Smif N’ Wessun: Tek and Steele
The dynamic duo of Tek and Steele known as, Smif N’ Wessun, are survivors of the game of hip-hop. Their street slick rhymes, personal chemistry, and ability to trade the mic smoother than a Henny and Coke, are a testament to team work. With a fast break into success, legal trouble that forced a brief name change, and moving into the driver’s seat, from emcees to entrepreneurs, Tek and Steele have stood tall in the face of adversity as an impenetrable force. Natives of Brooklyn, New York, Tek and Steele made their first appearance to the world of hip-hop on Black Moon’s 1993 debut, Enta Da’ Stage. The tracks, “Black Smif N’ Wessun” and “U Da Man,” showcased their fierce and unrestricted lyrics.
“Black Smif N’ Wessun” had a hard drum beat and deeply submerged bass-line, as the crew ferociously chanted the chorus. Steele’s opening lines contained an unapologetic/ in your face energy that few have been able to replicate:
Here we go, break of day, with a mad live session/
Down in Bucktown it’s Black Moon, and Smif-N-Wessun/
Pick up the pace cuz we’re right behind ya black/
The punk got X-amount of shots, take one to your back/
While Tek had an ability to flip multiple words throughout a verse:
Ahh shit, a personality split/
And I’m bout to flip with my nigga pull the trigger let the Glock spit/
A little bad-ass shorty with no remorse/
I kill forties and quarts remains on stage so who the boss?/
Another boom blew up the scene/
throughout the planet, get green, now I got sticky mean with my tag team/
“U Da Man,” featured Big Dru-Ha, Havoc, and Smif-N-Wessun. With the collective of emcees’ hardcore rhymes, it was an ideal closing track o the innovative album.
In 1994, Buckshot and DruHa founded Duck Down Management, signing Smif N’ Wessun as their first act to Nervous Records. Not only did their debut, Dah Shinin, sell over 300,000 copies, but it also coined the name of the fourth great wave of hip-hop music. Tek N’ Steele stormed the masses with hardcore rhymes and a flawless ability to trade the mic without hesitation. “Dah Shinin’, was an era when hip-hop was just coming back from the West to the hardcore streets of New York, and you were proud to be a fan of it... that was kind of a renaissance time,” explained Steele.
Produced by Evil Dee and Mr. Walt, the album was layered with heavy bass lines, razor sharp scratching and a dungeon sound that basted through any roof. While tracks like, “Timbz N’ Hood Check,” told of the underbelly of street life, “Won Time,” discussed the results of snitching; “Cession At Da Doghillee,” previewed the soon to be Boot Camp Clik and the jazz influenced Brooklyn anthem, ”Buck Town,” became a Duck Down trademark.
Soon after their initial success, legal trouble arose over the group’s name in a trademark infringement case, with the Smith and Wesson gun company. In an attempt to avoid further litigation, Tek and Steele changed their name to, Cocoa Brovaz. In later tracks, they would express their frustrations about the matter. “Sent me multi-page contracts just to prove it/with trademarks on belt buckles, shirts and knives/ain’t that the most off the wall shit you hear in your life?” This may have seemed like a dark time for the two, yet the soldiers trudged on. Buckshot, and The Cocoa Brovaz collaborated with 2Pac on the unreleased album, One Nation. Although not readily accessible to the public, the thought of the four working together would only result in being one of the rawest albums to date.
In 1997, Tek and Steele joined: Buckshot, Heltah Skeltah (Ruck a.k.a. Sean Price and Rock), and O.G.C. - Originoo Gunn Clappaz (Starang Wondah, Top Dog, and Louieville Sluggah), to release the Boot Camp Clik debut, For The People. It received mixed reviews, as fans compared it to Smif N’ Wessun earlier work on, Dah Shinin. “Pro“1-900 Get Da Boot,” was a collage of messages from fans calling the phone number; “Night Riders,” led to a later unreleased re-mix featuring late songstress Aaliyah, and “Headz Are Ready,” was the Camp at their best. The battalion attacked in a cipher formation rock’n the mic to no end.
