Just to be perfectly clear from the get-go: I'd heard of Showbiz and A.G. before finding this record, but had always had a difficult time tracking down their albums, which I'll attribute the fact the majority of their catalog has been in and out of print for a long time.
One day, however, while perusing through records at a local shop, I found a copy of Runaway Slave in the new section - apparently a Brooklyn warehouse had gone out of business and sold off a ton of mid-school jams to a distributor, which was picked up by said record store. Thus, my journey to track down and actually hear Showbiz and A.G. was complete, and goddamn if I'm not impressed.
If you haven't heard of Showbiz and A.G., the group was a part of Brooklyn hip-hop posse D.I.T.C., whose core members you're probably more familiar with: O.C., Buckwild or Fat Joe. On Runaway Slave, what you'll find is exactly what you'd expect from an early '90s hip-hop album: A little bit of club, a little bit of gangster and a lot of experiments.
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What makes this album great is the fact it pulls from everything that was happening in 1992, with a lot of chaos and loops mixed into the otherwise straightforward hip-hop. The mixing and beats here are absolutely top-notch.
Nowadays it might seem simple, with technology and drum machines and sequencers, but Showbiz's production is mind-blowing for its conception and its execution. "Fat Pockets" captures all of that grime in one place, where finesse meets a raw, unrestricted chaos, while the lyrics flow with that extra special pop of the '90s. If that's not enough, you'll find guest appearances from Diamond D, The Legion, Freddie Foxxx and others.
It's a little difficult to figure out what makes this album so amazing now. To the modern ear it might not seem like anything special. But when you sit down and listen to the record, cranked up really loud, you can hear a certain energy and excitement that's simply lacking get these days. It doesn't feel like these guys think they have a right to be making music; it feels like they love doing it.
Simply put, it seems like Runaway Slave is buried a bit underneath contemporaries like Gangstarr or Pete Rock, but it's every bit as amazing as anything those guys have ever done. It might not have made a lot of best-of lists, but it certainly deserved to be there. The real bonus here is that with digital distribution, now everyone has a chance to hear them without digging through record crates or paying $40 on eBay.