January 10, 2021

Smif-N-Wessun "Dah Shinin" (January 10, 1995)

A recent Atlantic Monthly article, "The Coming Anarchy," predicted the evolution of a starkly bipolar world populated by "haves" and "have-notes." Jousting on a planet of rapidly dwindling resources and mushrooming ethnic conflict, social mores and institutions collapse under the strain. Large classes of warlords and desperadoes emerge. The article's author would find much to buttress his thesis on Dah Shinin', the debut from Smif-N-Wessun, a shifty duo out of Brooklyn. On gritty, deceptively unadorned tracks like "Won Time" and "Next Shit," street conflict is "war" and the corner is the "battlefield." Timberland boots and camouflage fatigues are omnipresent. In the hypnotic, surreal world of "Tek" and "Steele," the duo function as self-styled "pioneers" who carve out a tenuous foothold in an unforgiving landscape. Smif-N-Wessun, along with Black Moon, Heltah Skeltah, and Originoo Gun Clappers, are aptly named "Boot Camp Clik." The duo ask their audience to take this union very seriously - and because their fraternity is so stylishly realized on wax, it's easy to oblige.

Smif-N-Wessun's vision is gripping; regardless of their big talk about "getting paper," money is secondary to the capers they perform to survive. They put it succinctly on the blood-curdling "Sound Bwoy Buriel": "All around New York / N!ggas be talkin' / But we be stalkin'." Dah Shinin builds on the summer success of the group's "Bucktown" single and adds up to a convincing collection of outlaw music. Sociologists may be disappointed by the lack of insight Smif-N-Wessun shed on how they ended up with such bleak prospects. But on "Wrek Time" they sum up with a simple, "I am what I am / I do what I do" chorus: It sounds like a pirate's drinking anthem. Inspired in part by the unforgettable Kubrick flick, Dah Shinin' hits the mark with a thematic impact that stuns with single-minded intensity. (Vibe, November, 1994). Hit up the archives for an anniversary mixtape; The Source album review and clap back; podcasts discussing the LP and more! Peace to the whole Duck Down.

A copy of the Vibe Review and more below...