“Change is good…”– Buckshot, “Night Riders”
So where was I? Oh yeah, 1995. By the end of that year, the Boot Camp Clik was still on the ball. Black Moon (despite member 5 FT leaving the group in ’94) was still rollin’ and ready to drop new material soon, Smif-n-Wessun‘s Dah Shinin‘ had a strong street-level presence, and Heltah Skeltah and OGC were introduced as the Fab 5 with a single that took off. The Boot Camp had developed a brand, with a distinctive look and their own sound, produced by Mr. Walt and Black Moon DJ Evil Dee, known as Da Beatminerz.
Most notable was that with the release of the Fab 5 single was those two groups were not on Nervous Records (like Black Moon and S-n-W were), but on Duck Down, a Priority Records-distributed label run by Buckshot & Dru Ha. But while things were jumping off with Duck Down, the issues between Buckshot and Nervous Records were growing. Being caught up in red tape put a freeze on the forthcoming Black Moon album, as Buck was attempting to get both himself and S-n-W off the label. Aside from doing some work with Tupac on his planned-but-never-released One Nation album, they spent a fair amount of the year attempting to move from Nervous to Duck Down.
In the meantime, Heltah Skeltah were the first to drop an album on Duck Down, with Nocturnal in the summer of ’96. Just like with Enta Da Stage and Dah Shinin’, I played this one in the hole too. Ruck and Rock were the standouts on both of the Fab 5 tracks, and their album was an extension of how nice they were. OGC, on the other hand? Not so much. Their album Da Storm dropped later that year and while it was decent, it was the least well-received of the Clik. Around mid-’96, hip-hop was changing. It was moving out o the street-oriented era that Black Moon and S-n-W thrived in, and into the more mainstream-friendly boom period of the late-’90s. Around the same time, Buck and Evil Dee parted ways, ending Black Moon.
With these changes, the Clik came into ’97 without Da Beatminerz. The collective Boot Camp Clik album For The People dropped in summer ’97 with a different sound for the crew, and it caught mixed reviews. Most of the criticism came from the fact that despite all the members bringing their A-game, the musical side of things was a little too uncharacteristic. I was looking forward to that album myself, and while it’s not as bad in hindsight as I thought it was, it still falls way short of what it likely would have been with their signature sound.
This started a steady stream of weaker receptions to the BCC albums that followed. From the second Smif-n-Wessun (now known as the Cocoa Brovaz after being sued by the Smith & Wesson gun company) album Rude Awakeningand Heltah Skeltah’s Magnum Force in ’98, to the reunited Black Moon’s War Zone and Buckshot’s solo BDI Thug in ’99, none of these grabbed the same interest as earlier BCC albums. It seemed that the Boot Camp’s peak years had passed, and the unit wasn’t quite as united as they used to be.
As a day-one listener of their music, I was hoping to pick up a BCC-related album and co-sign it all the way, but they weren’t on it anymore. Add that to internal issues like Heltah Skeltah blatantly distancing themselves from the Clik with comments like “what the fuck is the Boot Camp flow? Don’t none of them niggas sound like us. They might want to, but they ain’t fuckin’ with us” in magazines, and the downslide was in effect. They had never been huge sellers, but they always had a strong street-level presence, which by that point was also declining. By the time the ’90s came to a close, the BCC had lost their presence, and the Duck Down label lost the Priority distribution deal.
After a period of hiatus, most of the parties involved in the Boot Camp Clik came back together in 2002. They began touring as a crew and dropping albums independently, including three BCC albums. Duck Down has also expanded as an independent label which currently houses not only the BCC members, but other ’90s era artists like Masta Ace, B-Real, and Black Rob. The Boot Camp Clik went through bad business, lawsuits, breakups, and just about everything that could go wrong… but almost 20 years after “Who Got Da Props”, they survived a war that more successful labels haven’t.