1992: Ah, the good ol’ days of the cop killer song. I remember browsing through the records on the wall at the Music Factory record store in Jamaica, Queens – the “Murderahh” b/w “Heartless” 12” single by Live Squad grabbed me by the neck: A simple white record jacket with a bullet on it. At the very least, it had to be aggressive and thus suitable for a kid who hated cops and lived vicariously through the hardest of alpha male rap. I’d read a review of it in The Source and it purportedly had all the fix-ins. I picked up the 12” – along with “One In The Chamba” by Almighty R.S.O., Live Squad’s Tommy Boy labelmate and the first home of the notorious Benzino – and was wide open for the full-length debuts of both groups after I got a taste. In particular, MCs Stretch and Majesty of the Live Squad painted some of the most disturbing imagery ever laid to wax that wasn’t on a Rap-A-Lot Records album. It was all there: Licking the blood of the man you just shot off your face when it sprayed, tossing babies out a window, stuffing a ticking time bomb in the mouth of your enemy with glee while fucking and then shooting his girlfriend in front of his face, and of course, killing cops with a smile, “ King of New York style.” The violence could almost be considered cartoonish if the record didn’t come out during NYC’s most nefarious era of street crime – and that’s what made it so harrowing and vivid.
Unfortunately for Live Squad, Ice-T’s “Body Count” controversy further polarized “controversial” artists and labels funded with corporate bankrolls like Time Warner. The group brought pressure to Tommy Boy, as did Almighty R.S.O. and Paris. No big deal, though. Live Squad ran with a budding star in Tupac and made notable contributions to Pac’s Strictly 4 My Niggaz LP the following year. But then they dropped off the radar as a group, never again making headlines until Stretch was murdered at the end of 1995. Their shelved album from ‘92, Game of Survival (a soundtrack to their movie of the same name), remained lost until about a decade ago, when an elusive reissue came and went quicker than Freddie Foxx’s cameo as the bartender in Who’s The Man? The follow up single to “Murderahh,” “Game of Survival” b/w “Pump for a Livin’,” was promo only and was probably circulated solely due to the Tupac affiliation.
Recently, I decided to take a look back at the fate and the image of the group. The verdict? Like Harlem natives Mob Style , Live Squad just weren’t fuckin’ around – and it scared the shit out of everyone in ‘92 like it does 20 years later. And that included the labels that profited off sonic bloodbaths. Ironically, gangster imagery brought home the bacon for major labels for the next two years, but when you get into a giant brawl with Double XX Posse and garner a reputation for laying down the law with a menacing grin and no video directors or A&Rs are around, you can no longer be reduced to an innocuous, marketable gangsta recipe of lumberjack shirts, Carhartt jackets, locs, and black Timbs.
So now that entertainment alone trumps the validity of the artist’s claims and image, maybe it’s time for another appreciation post for a group that fell short of receiving due props because…(gulp)…they likely lived what they rapped about. I was about 75 percent of the way to claiming that nobody else had the Game of Survival album / soundtrack, but as I learned with the WNYU post , the old Wu-Tang video is probably one of three truly sacred things I own – Game of Survival popped up with an expired Sendspace link here and there. Nonetheless, here are some of the better cuts for your enjoyment.
Selected album cuts from Game of Survival
“The Shit List (Part 1)”
“Trouble on My Mind”
The album is rife with skits (to add to the soundtrack feel), but to Live Squad’s credit, it’s pretty entertaining to hear Ed Lover play a preacher at a funeral – that the Live Squad boys eventually invade with their guns blazing.