The year was 1990-something when we were first introduced to the raspy monotone of Sauce Muthafucka. His brash arrogance served as enjoyable counterpoint to fellow Roc-A-Fella gangster Jay-Z's suave braggadocio. It seemed that Sauce was willing to say the things that Jay wouldn't and his bravado made up for his less than unique delivery and his unmarketable paunchiness. Fans of the clever street style made popular by Big and Jay were looking forward to Sauce fitting in nicely as a second-in-command to Jayhovah after blazing verses on Volumes 1 and 2.
However, Sauce fell victim to the game that has recently claimed Black Rob, Deadly Venoms and other hip-hop luminaries in it's vile clutches: inordinate label delays. Sauce's gangster witticisms have been sitting on the shelf for the better part of two years and a label change in mid '99 and what would have been a notable release in say, 1998 is now a LP that sounds dated in today's climate.
Sauce now releases his debut LP on Priority Records, a label best known for not promoting any artist not affiliated with Ice Cube or Master P. Talented artists populate Priority's rosters, but along with Ras Kass and Boot Camp Clik, Sauce will in all likelihood get shafted in the name of the Peace Disc or some abominable Mack 10 compilation. Sauce fits about as well on Priority as Common would fit on Cash Money, but it seems like the majority of the material for Middle Finger U was recorded while he was with MCA, which bodes well for any fan not dependent on marketing blitzkriegs to tell him what is hot.
Sauce's place in hip-hop has already been co-opted by Beanie Siegel, and so Sauce's relaxed street rhymes are going to be very overlooked. However, if you're a fan of the style, there is no shortage of dope lines to be had on this LP. It kicks off with an up tempo 'Intro' and Sauce tears into the track with his trademark style. 'Love and War' is more of the same, not really a thematic track, more of the street shit, but a solid track and a decent beat. Next is 'What's My Name' which is unsurprisingly, more of the same, bragging, punchlines - "Ya'll just passing gas, nigga I'm the shit." The title track follows and 'Middle Finger U' is definitely the crown jewel of the LP. This is as good as the street/punchline style gets. The beat is tight, Sauce's flow is relentless, this is the song that has kept people anticipated for this LP despite it being over a year old. "I lead by example, nigga must I led?/the last thing you hear is shots and every cuss I said/real niggas walking away/paramedics walking your way/cracking jokes while I'm talking to Jay." Cracking jokes to your friend while the paramedics are coming to pick up the guy you just shot is just ill. But the quotables don't stop there: "Wearing sat nigga, roam with the chrome nigga/fat nigga, bat against ya dome nigga/I'm that nigga, the one you can't even crush/the type of cat who'll shit in ya crib and don't even flush." Distasteful yes, but I'll be damned if that isn't funny.
'Do You See' is Sauce's supposed crossover hit with Puff Daddy and Total. It features Puff's thankfully inimitable rap stylings and a syrupy Total hook about haters. Spare me. Sauce rescues the track from absurd wackness, but the beat is more of the "hard to get out of your head" variety than it is of the "good" variety. If it helps Sauce blow (unlikely), all the better, but this isn't exactly a 'Mo Money Mo Problems.' Super Bonus Puff Daddy Quotable: "If my flow aint like a door, how could you knock that?" I'm trying to think of some snide comment to follow that line, but the line is so mind boggling, I can't muster any wit. Curse you Combs, I'll have your head for this! 'Face Off 2000' the newest edition of a song that has seen as many unnecessary remakes as 'The Bridge' by Tragedy Khadafi. The beat is uninspiring but not offensive. It has Jigga, and he and Sauce trade laid back pimptastic nuggets of wisdom, but at this point, I'm looking for something new. 'Foundation 99' features a marvelously original beat as well as some guest rhymers I can't be motivated to check the names of. Big Jaz is on there somewhere. Probably on the beat box.
'Love Me Leave Me' pulls the album out of the doldrums of Roc-a-fella filler. Sure the beat is nothing incredible, but give me an up tempo guitar loop over snail-paced crap. Kim is on the hook and thankfully doesn't ruin the track with actual rhyming. Unfortunately, Sauce throws another up tempo guitar loop on right afterwards in 'Whats That, Fuck That.' These two tracks would have been better spread apart. However, it's over this kind of beat that Sauce shines, his flow is stronger on faster tracks and it seems to bring his best lyrics: "Here's some inspiration for all you slackers / I used to work in a mail room pushing carts for bastards / They had the nicest muthafucka changing water and shit / Looking through a supply book, ordering shit / It never really hit me till I thought of this shit / I thought about running off with a bitch / Until I picked up a mic and started slaughtering shit." Next comes the first new single 'Chart Climbin,' a repetitive piano loop that either makes your brain slough or makes your head bob. I think you can guess what the song is about by the title.
Finally! A truly dope track. 'Intruder Alert' is a beat worth remembering. A bouncy horn loop, and strong Sauce spittin would make this a dope video, perhaps featuring all the Roc-A-Fella click. The hook is scratched a la Primo. 'Pregame' is a track we've seen before on the Belly Soundtrack but is still another dope collaboration between Jay and Sauce. They sound better together than any other combination of Roc-A-Fella hanger-ons and the Jiggaman. The beat could use work but it's passable. This is getting lengthy so I'm gonna skip a few more generic but decent tracks and get to 'I Confess.' This is the token 'thug with a heart of gold gets insightful and introspective' track. So Sauce had a rough childhood but still loves someone...I forget. It's probably his mom, his sibling or friend. Maybe it's his Pogo Ball, fuck if I know. This song is too formulaic for me to care. The 'Outro' is a combination of a Pop's Rap type thing with Sauce's dad and career retrospective rhyme from Sauce.
So what are we left with in the end? An album from an emcee with talent who suffers from sounding dated and being too one-dimensional. Sauce doesn't have Jay-Z's skill or DMX's.... presence, I guess, but he's a strong lyricist who seems like he didn't know what he wanted from this album. With less label complications and a new creative outlook, Sauce could produce an album that really showcases what he can offer, but as it stands, this LP is a disappointment.