Just like every SUC tape back in the old days, C-Note's Birds vs. Words opens with the voice of Robert Earl Davis, better known as the late DJ Screw. He sounds ten feet tall and bulletproof, with his mystical, disembodied voice approximating the Almighty himself. The voice of DJ Screw tells listeners, “You better recognize," and reminds anyone who might forget that his Screwed Up Click is “Riding around, hustling and slanging.” That’s when we first hear from C-Note, the great Botany Boy, as he finishes Screw’s sentence by saying “Welcome to Texas.”
In fact, the first two tracks of Birds Vs. Words are dedicated to Robert Earl Davis. The second track, and the first real song, is called “Screw Story,” an account of C-Note's introduction to the man they still refer to as Maestro. If “Screw Story” were the only good song on Birds Vs. Words, it would be worth the price of the entire disc. Four and a half minutes of one of the two or three tightest, best-written rap songs detailing the history of the Screwed Up Click. ESG has a similar song, and it’s breathtaking, but I’d put this one side by side with it any day.
Then, after that cannon blast, its 15 tracks feature guests like Ludacris, Lil' Flip, Z-Ro and E.S.G., among many others. There were times when I thought this record was up there with Doggystyle or some great Wayne mixtape, except this stuff is heavy, it's Houston and C-Note never forgets Screw or Fat Pat. There's something he's doing on here that makes it seem ageless.
“Most of the Botany Boys, we’re pretty much childhood friends,” says C-Note. “We’ve know each other since we were little bitty kids, since we’re all from the same neighborhood. We all went to the same school and all that. I met Lil’ Keke when he was like 15, it was in the SwishaHouse over there off Higgins. We could go there and get Swishers. We all went to Worthing.
"I remember seeing K-Rino way back, it had to have been in the late '80s," he continues. "I was probably 13 or 14 years old. He would rock the stage at St. Francis, this church in the hood that used to have dances on the weekends for the kids, and I was in there — too young — with my older cousins. And I still remember that night K-Rino rocked the stage, my first time ever seeing him or hearing him but that stuck with me. It was a dangerous church. There was fights and everything happening there. I think that someone got shot that night.”
"That’s what shut it down," remembers K-Rino. "They had a shootout that night. That’s the last time I was ever in St. Andrews. One of the guys that was shooting ran right beside me, leaned on my shoulder, and shot his gun, then took off running. We all hid and ducked, and when we left we saw the guy laid out in the street.”
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Told of C-Note’s admiration for him, SUC star Lil’ Keke replies, “I was off the porch early. I was staying at the Swisha House. I was doing that in the ninth and tenth grades. I went to Worthing, too. I went to Jones and Worthing. I looked up to C-Note and them [Botany] Boys. I was 15 or 16 and they was already popping, too! They were a little older than us. Where we come from, we look up to hood stars.”
With admirers like K-Rino and Lil Keke, C-Note's solo album should gain acclaim for the classic beats and lyrics within its 15 tracks. There's a classic construct to the musical direction as well, like when you'd listen to an Earth, Wind & Fire, Sly, or a Michael Jackson album from the '70s. Side A (tracks 1-8) starts out strong and builds to a nearly intolerable climax; then, as if this were some cold-blooded 1970s gangster soul on wax, Side B has its own theme, its own momentum and, as mentioned, so many unique guest artists it easily stands on its own. It's almost like (and y'all tell me if you agree) C-Note has done a magic trick of throwback record-making.
It sounds great in a car, too.