Opining about the not-praised-enough Marley Marl and Pete Rock radio show “Future Flavas” the other day sent my mind into a frenzy. That night, to calm the overworking thoughts, I tore through the closet in my old bedroom, clawing through piles of old clothes and stuffed animals (don’t ask—though, My Pet Monster is still unfuckwitable). In there somewhere, or at least I thought, rests a shoddy Chicago White Sox gym-bag—I’m Jersey through and through, born and raised, but Frank Thomas was once holier than thou in my eyes. And in said gym-bag are dozens of the mixtapes I made while recording “Future Flavas.”

Unfortunately, the bag is MIA, and all I could dig up was one measly tape. I immediately popped the tape into my stereo’s still-functional deck and let it ride. The first track was all I needed to send nostalgia into overdrive—“The Turnaround,” by Real Live.

"The Turnaround"

Those brolic strings. The bass that knocks harder than the ATF on DMX’s door. “The Turnaround”—produced by one-half of Real Live, K-Def, who was a Marley Marl protégé—was a heavy rotator in my Walkman back in ’96, as was the accompanying full-length, The Turnaround: A Long-Awaited Drama (Big Beat/Atlantic). 15 tracks of non-skippable goodness, Real Live’s one and only record still holds up today. Since Monday, I’ve given it at least five complete spins, each listen leaving me to wonder, “Why the hell is this album never talked about?” If I remember correctly, it wasn’t even discussed back in 1996 when it was released.

A crying shame, really. Tightly produced by K-Def, The Turnaround: A Long-Awaited Drama is more than a sonic showcase; husky and sardonic-flowed Larry-O—the Guru to K-Def’s Premier—more than holds his own throughout. He’s never lyrically exceptional, better at straightforward writing than metaphorical wizardry. “Cops raid the block like scenes from Red Dawn/The American Dream in the ghetto is long gone,” he drops on “Ain’t No Love,” which, by the way, was Jay-Z’s “Heart of the City (Ain’t No Love)” five years before The Blueprint.

"Ain't No Love"

Listening to this album today, it’s impossible to not transport back to the days when acts of this kind could get actual radio play. When O.G.C. could achieve gold-selling success, and a Jeru the Damaja album could be the lead review in a major music magazine. The Turnaround: A Long-Awaited Drama, if nothing else, is a true time capsule. Dusty and dirty, compact and cohesive. Straight out the gate, the album even opens up with one of those old instrumental intros, less than a minute long and intensely cinematic, similar to the jumpoffs heard on Capone N Noreaga’s The War Report and Big Noyd’s slept-on Episodes of a Hustla EP. Shit, Real Live ended the album with a face-ripping remix of “Real Live Shit” featuring Ghostface Killah, Cappadonna and Killa Sin (Sin, for the record, is worthy of his own Matt Barone-written blog some day; dude was/is severely overlooked).

If this is the first time you’re hearing of Real Live and/or The Turnaround: A Long-Awaited Drama, hopefully you’re still with me at this point. If so, in “Future Flavas” fashion, allow me to lay some treats on you. Below are a few of the album’s highlights for your listening pleasure. —Matt Barone

“Crime Is Money” (if anybody can recall the Fabolous record that used this same beat, please do; I’m drawing blanks but I know there is one that did]

“Pop the Trunk”

"The Gimmicks"

“Real Live Shit Remix (ft. Ghostface Killah, Cappadonna, Killa Sin)”