Sunday, May 1, 2016

Father MC Is World Wide, Y'all

So, a couple years ago I found a Father MC test pressing I was pretty excited about, because it was a rare, unreleased Luke Records 12" that was virtually unknown. But Father had one other single on Luke, which wasn't quite test press only, but it is a promo-only 12". In fact, it says it's a test pressing on the label, but there's so many of these around, I suspect that maybe they just left that printed on the promo label? Anyway, regardless of all that, it's still pretty obscure that even most Father MC fans never even heard, so let's talk about it.

See, Father moved to Florida after his Uptown Records phase. So he and Luke sound like a pretty strange combination, but I guess it kinda made sense. Considering he recorded at least two 12"s worth of material for Luke, I assumed there were plans for an album and a proper it was a proper artist signing. But of course the bottom fell out of Luke Records in the 90s, so whatever might've happened didn't. The two songs on this single wound up being included on a quick cash-in 1997 compilation album called Luke's Peep Show Compilation Album Vol. 1 (there was no Vol. 2), which is more than you can say for the test press 12" songs, which never turned up anywhere else.

So how is it? It's not terrible, honestly. Father, who also produced this single, has a tradition of using tried and true samples that always work, and he does that again here. This time he's rocking over Freedom's "Get Up and Dance," the same loop used for Grandmaster Flash's "Freedom," De La Soul's "Buddy," The Crash Crew's "High Power Rap," Boogie Down Production's "You Must Learn" and so many others from Big Daddy Kane to The Wu-Tang Clan. So it's a very safe groove, and he doesn't change a thing. So, it's very listenable, but also very low risk/ low reward. How excited are you going to get by hearing someone rock that beat again? Not at all, but you're also not gonna be like, "turn that shit off."

And how does he rock it? Well, that's the bad news. He kinda phones it in. He doesn't have anything to say but generic "I'm such a playa"isms, and he doesn't really match the energy of the track. His delivery is alright, and he does put some effort into the delivery of his lines. But the hook is downright laconic; it'll cure your insomnia.

There's just the Radio Edit and Instrumental on here, but he doesn't curse much anyway. He says he's "fucking girls" and "copping mad shit" once or twice, which gets muted; but it doesn't change the listening experience very much. I suppose you could track down the Peep Show compilation to hear them uncensored. You're even more devoted to the Father MC oeuvre than me if you go that far, though.

There's a B-side, too. It's called "Give Me Love," and it doesn't use a classic sample. Or any sample, I don't think. It just sounds like standard sounds from a "producer tools kit" CD or something, with fine drums and a generic, plodding bassline. There are a few sounds on top of that, but it's really just boring. Father MC's flow sounds alright, and it's interesting that he's rapping against managers and A&Rs, but he can't save this beat. Also, the hook is sleepy and terrible again, where he just says, "this goes out to Canada because they give me love," which he repeats a hundred times, but swapping out the location. You know, how rappers will say the names of different cities so local DJs will hopefully be inclined to play it on the radio? Yeah, it's absolutely that; but he says it all so lazily, and mixed down low under the track that I don't imagine any DJ would try scratching that into their mix.

Again, it's a Radio Mix, but I didn't noticing him cursing or getting anything censored at all on this one, anyway, so there's no difference. It also lists an Instrumental, but it's really a TV track, with all his background ad libs and the hook on it. That's fine, because I wouldn't want this instrumental anyway. If you're Father's #1 fan, you might want to listen to the B-side once or twice to hear what he has to say, but otherwise I don't recommend anyone messing with "Give Me Love." The A-side's alright, though. I mean, it's pretty generic and average at best. But it's at least alright as album filler.

Overall, pretty disappointing. He also didn't adapt to Luke or Miami at all, which might be for the best. But him rapping over a 120bpm booty record might've at least been novel once. But yeah, this is one of my least favorite Father MC records. It got me curious, but it didn't follow through. I suspect there wouldn't have been an album even if Luke Records was plush. Give me more Home Team or Bust Down any day.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Melle Mel In Spaaaaace!!

Here's an interesting record that doesn't know where it's from. The label says "Made In the U.K." and the back of the picture cover says, "Made In Germany." It's also a 10", one of those rare, nebulous records that lives somewhere in between the common 7" and the ideal 12". But who cares? It's a neat, obscure record by possibly the greatest rapper of all time, Grandmaster Melle Mel.

Well, as you can see, it's not just by Mel. It's also by Keith LeBlanc. If you don't recognize that name, he's the drummer from the original Sugarhill Band/ Fats Comet, and who's been involved with a ton of projects since then, including this one. This single's on his own imprint, Blanc Records, and all the B-sides are by him without Mel, so even though Melle gets top billing, I suppose this is really more of a LeBlanc record. But his name comes first, 'cause he's the man we're all here to hear, right?

