AZ – Doe or Die Album Review

az front

Sosa’s 1995 debut has been getting plenty bump from me lately and just so happen that this time, I had a keyboard in front of me and not a steering wheel. Lets get into this gem.

Whats its all about?!!? “Doe or Die, kid!”

Uncut Raw
No need for lactose. Til this day, this is one of my favorite AZ tracks. Its gritty, sinister and the verses trump his most famous verse from “Life’s A B$$$h” (ok, maybe I’m buggin but its pretty damn good). Hence the title, this is the purest lyrical form of Anthony Sosa. A short but enjoyable track that is worthy of a repeat. The hidden gem of the album in this one.

Poverty-stricken, they even turn a church kid into stickin
It seems sickenin, but what? Whatever makes the pockets thickin

Gimme Yours (f. Nas)

Will Nas get a verse? No way, just singing the chorus. We would have to wait a while longer to get a follow up to Life a B%%%h. AZ still delivers with the flow over the melodic piano keys and slow-paced drums. Pete Rock on the beat that you can easily get lost in.

Strong pedigree got me touchin papers, others would never see, G
So do the crest in my glowing flourescents
Symbolizes the essence, you’re sailin in a sweppervescence
Drug investments, a street thug’s plug, the insurance, but informers
They had you wanted for warrants ‘fore you get enourmous
Life’s a performance so players play with endurance
Cos for more cents, any villain’s willing to get more intense
They tried to break us but all it did was just make us
Travel across acres for papers, bonafide money takers
Cause though we know somehow we all gotta go
As long as we’re leaving thieving, we’ll be leaving with some kind of dough

Ho Happy JackieAZ - Doe Or Die
Whoever thought that that sweet thing born model material
That hated hot cereal could grow to be a high silly ho

The first two lines gives you the subject at hand, Ho Happy Jackie. She will do whatever to get on and get paid. While the story is pretty good, the wordplay is what always stood out on this track. Some of the lines will leave your tongue in a knot. A couple of examples…

Happy Jackie the jigga ho
Her job is to jack niggas dough, I call her Jackie the “jack-a-nigga pro”

So all the sugar dick, dirty devil dog, slick daddies
Don’t get out foxed, and slicked, and turn into a trick daddy

This sample is so airy and groovy – I need this instrumental.

Rather Unique
Personally my favorite jam that has stuck with me through the years. The wordplay is at its peak here which always amazes me. The words ride over the closely placed drums like off road vehicles over rocky terrain. Have a look at verse 1, the start of this classic. He shows “why i’m rather unique!”. There’s not anything bad to say about this track. Perhaps the one song that describes AZ best.

We was already molded into people’s minds as mulignanes
Now we more fucked up with a mayor named Giuliani
You can try to blind me, analyze but can’t define me
My mind’s divine, heavily entwined with Gandhi’s
Far from feeble, I leave your nostrils hard to breathe through
Cause my cerebrals are more of a higher plane than the Hebrews
My mic devotion brings out my deepest emotions
Overdosing wannabes posing, sending them through convulsions
Too hard to follow, you took a bite but couldn’t swallow
Your mind’s boggled, but I’m as deep as Donald Goines novels
My whole persona’s kinda laid back like a recliner
And since a minor, I been fucking with marijuana
Wavy-haired, my skin got a money getting glare
Strictly menace wear, macking offa Guinness beer
So where it all begins is here, destiny and me finally meet
So how can I be weak? I’m rather unique

I Feel For You
I hated this beat at first but like anything, if you hear it enough you learn to deal with it. Pushing the doe or die lifestyle, these verses are what keeps me playing this track. This track is just phat. The groove and wordplay – its there.

But now it’s on, the end justifies the means
Lye smoke and cream, is all I fiend
It’s in my genes, I float thru the streets and seen
In a tinted European and 50 coupe, it’s green
Nothin in between, me and my team, we ill too
Respects due, oh I feel for you

Sugar Hill

If you need some inspiration to get on your grind, listen to this song. AZ’s vision was pure. “my destiny is to be forever free…” The good life, everyone wants it. The descriptions detail every aspects on his definition. Just to visualize is like a coke rush. You aint never lied. Classic.

At times I window watch out the Mariott, zoning on owning co-ops
Foreign drop top coups, and yachts guzzling straight shots a scotch
Formulating up plots ta escape from Salems lock cuz its scorching hot
Making it hard trying ta figure who’s out ta trap me, Pataki, got all
Kinds of undercovers coming at me, perhaps he, won’t be happy, til they
Snatch me, and place me where half slacks be, sitting in Catsaki, but
Never me, see, my destiny ta be forever free, in ecstacy, on a hill
That awaits for me, so plus, just ta visualize is like a coke rush
Vivid enough ta make living this a must, plus this is real

Mo Money Mo Murder Mo Homicide

Another classic, just watch the video and realize the best 1-2 punch in Hip Hop. Everyone’s favorite Nas/AZ collaboration. Gives me the chills how good this is.

Doe or Die

This is the one track I would probably omit from the album. Its alright but the feel is totally different feel from the rest of the album, mostly because the Dr.Dre-esque production (we’ve already seen how these types beats don’t mesh well with another classic). The lyrics are there but I rarely listen to this track. Put this on the 9 Lives album and this would be a standout but not here.

Remember that remix with the Chef?

We Can’t Win
For the longest time, I thought that was Rakim on the 1st verse dropping knowledge. Nope, its Amar Pep. He sounds just like him. Nonetheless, it was a nice verse – along with the other 2. Back in ’95, this track was giving deep thoughts on the so called illumunati and the economics ills that they were responsible for. The production is solid, nothing great but it worked here.

So tune your ears, and be saved from a slave
Cos in a matter of days I’mma E-Q your brainwaves
AZ the Visualiza is wise as Elijah
Here to advise ya, and bring out the realness that’s up inside ya
Intoxication, my voicebox rocks the nation
Street affiliation, the Doe Or Die situation

Your World Don’t Stop azback
My favorite sample, its gritty but smooth. AZ raps as if he was in jail waiting to be released, while verse 2 talks about the foul things that happens in the prison systems. Verse 3, he’s free but has a different mindset on things. I always hit this track when playing the album for 3 reasons: The wordplay, the beat and the message – no matter how bad life is going at the moment ….your world don’t stop!

Sittin tryin to design these words of mine
To define what occurs when you’re servin time
Stress just blurs the mind
Behind bars scars are signs of hard times

I stay in tune with the sun, stars and moon
Cause behind bars you’re doomed if your mind can’t consume
Plus spiritual pain can bring forth physical reign
And without knowledge of self how else can a criminal change?

Now let’s see, left alone me as a juvenile, no more movin foul
The pineal possesed me with a smoother style
Blessin my mental with mathematics to map shit through graphics
Fuck it, I ain’t with hustling backwards

Conclusion: Consensus with this album has been its production, I’ve heard it a 100 times “if AZ had the illmatic producers…boy o boy” yea he had some of them but the product is still one of the best of that era. AZ had it. Now today, he’s still underrated like some of his albums. Kind of like It Was Written, this album has stuck with me since the first time I heard it. Sadly, this is AZ’s best work. Most his albums are good, some great but none as consistent as Doe or Die. Add this to your collection.

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