Despite low profile statuses, New Jersey natives K-Def and Larry-O were tenured vets by the time they released "The Turnaround: A Long Awaited Drama" as Real Live in 1996. I've long contended that K-Def, a protégé of Marley Marl, was the most underrated producer of the 90s. Here, he exhibits his recognizably rich, textured beats, clean polish, and great ear for sound. This is trunk-rattling New York hip hop by the mid-90s formula, and it functions perfectly as such. While this isn't necessarily his best work--many of the samples are obvious and overall this isn't of the quality of his beats on Here Come the Lords, Keepers of the Funk, No Mercy, and Tragedy: Saga of a Hoodlum, throughout the album it's hard not to be impressed; musically it is extremely appealing. His heavy funk and rough percussion bear the mark of his excellent craftsmanship.
Larry-O is a fun mafioso rapper but can come across as somewhat basic. He provides shoot-em-up tales of drug trafficking, rarely with more insight or philosophical musings than your average East Coast gangsta circa '96. Still, he pulls off impressive verses frequently enough and is blessed with a quick tongue and strong flow somewhere between Biggie and PMD. He assumes mob characters with varying success and exhibits a good presence. I'd like him to vary his subject matter a little more, but overall his performance is quite appealing.
Early highlights are the gritty opener "Pop the Trunk," funky "The Gimmicks," and the phenomenal "Larry-O Meets Iceberg Slick," where Larry-O develops his alter ego over a smooth, dark gem of a beat. The best track is "All I Ask of You (Commin' Thru)" which is one of K-Def's finest tracks, a slow, somber, and melodic masterpiece. Larry-O comes through himself with a great hook and some of his more thoughtful verses. Title track "The Turnaround" is also excellent, a rugged and well-constructed statement. Both versions of "Real Live S#!+" are bangers, the remix a posse cut featuring an all-star roster including Ghostface Killah, Cappadonna, Lord Tariq, and Killa Sin.
"The Turnaround: A Long Awaited Drama" is forgotten today because it didn't have a monster single or revolutionary approach to make it stand out among the classics dropped in '96, but it is an endlessly solid LP with some certified bangers, impeccable production, and charming East Coast sound. I recommend "The Turnaround: A Long Awaited Drama" to fans of this wonderful style.