There’s something about ’90s hip-hop which is so perfect for lost gems. It seems like for every act that landed a deal and success, there’s fifty that didn’t, only for their shelved songs to end up on that lo-fi corner of Youtube decades later with every other comment on them like, “Like this if you’re listening in 20XX,” or “This is real hip-hop!”
InI is kinda like that, but, their single left a mark!
Coming out of Money Earnin’ Mount Vernon, NY, home to hip-hop legends like Heavy D and Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth InI (Pronounced “I & I,” the Rasta way of being) was Grap Luva, Rob-O, Ras G, Marco Polo, and DJ Booda-Khan. The group formed in 1990 and early on had a significant cosign: Pete Rock, who just so happened to be Grap’s older brother. As a result, InI was in the mix as Pete and C.L. became underground phenoms in NY rap, appearing in their videos and contributing guest verses on the duo’s classic records. Pete, who was emerging as a heavyweight hip-hop producer at the time, took the group under his wing for a record imprint he was launching on Elektra Records and executive produced their debut album, Center of Attention.
Long story short: Scheduled to be released in ’95, Center of Attention was shelved by Elektra with only one released single, and just like that the group was left in the lurch. The album was heavily bootlegged as well, gaining buzz for Pete’s production, but it wasn’t enough to save the crew. InI split up in ’97 and Center of Attention wouldn’t see an official release until the early 2000s, where Pete would release it himself.
But it’s not all bad. That single, “Fakin’ Jax,” got plenty of props on release in ’95, and over the years its stature grew. 25 years on? A legit classic. “Fakin’ Jax” still resonates as a perfect piece of ’90s underground New York rap, a listen which stands tall as one of Pete’s best productions and a legacy-maker for Grap, Rob, and the rest of the crew. “Fakin’ Jax” goes in, calling out fake, commercialized, clout-chasing emcees, a popular thing to do in the mid-’90s. Pete’s production is hard as hell, with the prominent Mobb Deep vocal sample, the intoxicating melodious vibes, and those BANGING DRUMS. The mic passing between Pete, Grap, and Rob is decent enough, and dissin’ whackass emcees never gets old. For me, this song was another revelatory listen when I started listening to hip-hop in my teens, and every few years when I cross it again I just sit there like, “wow, yeah, this is great.”
“Brothers that fake jax get laid on they back!”