On the verge of releasing Nineteen Ninety Now, Celph Titled ravaged a group of classic Buckwild instrumentals on the track “Buck’s Four Course Meal.” Sounding as natural as the original artists over beats such as “Put It On,” Celph exclaims that Ninety Now is “a concept first of its kind.” To deny this claim is nothing short of preposterous. The originality of Nineteen Ninety Now seeps through every track as Celph Titled delivers innovative punchlines with brute force over instrumentals crafted by Buckwild between 1994 and 1996. While many Hip Hop artists can lay claim to having a throwback sound, Celph Titled, Buckwild, and guests do everything in their power to back it up.
Buckwild is one of the most acclaimed producers of all time, lending his production to classics by Big L, The Notorious B.I.G., and Nas as well as to 50 Cent and others. Celph Titled is a core member of the supergroups Army of the Pharaohs and Demigodz, whose guests appearances are so notable that his only solo release is an epic four-disc compilation (The Gatalog). Despite the somewhat randomness of this collaboration, the two share a distinct yearn for “the golden age” of Hip Hop, when lyrics mattered more than hooks and marketing. Such is apparent from the opening track, “The Deal Maker,” when Celph claims to have “appeared on more tracks than Dale Earnhardt’s ghost” before asserting that he’ll “slice your neck with a Fugees CD/and stick Lauryn Hill with the coroner’s bill.” It’s not hard to imagine the late Big L blessing this same instrumental with his signature flow, which is sure to be a treat for listeners who came up in this same era. Celph opens the following jam, “Out To Lunch,” with style, spitting, “crashing through your wall like the Kool-Aid man/the suite costs eight grand.” The aforementioned song features prominent ’90s rapper Treach of Naughty By Nature, who sounds at home over Buck’s production, although he fails to keep up with the Rubix Cuban. “F*ckmaster Sex” is a hilarious sex anthem in the vein of Akinyele’s classics, with a smooth production that is surprisingly as tactical as it is catchy. It’s as impressive to hear Apathy switch into double-time on “Swashbuckling” as it is to hear him, Celph, and Chino XL disperse wack emcees with their verses on “Styles Ain’t Raw,” a quintessential battle rap cut, on which Chino undeniably steals the spotlight. However Celph has enough tongue-twisting bars and earth shattering lines of his own between “Hardcore Data” and “Step Correctly” to shut down power grids.
Despite the vintage tint of each instrumental, they sound as crisp today, if not better, than they would during the period in which they were created. Take for instance the head-pounding “Mad Ammo” featuring two of the most underrated emcees of the ’90s, F.T. and R.A. The Rugged Man. The beat is an all out assault on the eardrums, in the most pleasurable manner imaginable, accompanied by the lyricists dropping line after line of pure heat. R.A.’s delivery is impeccable as his uncompressed sounding vocals recite utterly clever humor such as the phrase “I got more p*ssy on me than hermaphrodites.” This may only be topped by Celph’s assertion that while eating at fancy restaurants, “even my chicken breast got a bullet vest on.” “There Will Be Blood” is another epic posse cut featuring the immaculate lineup of Brand Nubian’s Sadat X and Grand Puba as well as A.G., and O.C. of Buckwild’s Diggin In The Crates crew. Buck flips Issac Hayes’ “Walk on By,” also used for Biggie’s “Warning.” Puba shows that he hasn’t lost a step, sweeping the beat with pristine timing. “Time Travels On” is another elaborate display of Buckwild’s superior production skill as he meticulously crafts a beat that allows Celph Titled to go deeper than his usual simile fare. In spite of the odd disparity between Celph Titled and Vinnie Paz’s back-and-forth vocals on “Eraserhead,” the beat is so hard-hitting that most contemporary rappers would bend over backwards to have it placed on their album. Besides a vast amount of rewind-worthy punchlines and banging beats, the interludes that piece together nearly every track solidify Nineteen Ninety Now as a well-rounded album.
Without a doubt, Nineteen Ninety Now is as pleasing to fans of ’90s Hip Hop as it is to underground heads today. Although some may claim that there is nothing groundbreaking about this project, there’s something to be said for the state of Hip Hop when one of the most satisfying albums of the year is an intentional voyage back to what many call “the golden age” of the genre. Tracks like “Miss Those Days” and “I Could Write A Rhyme” emphasize the lifelong effect that music of years past have on certain individuals who are unwilling to settle for anything less. Unforgettable in its own right, Nineteen Ninety Now secures its place as a welcome addition to the collection any fan of good ol’ fashion lyrically charged Boom Bap. The only question is how can Celph Titled follow this up?