Ultimate Force

I'm Not Playin'

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Legendary crate-digger Diamond D would eventually sling beats for the Fugees, A Tribe Called Quest and Busta Rhymes, but with Ultimate Force, his storied 1990 debut with emcee Master Rob, the producer appeared in absolute command of his art right from the outset. Strange that such a talent would arrive fully formed, but from the incendiary drum workout of "Oh Shit" to the sprightly whistle of "I Gotta Go," I'm Not Playin' emerges as an equal to Diamond D's revered solo work -- if not it's outright better. It's hard not to groan at lines like, "I don't smoke no crack/Because it'll make you want to sell your gloves and your hat," but overall for his part Master Rob is a likeable enough presence on the microphone, riding an easy fourth-beat emphasis and refusing to dip into the glib misogyny and malevolence that would soon overtake the genre. There is, however, no hint of antiquation to the production, as varied and vivid as anything else in Diamond D's oeuvre. One pines for emcees like Big L or Showbiz on an awesomely schmaltzy synth run like "Girls," especially with Diamond D chopping and flipping the beat with a sense of ADD-funk he'd later tame for larger pop interests. Indeed, here he packs the tracks with fuzzed-out vocal clips, crowd-rattling breaks, and light melodic flourishes, all before taking center stage in the convincingly titled "Supreme Diamond D." Three cheers to Traffic Entertainment for rescuing this gem from certain obscurity.

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