Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Compton's Most Wanted Ultramagnetic Diss You Never Knew About

I've gotta share some credit with Marc of Black Pegasus Records for this one.  He asked me recently if I remembered a time Compton's Most Wanted took a shot at The Ultramagnetic MCs, sort of suggesting they were out of touch old school.  And it did sound sort of vaguely familiar... like I could hear MC Eiht saying "Ultramagnetics" in my head, but that was about all I could remember.  He thought it might've been on the remix of their 1991 "Compton's Lyncin'" 12", which was one of the later singles off their second album, Straight Check N 'Em.  It's one of those generic diss songs, where it's going pretty hard but not really directed at anyone in particular.  They're cutting up the Ice Cube line, "last year I was Ruthless, now I'm Lynchin' motherfuckers."  I generally think they peaked with their first album, but they never really fell off, and this was one of the better singles off this album for me.  Especially the remix, which comes with a tighter sample that Special Ed had already used for "Ya Wish Ya Could" the previous year.

Anyway, that was easily checked, but it wasn't there.  I even checked the instrumental, in case there was a little hidden shout out at the end or something.  So then I started listening to other CMW songs from around that period.  "They Still Gafflin'" because it was the B-side to "Compton's Lynchin'," and other more diss-oriented tracks, like "Duck Sick 1 & 2" and even the extended version of "Rhymes Too Fonky."  No dice.  I was starting to wonder if I'd ever actually heard what Marc was talking about, or if I just let him put the idea in my head like some kind of autosuggestion.  So I kinda gave up on it... and then I found it by accident.

So, on that "Compton's Lynchin'" single, besides the remix, instrumental and B-side, is a shorter Radio Mix.  It's a Radio Mix of the remix, meaning it uses the newer remix instrumental rather than the album version.  But the album version and remix both have the same vocals.  The Radio Mix, though, is one of those where instead of bleeping the curses, or cutting to silence, playing them backwards or whatever, Eiht recorded all the vocals over with adjusted cleaner lyrics.  So, you know, "I don't give a fuck," becomes "I don't care jack," etc.  Basically the same rhymes, just with little substitutions.

But I guess one line was too radio unfriendly that a simple, single word change or two would do, and so that felt they had to swap out the whole thing.  Or maybe they were intentionally tucking it away in the Radio Mix to be a little coy.  I couldn't say either way, but the whole song is the same, minus a few phrase swaps, until midway through the second verse.  I was only listening to it because I'd already given up searching and was just letting the record spin while I was on the computer.  Then I heard the lyrics go from, "the motherfucking power after hour.  No air to breath, cause all the suckers we devour," to "with your played out rhymes, you can't forget it, 1970 Ultramagnetics."  It is real!


So, to be clear, the whole song's not an Ultra diss.  Again, the rest of the verses are unchanged from the original version, none of which have any reference to those guys in them.  And I don't even think the line is even meant to be taken as a direct diss at them, per se, though it's definitely insulting to them.  I think the idea is the generic, sucker MCs they've been talking about the whole song are, in this line, being called tired and hackney, like played out Ultramagnetic 70s rap.  Not that Ultra were a thing in the 70s, of course; their first single was in 1986.  That means this line would've come at them even before their second album, when they signed to MCA (Funk Your Head Up was '92).

So it's a little harsh, no doubt, and completely pointed, since he used their name specifically.  But I doubt it was an indication of a serious beef.  Just a fun little shot that makes an otherwise completely skippable radio mix worth checking out even in 2018.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

The Awesome Foursome You've Never Heard

(Before they were The Audio Two and Kings of Swing, they were The Awesome Foursome.  And before 2018, these songs were sitting on a shelf somewhere, unheard.  Youtube version is here.)

Thursday, July 26, 2018

White Boys, You Know They're Down By Law

So, I got an email a couple weeks ago asking if I knew about the 80s rap group known as the White Boys.  And I gave 'em a quick answer, but I thought their story would make for a fun post.  They had an album called ...On a Mission on Polydor in 1988, with two 12" singles.  They obviously look more like a rock group than a Hip-Hop outfit, but apart from a few Run DMC-influenced rock twinges, they're definitely on a straight rap tip.  Like, just to give you an idea, the opening and title track is a straight up "Mission Impossible" inspired jam (yes, sampling the famous theme) about how they're being sent on a mission to overcome the "plan by unfriendly elements to undermine the efforts of the Hip-Hop generation."  Yup, it's pure 80's cheese, completely reminiscent of other "Mission Impossible"-themed raps like The Bad Boys' "Mission," World Class Wreckin' Cru's "Mission Possible," Mellow Tone's "Mission Is Possible," etc.  Look, nobody's calling it an original or great concept, but my point is it's nothing like when Faith No More or whoever started mixing rap into their rock.

