Happy 25th Anniversary to Black Moon’s debut album Enta da Stage, originally released October 19, 1993.
There’s a shortlist of albums that hip-hop fans of the ‘80s and ‘90s cling to and universally qualify as “classic.” This elite group of LPs are usually invoked with the highest esteem for being flawless throughout the expanse of their respective track lists and serving as milestones of major cultural shifts.
A prime example of one of these unforgettable moments for hardcore rap fans came in the form of Black Moon’s debut album Enta da Stage, and particularly the opening bars from the LP’s second single “How Many MC’s.” The group’s frontman Buckshot’s menacing growl “I'm takin ya back, come follow me / on a journey to see a for real MC / the mind tricks the body, body thinks the mind is crazy / but never sleazy when I get the flow, I'm Swayze” set the tone for Black Moon’s rousing debut and enhanced the competitive spirit of the rap game overall.
The hip-hop stage appeared to be about set circa 1992, which was a pivotal transitional period throughout the genre’s landscape. A talented selection of new artists representing the graduating class of 1992 presented an avant-garde to the contemporary title holders. Dr. Dre’s The Chronic (1992) contested Ice Cube’s run for the most prominent post N.W.A career and introduced the next generation of West Coast wordsmiths. Dre’s protégé Snoop Doggy Dogg appeared to be the pick of the litter with his smooth vocals that garnished Dre’s Funkadelic-indebted production. The East Coast had its own draft class of ’92, with a valedictorian named Nasir Jones already being crowned by journalists as the second coming of Rakim.
Besides the faces, hip-hop’s sound was evolving as well, East Coast producers like Gang Starr’s DJ Premier, Erick Sermon of EPMD, and Pete Rock were establishing the boom bap style that would define the era. Grittier soul samples, over precise base-heavy beat patterns, would become the consistent backdrop for energetic lyrics that aggressively expressed raw street narratives.
It seemed all the players were set for a new decade of music when the Brooklyn trio of Black Moon came out of nowhere to snatch attention from more acclaimed artists with their late 1992 surprise hit “Who Got da Props?” Powered by Video Music Box’s DJ Chuck Chillout’s endorsement, Buckshot embodied the raw street aggression of New York City’s most notorious borough with the song’s opening bars “Put up, what up, BO BO BO! / Suckers want to flow but they got no show / So I'mma grab the mic, flip a script, and leave ya stunned / Buckshot's the one that gets the job done.”
Meanwhile, Evil Dee’s hands made the case for his introspective grasp on the elements of hip-hop culture. Only a true student of formidable crate-digging would have even selected Ronnie Laws’ 1975 track “Tidal Wave” as a sonic foundation, let alone work it to perfection replete with cuts and scratches that were sure to get thumbs up from Jam Master Jay, Grandmaster Flash, or any of the other legendary technicians on the turntables.
Hip-hop’s aforementioned, evolving sonic blueprint was still being developed as 1993 approached its fourth quarter, so a closer look at a song like “Slave,” which represents the core of Enta da Stage, has to be considered a precursor not only for Black Moon’s frequent collaborators Smif-N-Wessun’s Dah Shinin’ (1995), but also for subsequent watershed moments like Mobb Deep’s The Infamous (1995), and Big L’s Lifestyles ov da Poor & Dangerous (1995).
Throughout Enta da Stage, Buckshot’s verbal intensity grabbed you and gave you a rush of contrasting emotions. On one hand, you were as excited as watching Mike Tyson walk to the ring for a heavyweight bout in the late ‘80s. And on the other hand, you felt the discomfort of being scoped for a late-night robbery. This may not sound like a recipe for brilliance, but after taking the full 14-track journey, and witnessing Black Moon perfect their craft, you were convinced that Enta da Stage had as big a cultural impact on hip-hop as any album released in the ‘90s. The album immediately carved a path and established—both figuratively and literally—a unique voice for Black Moon in hip-hop’s vibrant and increasingly crowded landscape.
Buckshot’s lyrical expression, supported by the gritty Beatminerz production and 5ft’s rugged street aura, collectively took listeners on a vivid expedition to a world many rarely visit, into the dark streets of the planet of Brooklyn. Enta da Stage is an early ‘90s New York City train ride, a glance from a Brooklyn bedroom window, and a walk down a project stairway where you can smell the stench and feel the anxiety permeating neighborhoods like Bushwick, Crown Heights, and Brownsville. Lines like “I peeped how radio be trying to take control / tellin’ me to get a little lighter on my lyrics / but if it ain't real on the mic I can't feel it / straight from my bloodstream, I pump finesse / Nevertheless, hold it in your chest like stress / rhythm and blues style is not in my environment / and when I "slowww dowwwn" it's time to take a hit” is an example of Buckshot’s ability to use an unorthodox cadence as a call-to-arms for hardcore rap fans.
Mr. Walt and Evil Dee, who comprised two thirds of the Bushwick-based Beatminerz production team, also joined the ranks of premier sound wizards, particularly on the east coast. The duo harvested their own distinct sound, however, exhibiting an acumen for obscure ‘70s funk extractions, combined with elements of West Indian soca and reggae to add to the album’s Brooklyn experience.
While Enta is mostly stalwart in its unflinching delivery, songs like “Ack Like U Want It” is a throwback to earlier ‘90s freestyle cypher formats, and lands as a well-placed intermission from the darker content. “Son Get Wrec,” which is the only track that doesn’t feature Buckshot, helps legitimize Black Moon as a collective and is successfully held down by 5ft (Accelerator). Sticking to the group’s effective playbook, 5Ft’s lyrics are as brash and eye-opening about the grimness of living as an early ‘90s Brooklynite as any other on the LP, as evidenced in lines such as “Just layin' back, thinking of the things I do / throw on my Timberlands, grabbed my crooked I brew / well my man Dru, told him to meet me at the spot / cause things is getting hot, too many bodies in the lot / just the other day they raped a girl in the exit / put her in a coma, now she's three months pregnant / damn it's so real in the heart of Bucktown / make a n***a think before he dare fuck around”.
“I Got Cha Opin,” which spun a charting remix, is perhaps the most underappreciated displays of sampling brilliance in all of hip-hop. Credited to Mr. Walt, the mind-boggling extractions of The Art Ensemble of Chicago’s saxophones in “Odwalla” and the bass used in Ten Wheel Drive’s “Come Live with Me” should be part of the playlist of any aspiring hip-hop producer.
The slang used for song titles like “Son Get Wrec” and “I Got Cha Opin” became everyday dialect for rap fans around the world. For many fans, particularly outside the Big Apple, Enta da Stage is an album of firsts, which reinforces its full cultural impact. The group’s multiple references to Timberland boots served as free promotion for the company and helped expand the brand’s popularity as a worldwide, year-round staple in hip-hop fashion. Buckshot was also one of the first to be seen in the First Down winter coat in the “I Got Cha Opin (Remix)” video, which would go on to become another important emblem of ‘90s urban fashion.
Lyrically and sonically, Enta da Stage is on par with all of the classic ‘90s hip-hop albums and at a minimum, it serves as a counterpart to more widely acclaimed works like Enter the Wu Tang (36 Chambers), Ready to Die, and Illmatic. The groundbreaking LP helped launch Duck Down Records, which proceeded to outlast many independent hip-hop labels. In parallel, Black Moon opened the door for the Boot Camp Clik, which is one of the most important supergroups in the history of the genre.
Indeed, it is impossible to talk about the hip-hop lineage of Brooklyn, without mentioning Enta da Stage, which effectively represents the attitude of the borough and more broadly, the impenetrable spirit of hip-hop.