sure to check out the next few albums that came out after this. Peace.
Guest Appearances: B+
Musical Vibes: B+
Top 5 Tracks:
1. Livin' Like Hustlers
3. Freedom Of Speech
4. Another Execution
5. Just Kickin' Lyrics
1. Murder Rap
2. The Last Song (featuring NWA)"