So, who were these guys?  Well, as you can see there's three of them.  From left to right, on the CD cover, it's M.J. Precise, M.C. Exact and Mr. Ed.  M.J. Precise is the main guy, who put the group together, does half the lead MCing, produced most of the beats and did the DJ cuts.  MC Exact was his friend who he brought in to be the other MC, and Mr. Ed plays guitar.  I said "produced most of the beats," by the way, because their album also has beats courtesy of Marley Marl and Cutmaster DC.  So yeah, there's actually kind of a reason to pick up their stuff besides the novelty of the picture covers.

With that said, though, Marley just produced one song and I wouldn't exactly say he gave them his top shelf material.  It's okay, but actually some of the best production comes courtesy of M.J. himself.  "Some," because this album is all over the map.  They have upbeat songs, harder songs, a token sappy love song and a cover of "Play That Funky Music White Boy," because of course they do.  The times they do touch the 80s metal sound, like on "We Live To Rock" or their single "This Is Hardcore (Is It Not?)," are often their best moments, not because I'm much of a fan of rap/ rock hybrids, but just because that's clearly when they're playing to their strengths, and Mr. Ed actually has something to do.

On the other hand, some of their more pure hip-hop tracks like "Continuation" and "Running the Show" (the Marley Marl one) are pretty fun, too.  Their rhymes are straight corny ("Your toe is tappin', your hand's movin' back and forth.  I'm takin' a stand, like Oliver North!"), but the production's pretty polished and the cuts are nice so long as you don't try and take anything seriously.  They really only run into major trouble when they try to stretch themselves, like with more pop songs, the love ballad, or their goofy reggae-style message song called "Human Race."

I've actually read two conflicting origins for the group's name in interviews.  Either they were originally trying to go by another name, but everybody who booked them where ever they played just called them "the white boys," so they decided to adopt the moniker...  OR, they shared management with The Fat Boys (they were both on Tin Pan Apple) and The Skinny Boys, and they insisted on giving all their acts the most obvious, uncreative names possible.  Either way, I gathered the point was they didn't want to shoulder responsibility for their cringey branding.

So, unsurprisingly, the group didn't last long.  But you can see the talent in the group is MJ Precise.  I mean, I don't want to get into splitting whether Precise or Exact was the better rapper - half the album they're doing that 80s "say all our bars in unison" thing - but you could tell Precise knew how to make a professional rap track.  So, it's still definitely surprising that any of The White Boys continued on in the industry, but of any of them, it makes sense that it would be Precise who'd go on to become the thoroughly credible producer known as T-Ray, member of DJ Mugg's Soul Assassins who produced solid material from legends like Kool G Rap and Percee-P to artists like OC, Double XX Posse and more mainstream acts like House of Pain, Cypress Hill and Mick Jagger.

And if you're wondering what he's been up to even more recently, since he doesn't seem to be doing much as T-Ray anymore either, check this link out!  Yeah man, I've gotta say, it looks like he's had a pretty fun career.  I wonder if he ever got MC Exact to guest on that show.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Let's Get 2 Deep, Part 2: Did Thomas On Time Just Diss the Juice Crew?

...Continuing on from Part 1, there's a lot of key info I didn't even get to you about 2 Deep.  The first big thing is that they were on Cold Chillin' Records.  Throughout the 1980's, Cold Chillin' meant one thing: Juice Crew.  From the very beginning, every single record released on Cold Chillin' Warner Bros (and there was a lot) were from members of The Juice Crew.  Seeing the Cold Chillin' label on an album's spine was the same as seeing the Juice Crew Allstar logo once you opened it up.  And 1990 was the first year they strayed at all from that, with two artists outside that family: Grand Daddy IU and 2 Deep.  And those two acts were barely outside the Crew.  IU was being produced and managed by Biz Markie and Cool V.  Honestly, the reason I sprang for 2 Deep's album after copping their "Homework" single based on the video was seeing that Cold Chillin' logo in the stores; it meant "must have."  These guys had to be some kind of Juice Crew affiliates!  And what was 2 Deep's connection?

