Twenty years ago, when artists had to hustle and sling records and before music was free, controversy was a golden ticket—especially in hip-hop.
Like NWA and Ice-T before them, Boston legends The Almighty RSO—Ray Dog (aka Benzino), Tony Rhome, Deff Jeff, and E-Devious (aka Twice Thou)—hit pay dirt with their controversial anti-cop track, “One in the Chamba.” The 1996 street smash made them public enemy number one with police, and thus the go-to local rap act for thugs and heads from Springfield to Brockton.
But it was more than just a gimmick—the beat was legit, the angst and fury in the lyrics undeniably real. It also famously sampled the ’70s funk group The Blackbyrds’ “Mysterious Vibes,” a cut that’s since been recycled dozens of times, most recently by Wiz Khalifa.
It was one of many classic snippets that revealed RSO’s knack for crate-digging and unearthing dope samples. They also, for example, snatched a piece of Tom Tom Club’s “Genius of Love” for the track “Revenge of da Badd Boyz” long before Mariah Carey used it on “Fantasy.” The RSO spinoff clique Made Men, made up of Twice Thou, Benzino, and Cool Gsus, never topped the mainstream, but had ridiculous street cred and cut tracks with a who’s who of rap royalty including Scarface, Queen Latifah, Mobb Deep, Master P, and The Lox.
Two decades and a “Behind the Music”-worthy career later, original RSO member Antonio “Twice Thou” Ennis is still grinding, and hard. He runs his well-established Antonio Ansaldi fashion label, works as a community organizer, and still records faithfully. Ennis no longer shreds cops like he used to, though if you listen closely he still slips a jab in every now and then, like in his shoutout to rogue Massachusetts drug lab chemist Annie Dookhan on the 2013 track “Loyalty” with Slaine.
On his latest full-length effort, Love, Lies and Betrayal, Twice Thou is at his soulful, G’d up best, but also maintains a humorous side (check: “Wookin’ Puh Nub,” a nod to Eddie Murphy’s “Saturday Night Live” Buckwheat sketch). His former Made Men partner Gzus clocks in on a pair of tracks, while Lucia Marie’s angelic hooks make “I’m Leaving” one hell of a melancholy ‘hood anthem. Other locals also shine, from Jimi Blacksheep and Letia LaRok to Black Skull and Noldy.
While a lot of MCs from the ’90s and early 2000s try in vain to chase trends set by rappers half their age, Twice Thou avoids this pitfall. He’s mature, and instead reflects on hard lessons learned while sticking to the formula he’s had for two decades: Weave visceral street tales with passion, funk, soul, and swagger earned from a lifetime in the game. Of course, to fully appreciate the music, it helps to know the history behind it.
THE UNTOLD STORIES OF HUB HIP-HOP