The name DJ Clue? may not mean much to the young ‘uns in this age but once upon a time, he was the main man. He was the DJ Khaled of the late 90s. Able to unite acts from different sides of the coast while maintaining his NY swagger. This is the man who introduced us to Fabolous, Joe Budden (Yes, same Budden), groomed a young DJ ENVY (Of Breakfast club fame) and well Paul Cain (do your googles). While not new to the game, his mixtapes were very notorious in the 90s and sold faster than pure white but his major debut didn’t happen until late December 1998. This was after he struck a lucrative deal with Def Jam via Roc-a-fella and his own imprint Desert Storm, but this piece is not really about DJ Clue? but rather a series he created on his debut album “The Professional”.
The song in question is the aptly titled “Fantastic Four”, an all out, no holds barred lyrical slugfest featuring the best of the best going all in sans the gimmicky hooks and all. The song featured Cam’ron, Big Pun, N.O.R.E (then known as Noreaga) and Canibus, all in their prime with 1 album each to their names. Today we look at the song in question, how they fared on the track and what they are up to in 2017.
Then he was an Un-tertainment flagship artist (alongside Charlie Baltimore), the Harlemnite’s debut was a solid one and worth checking out. Cam’ron came through with his street smart, off the cuff flow-which I most say- has been perfected now. He stays witty and nasty with lines like “Girls grope then I smile/ That’s when they fall cause they lick my balls right after I play ball/ No wash-up, no nothin’/ Hear what I say y’all?O.K. y’all. Ask AJ y’all ” and “I’ll turn the baddest bitch gay y’all/ Like Stacy Dash, she was eatin’ Tracy ass at this other lady’s pad“. Now do you see where I’m coming from (no pun intended)?
Cam went from Un-tertainment to Sony/Epic Records to Roc-a-fella/Def Jam/Diplomat Records and gave us that unforgettable role as Rico in the Damon Dash produced “Paid In Full” movie. The cat is still shining.
Big Pun had the highest selling debut (Capital Punishment) amongst the foursome and was definitely that cat everyone wanted to feature. Known for his fierce machine gun flow and lyricism despite his size, Pun came to do damage with his opening lines; “Fuck all y’all non-believers, I roll wit God, the squad and T.S / Out wit the BS; we platinum, they even doubted Jesus/Niggas is 85%, I’m 400 solid” and as per usual kills his set though I deep down believed he could have done more damage knowing ‘Bis was also on the same song.
Big Pun unfortunately passed away in 2000 but still left us with 1 classic debut and 2 solid post humous projects amongst numerous features etc. He definitely passed the torch to his son Chris Rivers who is currently on the rise.
QB emcee Noreaga or N.O.R.E was the shining star out of his group CNN (Capone -N- Noreaga) and as the almighty wanted it he went solo due to Capone’s unfortunate incarceration. Known for his left field style of rapping, N.O.R.E was able to carve a niche for himself amongst his QB peers at the time (Mobbdeep, Nas, Tragedy, Nature, Cormega etc). He was one of the first cats to work extensively with The Neptunes so you have to give him that respect.
Lyrically I expected the usual N.O.R.E and that was exactly what he delivered. His animated flow and love for fellatio goes unnoticed with lines like “Ayo, the President is like me, he smoke weed too/ Don’t really like to fuck, he just get head too” and even declares “N-O-R-E, I just lace the heat/ I don’t complain about the track, give me any beat“.
N.O.R.E was and is unorthodox from the jump. He was somewhat ahead of the curve and maybe not as successful on the mainstream like Nas or Jay-Z but he is still respected across the board. He has gone to bless us with 3 studio albums, a cameo in in the Damon Dash produced “Paid In Full” movie and now hosting one of the top hip-hop podcast in this era. Get hip to “The Drink Champs” if you haven’t, it is definitely worth the listen.
In 1998, Canibus was the guy you would be scared to be on a song with. Before this, he had several random features/freestyles on those Clue? mixtapes I mentioned earlier (Check his 97 Mentality Freestyle). Canibus was killing features, left, right and center. The Refugee affiliated emcee was a sure shot when it comes to features and his verse on “Fantastic Four” was no exception. They called for a no holds barred, well Canibus delivered the finisher with 32 bars (why did they let him rap for that long though?) and left everyone else in the back seat.
In 2017, his name may not hold weight like before but he is still well revered in many circles that cherish true lyricism. He has released multiple albums, mixtapes since then and also was part of that disastrous (see what I did there) battle with Dizaster.
It’s been almost 20 years since this epic collaboration came about and while the players have moved on to other ventures, the legacy they left should not go to waste. Respect the architects.