SAUKRATES with DE LA SOUL at the Phoenix (410 Sherbourne), tonight (Thursday, March 17). $24.50. 416-870-8000 Rating: NNNNN
Saukrates's baritone speaking voice is so velvety, his natural cadence so funky, I keep wanting to crossfade an old EPMD instrumental into our phone conversation. Then I'll have the tape mastered and put on CD and sell it on the street for 10 bucks a pop - just to tide the hiphop community over until his new album slams the shelves.
Like the Pope, it's a wonder that Bad Addiction hasn't dropped by now. His basement-hotboxing debut, The Underground Tapes, first surfaced six years ago, not long before Redman famously signed Big Sauks to Def Jam under his Gilla House label.
But then, at the end of last year, Def Jam's new CEO, L.A. Reid, just had to go and fire Def Jam president Kevin Liles and hire Jay-Z for the job. Now, Gilla's biz is a little out of sorts.
"I'm still with Gilla," says Saukrates from his T-dot crib on the eve of a video shoot for the new Reign track, Guilty, "but because of the overhaul, the firing and re-hiring of presidents at Def Jam, it's still a little cloudy on how we gonna distribute all the Gilla material in the U.S."
Regardless, the Scarborough rhyme minister promises a summer release for Bad Addiction that will kick off a deluge of Saukrates shit. The long-awaited debut from Big Black Lincoln, the production team/supergroup Sauks founded that also includes the Circle's Ro Dolla, T.R.A.C.K.S. from IR and Brassmunk's Agile, comes next, followed by an R&B record from Andreena Mill, also produced by BBL.
Big Sauks has some big socks to fill with his new albums - his own. The Underground Tapes was a lot of heat. But he says the new record will sound much more finished.
"This is a full album in comparison to The Underground Tapes. It's not based on one or two songs; it's based on the whole painting."
From the sound of video-supported singles like Ro Dolla's You've Changed, Big Black Lincoln's Pimpin' Life and Sauks's own Comin' Up and the signature slick funk of his production sensibilities, thunderous bass lines stalking hi-hats and snares crisper than fresh lettuce, count on Bad Addiction being worth the wait. In fact, the anticipation is what keeps Saukrates bracing himself through the setbacks.
"On the days when you think it's next to impossible, somebody'll come up and tell you they appreciate the years of work we've been puttin' in. The money's been up and down and, you know, it's never easy, but the people always let you know whether or not you should still be doin' it."