This or That? 100s vs. 100X
Years before Dame Dash recruited State Property from the East Coast's most maligned state, 100X was putting on for Philadelphia. It began in 1988, when a North Philly group called The Untouchables, made up of rappers Magnificent Mar, Round Mound and Dangerous Darryl along with producer L.E. Square, released a 12" single, 'MC Killin / Death Wish,' on the Solid Ground label. They were apprentices to Poison Ladd S.L.R. and Extortionist B, who had released their own 12" 'Rock the 8 (808) / I Need Juanita' one year prior. The Untouchables saw little success, and Dangerous Darryl soon left the group while the remaining members quarreled over the lack of samples in their production.
L.E. Square and Round Mound (a.k.a. Are Em) were brothers, so living in the same household at the time had an influence on older brother Square, who decided to embrace the inclusion of samples in his beats after increased pressure from his sibling. With the newfound production sound, the duo decided to start a loose collective of artists called 100X, short for their neighborhood of 10th and Oxford. They brought MCs like Bad Newz, Lex Ruger, Mal Black, and Mustafo on board and began shopping a demo to labels. None of them bit.
One interesting bit about the group's early career involves Greg Osby, a young saxophone player from New Jersey who had a contract with Blue Note in the early '90s. 100X would often perform at Philly's Club Rhythm and the venue's owner Tony introduced the group to Greg, who cited hip-hop as an influence in his work. Tony recorded with the group in 1992 and together they wound up with '3D Lifestyles,' an album that was in line with the jazzy rap styles of Gang Starr and Tribe Called Quest. The sound of 1993's '3D Lifestyles' would later come to full fruition with The Roots, but at the time Blue Note wasn't sure how to market the album and the opportunity to push the sound was bungled.
All of this predates 100X's first official single, 'Beyond The Door,' in 1994. A year before they'd recorded a track called 'Horrorcore' which again was in line with a style that would come to popularity in '94 with Gravediggaz and Flatlinerz. 'Beyond The Door' was popular within North Philly, but fans were left hanging for two years until the 'Fast Loot Tactics EP' dropped in '96. The EP was proper but the group had waited too long to capitalize on what little popularity they had and as members drifted away, the group soon disbanded. Later on, they would release two compilations of material worth excavating: 'Rare & Unreleased 1992-1996' and 'Whom Shall I Fear? 1993-1995.'
In 2012, on the other side of the country, a brighter story was coming to light. Berkeley rapper 100s and his right hand man Joe Wax released 'Ice Cold Perm,' an out-of-the-blue project that is easily one of the best rap releases in recent years. The cohesion of pimp raps and sizzling synths made the duo a drop-dead combo, and this year's 'IVRY EP,' even with the inclusion of outside producers, elevated their blunted sound to a psychedelic realm. The music is purely hedonistic, but if you let the groove sink in, 100s will have you coming back for more. One need only test the back-to-back magic of 'Different Type Of Love' and 'Slide On Ya' to be sure.
Comparing 100X and 100s is like deciding between blunts and beers -- ideally, you want both as part of your daily diet. The Philly rappers give you a dark, gritty foundation with certain rappers even sounding like Freeway and Ghostface (see 'Fast Loot Tactics' for proof), while 100s is that fresh off of work, slide across the floor s--t to bop to. In other words, they highlight each other's specific contexts as a way to appreciate the differences in their music - you probably won't find many lowriders blasting 'Death 2 The Radio' in Cali.
So we'll take the easy route this week - they both win. Smoke mid-grade out of an apple to 100X or finesse an expensive bong to the glossy sounds of 100s. Whichever you choose, you'll be better for it.