Proper Dos - We're At It Again
A year shy of turning a quarter century, "We're At It Again" marks the return of Proper Dos. Their sophomore album dropped 3 years after the their first with, what I would call, a smoother and more refined sound. The impact this group had on the first wave of Chicano emcees is undeniable, Lil Rob cites them as an influence, not to mention that one mid 90s interview where the late Toker said "the only ones I got respect for - and I don't even know'em - is Proper Dos. They're on that gangster tip.". That said, if it's good enough for Toker, it's good enough for me. To be completely honest, I had no desire to cop this album until recently. As a matter of fact it wasn't until I saw that aforementioned interview with Brownside that prompted me to seek the physical copy. I paid a pretty penny, but I can't rightfully call myself a Chicano Rap connoisseur if I don't have at least one Proper Dos project in my collection. When you pick it up, the album cover isn't that enticing, the duo is posted in front of what I assume is a church (based on the Virgen posted on the top left). The insert has a lot more photos of them, but it's the inner one with Frank V posted in the homie stance with Ernie G standing behind him that would have made for a better cover. When you flip it to the back panel, the songs are listed in that classic cholo script, almost like a barrio roll call.
As you play the first track, it easily creeps in with Billy Paul's vocals repeating the title of the song, "The Time Has Come". It's short-lived. The intro makes me wish this was a full length song, you almost get the impression that the beat was wasted on those eighteen seconds. The second tune kicks in with a laid back instrumental where Earnie G stayed true to the chorus and let the beat break ("Caught Up In the Mix"). I vibe to this beat, the rhythm mellows you out and begs to be played while you cruise PCH. Frank V is such a vivid storyteller that even a blind man can visualize his rhymes. Pointing out the obvious, if you didn't catch on, "We're At It Again" is the sequel to the barrio anthem "Mexican Power". Frank V doesn't mince words, "I wanna put in work, but not on another street / I wanna point my pistol at that fool named Pete". Pete who? Pete-muthafucking-Wilson, I understand all too well why he said that, and I will one-up that with saying fuck Arnold Schwarzenegger, too and any politician with anti-Mexican sentiments. While listening to "Fifty Pour", I caught something I hadn't realized before. Frank V name drops his alias (Creep; Creeper) multiple times in various songs (this one, "Sumthin To Bump", "Tales From The Westside") but never actually raps under that moniker. Adding to the funkiness of the rola, the chorus is an ode to Parliament (nice touch, I must say). Also that synthesized whine that you hear in the beginning is none other than a sample of abstract sound effects from "More Bounce...". No Chicano Rap album from back in the day is complete without a snippet from Zapp.
Along with the ascension of West Coast Rap, came Latin Rap (the category Chicanos and other Hispanic rappers were boxed in). At this time I don't believe there was too many Latino mainstream rappers besides the obvious Kid Frost, Cypress Hill, Beatnuts, Fat Joe, ALSOB, N2Deep and maybe a few more I can't remember at the moment. So when Frank V asks "Who's The Hardest Latin Rap Artist", he's asking a rhetorical question, ‘cause he not only talks the talk, he actually walked the walk. Keep in mind this was at the height of a bloody feud in what's often referred to as the 4 Corners (in West Los). The beat is almost to jolly for the tone of Frank V's gladiatorial tales. Towards the middle, the album is still captivating, unless you're a feminist listener. If so, "You're No Good" is bound to give you a fit with its misogynistic overtones and lyrics. It can be a dull song, I'll admit. But the real highlight of this album is the almost anecdotal but all too possible events of "Geto Baseball". Frank V is a storyteller at heart and the events of this rola unfold like the ballgame, whereby the bases are rivals, the umpire is law enforcement/ judge and a home-run is making it back to the hood (or your cantón). You could make the argument the song is influenced by The Warriors movie (especially because of the intro). The female vocals were the icing on the cake. Definitely my favorite, no doubt. Something about "Sumthin Ta Bump" gives me the impression this track was intended for their 1992 release, it may have been groundbreaking in nine-deuce but came off kinda weak for ‘95. It's a good song but it sounds too flat for something meant to bump.
The final third of the album is solid, although I find "Chavalas On Check" to be forgettable. I did chuckle when Frank V says, "here's a ski mask and a twelve gage, get it? / let's take a trip thru Security Pacific". Having worked in finance, I learned long ago that BofA acquired that bank when it went under. There's a famous movie based on an infamous bank robbery in Norco, CA that happened at one of their locations during the 80s. The jabs at Lighter Shade of Brown are clear, with no need to mention any names. Back on the tangent, I really like the song "One Deep", though somewhat ironic for a group called Proper Dos. But it's dope, the chorus loops Dr. Dre's vocals from "The Chronic", easily appealing. The production is Ernie G's biggest and only asset. Inching closer to the end, "I Done It" has a slow pace that doesn't wear your ears out when you play it. Frank V spins a tale of going on the run to Tijuana. Now, growing up, I always like this jam, after all who doesn't like hearing their hometown get a shout out? Not the last time he'd mention Oceanside. Bringing it full circle "We're At It Again" is brought to a conclusion with the instrumental that started it: "The Time Has Come 2". If you ask me, the way they closed this out was awesome, it ends on the same note it began. A full rotation.
Ernie G deserves a lot of credit for this. His production, cuts and mixing is dope (I assume he did it all). Though Frank V the muthafucking Mexican is the only emcee, he acknowledges he's backed by Ernie G. This has come to be regarded as a classic and had been requested a few times for me to share my thoughts on it. I like several songs from this album, it had a good selection of beats and didn't rely on typical loops and samples (that was one of its strengtsh). Standing at a sweet length of 12 songs, I thought this was a fantastic length. Although I would have suggested adding 1994's "Tales From The Westside" to make this complete or at the very least feel wholesome. Too many Chicanos in the Southland wasted their opportunity to conclude their albums on the thirteenth track. This album wasn't without flaw, my biggest critique is that there was a certain element missing from the album: the deep thumping bass from funk samples in gangster rap. At times some of the songs lack that quality, making them sound flat without that extra oomph. Frank V's monotone voice is anything but dull, there's a lot of attitude behind his demeanor, he's got a lot to say. This gem is getting harder to come by, so if you get a chance to buy it, don't hesitate. It's a must-have if you're going to own any of Proper Dos' projects.
01. The Time Has Come
02. Caught Up In The Mix
03. We're At It Again
04. Fifty Pour
05. Who's The Hardest Latin Rap Artist
06. You're No Good
07. Geto Baseball
08. Sumthin Ta Bump
09. Chavalas On Check
10. One Deep
11. I Done It
12. The Time Has Come 2