That leads us to the other major point I left out of Part 1... who was the other half of 2 Deep?  Jae Supreme was pretty much the lead and only MC, and based on his later career, clearly played a major role in the production.  And the guy doing all the dope scratching seemed to by that DJ K-Slim dude (2 Deep's liner notes really sucked in terms of giving proper credit).  But there's obviously two guys on all the album covers and in their video.  So who's the other half of 2 Deep?  Thomas On Time.

If that name rings any bells, it means you were a rap nerd like me reading all the credits in your rap tapes.  He came up a bunch in early Juice Crew projects, seemingly in a largely technical capacity.  You'll see him listed as an engineer or mixer, and his name stood out, because he had a nickname.  Here, for example, check out the credits to Craig G's first album, where he's featured quite prominently.
...Okay, not as prominently as Marley Marl.  But still, you can see he seems to have been a pretty big player on that album.  And he worked on a bunch of Juice Crew/ Cold Chillin' projects.  So, I assume that's why 2 Deep got an album.  He put in his time behind the scene, spent years working on their projects and they finally decided to give him and his partner a shot to shine for themselves.  They probably also pressured them into doing a school about "Homework" they could market to the kids.

But like I said, that was the only Kid 'N' Play-type song they had.  The rest of the album was more traditional, going for a pretty smooth type of vibe over all.  They had a couple house songs, because of course they did, and yes, the token whispery love ballad with a rather underwhelmingly sung hook.  One song had guest production by Larry Smith, but otherwise 2 Deep produced everything, usually together, but each had one solo effort, too.  It's got a lot of familiar samples other hip-hop artists had already used - plenty of James Brown staples - but always with a unique little spin to it, and a very polished, professional sound.  They might not have been pushing the envelope, but these guys knew how to make a quality record.  And yeah, Jae was really the front man, who did all the rapping.

Except on one song (well, two if you count the posse cut I wrote about in Part 1).  Deep into side 2, Thomas On Time takes the mic for a solo joint called "For Those Who Dissed Me."  It's a harder track, again with very recognizable samples: "Funky Drummer" mixed with the classic "Take Me To the Mardi Gras" bells.  It's sort of like a more hardcore "The Vapors," where the T.O.T. just goes off on everybody who didn't support him, and how they must all feel bad now that he's a big success.  It's pretty straight forward and starts off safely generic:

"There's not a soul to blame,
Just cold cash to gain.

So when you hear my name?
Add fame.
Thomas, p.k.a. I'm the T.O.T.
For all those who dissed me!"

We get it, right?  But as he gets into it, there are lines where it starts to sound like he's got someone specific in mind:

"Run! Run and hide, you dirty maggot!
These nineties I'm claimin' - watch me bag it.
Put me down those times I begged for support?
Now excuse me, hold that thought.
...
You didn't want me around like some low-life;
Cut me from the crowd you ran like a sharp knife.
Bet you those old days you regret,
Wouldn't let me touch your set.
Now, peace my man, I hope you live longer;
Things you did just made my pride stronger."

Things are sounding a little more personal, but still, it's fairly generalized.  Could be just some generic artist he didn't get along with one day in the studio.  "A composite, like New York Magazine does!"  Except there are some lines that really seem to be singling out somebody in particular:

"Yeah, you played yourself.
Now you're low in health, poor in wealth.
Never thought I would succeed - the last one picked.
But I stick.
Seems to me that your daily plan
Was to mentally destroy this man.
I got a life to live, a lot to give,
And you're a fucked up man with how many kids?"

Okay, he's definitely talking about somebody, right?  This isn't just a general record for all the people who didn't think he'd become somebody, this is aimed at somebody.  But who?  Unfortunately, there aren't enough clues for me to quite figure it out.  But there are a few specific lines, so maybe if we all put our heads together in the comments we can figure this out.

