Black Moon - Enta Da Stage (2xLP)

Black Moon - Enta Da Stage (2xLP)

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Perhaps no other album of the '90s musically exhibits the shift in the hip-hop ethos that occurred in 1993 better than Black Moon's classic gemstone Enta da Stage. Listen to this album and you can hear hip-hop change. Prior to this, many of hip-hop's most confrontational vibes were presented as gifts from bellicose outfits like Public Enemy, Ice Cube, and other acts whose music raged. Enta da Stage features enough of that, but it also offered, perhaps even introduced, a brooding vibe. It was a pioneer sound. The group released "Who Got the Props" in the winter of 1992, about a year before the album dropped in November of 1993. It was a song in the same vein of Onyx's "Throw Ya Gunz," a hard track, with rough rhymes and a staple-NYC hook with a chorus of rowdy b-boys shouting in unison. The album featured similar tracks, from "Make Munne" to "Son Get Wrec" to "Buck Em Down" to the opener, "Powaful Impak!" -- all time-capsule tunes that embody early-'90s NYC hip-hop. The album begins like it was meant to be a Brooklyn version of Bacdafucup. But months prior to the album's release, Black Moon's second single, "How Many MC's...," hit the streets.

It was a total departure from the vibe present on "Who Got da Props." DJ Evil Dee and da Beatminerz supplied a subtly horrific track over which Buckshot premiered a more deliberate flow that bespoke controlled menace. There is a story behind this transformation. Buckshot said he, Evil Dee, and the 5Ft Accelerator recorded half of the album -- the "Who Got da Props" half -- in 1992 before he went on tour with Kool G Rap and a young Nasty Nas. During a freestyle cipher, listening to Nas and Kool G Rap led Buckshot to an epiphany that motivated him to switch up his rhyme-style, and da Beatminerz tweaked their production to complement. The "How Many MC's..." half of the album -- songs like "I Gotcha Opin," "Slave," "Shit Iz Real" -- displayed Buckshot's new motif: a raspier tone, a more intricate flow and cadence, and a serious presence that was just as threatening as the temperamental MC on the earlier songs.

The rowdy crew hooks gave way to what were more like stripped down musical breaks that often featured a jazz horn sample and nothing else. The production -- which should enter into any discussion of the greatest hip-hop production efforts of all time -- was every bit as radical as what the RZA introduced this same year or the Bomb Squad cooked up in the late '80s.

The elements existed before, but never had they been synthesized into a hardcore East Coast outfit with the skill and artistry of Black Moon's Enta da Stage. The release of this album was overshadowed by the landmark Wu-Tang Clan debut and the popular success of Midnight Marauders and Doggystyle. But make no mistake, this is one of the '90s most important hip-hop classics, an album that deserves its own node on the hip-hop timeline.