The year of 1998 marked Tek and Steels’ return under the name their new name, Cocoa Brovaz, releasing, “Rude Awakening.” Although the album received mixed reviews, the track, “Black Trump,” stuck out among the rest. Featuring the Wu-Tang Clan’s, Raekwon the Chef, the alliance would serve as a great moment in hip-hop, allowing for future Duck Down and Wu-tang projects. Legendary X-Clan member, Professor X also made an appearance. It would be their only release on Priority Records. Soon after, Tek and Steele were soon dropped from the distribution company.
Smif N’ Wessun changed gears, releasing singles and making numerous album guest appearances. The under ground classic, “Super Brooklyn,” featured an un-cleared sample from Super Mario Bros. video game. It sold over 30,000 vinyl records, as well as become the topic of conversation on the tongues of hip-hop elitists. The track led to a deal with Rawkus Records. Appearing as Cocoa Brovaz, Tek and Steele’s contributed to 1999’s Sound Bombing Volumes 2 (“Every Rhymes I Write”), 2000’s Lyricist Lounge Volume’s 2 (“Get Up; featuring DJ Hi-Tek”) 2002’s Sound Bombing Volume 3 (“Spit Again”). Whether known as Smif N’ Wessun or Cocoa Brovaz, they could release a single and have it chart with in the top 50 of the Billboard Top 100.
Although Smif N’ Wessun never officially released an album on Rawkus Records, the duo came into their own, freelancing on various collaborative projects including clothing ads, defining themselves as true survivors of the game. Teaming up with Gangstarr Foundation member, Afu-ra, on the, D & D Sound Clash (2000), which featured beat composition by producers extraordinaire, Evil Dee & DJ Premier, it ranked 1 on the Hip-Hop / R&B Charts. In the same year, Tek and Steele rejoined the Boot Camp Clik on their second album, The Chosen Few. The track, “Bucktown USA,” would become a springboard for their future entrepreneurial opportunities. Additional freelance credits include Talib Kweli (“Gunn Music”), Tony Touch (“Spanish Harlem 2”), and a cameo with Buckshot in the “I Miss You,” tribute video for Aaliyah. She was a close friend.
In 2003, Steele moved into the driver’s seat founding, Bucktown USA Entertainment. He released their first independent full-length compilation titled, Glory. The debut LP featured artists from New York, Maryland, and Georgia. Through the Bucktown USA label, Smif N’ Wessun have released several solo projects including; Tek’s, Amerikka’s Nightmare (2004), I Got This (2006); Steele’s "First Famlee (2004)”; Smif N’ Wessun, X-Files (2006) as well as serving as an additional branch for Duck Down Enterprizez affiliated projects.
2005 was a year of due justice for Smif N’ Wessun. After years of legal debate, they were finally awarded the reinstatement of the Smif N’ Wessun name. With a new found confidence they release, Reloaded. The album was one of three relapses during Duck Down’s Triple Threat Summer promotion. Tek and Steele came in full force. Tracks “Gunn Rap,” and “My Timbz Do Work,” brought back the classic Smif N’ Wessun swagger. With cover art by Marc Ecko, and guest appearances by Talib Kweli (“Crystal Stair”), Tony Touch (“U Undastand Me?”), and Dead Prez (“Warriorz Heart: Gangbang”), the album resurrected a sound that was thought to have been lost.
The third Boot Camp Clik release, The Last Stand, featured the entire Timberland boot clad battalion (Buckshot, Smif N Wessun, Sean Price and Rock of Heltah Skeltah, O.G.C.’s Starang Wondah, Top Dog, and Louieville Sluggah), production by Pete Rock, Da Beatminerz, Large Professor, 9th Wonder, Macro Pollo, Ill Mind, Coptic, Sic Beats, and Ken BB. While “Here We Go,” displayed memorable BCC rhyming ciphers, “1-2-3,” had a macho “knock to the skull” feel.
The duo of Tek and Steele, have shown themselves to be more than emcees. Hitting hip-hop music with a raw and un-duplicable style, business sense and survival skills, the name, Smif N’ Wessun, shines above the rest.