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A manhole cover slides slowly and ominously opens. Silence. Then a startling shout: "Diggedy DAS EFX!" It could only mean one thing -- Dray and Skoob are up from the underground and back on the attack.

For Brooklyn's DAS EFX, it's always been about being true to themselves and knowing what they're about, while still growing, taking chances and maintaining their reputation as hip hop innovators. So it should come as no surprise that DAS EFX's newest album, Generation EFX, is their boldest statement since their groundbreaking platinum debut Dead Serious -- and maybe their boldest statement ever. From start to finish it's the work of a team who are completely confident of their skills, their sound and their message.

According to Skoob, Generation EFX is not just a title, it's a way of seeing things. "Generation EFX caters to an entire generation, instead of just the rap world. It will appeal to anybody and everybody," he says, sounding positive without seeming boastful. "Hip hop is constantly changing, and what goes around comes around," he continues. "Before DAS, a lot of commercial rap was on the radio. Right around when we came on the scene, it got more underground. And now, in '97 and '98, it's going back to a more pop sound. I'm not saying it's bad, it's just the way it is. But we don't follow the trends. We try to satisfy ourselves first. We're gonna make music, we got into it to outdo ourselves, and we're still getting better."

Generation EFX showcases the group's unique tongue-twisting talents, as Dray and Skoob tear through fourteen style-stretching tracks featuring heavy beats, chanted choruses and ear-catching samples, some familiar, some obscure. Their rhymes range from tough high-speed runs to slowed down grooves to razor-sharp hooks, all without missing a beat, and topics run the gamut, covering life on the street, partying, the duo's unbeatable verbal skills, even the music itself.

Skoob says, "We weren't afraid to experiment with new & different types of music, from the buckwild rock feel of 'Generation EFX,' to hard rap things like 'Raw Breed' and 'Somebody Told Me,' with 8-Off." The first single and video, "Rap Scholar," featuring a guest stint from Redman and a brilliant sample of Brick's classic "Dazz," is a funk-heavy lesson that will definitely get everybot-ty moving, no matter which coast they're on. Other highlights include the aggressive "No Doubt," featuring M.O.P. (who had a huge underground hit called "How About Some Hardcore") and Teflon; the sexy "Whut Goes Around," featuring Miss Jones; the sledgehammer groove of "New Stuff"; and the album closer, "Change," an ingenious ode to hip hop featuring a haunting sample from Queen.

In a hip hop world jam-packed with sound-alike groups, DAS EFX blasted onto the scene as rap's premier innovators in 1992. Their ability to elongate phrases with made-up syllables -- diggedy style -- became one of the most imitated techniques of the year. Their debut album, Dead Serious, sold over a million copies and thrust them into the international spotlight as hip hop poets of the first order, a long climb from their Virginia State dorms, where both rappers majored in English. Their next albums, Straight Up Sewaside and 1995's Hold It Down, put their combined sales over the two million mark and secured their place among rap's most acclaimed.

Skoob originally hails from the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn, and Dray was born in Teaneck, New Jersey, but both credit venturing away from urban rap circles as one of the keys to their originality. "Being away from everything made us develop our own style," says Dray. Their inventiveness did not go unnoticed for long. Honing their craft at college, they eventually entered a rap contest judged by EPMD. They didn't win, but they impressed Parrish "PMD" Smith so much he took their phone number. A contract soon followed, and the duo left school to make rap history.

After producing their first two albums pretty much on their own, they finally turned to outside producers on '95's Hold It Down. They've taken that approach again on Generation EFX. "Outside producers bring out different sides of you," Skoob says. "Having a few different producers brings a wider spectrum of sounds to the album -- underground, party, rock, whatever. The producers come in as fans and have an idea on how they want you to sound. They build it around you."

Producers on Generation EFX include many of hip hop's hottest, including Parrish Smith, Rashad Smith & Armondo Colon of Tumblin' Dice Entertainment (who helped Busta Rhymes put his hands on platinum and produced top ten hits for Rampage and MC Lyte, among others), Angel "8-Off" Aguilar ("8-Off stayed with us for a month, and we worked all day, every day," says Skoob), Solid Scheme and Tony L.

Generation EFX is DAS EFX's fourth album. In the lightning-fast, here-this-morning-gone-this-afternoon hip hop scene, Dray and Skoob are finding themselves in the enviable position of becoming career veterans in a genre that doesn't have too many. "You know, every album gets so much love from the street, it makes us wanna go in and do it again," Skoob reflects. "It's nice to be recognized for what you're doing."

He adds, "But then I look at L.L. or EPMD and I realize I haven't even been around that long. We've got a lot left to do!"

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