I'm sure that the expanded amount of articles and posts related to Wu-Tang Clan and its affiliates haven't passed the avid The Lost Tapes reader by unnoticed. Since I don't get paid for maintaining this site and publishing articles I merely write about what captures my interest at the moment, and lately I've been on somewhat of a Wu-Tang trip so you can look forward (if that's how you see it) to a few more Wu related compilations and articles in the near future. However my intention is not to dwell on the A-list cast of the that mythical Clan but some of the unsung heroes within their circle. First out is a post and compilation dedicated to Timbo King, one of the original Killa Beez and leader of the superb Royal Fam which often acted as a one man army rather than a hip hop group on wax. Hailing from Bushwick, Brookltn, 'Bo King has a deep and commanding voice with well-researched lyrics put into street laguage that naturally grabs the listeners attention. A natural wordsmith with something to say - a breed of MC's that there's far to few of today. Hence, when he's placed on a solid beat on a posse cut (as he often was back in the late 1990s, early 2000s alongside his Wu bretheren) he would not seldom come out the most domineering lyricist on the track, amid some some pretty damn steep competition.
Just like Prince Rakeem and The Genius before him, Timbo King was one of only two future Killa Bee affiliates (the other being young Shyheim) who was able to secure a record contract and release projects on the strength of his own skills and charmisa alone rather than by association as many later affiliates would get on. This speaks much of Timbo's single-minded determination to break into the industry no matter what. As was often the case in 1992 and 1993 groups often produced themeselves with groups or duos almost always including a DJ/producer. This lead to 'Bo King hooking up with a neighborhood friend and produer/DJ who went by Spark 950 (M. Moore), and started recording whenever they had a chance. The result was a bunch of demo tapes, which they started shopping around to different labels. One such label was Uptown Records whose R&B/Rap department was run by André Harris and the young Sean Puffy Commbs. At the time they were working on putting together the soundtrack to the Doctor Dre and Ed Lover comedy vehicle "Who's The Man?!" and was looking for a mixture of new and talented artists mixed with some better known ones. It was here BIG's first single "Party & Bullshit" made its first apperance, but it also featured a blazing Pete Rock & CL Smooth cut (with the impeccable Grover Washington Jr. on sax), new tracks by Erick Sermon, Jodeci, Mary J. Blige, JuJu Banton, House Of Pain and 3rd Eye. So the lone Spark 950 and Timbo King track, "Who's The Man" was clearly in good company.
A move and placement like that a long with a solid demo tape generated some buzz in the industry, and the group's contract was eventually bought up and distributed by Street Life Records, a division of Scotti Bros Records who had at different points in times signed acts like James Brown, Weird "Al" Yankovic, pop star Leif Garrett and so on. All this was of course in the '70s and '80s. But no matter what, the duo of Timbo King and Spark 950 got a little budget, some studio time and a one record contract with chance for reneweal if the record did well. With hindsight it did not do well at all, and this can likely be chalked up to several reasons. Spark 950 was not a bad producer at all, but he was in no way groundbraking in any sense of the word. It was very typical 1993 standard Hip Hop flair. Add to that that Timbo King, while still having an ill voice and some neatly structured bars, had yet to find his own style and/or niche. I think it is quite comparable to Prince Rakeem's debut EP, "Ooh We Love You Rakeem", as you get the impression that the executives from Street Life Recocrds was in the guys ear teling them they needed a song with this theme or a song with that theme. Something that never works. Last but not least, it's a minor problem but the label kind of shadily passed this off as an 11-track album when there is infact only six songs - all good enough to nod your head to, but none of them good enough to remember. Check out the first Spark 950 & Timbo King, "Hello It's Me" as a bonus cut on the compilaion presented below.
You can draw some further parallels between The Genius and Prince Rakeem's defeat at the hand of record labels which led them to forming the Wu-Tang Clan to Timbo King's own pah. A true artist knows in his heart that he can and will make it, and never doubting himself he want back to his Brooklyn, Bushwick stomping grounds, assembled some of his rhyming and musical friends to form the Royal Fam - a group that he would be the defacto leader of. One of those members were Bushwick's Dreddy Kruger who had already appeared on Gravediggaz' first album and kept in contact with the Wu while also introudcing them to his crew of producer Y-Kim the Ill Figure, legendary reagger singer Mikey Jarrett's son of the same name, Stoneface and of course Timbo King. Togeher these artists would form the Royal Fam, one of the first Wu-Tang offshoots - this was back when the Wu wouldn't fuck with you unless you were really talented and could create albums of your own, at the same time RZA, Divine, Power and Ghost were also be on hand to help out their new under-regimes. Shyheim was already a factor before the Wu and as you can see by his first album, his main producer and guests on there were RNS and the GP Wu clique, so the real Wu-Tang Killa Beez to be introduced first was to be Sunz Of Man, Killarmy (hence the posse cut "Soldiers Of Darkness) and Royal Fam. Remember these were the days when anything with a Wu logo on meant BUYER BEWARE - HIGH QUALIYTY!
