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Made a little noise in 94
But not enough to quit my day job and go on tour
A little rotation thanks to college radio
But I’m blessed cause I’m still here
So raps veteran Chicago MC Stedy Serv on “Math Is,” a track from his recent debut album 11 (One on One) (G4E). He’s referring to his local classic “You Know the Time,” a single with All Natural DJ Tone B. Nimble released back in 1994 on Correct Records—you can hear it on Serv’s MySpace page. Over a sleek night-crawler bass line and a twangy guitar lick, Serv exhibits striking intelligence and propulsive flow; it only raises the question of why it took the guy more than a decade to release another record, let alone a full album.
Finding biographical info on Serv is next to impossible, but he’s been a dedicated B-boy since the early 80s. Yet after the single was released he seemed to vanish. (Another track, “Better Safe Than Sorry,” did turn up on the 1995 Chicago underground hip-hop compilation Talent Fest.) The new album was made with producer DJ Editkut, part of the East Chicago, Indiana production crew Norph. It's very different from the old single, a taut, almost claustrophobic landscape of electronic beats and synthetic washes—Norph boasts that they specialize in electro and electro-rap, but there’s no confusing this with Soul Sonic Force —with rhythms that do nothing to enhance the MC’s way with old-school rhymes. But Serv adapts, spitting dense tangles of words that seem to hunker down and surf the stuttering kick drum. It’s great to see that he’s back on the scene, but this album doesn’t showcase his dynamic delivery like “You Know the Time." Stedy Serv shares a bill with Pugslee Atomz tomorrow night, February 7, at the Empty Bottle .