Over a decade Psycho Les and JuJu of the Beatnuts have been pumping out gritty New York street rap with remarkable consistency and uneven quality. As producers, these two Queens natives, along with DJ Premier, are the architects of a brand of hardcore East Coast hip-hop known by its heavy drums and sparse loops.

 As MCs, Psycho and JuJu stick to the basics: gunplay and bedroom antics. The subject matter and music may not vary significantly from album to album, but for what they do, the Beatnuts are some of the best. Intoxicated Demons is as good a place as any to start, as it features their anthem, "Reign of the Tec," a tribute to vengeance as exhilarating as any early-'90s rap track.

Street Level sits comfortably with the typical roughneck rap of the day (think Mobb Deep and Notorious B.I.G., minus the highs). Stone Crazy was something of a breakthrough for the duo, giving them a bona fide hit with "Off the Books" (a track that also served as an introduction of sorts to Big Punisher). A Musical Massacre is more of the same, with an "Off the Books" sequel of sorts in "Watch Out Now."

By 2000's Take It or Squeeze It the formula was starting to get tired. While the production continued to reveal nuances in the 'Nuts' minimal palette, the lyrics were beginning to run thin on ideas. After finding themselves in label limbo with the folding of Loud Records, the Beatnuts returned to the underground with Originators. The album sadly rested on the laurels of their past achievements, offering little new in the way of musical or lyrical ideas.

Artist Bio on Wikipedia


The Beatnuts are a New York-based hip hop group and production duo from Queens, New York City. Its current members are JuJu and Psycho Les. JuJu (born Jerry Tineo on December 4, 1968) is Dominican American from Corona and Psycho Les (born Lester Fernandez on August 10, 1972) is a Colombian American from Jackson Heights. The Beatnuts are the only Latino members of the Native Tongues collective. Although only peripheral members, they are routinely acknowledged by Q-Tip. The Beatnuts were originally a trio before Kool Fashion, now known as Al' Tariq, left the group to start a solo career. The Mighty V.I.C. (Groove Merchantz, Ghetto Pros) was also a member of The Beatnuts' production team for a while.


JuJu and Psycho Les grew up in different communities in Queens, New York. Psycho Les started producing beats and DJing at age 15 under aliases including DJ Les Jams and DJ Incredible. At a high school in Flushing, Queens, a friend DJ Loco Moe introduced Les to fellow producer JuJu. While crate digging, both Beatnuts ran into hip hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa. Bambaataa introduced them to Native Tongues members including De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest and the Jungle Brothers. At this time, JuJu and Psycho Les were DJing parties under the alias Beat Kings. The Jungle Brothers claimed that they were not kings, but rather two nuts for their comical nature and the fact that they were crazy enough to carry hundreds of records to every show they played. They thus changed their name and "it stuck."[2] The two Beatnuts members later met up with rapper Kool Fashion.

Commercial breakthroughs

The Beatnuts did not follow up their 1994 album until releasing Stone Crazy in 1997. Although it contained "Off the Books", a single that charted on the Billboard Hot 100 and featured the first on-record performance by Big Pun, the album was not a critical success. Leo Stanley of Allmusic attributed its mediocre reception to its lack of energy—not its "jazz-inflected rhythms and hardcore rhyming".[6] Chris Ryan of Rolling Stone conceded that the album was still "something of a breakthrough" for The Beatnuts in spite of itself.[7] Two weeks after the release of Stone Crazy, The Beatnuts released Hydra Beats, Vol. 5, a small-scale instrumental album. Vol. 5 was one album in a series of vinyl instrumental albums released by underground label Hydra Entertainment.

1998 saw the release of The Spot, a remix EP that revamped songs from the first three non-instrumental Beatnuts albums. It additionally featured sequels to older Beatnuts tracks and one new song, "Treat$". It was released in anticipation of 1999's A Musical Massacre, The Beatnuts' most commercially and critically successful album. A Musical Massacre reached #35 on the Billboard 200 due to its hit single "Watch Out Now". The album is hailed for its "eclectic" and "textured" beats as well as its "rough, rugged, and raunchy" lyrics with slightly more content variation than past releases.[8]

After Sony released The Beatnuts's first hits compilation, 1999's World Famous Classics, The Beatnuts did not record another album until 2001's Take It or Squeeze It. Their 2001 album contained two slightly popular singles, "No Escapin' This" and "Let's Git Doe", but was unable to match the commercial or critical success of A Musical Massacre. Reviews by both Allmusic and Rolling Stone claimed that Take It or Squeeze It had a mix of inventive production and clichéd gangster rhymes.[9][10]

Return to Underground

In November 2001, it was announced that Loud Records—whose father label Relativity Records had released all Beatnuts albums since their 1993 debut—had cut ties with The Beatnuts. The decision was followed by the release of two greatest hits: 2001's Beatnuts Forever and 2002's Classic Nuts, Vol. 1. While The Beatnuts were free agents, a rumor surfaced that JuJu and Psycho Les were going to collaborate with Al' Tariq under the group alias 'Intoxicated Demons'.[12] The Beatnuts did not reunite with Al Tariq, but instead signed with the underground label LandSpeed Records. In 2002, they released The Originators, a commercial failure that did not reach the Billboard 200 or contain charting singles. The album was still a critical success because of its catchy hooks and creative beats. Steve Juon of remarked on the correlation between The Beatnuts' critical and commercial success:

If they are less known and don't sell as well being on an indie imprint like LandSpeed Records, it will still be worth it if the increased quality of their beats and rhymes remain this high.[13]

Instead of remaining on LandSpeed Records, The Beatnuts signed to Penalty Recordings before releasing their 2004 album Milk Me. Although Penalty was also an underground label, Milk Me was still able to scrape the bottom of the Billboard 200. The album was almost unanimously held to be solid. Nonetheless, three singles and an Akon guest appearance did not propel the album to the commercial success of prior Beatnuts albums.




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