Royal Fam had their own main producer in Y-Kim The Ill-Figure who was complemented by Q-Base (a.k.a. Arabian Knight) and Lynx #6; 4th Disciple was more or less a semi-official member of Killarmy and Sunz Of Man originally had Supreme (though their final album would be dominated by The Wu-Elementz). The same went for another cat that was signed at the time, called Darkim Be Allah (who produced "12 Jewelz" for Gravediggaz and had the single "Bronx War Stories" with AllahWise on "The Swarm"). But as they were all under the Wu-Tang umbrella they started to notice that they were not always first priority, remember this was the same time that "Wu-Tang Forever" was being recorded. RZA set up and signed them to Razor Sharp/Wu-Tang Records under Priority and there were even ads for Sunz Of Man's "Nothing New Under The Sun" 2xLP in 1996 in magazines like The Source, but nothing happened.
Royal Fam got to drop what I for years have considered to be one of the absolute best double-A side 12" single reelased in the mid-'90s (whcih is of course saying A LOT). The main track, "Something Gots To Give" (with a video directed by GZA, see above) is a direct response to the way he experienced the record industry and how easy they take advantage of you unless you are on your toes, something that 'Bo King definitely wouldn't repeat after his failed dealings with Spark 950. Over a truly rugged beat, that captures the harder and most minimalist Wu-Tang flavor nicely with thumping yet crisp drum beat, an omnipresent horns and atmospheric keyboards. But it's really Timbo's vocals that are the instrument that really sets this apart - the agression combined with the witty lines makes every single bar memorable or quotable. The B-side was once again produced by Y-Kim, and following its predecessors theme it bears the title "I Declare War", and its just as dope. The beat is a bit more on high-energy, with dark, brooding piano, horns and that way only Hip Hop producers can manipulate real hard, repetitive drums. Both of these songs were a war chant, without a dobut, and would set things up for the Fam's official debut album to be released in 1996 or at the very latest 1997. I you look at the single mentioned above, the sticker right at the top of it says "The legend born from "The Black Castle".
Sunz Of Man was able to release two singles on Wu-Tang/Priority ("Soldiers Of Darkness"/"No Love Without Hate" and "Bloody Choices" before things came to a halt, and despite the aforementioend ads and a more or less completed album that would turn heads in 1996 (check it out for yourself) they decided to take matters in to their own hands. Led by Razah the group felt enough was enough and took manners into their own hands, contacting businesswoman Cathy Jones and owner of Red Ant Entertainment. The material for what is basically their second album was of course tied up at Wu-Tang / Priority since they owned the masters but for a huge amount of money RZA and Jones came to an agreement that "The Last Shall Be First" could be released as a joint venture if Red Ant payed for all the Wu-Tang artists and producers as guest artists. As Razah puts it, "Wu-Tang Records was distributed by Priority then. None of [the] other Wu groups or subsidiary groups that ever came out on their own like Sunz of Man and that’s because I pulled off that deal with Red Ant Records. I got [us] signed to Red Ant, got RZA paid back with all he spent to build up Sunz of Man’s career. Then certain members got paid to be featured on that album" (source). It was a done deal, and so the album went out in stores to great reviews and sells.
Out of the three original Killa Beez group it seems only Killarmy has really been treated fair, having released tree albums between 1997 and 2001, all overseen and executively producer The RZA (who often even appeared in their videos). But then again 9th Prince is RZA's lil' brother and I guess blood is thicker than water then.... Royal Fam and Timbo surely didn't have the same luck - though they were still working on their "Black Castle" in '98 or early '99 the final blow came when their masters (mostly finished or close to finished songs but not mixed, etc.) was stolen from the studio they were using along with Darkim Be Allah's album "Truth Or Dare". Darkim's album did never turn up anywhere (I will be making a post on this extremely underrated emcee soon as well), but what looked like some type of semi-official label calling themeselves Wu-International released those masters to the public in at least Europe, under the title "Yesetrday, Today iz Tomorrow". Looking and soundingvery much like an official release, with producer credits and even thank yous if i remember right. Wu International also released identical versions to Shyheim's "Manchild", a vinyl version of "Golden Arms Redemption" (U-God), and RZA & Big Kap's Wu mixtape CD. Perhaps the strangest thing is that these (or at least the Royal Fam CD since that's the only one I have) was distributed by the well-established and official PIAS [Play It Again Sam]. Although it was only released in Europe, it was hardly your standard bootleg - I saw it in Tower Records in London and several legit record stores in Sweden at the time of its release and never suspected there was anything odd about it (rememember we didn't have the net like that back then).
