Some things are just not meant to happen. Two die-hard hip-hop’s heads from San Jose meet in 1990. Within a year they begin recording their debut album in the classic emcee-DJ/producer vein. Over the course of 1991 and 1993, they complete their album and land a deal with Hollywood Basic, home of Organized Konfusion at the time. Before the album can be released, tragedy strikes. December 19th, 1993 Charles Hicks, better known as Charizma, is shot and killed.
Here we are 10 years later, Charizma’s partner went on to live out their dreams. Peanut Butter Wolf dropped two critically acclaimed albums (“Peanut Butter Breaks” and “My Vinyl Weighs A Ton”) and began one of hip-hop’s best labels, Stones Throw. It is here, that “Big Shots” is finally being released from the vaults.
The time period of this album is glaringly obvious from the outset. PB Wolf’s beats are packed with funky break beats and those unmistakable drums that made the early 90’s so incredible. Look no further than the opener “Here’s A Smirk” or “Red Green Green Light” for some of that ol’ boom bap that just can’t be matched today. The fun doesn’t stop with all the up-tempo offerings like “Tell You Something” and “Devotion.” However, PB Wolf serves up some great slow offerings as well, such as “Methods,” and the grit is never sacrificed.
What really makes this album so good is Charizma. Still a teenager when he recorded this, Charizma’s infectious enthusiasm is something rarely heard today and it can’t help but wax nostalgic for the days when most cats still did it for the love. That point really hits home in the final track when he says “I was born in San Jose in 1973, I’m 18 years old, and I’m into rap music, and I just love it.” He is equally adept at either just showing his skills (“Soon To Be Large”) or telling a story (“Fair Weathered Friend”)
Some of the album’s tracks have had their shine on vinyl but hearing “My World Premiere” (Stonesthrow’s first release) and “Jack The Mack” as part of an album is as exciting as hearing them the first time. Despite that all this material is dated, it is just so fresh. It is so nice to hear an album that was so clearly just made for the love, and not the pay cheque. It is just a shame that Charizma never got the see the smile his music put on people’s faces.