In 1994, when The Notorious B.I.G. began promoting Ready To Die on the road, his opening act was a fellow Brooklyn, New York MC not often associated with Biggie Smalls or Junior M.A.F.I.A. Christopher Wallace welcomed Brownsville’s Smoothe Da Hustler open up, a fellow hard-nosed lyricist who seemed to enjoy the craft of rapping just as much as he loved the goings on of his hometown streets.
Mike Tyson’s part of town was making its way to the Rap map. Acts like Heltah Skeltah, M.O.P., and ’80s originator Masta Ace had made Brownsville a popular shout-out. By the mid-1990s, Smoothe would sign with Profile Records (DJ Quik, Run-D.M.C., Camp Lo) to showcase a style that was definitively hardcore, but in a savvy style. Produced by local veteran D/R Period (who would later make M.O.P.’s “Ante Up”), “Broken Language” was the ultimate calling card. The 1995 single fractured several samples into one pulsating beat, as Smoothe and younger brother Trigger Tha Gambler ran a clinic in cadence around the driving percussion. The bars were short and fragmented. However, when one MC stopped, the other shot in with an uncompromising street narrative. As Biggie, Nas, and Wu-Tang Clan were taking the grimy worm-filled Big Apple to the top of the charts, Smoothe and Trigger wanted in—and had skills to boot. The self-proclaimed “Big Daddy Kane, Lil’ Daddy Shane over-doers” were out to put family first as a statement.
The video did the same as the song’s bars. The two MCs rode around New York City—not in a luxury coupe or foreign sedan, but a tattered Ford van. They rhymed ferociously in an element far removed from the worlds appearing in Hype Williams videos by hit-maker du jour Puff Daddy or LL Cool J. The grit of the low-budget visual matched the record deftly, and a seminal hardcore hit was born—properly introducing two supreme wordsmiths with original deliveries, and a ton of construction Timb’ chemistry.
The corresponding 1996 LP, Once Upon A Time In America was a Top 100 debut, without any notable guests. In the last days of Profile, Smoothe (and Trigger) would hop over to Def Jam Records, where sadly, the “Smith Bros.” (a partial play on their real last names) would remain shelved as individuals. As a unit, the MCs (who frequently worked with DV Alias Khryst) would also remain shelved at Tommy Boy Records. During that time, however, Smoothe and Trigger were instrumental in the early success of Foxy Brown, who would become a platinum Def Jam star from BK.
“Broken Language” proved Smoothe to be an elite writer. In the years since, he’s penned songs for Blahzay Blahzay, The Firm, and Ice-T. With Ice, Smooth and Trigger formed SMG (Sex Money Guns) and has worked together over the last 14 years.