Pop Da Brown Hornet first made some noise with the song "Black On Black Crime". When Wu-Tang Clan was at the zenith of their popularity, the Staten Island group GP WU (which Pop is member) put out the album "Don't Go Against The Grain". The Pop solo track "Black On Black Crime" was on that album. The beat is so addictive, so spooky, and so heartfelt, that it was even used by Black Rob for his song "B.R." Even though Pop's charisma, personality, and rhyme skills were strong, GP Wu's LP went nowhere. Now, Pop Da Brown Hornet is back with his own record label (Smoke Records) and his solo album, "Da Undaground Emperor". This LP does a good job of pleasing the few GP Wu fans while earning Pop some new ones. Pop's muffled monotone vocal tone and hungry flow is backed by strong sense of authority and Black pride. Still, he is the regular guy on the street trying to make it and leave the door open for his people. "The Undaground Emperor" is a nice little slept on album which should be appreciated for the most part.
There are many very strong tracks where Pop's lyrics and flow along with the production are all incredible. Pop can stay on beat and flow with the beat like he is becoming one with the rhythm. "Follow Me Up", featuring Down Low Recka from GP Wu, (produced by RNS) was a single with a cool video. This is an amazing track with an intense energy due to the up-tempo handclap beat, the call-response hook, and the very dope vintage organ loop. The beginning is especially cool as the beat and melodies build layer after layer while Pop's energy and flow does the same. His flow has a true classic feel to it and the lyrics are extremely easy to memorize like a classic EPMD song. Pop's opening verse sticks in the listener's head without a problem: " I love my microphone clear, ice cold beer, premiere / Let me whisper sweet nothing's in ya ear / I treat them like they ought to be treated / If they want their cooty licked / They better get their girlfriend to come eat it / I don't tongue-twat, I rock non-stop / Hip hop, got me locked / competition gives props ." Now, it may not be as deep and as heartfelt as "Black On Black Crime", but this displays that Pop can flip many styles and themes without any problems. Without a doubt, "Follow Me Up" is the best track on the album. Marley Marl adds a remix of the track too. Even though it is not as amazing as the original, the "Follow Me Up (Remix)" is still a cool addition to the LP. "Wantz And Needs" (produced by Hassan) is a very cool track that explores the differences between people's desires versus necessity. The deep philosophies are balanced out by some flash, an action-packed beat, and an intense flow and delivery by Pop. Hassan first made some noise with some incredible production on Ghostface Killah's "Supreme Clientele" LP. His exciting production has pounding drums, thick horn loops, and a cool bass line. Still, Pop finds balance between the strong lyrics and a powerful delivery and flow. "I'm Sooo" (produced by RNS) was another single that is actually very tight for an attempt of a catchy hip-hop track. The track's value stems from Pop's delivery and energy once again. There is no deep theme except on how "anxious" and "thorough" he is when he rocks the mic. His verses do have that attention-grabbing quality. Mix that with his flow and delivery, and his lyrics will stick in the listener's head: " Earth shattering', there's no comparison / Your style embarrassing, stiffer than a mannequin / As for me, I keep the crowd ecstatic / Like they on a mesc' tablet / we train keep them blasted / They like, 'That black bastard's a classic' / Hip hop fans, I keep them pumped, like they on amino acids " With the thick pounding drum track, RNS' vigorous production works well with Pop. Two other well-crafted tight tracks with energetic hooks are "Sun Neva Chill" and "No More Mr. Nice Guy". Both are good tracks with solid beats. Even though they are not mind-blowing as "Follow Me Up", they are still very strong songs. Hassan's production on the slow/mid-tempo "Sun Neva Chill" uses hard drums and thick orchestra melodies along with sirens. Pop sounds extremely hungry on this track too. "No More Mr. Nice Guy" (produced by RNS) is more upbeat and uses a cool horn sample.
The Wu-Tang Clan and the Wu affiliates are well known for their posse cuts and some songs that do NOT have catchy hooks. Even though Pop is not really a Wu-affiliate anymore, there is a posse cut and a straight-forward spitting track that are both decent. The Phat Ron produced "One Shot Deal" (featuring Down Low Recka, Tariff & No Smiles of TMF) chugs along with the usual Staten Island underground emcee hunger. The odd but dope track, "Endangered Species" (produced by RNS) does not have a hook. It's just Pop rapping over a cool vibe-driven beat. This shows that Pop can craft well-structured hooks as well as tracks that consist of just straight rhymes over good beats.
There are a couple of bad tracks on this album. "Hold Ground" and "Stand Up" are terrible tracks with light, cheesy beats and very lame R&B hooks. "Hold Ground" (featuring DeLouie and No Smiles) has a horrible sung hook that tells the people in the streets to hold on while they "shake the charts". Chauncey Hannibal of Blackstreet sings and produces the soft "Stand Up". The beat is incredibly weak as the song turns into a very generic ghetto-gospel track which attempts to sends a positive message to the ghetto people. Pop's lyrics are heartfelt and deep in both songs. Both songs have nice sentiments but everything around Pop crumbles. While almost all of the other tracks have solid hooks and good beats, these 2 tracks cannot even be saved by Pop's sincere lyrics and fine delivery. The title track "The Undaground Emperor" is actually cool due to the beat and Pop's performance. The only thing that drags the track down is the chanted hook by Tanesse, a female emcee with an annoying voice.
Just like the end of GP Wu's debut LP, the Pop solo track "Black On Black Crime" appears again at the end of the album. Sure, it's an excellent song but it's old and even edited. It was obvious that the song was just thrown on there. Even though it's a good track, the LP deserves a better ending (especially after the horrible "Stand Up" with Chauncey Hannibal).
Overall, "Da Undaground Emperor" is a pretty solid album with the exception of a couple of songs. The length may be a problem for some people. There are only 12 tracks. One of the songs is a remix of another one (but it does have completely different lyrics). 2 of the tracks are lame R&B cuts and the final track is very, very old and has been on the only other Pop Da Brown Hornet project released. When it comes down to it, there is a quality to a majority of the album. Pop is a hungry emcee with a very distinct voice, fierce delivery, and solid flow. This album is far superior to the average "Don't Go Against The Grain" LP by GP Wu. Pop was wasted in GP Wu and this slept-on solo album shows that not only can he hold an LP down by himself, but an LP is executed much better when he is the only one at the helm. With good production by RNS and Hassan and fierce performances by Pop, the LP does pound away. More scratching and vocal slices would make things much more interesting but still, the production by Hassan and RNS does have a signature sound. Only the 2 lame R&B tracks truly break up the album's flow. This LP will always be slept on due to little promotion. It's a shame because Da Brown Hornet has some amazing potential. He has the rare ability to mix sincere and hungry rhymes of Black pride and poverty with some flash and some brash emcee-ing. "Wantz And Needs" is the perfect example of this. Like Krs-One, Pop takes a philosophical approach to typical and overused themes (i.e. the love of flossing and money). Also, he can pull off both deep tracks like "Black On Black Crime" while doing more up-beat hip-hop loving party tracks like "I'm Sooo". Even the banal R&B tracks have Pop doing a good job as an emcee. They only fail due to lame beats and poor singing. As a whole, "Da Undaground Emperor" flows well with one or two little detours. As an emcee on the mic, Pop never fails. Even though Pop Da Brown Hornet may not be the emperor of the entire hip-hop underground, he rules a majority of his own album with dedication, sincerity and a fierce hunger.