MC Shan – Down By Law

mc-shan-down-by-law-back-n-the-day-buffet-1MC Shan released his debut album “Down By Law” on August 8, 1987.  The album was produced by Marley Marl and was released on Cold Chillin’ Records.

The first time I had heard MC Shan was on “Marley Marl Scratch” where he was chopping it up while Marley was pumping that boom-bap beat!  I then heard “He Cuts So Fresh” and I was hooked!  The beat was dope and the way that Marley cut up “Isaac’s Mood“, I was looking forward for MC Shan’s album with all those Marley cuts!

In between those two tracks I mentioned, “Beat Biter” was released but it was the B-side that everyone was raving about!  The A-side was a diss track towards LL, but “The Bridge” on the other side was the track that everyone was talking about for ages.   The infectious beat that Marley created plus the use and reworking of the track “Impeach The President” made it sonically one of the greatest tracks in Hip Hop History.  At the same time, Shan’s lyrics about his hometown gives us a glimpse of his work and where Hip Hop grew yet he never mentions that it was born there.

Ladies and gentleman
We got MC Shan and Marley Marl in the house tonight
They just came from off tour
They wanna tell you a little story about where they come from

The Bridge, Queensbridge (Repeat 4X)

You love to hear the story again and again
Of how it all got started way back when
The monument is right in your face
Sit and listen for a while to the name of the place

Marley and Shan would not only create a Hip Hop masterpiece, but would give birth to another crew hailing from the South Bronx.  That story is for another day.  As for the version on the album, we get the short version without some bars missing (the one’s with the profanity in it).  The album version is ok but its the extended 6 minute version that kicks ass!  The last verse has a positive message for the kids to stay in school.

Dead dreams, bought and sold
You gotta try and receive your goal
However you do it however you may
Don’t ever listen to what nobody say
Cause I will tell you the deal
You gotta go by what your heart feel
Cause if you don’t you’ll be misled
By stupid little things put inside your head
Or someone else that you will see
They’re trying to lead your destiny
By the time you think about it you’re grown
Then you say goddamn I gotta leave my home
Grab hold of your heavy chain
Which people always pulling always trying to restrain
You heard just what I said
They’re always pulling you back when you want to get ahead
They pull you back cause they’re not with it
You’re talking about school
They’re talking about quit it
Soon you’ll see that time will fly
But you spent most of it out gettin high
Thought about it much, much later
Could’ve went to school and been much greater
But you chose to lead that fate
Now you’re sucking on a bone when it should’ve been steak
The whole purpose of the story I told
Was mainly to inspire you to reach your goals
Stop walking through life as if you are blind
You should reach for your goal cause I’m reaching for mine
And I’m from

He also has a love song with TJ Swan name “Left Me Loney” that sounds like Whodini’sOne Love” combined with LL’sI Need Love“.  The track is dope and even a video was made.  Back in the early and mid 80’s, rap albums wouldn’t have any videos, so when they did you knew you were going to get a glimpse of what the artist looked like.

She put it to me plain, couldn’t put it no clearer
Lipstick written on the bedroom mirror
Said, ‘I’m leaving you now, and I know that you’ll miss me
You’re probably saying: Damn, man, why she dissed me?
But you see, I felt that it was time to go
Then I packed my bags, and I’m leavin’, so
You take care and I hope you live long
And don’t worry, there’s nothing that you did wrong
You’ll find the right girl someday, you’ll see
Why I’m the type of woman that must be free’
I said, “Why me?” and fell to the bed
Reached for the 9 and put it to my head
And thought about the words that she once said
(Shan, you know that you’re my one and only)
But she ran with another man and left my lonely

After Boogie Down Productions dissed Shan on “South Bronx“, Marley borrows the “I Get Lifted” by KC & The Sunshine Band to get back at the South Bronx MC’s!  The “Bridge Wars” were for real and carried crazy weight.  Unfortunately for Shan, it would be a war he would lose.  Thankfully, the war left us this great music!

Marley Marl: Yo Shan, I didn’t hear you say hip hop started in the Bridge on your record
MC Shan: I didn’t, they wanted to get on the bandwagon

Because I rhyme so fly, girls can’t resist
But her man can’t understand, so he gets pissed
Like a preacher at work, when she hurt I’ll heal her
I’ll leap, you sleep, and believe I steal her
My mama used to say be a ladies’ man
I used to always wonder why she named me Shan
Not hard to pronounce, easy to spell
And oh how I love it when the ladies yell
Her man better chill when my jacket’s unzipped
I got a .25 with an 8 shot clip
You’re sayin to yourself that’s a BB gun
But the place that I’mma shoot ya it’ll take just one
I’ll rip you into parts, little pieces and specks
You’ll be saying to yourself “What can happen next?”
This jam is dedicated to you and your boys
But if you knew what I knew, then you’d kill that noise

Shoulda stayed in school, learned comprehension
Trying to state facts that I did not mention
Sucker MC’s I hate the most
Next time I make a record you should listen close
Cause MC’s like me are the real McCoys
So you sucker MC’s better kill that noise

The track “Down By Law” takes 7th Wonder’sDaisy Lady” beat and lays it on top of some dope drum beats to create the perfect title track.

Now that we’ve come to the very end
His beats my rhymes are a perfect blend
We are the ones all others admire
To be like us is their desire
Never get angry always stay calm
Yet do as much damage as a nuclear bomb
Do or say anything we may
We destroy all objects in our way
As expensive as diamonds, precious as pearls
Rap so strong, take all y’all girls
Make cold cash money, do much much more
My name is MC Shan and I’m down by law

When I was a kid, I loved the Jetsons.  I thought that by now I would see flying cars, but let’s get back to the music.  Shan takes a popular George Jetson quote and makes a song about it.  In reality, it’s a song about drugs and it’s harmful affects.   The track “Jane, Stop This Crazy Thing” is one of those tracks that will be in your head forever especially when he puts it as the first track of this monumental album.

Jane got weak, and the bass got strong
What she used to do right, Jane now does wrong
I walked past one day, called my man Jack
She almost broke her neck cause she thought I said “crack”
It had to be a week since I seen her that day
But the body that she had just wasted away
When she used to walk by, we used to say she looked chill
But now as she passes, everybody go (ill!)
The girlie we saw hop off Mercedes Benz
She was on it so hard, she started stealin from friends
To all the drug dealers she was so in debt
That she sold her VCR and her TV set
Jane used to live the life as the storybook tells
Now everything she gets, she eventually sells
Sneak around the corner when you see Jane comin
She’ll be touchin on your clothes, the girl be crumbin

Project Ho“, “MC Space” and “Living In The World Of Hip Hop” round up the album and it leaves you asking for more.  MC Shan released another 2 albums, but nothing as good as this gem!  If It wasn’t for Shan, there probably wouldn’t be a Juice Crew, so for that we salute you!

-Al E.

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