Our recurring column ‘Lest We Forget’ is devoted to revisiting albums that have been unfairly overlooked or marginalized within the broader critical and commercial context of our favorite artists’ discographies. We hope that our recollections shine a newfound light on these underappreciated gems from the past, and as always, we encourage you, our readers, to weigh in with your own perspectives and memories in the comments below.
After I watched the video for Da Lench Mob’s “Guerillas in tha Mist” for the first time, I was so excited that I could barely sit still. It brought about a head rush that I rarely feel anymore when hearing new music. Ice Cube was already my favorite rapper, and to see him and the other members of Da Lench Mob crew out in all black, hunting soldiers in the jungle on some Predator shit, nearly broke my brain. Hearing rapper J-Dee shout to “give me some elbow room” and Cube roar that “A motherfucking cheetah can’t hang with a gorilla!” was pure liquid magma. And the beat, a mash off P-Funk isms and X-Clan vocal samples, made it seem like a fever dream. That night, there was a dance at my high school, and instead of, you know, dancing, I spent most of the time accosting my friends about whether or not they’d peeped the video too.
Before witnessing the “Guerillas in tha Mist” video, Da Lench Mob were mostly a bunch of names listed on the liner notes of Ice Cube’s albums. Del The Funky Homosapien and Yo-Yo released their debut albums in 1991, but other members of the crew had received far less shine. The most infamous appearances were by DaSean “J-Dee” Cooper on “JD’s Gafflin’” and “JD’s Gafflin’” (Part 2), from Cube’s 1990 solo debut AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted and follow-up Kill At Will EP released seven months later. J-Dee also contributed the closing verse to “Color Blind” on Cube’s Death Certificate (1991). Everyone got name-checked at the end of “Turn Off the Radio,” and Jerome “Shorty” Washington got a shout out on “Jackin’ 4 Beats” (“What up, Loc!”). The crew as a whole appeared in the background in Cube’s other videos, but until Fall 1992, they were anonymous. Guerillas in tha Mist announced their presence in a big way, as Cube’s hungrier, and perhaps even angrier, road dogs.
Da Lench Mob’s music was rougher around the edges than that of their mentor. The group was “fronted” by J-Dee, but Shorty also contributed verses while Terry “T-Bone” Gray mostly stuck to providing ad-libs and choruses. The album’s lyrical content was every bit as militant and confrontational as the music that Cube had recorded as a solo artist during the early ’90s. None of the three members of Da Lench Mob would be considered in the top tier of emcees, but their conviction and cold fury was palpable throughout Guerillas in tha Mist.
Cube received credit for producing Guerillas in tha Mist, along with assists from his affiliates like Mr. Woody, Rashad, and Chilly Chill. Showcasing a sound that has a lot in common with AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, the tracks are most often frenetic and chaotic, a collage of interlocking soul samples and vocals that complement the subject matter. However, occasionally Cube edges production towards the jazzier side, and it is just as effective.
Da Lench Mob certainly come out swinging. The album leads off with “Buck the Devil,” a brash and boisterous song that targets the oppressors in charge of the crooked American system. On the album’s second single, “Freedom Got an A.K.” the crew advocates for armed revolution over non-violent resistance, with J-Dee proclaiming, “’Cause this week we don't turn the other cheek / Do that shit and get stole on / Non-violence gotta roll on, plus we got a hold on.” “Fuck You and Your Heroes” is the crew’s effort to challenge and tear down traditional popular culture icons across the realms of entertainment and sports, while advocating for their Black counterparts, who they felt weren’t receiving enough credit for their achievements.
Not surprisingly, Cube is a fixture throughout Guerillas in tha Mist, both behind and the boards and as a consistent vocal presence. Besides the aforementioned title track, he appears on “All on My Nut Sac,” in which he plays the role of the neighborhood drug dealer that Da Lench Mob are trying to force off the block because of the harm he is doing to the community. Over a smooth sample of Funk Inc.’s “Goodbye, So Long,” J-Dee and Cube pass the mic back and forth, with Cube arguing that slanging crack is the best opportunity for him to get out of poverty, while J-Dee makes it clear that he needs to relocate or face extreme physical violence.
Overall, Guerillas in tha Mist reflects the pain the economically disadvantaged Black population disproportionately face in the United States. On “Lost in Tha System,” J-Dee explores how a warrant for an unpaid parking ticket leads to him spending years in the prison system. “Ain’t Got No Class,” which features Cypress Hill’s B-Real on the chorus, further details the ravages that crack cocaine has on inner-city communities, leading to parents failing to care for their children. The album closes with “Lord Have Mercy,” a solo track by Shorty where, over a loop of the Blackbyrds’ “Dreaming About You,” he laments the poverty that he was spawned into and much of the Black population in Los Angeles continues to suffer through.
Though Guerillas in tha Mist can be as abrasive as a Brillo Pad, it reflects the raw, unvarnished rage and frustration towards the United States power structures that many felt throughout the 1980s and the early 1990s, which continues to manifest today. Social commentary doesn’t need to be easily palatable to be effective, and Guerillas in tha Mist packs the power of pure hydrochloric acid.
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