"I admire a child that has a goal,
And not one selling their soul,
Sucked in by those nickel and dime days;
You'll be in debt for life thinking crime pays.
I'm not mad, but hot enough to cause a heat wave,
So stand up tall and be brave.
I'm not trying to be a teacher,
A preacher,
Heal you like a doctor,
The one that shot ya."

So, someone in the industry who Thomas worked with, who's now falling on hard times, fathered a bunch of kids and did some dirt.  An artist who wouldn't let him touch his set, and who got... shot... by a doctor?  I swear, that's what he's saying; he's got a pretty clear delivery, plus the lyrics are typed out in the J-card (though they're a little inaccurate, and I've had to correct them here and there).  So who the heck could he be talking about?  Most of the rest of the song is just him talking about his own success and plans to "make g's at ease from beats that keep the crowd intense."  But there's one more line where he really tips his hat:

"I got a show to do,
There's no time for you
And your crab-like No Juice Crew!"

He's going at The Juice Crew!  Or at least somebody from it.  Marley?  Maybe a rapper like MC Shan?  Or someone more on the business end, like Fly Ty or Lenny Fischelberg?  I don't see why he'd be going after Cold Chillin', though, when they just put him on and gave 2 Deep their album.  I could see them coming out later and having beef with those guys, but not right in the middle of their album.  The stuff about not letting him touch his set and going broke sounds more like an artist than a label executive, anyway.  But this album shouts out the Juice Crew artists (and the Cold Chillin' staff) in their liner notes, and I couldn't spot any conspicuous absences.  Jae even name-drops most of them at the end of "Rain Dance."  In fact, this song ends with shout outs, and T.O.T. doesn't name any Juice Crew guys, but he does shout out Lenny and Ty, so they have to be in the clear.  There is one line, though, in the shout-outs that aren't included in the printed lyrics: "A lot of people in Queensbridge... there's also a lot of people out there who did diss me, but I said I wanna give thanks to those who didn't."  So it's someone from Queens?


I mean, again, it's possible he's thinking of different people who dissed him during different parts of the song.  It's even possible that he meant that Juice Crew line to be like, "we're down with the Juice Crew; you're in the No Juice Crew," which would be corny as Hell, but possible.  Maybe it is all just referencing a hypothetical nonbeliever.  It's just that some of those lines sound really pointed, like he's zeroing in on some specific guy... who sired a lot of kids.  And him burning bridges here would explain why Thomas On Time never seemed to appear in any liner notes after this.  Somebody must know the answer to this mystery!  2 Deep had one more single off of this album (the love song... god knows whose decision that was), and that's the last time I've seen his name anywhere.  As we know, Jae Supreme moved on to other things.  I kinda feel bad for T.O.T.  There's no lost masterpiece here, but even in 2018, Honey, That's Show Biz is still pretty listenable.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Let's Get 2 Deep, Part 1: Jae Supreme's Kiddie Rap

Look, okay, I know this post is about some easily dismissed kiddie rap.  But hey, I was a kid once, so yeah, I used to rock this stuff and it had an impact on me and probably a lot of people my age.  Like, you know how a couple years ago, DWG discovered Fifth Platoon's killer B-side, "Hallelujah, the Fifth Is Here?"  Well, I'll confess.  The reason I was already up on it isn't because I was the world's greatest digger of the finest, most obscure random rap.  I'd bought that single back in the day for the silly A-side, where they exchange goofy stories about meeting girls on a party line.  "Well, excuse me.  (Excuse who?)  Excuse me.  (Well, who the Hell are you?)  'Ey yo, they call me BooGee.  (And what do you need excusin' for?)  Because I have to speak.  (About who?)  Vanessa.  (Vanessa?)  The light skin freak that I met on the telephone.  (The telephone?)  Yeah, that's the one that won't leave me the Hell alone.  (Oh no!)  She's a tight freak that calls me twenty-five, eight days a week.  (Well, I can't recollect her.)  Man, open your mind.  (Oh yeah, that's the freak that you met on the party line.)"  I just typed all that out from memory, and I could keep going.

