Album of the Week: 8Ball’s Lost (1998)

Wait, that album cover’s not crazy enough… hold on…

There we go.

Deeper than Encyclopedia Brittanica…

In 2006, XXL ran an online piece on the 90s label Suave House. Black Ice, the writer of the article, states that “starting completely independent in 1993 and then getting national distribution through Relativity Records and eventually Universal, Suave opened the floodgates in the mid-90s for Southern imprints to secure support from major labels,” and that the artists on the label lived in an actual house together.

Presumably this group included 8Ball & MJG, Memphis hip-hop legends who released their first four albums on Suave House, years before becoming immortalized on Three 6 Mafia’s “Stay Fly”. Though they work best as a duo, I’ve recently found a lot to enjoy on 8Ball’s solo debut Lost. A double-album (technically a triple-album if you include the Suave House sampler bonus disc, which is not streaming) largely forgotten in the 90s rap canon, it is remarkably consistent in style and quality, with great guest features and an even better solo performance. In this way it reminds me of E-40’s The Element of Surprise, one of my favorite double-albums ever.

40 Water is present here, along with Goodie Mob, Busta Rhymes, and of course MJG. But Ball shines brightest. On single “My Homeboy’s Girlfriend”, he spins a tale that is both hilarious and tragic, and sings the hook. His storytelling is in full effect on this track and “Time”, a dramatic reminiscence on a friendship gone sour. There are straight-up bangers too, like the MJG-featuring “Let’s Ride” and the penultimate “Gett Bucked” (classic Memphis phrase right there). My favorite guest spot comes from Redman, who in the late 90s was just scorching every feature (see also: The Luniz “Hypnotize”).

This is one of those albums that is so long you really can’t mention every track. The production is all in-house and somewhat dated, and there is some filler here and there. But it’s worth a look, especially if you’ve checked out 8Ball and MJG’s high-water mark On Top of the World and want more.

Listen to Lost here.

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