I’m Not Playin’

51VhxDVGF5L._AA240_.jpgTitle: I’m Not Playin’
Artist: Ultimate Force
Label: Traffic Entertainment
Catalog No: TEG 76528
Date: 2007

Ultimate Force was the teaming of MC Master Rob with future super producer Diamond D. Childhood friends from the Forest Park Projects in the Bronx, Master Rob and Diamond D began performing as youths and caught their first break when DJ Jazzy Jay put their song “I’m Not Playin’” on his Cold Chillin Records release In the Studio (1989). Ultimate Force was then signed to Strong City Records and recorded an album that, due to label politics, was never released. Soon after, the group disbanded and Diamond D moved on to a successful solo career as well as producing classics for artists including D.I.T.C., Busta Rhymes, and Lord Finesse. Traffic Entertainment recently rescued Ultimate Force’s lost debut album, titled I’m Not Playin’, from the hip hop vaults and released it for the world to hear.

The early 1990s featured numerous DJ producer combinations, including Gang Starr, Pete Rock & CL Smooth and Compton’s Most Wanted, and Ultimate Force could have held their own with any of them. This is primarily due to Diamond D’s brilliant production. While not on par with that of his classic solo debut, Stunts, Blunts & Hip Hop (1992), his production on I’m Not Playin’ definitely shows why he was one of the East Coast’s most sought after beat-smiths. On the title track, Diamond employs the same Albert King sample used by Howie Tee on Chubb Rock’s “Just the Two of Us,” but adds well placed guitar licks and sharp drums. Master Rob’s braggadocio rhymes over this banging beat help create not only the album’s best track, but a lost hip hop classic. On “I’m In Effect,” Diamond D uses drums, an amazing horn sample, and scratches to create a beat that would have been equally as fresh if it was created ten years later. “Girls” is another example of Diamond D’s skills as a beatdigger and on “Supreme Diamond D,” he establishes himself as a turntable virtuoso. While Master Rob’s mic performance is solid throughout, it is absolutely overshadowed by Diamond’s beatwork.

Traffic Entertainment should be thanked for blessing the hip hop world with Ultimate Force’s I’m Not Playin’. Like many other artists in various genres, Ultimate Force fell victim to record label issues which prevented them from making their mark on the hip hop landscape. While it does not hold up with the best releases of its era, I’m Not Playin’ is an extremely well produced album that has stood the test of time.

Posted by Langston Collin Wilkins