While Smif-N-Wessun's "Bucktown" is certainly quintessential boom bap at its finest, both the song — and later their debut album, Dah Shinin' — is proof that Brooklyn Hip-Hop was a force to be reckoned with with long before The Notorious B.I.G. decided to flavor the pot with Ready to Die.
The song was built around an obscure Jack Bruce sample that could have been missed by lesser producers than Da Beatminerz (Evil Dee and Mr. Walt). Crate diggers usually have such a thirst to find a loop so quickly that a couple of needle drops at random spots on a record are usually viewed as yeoman's work. The now signature horn stab loop pops up near the three-minute mark of the Bruce track — here and then gone — like a particularly clever gopher popping its head up on a golf course.
"Bucktown" not only represents a high-point of Brooklyn-focused music, but also serves as a metaphor for Smif-N-Wessun's entire career; how MC's can become conduits for neighborhoods all across the world.
It's impossible to talk about the significance of Dah Shinin' without first mentioning Black Moon at a time when Myrtle Avenue was still known by locals as “Murder Avenue."The group (Buckshot, 5ft, DJ Evil Dee) embodied teenage rebellion during an era of Hip-Hop that sat between party records and more autobiographical songs. Listeners were left with something of a hybrid on Enta da Stage — an almost braggadocios display of verbal dexterity mixed with aggressive challenges against foes — which felt like an evil twin of ATCQ's The Low End Theory.
"Watch the thin line of rap and reality, Get yourself hurt, even cause fatal casualties."
Smif-N-Wessun have joked that they were Da Beatminerz' "experiment" — having cultivated techniques on Black Moon's Enta Da Stage — which they continued to tweak and perfect as they readied their own debut. Famously, the production team shifted recording times from late at night to early in the morning to awaken the creative juices which didn't always sit well with one half of Smin-N-Wessun, Tek.
"Bucktown," "Lets Git it On," and Wreckonize" were among the first songs ever recorded for what would become Dah Shinin' — created first as demos inside a house — before moving over to D&D Studios to get the sheen that the studio had given DJ Premier.
Others songs like "Timz N Hood Check," "Stand Strong," and "Home Sweet Home" also spoke to the prominent Brooklyn themes that permeate the project. The latter — built off Roy Ayers' "We Live in Brooklyn Baby" — not only adds the to thematic threoughline, but his Ubiquity album art work also directly influenced the cover for Dah Shinin'.
"This is the story of a place that we call home/ Where the kids pack heat when it’s time to roam."
For those that grew up in New York City in the 80s, the album feels like an extension from the the Savage Skulls and the Tomahawks to the Decepticon era who the police first became aware of in 1986. Naturally, on Joe Charles' Source review he commented, "the duo evokes images of Brooklyn housing projects, jeeps cruising by, ciphers of freestyling blunt smokers, and brothers rolling dice in Bushwick."
Post Dah Shinin' Gang Starr’s Hard to Earn, Jeru the Damaja’s The Sun Rises in the East, O.C.’s Word...Life, Digable Planets’ Blowout Comb, and, of course, The Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready to Die added to Brooklyn’s greatest Hip-Hop year.