Rock, "Rock Ridah;" Black Rob, "Up North"

Here is Rock, a.k.a. “Da Rockness Monstah,” one-half of the Brooklyn duo Heltah Skeltah, rhyming over the beat to Tupac’s “Ambitionz As a Ridah.” (It is, I think, the best beat of any Tupac song; it was made by Snoop’s cousin, Daz Dillinger, of the Dog Pound.) Fifteen years ago, Heltah Skeltah was a major part of the Boot Camp Clik, a collective that also included Black Moon, Smif-n-Wessun (who changed their name to the Cocoa Brovaz after the firearms company sued them), and O.G.C. (Originoo Gunn Clappaz), and recorded for Duck Down Entertainment, the label Black Moon MC Buckshot started with his partner Dru Ha. Boot Camp were some of the most outrageous spellers rap has ever known, and their music was great.

Around the turn of the century, though, the collective splintered, as collectives will, and Duck Down Entertainment got very quiet for a while. A lot of people probably thought we’d heard the last of them. That’s what I thought. But then, around 2005 or so, Rock’s old partner Ruck found some nice solo success putting out records under his given name, Sean Price. Duck Down started doing good again, representing an underground niche that came out of the “back-packer” scene most famously associated with Rawkus Records — but that was really spurred by Buckshot, who actually used to wear a back-pack onstage during Black Moon shows in the ’90s. So, it’s only right. Heltah Skeltah reunited for their third album two years ago. And Duck Down is busy signing folks like Harlem’s Black Rob, a former Bad Boy Records artist, who had a big hit ten years ago with “Whoa,” but then went to jail, and has been making some very good music since getting out this past May.

Here’s Black Rob’s new song, below. It’s about jail, and kind of harrowing, but also terrific. His album, Game Tested & Street Approved, is due in March.