- “Watch Me Now”
- “Ease Back”
- “Ego Trippin’ (MC’s Ultra Remix)”
- “Moe Luv’s Theme”
- “Kool Keith Housin’ Things”
- “Travelling at the Speed of Thought”
- “Feelin’ It (Remix)”
- “One Minute Less”
- “Ain’t It Good to You”
- “Funky (Remix)”
- “Give the Drummer Some”
- “Break North”
- “Critical Beatdown”
- “When I Burn”
- “Ced-Gee (Delta Force One)”
What can you say about Ultramagnetic MC’s? They are easily one of the most underrated groups on the planet and brought raw skill and talent to the table on their 1988 debut, Critical Beatdown. From Kool Keith’s lyrical skill to Ced Gee’s pioneering sampling techniques, there was no question that a new force in Hip Hop had arrived.
The production on the album was innovative and beyond standard fare for the era. During that time, a lot of producers were using samples to add to their production but Ced Gee, also a non-credited producer of Boogie Down Productions opus Criminal Minded, chopped songs to the point they were not recognizable.
If James Brown owned his masters, Hip Hop would have definitely paid his pension because many producers including Gee sampled his music. But Gee took it a step further instead of just using safe beats that came from the “Godfather of Soul.” He used legendary artists such as Bob James, Roy Ayers and even used a sample from the movie Star Wars on “Break North.” On the track named for him, Gee sampled, “Nautilus” which was easily one of the best reincarnations of the track ever recorded.
Although everyone was recreating old songs to make new ones, Ced Gee added a fresh look to it. He was a pioneer in his ability to use more than one song to create masterpieces. Gee fused samples from The Troggs, “Wild Thing” and used a scream from “It Takes Two” by Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock for “Traveling At The Speed of Thought” showing his diversity. Clearly, producers like Pete Rock and Large Professor were influenced by this new style of production. In addition to innovative sampling techniques, many of the tracks were drum driven with heavy scratching.
Most tracks on the album were attention grabbers, although some did a better job than others. “Ego Trippin,” “Critical Beatdown” and “Ease Back,” were excellent with displaying the significance that was Critical Beatdown. These tracks were examples of the genius on this project. There were also some tracks that were merely smart. Leaving “Kool Keith Housin’ Things” and “When I Burn” off the album would have taken away from the intensity of the classic debut.
The ability to be abstract in their diction separated Ultra from their peers. Disdain for commercial rap was expressed throughout the album. The lyrical imagery that Kool Keith employed would serve as a blueprint that some Hip Hop groups still use today. On cuts like, “Watch Me Now,” Keith spit, “Where’s ya Kangol/ It seems weird/Ya head is triangle/ Like a mango, something I snack on/ A soft duck, something I smack on every day when I come outside.” This type of imagery would foreshadow Kool Keith’s career after Ultramagnetic MC’s as he remains under-appreciated and over bitten.
In addition to lyrical mastery, the Bronx natives were distinct from their contemporaries. Before Ultramagnetic MC’s, you were either militant, partying or gangsta. Ultra could not be put into any of these categories making them stand out against the rest. There were instances were they did not rhyme but the flow was so critical, it did not take away from the significance of the album because Kool Keith and Ced Gee were men amongst boys on the mic.
Often underrated, Critical Beatdown was a monumental album that used lived instruments and a sampler during a time where they were unheard of in Hip Hop. The album was and still is a classic and will take you back to a time when people dreamed of being emcees. Ultramag’s mission was not just about obtaining fancy cars, big homes or a slew of women. They consisted of profound emcees and a groundbreaking producer who wanted and ultimately earned the respect of their peers.
The album was re-released in 2004 offering additional tracks showing the album still resonated with new fans. Now if we could recapture the genius of Critical Beatdown, we might be able to resurrect the magic of an era that is long gone.
Well I'm the equalizer, known to be graphic
I clear static, breakin up traffic
Move, while I enter the groove
I'm on top, and happy to prove
to wack MC's who claim to be better than
No way I'm frankly more clever than
All of you, each and every one, my son
Pay close attention
I take your brain to another dimension
Hold it, mold it, shape it
You got a knife, yes I wanna scrape it
Up and down, sideways, any way I can
Be rude to you
But I'll rap and be crude to you
And eat up, toy ducks I beat up
I am the oven your brains I wanna heat up
Mega, supersonic degrees
I come around, roastin MC's
With fire, to burn the toy liar
Raw meat, turn the flame higher
Cook it, like a fish I'll hook it
For any beat, it's time that I took it
Right, correctly to the top
With the rhythm and as your head bop
I'm hype, for the critical beatdown!
Traveling At the Speed of Thought