Me Phi Me

BMG Entertainment, 1992

REVIEW BY: Alicia St. Rose


Is it just me, or has rap music taken a turn for the mundane? Has it stagnated, steeped in the gansta ethic? Have its purveyors foregone originality, and instead depend on expletives and Tipper Gore's nifty little sticker to sell records?

Before I get a rash of angry emails, let me say that I know there is some truly original rap out there and it's quite possible that the creators of this unique rap have never ever seen a gun, let alone been involved in a gang. They may also believe that a woman is someone who deserves respect and not simply a ho.

And I am grateful for the existence of these artists so that black people like myself, who do not identify with gangstas in any way shape of form, have someone representing their "black" experience. Bands like PM Dawn and Arrested Development revealed that not all blacks are packin' heat and out to eliminate cops.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Perhaps one of the most original rap albums to come out in the last decade is One by Me Phi Me. With the components of acoustic guitar, Michael Franks on backing vocals and songs exalting tolerance and self esteem it's like rap through the looking glass! Billed as a "worldwide fraternity", Me Phi Me has a credo: "I Believe that you can be what you want to be/ High as the sun deep as the sea/ You can achieve thus the fraternity Me Phi Me." They also have a pledge: "Some people desperately want to be a part of the crowd. Some people are special, they stand out in a crowd...And then there's the Me Phi Me: We Stand Alone!"

This is the essence of the album and it does not let up until the final chords. Me Phi Me is unflinchingly direct in its assertion that your individuality should be valued above all things because without it you are a vestige of a person. The greatest compliment to individuality is self esteem.

Me Phi Me gets this across without the least bit of corniness. In the song "...and I believe" (the CREDO) he raps: "This is what I believe/It only takes one to get the job done/Listen to Me son/Listen to Me girl/We can rule the world/Get together but never conform to others again/We got our own brain/So I don't need yours/Because alone I am a powerful force."

Me Phi Me also attacks conventions with "It Ain't The Way It Was". Here a young man convinces an older woman that they should date despite the gap in their ages. "So now I have this woman every night every morn/Based upon my heart and mind not on the date I'm born".

The most striking aspect of this album is the arrangements. Instead of the slick urban hip hop back drop on most rap recordings, Me Phi Me has opted for a cool and breezy acoustic laden sound. This is further accentuated by jazz artist Franks' breathy vocals. And don't let this mislead you into thinking the music may sound wimpy. It most certainly packs a punch. Play this record as loud as the neighbors can tolerate it and you'll be mesmerized by the sound.

Now one discouraging note: this album is woefully out of print, but copies can still be found if you forage through the used cd bins or shop eBay. It's also unfortunate that One was Me Phi Me's only shining moment and has since slipped into relative obscurity. But it would be nice to know that the message got through: "Never take a break from loving yourself / Because you can keep goin' all night long."

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 2000 Alicia St. Rose and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of BMG Entertainment, and is used for informational purposes only.