Anyway, it may not be a good look now, but as a little kid it was all good.  Tone Loc's "Funky Cold Medina" was the cutting edge topic in grade school classrooms.  We played The Fat Boys and kept the volume down so our parents couldn't hear Eazy-E or 2 Live Crew.   I still remember being torn because I had Young MC and Gangstarr's first tapes in my hands at the music store, and I couldn't afford both.  We would go back and forth over whether "Principal's Office" was better than "Bust a Move" because it was funnier.  Plus, I'm from the suburbs, so songs like "Turtle Power" and "Parents Just Don't Understand" were the hits I could talk to the other kids about, because nobody else seemed to be excited about Lakim Shabazz's "Black Is Back."  And this was the kind of time when even artists like Craig G had songs like "First Day of School."  So yeah.  I say all of that just to explain why 2 Deep's 1990 debut, "I Didn't Do My Homework," was a Day 1 must have purchase for me.

Because this is about as cornball kiddie rap as it comes.  Like it's title says, it's a light-hearted narrative rap about a guy who should've done his homework, but didn't feel like it, and now has to pay the price.  The 12" mentions special appearances by West and Will, whoever they are.  I'm guessing they're the guys who do the character voices, because the during the breaks, we get little skits with "Mrs. Buttercup" chewing out our MC, Jae Supreme, for not having done his homework.  It's absolutely Fresh Prince/ Young MC knock-off territory:

"It was a Friday afternoon and the only thing on my mind?
Huh, was having a good time,
At the party tonight.  But then I quickly woke up
To the sound of Mrs. Buttercup.
She said, 'okay class, you've been good this week,
So I'm only gonna give you two hundred pages to read
Over the weekend: chapters one through twenty.'
I wasn't laughin', 'cause there was definitely nothin' funny
About staying in the house with my nose in the book.
I was waiting for the joke, the hook.
But she was serious;
I got delirious;
See, I got the same from six classes previously.
There goes the weekend, and all the fun I planned.
How can I get out of this jam?
Missin' one assignment couldn't hurt.
I wonder what would happen...
If I didn't do my homework?"

Oh boy, you'll have to listen to the whole song to find out how this gripping drama ends!  Spoiler alert, though: it's never as clever or amusing as the more popular records they're emulating.  But maybe you noticed something.  Did that name, Jae Supreme, ring a little bell?  Maybe you remember a lost Nas classic called "I'm a Villain?"  Yeah, this is that Jae Supreme!  This is his beginning in the industry, producer and lead rapper of the short lived rap group 2 Deep.  He became known for producing a lot for Cormega, and Heavy Jewelz & Gentleman's Relief Records recently recovered his lost 90s album with his crew Sons of Light.

But Jae didn't produce "I Didn't Do My Homework;" some guy named Tuta Aquino did.  Don't feel bad if you don't recognize that name.  I had to look him up myself; he really wasn't a Hip-Hop guy.  This was an exception in his career, which mostly consisted of a lot of dance and pop stuff, including Sinead O'Connor and Duran Duran, and more known for engineering and remixing than production.  It's actually not a bad track, though.  It's a little too smooth to have been quite the break out crossover hit they were obviously looking for with that song, but it makes it a little easier to revisit this song in 2018 without cringing.  In fact, 2 Deep have some really nice cuts by DJ K-Slim on the hook.

So as you can see above, the 12" comes in a full color picture cover and it splits the song into a slightly shorter Radio Edit, the Deep Vocal Mix, and a Kingston Regga Muffin Mix.  That last one really isn't as dramatic as a change as it suggests, there's no new reggae-style hook or anything.  The instrumental is just a little more reggae influenced and a lot more forgettable.  If you've got the album, you don't really need the single for any of these mixes.

Finally, the last song on this 12" is "Simply Done (LP Version)," a posse cut featuring his crew, the S Double R Posse/ Tore Down Posse.  The line-up (pieced together from the album's shout outs, since they're never properly credited) are Jae, Enforcer L.D., Troop and Rob Well.  Rob Well's the only one of those who seems to have recorded outside of this endeavor - he had a split single with T-Wiz on DNA International that 2 Deep also produced.  Anyway, "Simply Done" is a pretty cool, darker groove with backwards drums like a Paris track.  They're all going for a fairly similar smooth but hard style, and they each prove rather adept at it.  It's not mind blowing, but it's a respectably solid effort and a world away from the preteen targeting material on the A-side that probably pushed away as many potential fans as it attracted.  In fact, their whole album turned out to be fairly removed from that kind of stuff.  But we'll get into all of that and delve into the less public face of 2 Deep in Part 2.

Monday, June 25, 2018

2 Black Across 110th Street

Okay, I've got some crazy records I'm looking at blogging about in the near future.  Some kinda unconventional, even silly or legitimately kinda wack stuff.  So before I sunk too deep into mode, I thought I'd get something real in the bank first.  I've written about 2 Black 2 Strong MMG before, but this right here is their best record.  They'd gotten a lot of controversy with their debut EP, but I think this single better represents them: "Across the 110."

2 Black 2 Strong MMG's name can be a little confusing, and I don't think I really cleared it up before.  "2 Black 2 Strong and the MMG" would make more sense, because 2 Black 2 Strong, a.k.a. Johnny Marrs is the front man, and MMG, or Mad Motherfucking Gangsters, is his crew.  So yeah, it's really just the one guy rapping, and the production is by... Chill Will of The Get Fresh Crew.  I guess Chill Will had another side of himself he wanted to express after doing all the soft, party records with Dougie, because he also produced the classic, hard rock single "Begs No Friends" by Strickly Roots.  ...Or not, that was Chill Will From the Eastside, the mixtape guy.  See the comments.

So, the title is in reference to 110th St, famous for being the dividing line between Harlem and the gentrified Central Park.  There's a classic, gritty 70s film about it called Across 110th St, which sparked the even more famous Bobby Womack song of the same name.  So this is kind of the rap version of that (though Pretty Tone Capone also made a pretty terrific "Across 110th St"), though it doesn't make the obvious choice of sampling any of it. Instead it flips a super tough break from a Lyn Collins record produced by James Brown and his band.

And really, the break makes this record.  It sounds incredible.  Really abrasive instrumentation and slow, smashed drums.  The subtler smooth bassline sounds like it's taken from somewhere else, but it's the same sample.  Then the dusty horns come in on the hook; it's perfect.  Because, honestly, Johnny doesn't exactly have the nimblest, most impressive flow.  He's no Rakim; he gets most of his vocal strength just from yelling.  Not that he doesn't make it work.  I described him before as a cross between Public Enemy and Willie D, but here he's on more of an early Fat Joe meets Freddie Foxxx tip.  And lyrically, he doesn't have much to say besides you better think twice before stepping onto his side of the 110 and shouting out every single member of his crew.  But that's all you need; this is a killer, no fucking around record.

The 12" makes it look like it might have some interesting remixes with titles like "Uptown's In the House Mix" and "Harlem Radio Mix," but really they're just minor edits of each other.  You also get the Instrumental and Acapella, which is nice.  And the B-side is the album track "Only the Strong Survive," also produced by Will.  It's a much faster, higher energy track with a killer "Funky Drummer" break and a dramatic piano loop.  It's pretty hot, too; and his flow's a little tighter when he's forced to rhyme twice as fast.  There are album, radio and instrumental versions for that one, and it comes in an inconspicuous sticker cover.  It's one of those records I really feel doesn't get the attention it deserves, probably because MMG got overshadowed by their own controversy of the previous record.  But it's too bad, because this is the one that really stands the test of time; a legit Harlem anthem.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Back On Tilt

(A new On Tilt album means the return of Vrse Murphy, with raps by Luke Sick and QM!  Youtube version is here.)

Monday, June 11, 2018

Silver Fox Is Back, Back Again

About this time last year, I made a video about the comeback single of The Fantasy Three's Silver Fox, the MC probably best known as being the inspiration of Kool G Rap.  It was a little 7" on the new label Hip Hop Be Bop Records, a new venture from from hiphopbebop.com.  Obviously, I've already espoused on that record in said video, but I was really happy with how it turned out.  And now, as the title says, he's "Back."

Again on Hip Hop Be Bop and again with the same, virtually unknown producer, Clandestine, this one's a little different; and I think a lot of heads might actually like it better.  Where the first one reached back to the Fantasy Three-type of records Fox was known for, this one still definitely has an old school throwback feel, but not in that upbeat early 80s way.  There's nothing like those kind of upbeat, electro synth riffs looping loudly over the beat.  This is more of hardcore, battle-style track, you could imagine the Grind Mode Cypher guys taking turns on, except faster and more high energy.  And that energy is tripled by DJ Credit One, who's going ham on the turntables the entire time, cutting up the vocal samples for the hook and just randomly getting busy almost the entire time Fox raps.

And Fox handily keeps up with the pace.  He doesn't go for punchlines, but he's definitely flexing his skills on this one.  Where "The Buck's Still Here" had a lot to impart socially intertwined with the more fun, freestyle rhymes; this one has nothing to say but "we hittin' the door like a wrecking ball."  It's just a fierce flow, constantly playing with syllables and how he chops up his bars.

In my video on his first record, I neglected to comment on the remix, or "Rawmix," on the B-side, where the new wave-style loop is pulled back and the drums hit more prominently.  Well, I won't repeat that mistake, because this one has a remix on the B-side, too.  And the strategy is similar: removing some of the samples to let the break dominate the track a little harder.  They do add another little string sample to this version, though, and Credit One's cuts are the same on both mixes.  In both cases, I prefer the A-sides, but the the remixes are valid enough that I can easily seeing people preferring them instead.  It's a close call each time and I'm glad to get both versions on wax.

Like "The Buck's Still Here," this is a 7" release that plays at 45 and comes in a plain sleeve.  It's technically still a pre-order, but the release is tomorrow, so assuming there aren't any delays (and since I have my promo copy safely in-hand, we can probably assume it's safely past the pressing plant stage), it's basically out now.  I also can't help but notice that the catalog number here is HHBB-7-003, and the last one was HHBB-7-001.  Is HHBB hiding another interesting 7" up their sleeve?

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Brooklyn's Disgrace... The Weirdest 3rd Bass Diss You'll Ever Hear


(Here's a weird one for you.  3rd Bass get dissed by someone named MC 29.  I can't even tell... is he meant to be funny, a la Biz Markie or Busy Bee, or an actual joke, like MC Pillsbury or Rappin' Duke?  Listen and decide for yourselves.  Youtube version is here.)

Sunday, May 20, 2018

I Shouldn't've Left You

What's up, guys?  I've missed y'all!  I mentioned it in my last video, but if you missed it, I've been busy with my last semester of grad school, so I took a step back to keep my grades pretty.  But now all of that is over and done with, and I'm back with a thematically appropriate record to talk about today: Rakim's "It's Been a Long Time."  But not that "It's Been a Long Time," I wanna talk about the Suave House Remix 12", also from Universal Records.

One of my pet theories I've developed during the years of writing about music is that we tend to get hooked onto artists as fans; and then it's easy for us to be lead astray.  By that I mean, we use our full judgement at first; we can be resistant to embracing an artist, and hem and haw over whether their latest record is really all that good, etc.  But once people cross the line into becoming a fan of someone, they start accepting a lot of BS and letting some pretty mediocre stuff slide.  You know, like every post-Marley Marl Juice Crew All Star project.

Or, for a really on the nose example...  Pretty much every discerning Hip-Hop head basically had to be a fan of Kool Keith in the heyday of the Ultramagnetic MCs; but how long did it take most of us who came up with him to question his new material?  I remember being super excited for the Ultra and Sex Style albums, or listening to him on Chino XL's album just thinking how great it is he's on there being super eccentric.  It wasn't until, like Matthew that I finally started questioning: do I really need to be spending money on this?  If some new jack had come out with those albums, I would've casually passed on it right away like, "nah, I'm not feeling it," but because it was Keith, I needed to unlearn.  Anybody with I Am the West or Tical 0 in their collection knows what I mean.  It's hard to let go.

So when I came across this one in my crates the other day, I immediately got on my own back.  Ah, you're such a Rakim nerd you even had to buy this totally excessive, mainstream crossover remix.  I mean, what corny outsider label exec thought it was was a wise idea to pair Rakim up with flavor of the month Texas gangsta rap beats?  Dumb idea, and dumber me for lapping up whatever they dumped in my lap.  But I figure I own it; I might as well revisit it.

And hey, you know, it's actually not that bad.  It obviously doesn't stand up against the original, but that's because the original is a killer DJ Premier track by the man at the peak of his career.  But this version's surprisingly effective.  The synthetic sound effects of the Suave House don't come off so well in direct comparison to the musicality of Premier's mix, but this is a darker track that actually suits Rakim's vocal stylings quite well.  The bassline draws you in, and it helps a hell of a lot that they left Premier's cuts in for the hook.  And it did get fairly popular; it wound up being included as a bonus track on most versions of the album.  But if the first version didn't exist to overshadow it, and this was the only version of "It's Been a Long Time" on the market, I think this would be more critically regarded in Rakim's canon as well.

Plus, it ain't the worst, incongruous cross-coast remix of a 1997 Rakim comeback single Universal put out.  There's another one you've probably forgotten, found on this oddball little Universal Records sampler album, U.N.I. Vs. All.  I mean, first of all, it's just odd to imagine anybody being psyched for a compilation unifying around one of the most ugly, corporate conglomerate record labels in history.  Like, listen to the intro, with some guy screaming, "it's you and I verse all!" against lightning and thunder sound effects.  I don't know whatever happened to that dude, but I bet he's not associated with Universal anymore than any of the "soldiers" on this roster that got chewed up and spit out.

Also, because it's a big international label, the artists don't have much to do with each other.  New York legends, west coast gangsta rappers, Twista and Crucial Conflict out of Chicago, Tracey Lee out of... where ever he was from.  It's a real random, disparate grouping.  Of course Rakim is rapping over Suave House beats on this album.

But it's interesting because just about everything on here is exclusive.  It's a lot like a Hip-Hop soundtrack album, I guess.  A bunch of songs by big artists you can't get anywhere else.  That Crucial Conflict song was never on any of their albums.  Psycho Drama, Mafia and Rex Freestyle teemed up to create an original song just for this compilation.  Eightball and MJG have an exclusive remix of "Middle Of the Night," with Twista.  And I imagine "Take the Train" would've been featured on The Reepz' album if the label had ever put it out.  They had a video for that song and everything, and yet it's only on here.

Some of it ain't really so exclusive, though.  They threw on that crazy Canibus/ Lost Boyz/ A+ song "Boyz 2 Men."  I've always really dug that one, despite A+ brandishing some of the most obvious ghost-writing in the genre's history.  But it wound up being included on his Hempstead High album.  Plus they couldn't resist including Canibus' "Second Round K.O." since it was their hottest single at the moment.  And other songs were made to look like exclusives, but are really just deceitful retitlings of mixtape freestyles that had already been widely released (just like that shady Big L compilation).  "It's Logic" and "Shout Out To the Lost Boyz" are just the famous Canibus freestyles from Tony Touch's and DJ Clue's mixtapes, respectively.  McGruff's, Tracy Lee's, and Panama PI's are just freestyles, too.  They're dope, so I can't complain too much, but sticking new titles on 'em made fans buy the tape hoping for new material, then finding out it was just stuff they already owned.

Anyway, getting to that Rakim remix.  This time they remixed "Guess Who's Back," and by they, I mean Jermaine Dupri.  That one was a nice Clark Kent banger, but this time it doesn't just lose by comparison to the original; it's a loser on its own merits.  We just get a cheap, chintzy beat that doesn't have a moody atmosphere or addictive bassline to pull you into Rakim's rhymes.  Plus, Jermaine adds two weak little verses of his own.  He also leaves the scratches on the hook, they don't connect to the rest of the instrumental, and instead just come off like two different sounds playing at the same time.

That remix was also featured on some of the 12"s (though not all versions).  The "Guess Who's Back" 12" remixes also include another Suave House remix, which is interesting with a more upbeat, almost 80s pop R&B vibe.  There's a Buckwild one, which is cool and more understated, as his production tends to be.  And there's a Prophecy Entertainment which was pretty mediocre.  That Clark Kent version was really distinct, so I don't think any of the other versions really hold up, but the Buckwild's pretty good on its own terms and the Suave House was... interesting.

So, I guess at the end of all this, I'm not really mad myself for picking up either of these singles.  They're kind of excessive, because none of the remixes could ever replace their originals; but they're alright.  You can't go wrong putting any Rakim 12" in your crate.  Except for that single with Linkin Park.  If you bought that, jeez...  Even I'm not that big of a Stan.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Obscure 80s Rap for Easter

(Happy Easter, everybody.  I'm still here!  And I brought a some albums by an 80s Christian rapper a few of you might remember.  Youtube version is here.)