This week’s album is the second and last hip hop album I’m reviewing for this series: A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing by Black Sheep, released in 1991. The early ‘90s were kind of the peak of the “soft”-sounding rap era. Compared to West Coast rap, albums like this one downright relaxed, built on the foundations of samples from jazz and soul music from the ‘60s/’70s. This album is certainly not stressed.
I was first turned on to Black Sheep’s A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing by Questlove in his 2013 memoir Mo’ Meta Blues. I had never heard of Black Sheep prior to that, with the exception of their song “The Choice Is Yours” in those Kia commercials from a few years back with the hamsters. Remember?
Black Sheep were connected to the Native Tongues Collective. This is explicitly referenced in the album’s intro track. It begins with one of the MCs name dropping the Native Tongues family (De La Soul, Jungle Brothers, and A Tribe Called Quest), and referring to themselves as the “black sheep,” the less classy members of the family. This leads into a frenetically-paced song where the protagonist inflicts violent tendencies on those closest to him because of minor annoyances.
I have to admit, when I first heard this track, I was decently appalled and began having second thoughts on even listening on. Luckily though, the end of the track ends with the protagonist waking up from a dream where he realizes he dreamed he was “hard.”
This a big wink at the clear divide between what the Native Tongues groups were doing and what everybody else in rap was doing at the time. Lots of rap was violent and misogynistic and generally pretty objectionable.
Coincidentally, this album seems more explicit than the other Native Tongues albums. One very notable thing when listening to Jungle Brothers or Tribe or De La is that you hear very little swearing, if any at all.
AWISC definitely has more language than the others. But is the lyrical content is worth it? Eh. Some tunes are much better than others, and some are forgettable. There’s less inventiveness here than on other Native Tongues albums.
I felt kind of so-so about this album overall. There were a few songs I enjoyed, but for as much as I enjoy this kind of laid-back hip hop, not a lot on this album really stuck out to me. Most likely, my overall perception of the album was skewed due to its connection to the Native Tongues. I couldn’t listen without comparing it to 3 Feet High And Rising or Low End Theory. It was a case of them being overshadowed by other groups that did this kind of hip hop better. If I had a choice, I’d rather listen to De La or Tribe over this album.
Top 3 Tunes:
- Strobelite Honey
- Black With N.V. (No Vision)