Happy 25th Anniversary to Ed O.G & Da Bulldogs’ debut album Life of a Kid in the Ghetto, originally released March 5, 1991.
When one thinks of cities that have influenced the hip-hop game in meaningful, enduring ways, Boston is not the town that comes most immediately to mind. Though long overshadowed by the hip-hop hotbeds of New York City and Philadelphia in the east, Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area out west, Chicago and Detroit in the Midwest, and Atlanta, Miami, and New Orleans down south, Beantown has still managed to nurture a devoted underground hip-hop community nevertheless.
With all due respect to The Almighty RSO and Michael Christmas, as well as the late-great, Boston-born Guru (who adopted NYC as his career stomping grounds), arguably the most revered emcee to both emerge from and rep Boston throughout his career is Edward “Ed O.G” Anderson, currently known by the slightly modified stage name Edo.G.
Though geographically marginalized, at least with respect to the hip-hop map, Edo.G refused to allow Boston’s peripheral status relative to other cities to deter his ambition. “It’s always hard coming from a small market and I think that goes with any [city],” Edo.G explained in a 2008 interview. “But being that we’re only 200 miles away from New York, [going] back and forth we pretty much got all the stuff that New York had at the time they had it. There would be tapes circulating back in the ‘80’s with stuff from New York like [Kool DJ] Red Alert’s show, the Mister Magic show and all of those things.”
Proudly hailing from Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood, Edo.G is unquestionably one of the most gifted, charismatic, and criminally underrated emcees ever to grace the mic. Bolstered by The Awesome 2 (Special K and Teddy Tedd) and Joe Mansfield’s fresh, sample-imbued soundscapes, his 1991 debut album Life of a Kid in the Ghetto is adorned with the group moniker Ed O.G & Da Bulldogs (an acronym standing for “Black United Leaders Living Directly on Grooving Sounds”), but the LP is, for all intents and purposes, a solo album.
Blessed with a penchant for introspective, narrative-based rhymes best evidenced on the autobiographical title track that concludes the album, Edo.G is the indisputable star of the show. Whether, as Nice & Smooth might say, Edo.G rhymes quick or rhymes slow, the versatility, control, and clarity of his flow are remarkable qualities to behold on Life of a Kid in the Ghetto, as they most certainly have been throughout his career since.
While the album showcases Edo.G’s more whimsical side (“Feel Like a Nut,” “She Said It Was Great,” “Bug-A-Boo,”), the finest moments surface across the more braggadocious and socially conscious fare. Kicking off with a vocal sample from the legendary Big Daddy Kane’s classic “Ain’t No Half Steppin” that carries through the chorus, album opener “I’m Different” finds Edo.G in a boastful, yet still relatively humble mode, as he proclaims his microphone prowess. Similar themes can be heard again on the album’s first single and most recognizable tune, the melodic “I Got to Have It,” and later on “Stop (Think for a Moment).”
Featuring Ace & Quan, Def Jef, and samples of Malcom X’s speeches interspersed throughout, “Speak Upon It” is an incisive and cogent commentary on America’s legacy of deep-seated racism, as manifested by its morally bankrupt justice system and opportunistic media machine that’s quick to condemn black people when scapegoated by their white counterparts. The song is inspired by the infamous 1989 case of Boston resident Charles Stuart, a white man who murdered his wife and unborn child to collect life insurance payouts, blamed the killings on a fictitious Black assailant, and committed suicide a few months later.
In a 2014 interview, Edo.G contends that “The most important song was ‘Be A Father to Your Child.’ That song impacted so many lives. People still come up to me and tell me how it spoke to them and moved them to be better fathers.” And I couldn’t agree more. Gliding atop the familiar sample of Roy Ayers’ atmospheric “Searching”, the poignant paternal anthem “Be a Father to Your Child” is indeed a powerful statement, not just for deadbeat dads, but for all aspiring fathers. With clearly articulated sentiments such as “You see, I hate when a brother makes a child and then denies it / Thinking that money is the answer so he buys it / A whole bunch of gifts and a lot of presents / It's not the presents, it’s your presence and the essence / Of being there and showing the baby that you care,” Edo G. drops a vital message that hasn’t been expressed quite enough – or at least as sincerely and convincingly – in hip-hop circles historically.
Since the critically, if not commercially, acclaimed Life of a Kid in the Ghetto was released, Edo.G has cultivated a respectable career and stellar track record on wax, releasing one more album under Da Bulldogs moniker (1993’s Roxbury 02119), five solo albums, and a handful of collaborative projects with the likes of hip-hop icons Pete Rock and Masta Ace, among others. Indeed, both those familiar and unfamiliar with Edo.G are well-advised to revisit – or discover for the very first time – the brilliance of the fantastic first long player that introduced him and more broadly, Boston, to the broader hip-hop landscape.