All of Mel's records were of course on Sugarhill and backed by the in-house band, so he's no stranger to working with LeBlanc. But it gets a little more complicated when we flip this record over and see on the back that the song is actually credited to Interference, featuring Melle Mel and Bee La Key. Interference is a duo LeBlanc formed with a UK DJ named Tim Simenon. And Bee La Key is some guy who also sang vocals on Interference's previous record a couple years before. Basically, he's the hook guy here, Mel does all main verses, LeBlanc does the production and percussion, and there's some very sparse scratching by Simenon. Also in the credits you'll notice bass is played by Doug Wimbash, who's also from the Sugarhill Band.

So what's this song like? It's pretty cool! Melle Mel was sort of working his comeback around this time... not that he ever entirely left the game at any particular point; he's always kept his name in there. But this was right before his album on Str8 Game Records with Scorpio, and well before Die Hard. He was already resurfacing to do guest verses here and there, but this was something we weren't getting from him. Really serious, conceptual raps that weren't just "hey it's me, here to represent the old school" tag, but a song with a message and creative ideas. This was a real, new Melle Mel record proper.

It's about, uh, the world order and the dangers of dystopia, I guess. It reminds me a lot of Afrika Bambaataa's Time Zone record, "World Destruction." Not quite as punk, but kind of a futuristic theme in the instrumentation, ominous vocal samples and warnings about "the hand that reaches across the land." There's a lot of imagery, religious references you have to be pretty plugged into to get fully and plenty of poetic license (like, I needed google to figure out that "the man that shares his birthday with Nimrod" means Jesus Christ), so I don't know if it's possible to take it as seriously as the artists probably want you to. It feels more like a science fiction experience when we're meant to be relating to the problems of our times (he's actually rapping about real social issues, of course, not beings in outer space); but Mel shows he can still paint some vivid pictures with his words. His style reminds me of his most famous verses from "Beat Street" and "The Message," and it's not any worse for being dark and spacey.

And the instrumentation has to take more than half the credit or blame for the futuristic vibe anyway. It's pretty original, with a lot of live guitar and stuff, but thankfully never straying too far from a traditional hip-hop groove. The cuts are nothing, though. I mean, there isn't anything wrong with them, but they're so minimal they barely have the opportunity to enhance or distract. They could've just sampled a little scratching sound and pressed the button once every two and a half minutes and gotten the same effect.

And that takes us to song #2. No Melle Mel this time, unfortunately. It's just an instrumental. But it's still worth a listen. This time it's not Interference, but just a LeBlanc solo record: "Point Blanc (A. Sherwood Remix)." I've never heard the original, though I looked it up. It's from his 1992 album, Time Traveler. Anyway, it's another dark, semi-spacey kind of track, but a bit more down to Earth. The hook comes from a recurring Rakim "Let the Rhythm Hit Em" vocal sample, and there's some rudimentary scratches. But it's mostly some interesting drums and keyboards and stuff. It kind of works as a cool "What Order" reprise, though it doesn't actually technically reprise that instrumental.

Then the B-side is a bunch of original, not very good break beats. Listening to them once was more than enough for me. But side A I recommend. Side A is dope and interesting. Instrumentally, what these guys were doing strayed a little too far from the hip-hop formula to ever be a hit record. But Mel killed it, and these guys gave him some pretty compelling background music. It's definitely not for the mainstream, but if you've ever wished Mel kept making serious records and not just token efforts and name checks, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by this. Something a little off the beaten path.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Ultimate Underrated Shake G

A blind buy turns up aces, inspiring me to go back and review a totally slept on rapper's career.(Youtube version is here.)

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Another Phat Tape For Your Backpack

Alright, I'm still in a 90s throwback frame of mind. But how can I get even more 90s than Y'all So Stupid? I had to do some serious digging in my crates cardboard boxes, but I believe I've found it. This is the 4-song cassette-only 1998 debut of Sev Statik* called Tha Pointman EP on Tunnel Rat Records. Sev Statik is a Christian rapper, but - whoa! Wait! Where ya goin'? Hang on, I was going to say yeah, he's a Christian rapper, and he does definitely drop references to being saved and refers you to specific bible verses ("don't let the index attack/ check Romans 3:23 before you do that") But his ethos - at least on this EP; I'm not going to try and speak for his whole career - is more focused on real, underground Hip-Hop, or "preserv[ing] Hip-Hop's true essence" as he writes in the liner notes. In other words, you can totally nerd out on the 90s backpacker vibe without having a vested interest in any particular religion.