Reading interviews with Timbo King on why he didn't like that being out there, other than the fact that of course it was stolen material, was that much of the material was not finished and definitely not mixed and he compained about how fans got inferior versions of what the Royal Fam actually can and intended to do. Still I got to give it up to Timbo and Royal Fam, since I first heard it as a kid I loved it and I still bump it and get goosebumps. To me that's the definition of an extremely dope album, damn near close to a masterpiece. It's excellently sequenced, it features the right amount of emcees with Timbo King, the most talented clearly taking center stage. The beats, the guest features and production from the likes of Y-Kim, Lynx #6, John The Baptist, RZA (albeit they reused "The Legacy", its such a good track I can live with that as the epic album opener it is). Every single song on here is marvelous; it is short - only 12 tracks, with one having already been out 18 months, but as far as Wu-Tang releases go it is a whole lot better than whatever Wu affiliates drop these days (and yes that include Bronze Nazareth and the Wisemen). The thing is that had they been able to complete it there probably would be more songs on there, maybe some crazy interludes and what not and as it stands now it's pretty close to a classic - so maybe it really would have been a classic.
After that fiasco (although it did put Royal Fam's name even more on the map as any European believed it be an official release), Timbo King spent a lot of time building up his brand further by appearing on loads of dope records as a guest artist; both with his Wu-Tang brethren like on GZA's "Beneath The Surace" and RZA's "In Stereo", but also by international artists like Soldafada and IAM (see above for the former while the latter is includedin in the comp). I have put together some of these gems here, trying to find a nice balance between songs that represent for those who are relatively new to Timbo but I also want to give those who are very well familiar with him some harder to find stuff as well. I obviously haven't included anything from "Yesterday, Today iz Tomorrow" or the second failed attempt to release "Black Castle" in 2005 via BabyGrande. But one thing is fore sure, an emcee this talented needs to be heard...
So without further a due, here he is 'BO KING, ROYAL FAM in a huge amount of various settings! And I have to say, as much as I'm familiar with 'Bo King through "Yesterday, Today....", "Black Castle", and all of his apperances on Clan albums this compilation really came out in-fucking-credible. Proof that Timbo King will put his soul in whatver he jumps on, which is quite rare. Of course in 2010 Timbo King finally got his due, hooking up with Bronze Nazareth, Lil' Fame, RZA, Hell Razah, William Cooper, Killah Priest, Junior Reid, and more. With songs like "Bar Exam", "The Autobiography of Timothy Drayton" and "Thinking Cap" the proof was in the pudding that The King still gor his crown though I personally revisit "Yesterday, Today..." and the "Black Castle" advance more but either way there's no question that Timbo is one of the most talented Wu affiliates and it's a shame the trials and tribulations that he had to endure in the industry. Be sure to support the cause and purchase Timbo King's long-awaited solo debut album, "´From Babylon to Timbuk2" @ UGHH.
01. "Righteous Talk"
02. "Braveheart" (solo for United Kingdom)
03 "United Kings" (Ft. United Kingdom)
03 "United Kings" (Ft. United Kingdom)
04. "La Saga" (w. IAM, Dreddy Kruger & Podigal Sunn)
05. "To All The Killas" (w. Krumb Snatcha)
06. "In Here" (w. GURU as Bald Head Slick, Killah Priest & Black Jesus)
07. "Armored Truck" (Ft. Masta Killa)
08. "Black & White" (w. RA The Rugged Man)
09. "FIRE" (w. Royal Fam)
10. "Walk The Dogs" (w. Royal Fam & LA The Darkman)
11. "Destroy The Scenery" (w. United Kingdom)
12. "So High (G-12)" (w. RZA)
13. "Digi-Electronics" (w. Bobby Digital, Timbo King, Doc Doom, FreeMurda & Shyheim)
14. "Revenge" (w. Cappadonna & Free Murda)
15. "To Be An Expert (Flame Throwerz)" (w. J-Love Ft. Sunz Of Man & Timbo King)
16. "Soul in the Hole" (w. Timbo King, Dreddy Kruger, Shyheim & Tekitha)
17. "Outro" (Ft. LA The Darkman)
18, "Hello It's Me" (Timbo King & Spark 950) [Bonus]