Even in the vibrant early-'90s hip-hop scene, A Future Without a Past...
emerged as a breath of fresh air, simultaneously presenting a throwback to the old-school rhyme tradeoffs and call-and-response rapping styles of crews like the Furious Five and the Funky Four + One, and vaulting rap headlong into its future. Brash and full of youthful energy and exuberance, Leaders of the New School
was the perfect meshing of three distinctly different but entirely complementary personalities whose flows flew in the face of conventional MC etiquette, from Dinco D.
's straightforward, intellectual tongue-twisting to Charlie Brown's zany shrieks to Busta Rhymes
' viscous, reggae-inspired toasting -- skirting the line between seriousness and humor -- which, only a few years later, would help him to hit commercial pay dirt as a solo artist. That's not even to mention the DJ and sometime reggae-tinged emcee, DJ Cut Monitor Milo
. The result is one of the most infectious rap albums ever created. The songs are, first and foremost, meant to be fun and humorous, and they are certainly that, particularly on Charlie Brown's nonsensical "What's the Pinocchio's Theory," the insistent "Trains, Planes and Automobiles" and "My Ding-A-Ling," and Busta Rhymes
' jovial ode to full-figured women, "Feminine Fatt." The cut-and-paste production is expert throughout, packed with fresh samples, thanks to Bomb Squad member Eric "Vietnam" Sadler
, the Stimulated Dummies crew, and the Vibe Chemist Backspin, and the group also show themselves to be quite capable with a sampler, particularly Milo's incredible work on "Case of the P.T.A." and "My Ding-A-Ling." But it would be wrong to simply peg this album as a foray into kinder, gentler, more lighthearted and innocent hip-hop. Firstly, the album has the feel and scope of a loose concept album and is separated into three sections, the first two set in school, the final one following the members after school lets out, and that alone points to a group of young men -- mostly still teenagers -- trying to move rap into new dimensions. Secondly, the ambience of New York permeates A Future Without a Past
, but it is simply presented from a younger and far less jaded perspective. Songs such as "Just When You Thought It Was Safe" and "Sound of the Zeekers @#^**?!," if not exactly hard-edged and political, offer far more than throwaway sentiment, and lyrically L.O.N.S. never descend into naiveté. The album portrays a group of young men who are fully emerged in the sometimes less-than-innocent urban life that characterizes hip-hop culture, but are also able to transcend the inherent limits and pitfalls to which that life can lead. In that sense, it is a celebration of all the best aspects of hip-hop culture and youth.