Happy 25th Anniversary to Kurious’ debut album A Constipated Monkey, originally released January 18, 1994.
The phrase “your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper” has lost a lot of power thanks to overuse in a million Twitter bios of rappers who aren’t actually anyone’s favorite rapper at all. But the phrase does hold meaning and truth for some artists.
To be your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper, said rapper must have the skills to rhyme on an advanced level, and reside just below the mainstream where those in the know are aware, but everyone else is locked out of the secret club. For instance: If your favorite rapper is Busta Rhymes, then your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper is Roc Marciano. And if your favorite rapper is Roc Marciano then your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper is Ka, and so on it goes.
There have been many contenders, and for a short time in the mid ‘90s your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper could well have been a sadly-now-mostly-forgotten rapper named Kurious. The New York emcee, born Jorge Alvarez, came and went in the space of just a few years, dropping a certified classic before fading into the background. That one classic—1994’s A Constipated Monkey—was enough to ensure his legacy among true-school hip-hop aficionados but has become a lost gem.
Like another kid named Nasir Jones, who was ready to break around the same time, Kurious appeared on the radar thanks to guest appearances on well-received albums by Pete Nice, Del The Funky Homosapien, and KMD. That latter connection would prove important to Kurious’ partial resurgence later in the decade, but more on that later. Again, like Nas, Kurious also had the backing of influential label people and tastemakers including fellow Puerto Rican Bobbito Garcia and Columbia Records’ Faith Newman.
The stage was therefore nicely set for the release of his debut album, A Constipated Monkey. Unlike Nas, Kurious didn’t benefit from having rap’s greatest producers ready to give him beats, but he still managed to get a quality set of instrumentals.
A lot of A Constipated Monkey is produced by The Beatnuts, who at the time were known for their outside production work more than the rap group they were soon to become. In addition to Juju and Psycho Les, the group’s production team back then also included the talented V.I.C., who was influential in defining their style and consequently the sound of A Constipated Monkey.
The Beatnuts’ contributions to the album include “Uptown Shit” and the single “Walk Like a Duck.” Both beats sound a little dated now, especially as they each sample the bells from Average White Band’s “School Boy Crush,” a staple for rap producers at this time. They both still slap majorly today, however, and gave Kurious the right platform to showcase his smooth but hardcore flow, replete with witty and honest rhymes.
“Baby Bust It” is significant for being one of the earliest appearances of another slept-on emcee. Going here by the name Grimm Reaper and with a tone and delivery clearly influenced by Kool G Rap, Percy Carey would later build a solid rep on the underground scene under the name MF Grimm, often collaborating with MF DOOM.
Speaking of MF DOOM, A Constipated Monkey track “Leave Ya With This” is partly a dedication to DOOM’s brother and fellow KMD member Subroc, who was killed in 1993. Written as a conversation to his departed friend, “Leave Ya With This” imagines what Subroc is doing in whatever dimension he now dwells, and how Kurious hopes to meet him again eventually.
MF DOOM, back then known as Zev Love X, disbanded KMD after his brother’s death, the controversy around the Black Bastards album (which also featured Kurious) and the subsequent demise of their record deal. When he reemerged several years later as MF DOOM he brought Kurious with him, giving him a guest spot on the classic Operation: Doomsday (1999) and 2003’s Take Me to Your Leader album.
It’s worth noting that “Baby Bust It,” “Leave Ya With This” and “What’s the Real”—on which Kurious spits alongside Hieroglyphics member Casual—are all produced by Stimulated Dummies. The line-up of this early ‘90s production outfit included respected hip-hop A&R Dante Ross, who would later win a Grammy for production work with Santana.
The single “I’m Kurious” is understandably the most accessible track, with an infectious beat. There are comparisons again here with how Nas and Kurious were introduced to the world. 3rd Bass member MC Serch championed Nas early and played an important role in getting him signed. Kurious was taken under the wing of the other two members of 3rd Bass, Pete Nice and DJ Richie Rich. They gave him a guest spot on 1993’s Dust to Dust album and provided the beat for “I’m Kurious.” It may not have had the same effect as Nas’ breakthrough singles but it was nevertheless a solid introduction to this exciting new talent. “I’m Kurious” is also incredibly humble for a rap single, going against the grain to point out how much money Kurious doesn’t have rather than how much he does have.
Aside from the records with DOOM, Kurious didn’t make another solo album until 2009’s II. It’s a decent effort that reunited Kurious with several names from his heyday, but doesn't recapture the strength of his debut. A Constipated Monkey has been reissued a few times since 1994, but copies seem to be scarce and can demand a high price via outlets like Discogs. It’s also missing from some streaming sites, but those that do track it down won’t be disappointed.