Happy 20th Anniversary to Show & A.G.’s third studio album Full Scale, originally released May 24, 1998.
Power in numbers has long been the preferred plan of attack for rappers wanting to bumrush the industry. The tactic is simple: put your most talented man on the frontline first. If he or she breaks through, they can then bring the rest of the crew with them.
Sometimes it works, other times not. It helps to have genuine talent to call upon, and it works even better when combined with a bit of A&R to handpick who gets to be in the squad. This can be the difference between making an impact with a well-planned slate of releases versus flooding the market with hundreds of sub-standard CDs recorded by chancers looking for some easy money.
Taking the structured and planned approach has gifted us some incredible hip-hop from sizable collectives: Wu-Tang Clan, Juice Crew, Hieroglyphics, Boot Camp Clik and Diggin’ in the Crates (D.I.T.C.) to name a few.
The latter was born out of a group of artists who began making noise in the late ‘80s and into the next decade—namely Lord Finesse, Diamond D, and Fat Joe. After a few well-received albums, an official, wider collective was founded that also included O.C., Big L, Buckwild, and producer-rapper combo, Show & A.G. (originally known as Showbiz & A.G.)
The crew proceeded to drop a run of sublime records, including Show & A.G.’s Soul Clap EP (1992), their full-length debut Runaway Slave (1992), and Goodfellas in 1995. Show & A.G.’s next project, Full Scale, arrived 20 years ago this week, released first as an EP, then extended to a full album in 2002.
The rest of the D.I.T.C. collective turn out in force for Full Scale, with only four solo tracks from A.G. and every emcee in the group making an appearance except Fat Joe. These feature-heavy cuts are among the strongest on the album and typify what D.I.T.C. have always excelled at, namely back-and-forth rhymes over hard beats. The best example is “Dignified Soldiers,” which has vocals from O.C. and two of hip-hop’s wittiest rappers, Lord Finesse and the late Big L. The latter Harlem-bred artist was killed less than a year after Full Scale dropped, making it one of his final album appearances.
The great Diamond D also features on two tracks (“Time to Get This Money” and “Put it in Your System”), but the D.I.T.C. member who appears most frequently throughout the affair is O.C. He and A.G. have maintained a close bond throughout the history of the crew, and even released a joint album in the shape of 2009’s Oasis.
Outside of the core D.I.T.C. members, there are intriguing guest features on “Drop It Heavy,” where A.G. gets to trade verses with two iconic emcees, KRS-One and Big Pun. It doesn’t disappoint, thanks in no small part to a great dusty, string-laden beat by Show.
There are also several appearances from Party Arty. He and his partner in the group Ghetto Dwellas, D-Flow, were D.I.T.C. affiliates until Party Arty’s death in 2008. Big Pun, Party Arty and Big L—all three appear on Full Scale, and all three are now dead. An album only two decades young shouldn’t have that amount of deceased artists on it, and it’s a cruel reminder of how many rappers have been taken too young.
The weighty assortment of guest features doesn’t detract from the power of A.G. himself. He’s a masterful emcee with a no-nonsense style that is simple but impactful. He would dabble with a lighter, more commercially accessible sound on two solo albums that followed—The Dirty Version (1999) and Get Dirty Radio (2006)—but on Full Scale follows the tried and tested blueprint from their earlier classics. He consequently shines bright on solo tracks like “Spit” and “Raw as Ever.”
Everything is soundtracked by the brilliant Show. He rapped on early D.I.T.C. releases, but by the time Full Scale surfaced, he was firmly behind the boards, happy to play the role of one of the architects of boom bap. On Full Scale, he keeps the beats simple. This is not to suggest that Show doesn’t have the chops to make more complex instrumentals. On the contrary, his years of experience have proven that a short loop and a rugged beat are often all you need to make banging, true-school hip-hop.
Show and A.G. have released several projects since Full Scale, and are very much active today. Show has collaborated on albums with many artists through the aughts, alongside a steady run of instrumental collections. In recent years, A.G. has put out lots of good music with producer Ray West on their Red Apples 45 imprint. He now raps with a more introspective outlook, well-seasoned from years in the business. Show & A.G. came together again for last year’s Take It Back album, proving they still have it.