They don’t make hip hop like they used to… unless you’re MC Tone Chop and DJ Frost Gamble, in which case you make it EXACTLY like they used to. NYC-based Tone Chop and self-described “sample-head” producer Frost Gamble are now close to thirty years into their collaboration where they continue to revive and keep vital the sounds of Golden Age hip hop and hard-beat boom-bap. Their latest album underestimated is undaunted by the passage of time, feeling like something straight out of Brooklyn in 1990 that would have landed them an opening slot with Slick Rick or KRS-One once upon a time.
What I love about the era of hip hop that Tone Chop and Frost Gamble pull from is how unapologetic it is. Tone Chop’s rhythms exclude confidence like an isotope blooming with radiation and Frost Gambles’s beats hit like bullets taking bites out of a brick wall. There is no penalty for bragging about yourself in this style. In fact, explaining to the world why you are a unique and powerful beast of god’s own design is the point!
To that end, I have to recommend that you start with the track “To a Legend” which is literally Tone Chop’s tribute to himself, a boast that turns on the hook, “every mother gave birth to a child, except mine gave birth to a legend.” He really makes you believe it by the end of the album too. One of the album’s more light-hearted moments is on the Jean Knight sampling “Mr. Big Stuff” which sounds like the duo has crashed a retro-revival recording of Soul Train to set some suckers straight. And if you are still feeling picky and don’t want to listen to the whole album, then I’d recommend that you at least drop the needle on the brick-laying, horn-slap and smack-down thesis of “underestimated intro” and the tropical-kissed, string-sample diced and thunder-clap and roll of “Right Hook” before putting this one back on the shelf. But if you are anything like me, you’ll need to give this one seven or eight spins before putting it down.
You can stream the entirety of underestimated below via Bandcamp: