Happy 25th Anniversary to Lord Finesse’s Return of the Funky Man, originally released February 11, 1992.
In the heart of hip-hop’s Golden Age, when the least adaptive emcees fell by the wayside in the new era of super lyricism and more innovative production, Lord Finesse etched his name into the annals of rap royalty with his 1990 debut album Funky Technician. Two years later, he solidified his position with his follow-up effort Return of the Funky Man.
With a unique blend of lyrical bravado mixed with personal humility, Lord Finesse, who is now known as the Underboss of the world famous Diggin’ in the Crates (D.I.T.C.) crew, one of hip-hop’s most well respected collectives, he quietly but brilliantly amassed one of the genre’s more esteemed bodies of work, which puts him atop discussions of the most important contributors to hip-hop as a culture.
After leaving a great impression on fans and peers with Funky Technician, Finesse’s return was highly anticipated amongst lyrical aficionados who expected a second effort full of witty wordplay and crisp punch lines from the cocky young emcee that caught everyone’s attention with bars like “Now I'm the man with intellect, no one to disrespect / I kick a rhyme and make MC's wanna hit the deck / and give it up and use they rhymes as a sacrifice / Brothers try they best / they ain't even half as nice.”
Not showing a speck of rust in the two years between album releases, Finesse picks up right where he left off with the album’s opening title track, as he boasts of being lyrically ahead of his competition with the rhyme “Cause I'm smooth and wise, the skills I utilize / lyrics all advanced you'd think my brain was computerized.”
The album holds strong simply on Finesse’s fully mastered pedigree of smoothly delivered rhymes, which serve as his active jab that sets up his knockout combo of metaphors and uncanny punch-lines that proved disastrous to the rewind button of many tape decks in the early 90’s.
Well received by loyalists of the underground rap legend, this second effort by the wordsmith extraordinaire also serves as an important milestone of some of the other significant roles taken by this cultural icon, as he assumes a reasonable amount of production duties for the album, being credited with six of the sixteen tracks including the intro.
Reinforcing its creator’s reputation as one of rap’s greatest mentors, Return of the Funky Man was an early platform that showcased Bronx talent Percee P and D.I.T.C. alumni A.G. throughout the album, including the posse cut ‘Yes You May’ where Lord holds his own while extending some BX hospitality, in his early transition to elder statesman. This role would prove to be possibly Finesse’s greatest contribution to the culture, as his storied career planted seeds for an important tree in the hip-hop garden that bore fruit invaluable to the story of both the Harlem and Bronx traditions.
His comfort in both laying the track and vocals on songs like ‘I Like the Girls with the Boom’ place him atop the elite list of emcee-producers, and his current live show places him in a class all his own as a viable DJ/Turntablist as well.
Without spawning a major hit single, Return of the Funky Man remains an important chapter in one of the unsung careers of hip-hop. Indeed, Finesse has personified the culture for nearly 30 years. And 25 years after his sophomore album, he remains relevant among true students of the music, who share one of hip-hop’s great secrets: that Lord Finesse is probably the intermittent rap fan’s favorite rappers’ favorite rapper.