This EP opens with a fantastic loop that can go head to head with the best samples dug up by any of your favorite 90s producers, on a song called "Speak Life." By the way, there's also a song called "Speak Life" on Sev's first full-length CD, 2002's SpeakLife. But that's actually a totally different song, both lyrically and instrumentally. He references that song in this one, though ("and Romans 3:23 is still in effect"), so really, you could consider that one "Speak Life part 2." It's not bad, the beat's cool but not as hot, and that version's got a sung hook which is thankfully absent on the original, which you should seek out instead.

Production-wise, "Speak Life" is the song you're going to rewind again and again, but if you're here for 90's underground hip-hop, then "Linguistic Weaponry" is going the song you're going to home in on. I mean, you can tell just from the title. "Hip-hop brought me through back spins, graffiti pens and record bins." And like all truly great, nostalgic 90s rap, it doesn't age so gracefully. Lyrics that impressed me as a young man back then now have me cocking my head and poking at the weak spots. Punchlines like "coming strapped like a brassiere" are pretty creaky, and you could make a drinking game out of all the times he pats himself on the back for being a white rapper with skills:

"I got Five Percenters saying, yo, that devil's no joke!" 

"Some say, due to my exterior, it's not in me to serve the lord or speaking life is not in my nature... got 5% of y'all believing all caucasoid MCs are deceiving you."

"When the next man says, yo, you rhyme good for bein' white,"

"Go on home, son, tell your mom who ripped it. Don't be ashamed to tell her this Anglo Saxon did it."

...In fact, the whole song "Rebuild" has a hook that goes, "white lies, under these blue skies, blurring my vision. I keep it ill and rebuild." And I think the "white lies" he's referring to are meant to be of the "white guys can't rap" variety.

But there's actually some strong, compelling writing as he tackles major social issues and soul searches, "like OJ, white people lookin' for a lynchin', all angry and shook, now there's something wrong with the justice system? While this man's life seems not fair at all, now you know what it means to say free Mumia Abu Jamal." And he sounds good even when he's just spitting freestyles. There's a low-fi quality to his sound which is probably 100% due to the circumstances of recording his earliest homemade songs, but it only adds to the atmosphere of a nice, underground rap tape with crispy drums and crackly samples.

And Sev Statik is still doing it to this day.  I've heard a little of his subsequent work, but I'll be honest, I haven't followed his whole career to really address it thoroughly. Apparently he fronts a rap rock band called Goldtooth? Yeah, I don't need to hear all that. But I'll still hang onto this tape. Even if he was a little young lyrically and even if times haven't been the kindest to the the ultra-earnest backpacker era, it still sounds good to me. So keep an eye out for this one in the wild; I think you'll find it's worth picking up if you see one. And if you're a collector of this period, man, it's gold.

*I was googling around, and some sources say this is actually his second EP. If that's true, the first one must be some super rare "had to have copped it off him personally" kind of release. But more likely, since they call his supposed previous EP Speak Life, and "Speak Life" is the first song on this EP, I think they might just be referring to this same tape.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Phife's Strongest Solo Joint

A Tribe Called Quest's last album, The Love Moment, dropped in 1998, and Phife Dawg's first solo record was out in 1999.  Nobody reading this blog needs me to tell them about "Check the Rhime" or "Can I Kick It?" And most of you can probably quote "Buggin' Out" better than I can. But I've been reading through all these mainstream articles and retrospectives, and haven't found one yet that even mentions he had a solo career. Maybe because it wasn't covered in the documentary; or maybe nobody wants to touch it because it wasn't nearly so well received, and we all want to remember him at his best right now.

And that's more than fair. Certainly, the dynamic between Phife and Q-Tip was a key factor in Tribe's success, which is why none of their solo endeavors were going to touch the success of Low End Theory or Midnight Marauders. But I've got a Phife solo record here that I've always liked, that's definitely not so well known as the classics that are getting bumped up to front pages of Youtube this week. If anybody actually discovers a new song they feel at this point, that'd be pretty great.

So, this 12" is all about the A-side, but I'm going to talk about the B-side first. It's called "Miscellaneous," and it's third single from his 1999 album, Ventilation, da LP. Supa Dave produced it, and I usually like his work, from his unreleased single with Invincible to some of the best work on Kool G Rap's last album. But this is exactly the kind of early 2000's, generic bloop-bloop beat that I felt ruined Phife's solo album. It's not really his fault, that was the latest thing at the time, and there was something effective in boiling down a hip-hop instrumental to its barest minimum the first time somebody did it. But after that, it was just weak, easy and boring.

But you can't release a two year-old song without putting something new on it. And that turned out to be a brand new Luv Boat Mix by Hi Tek. No, thankfully, it doesn't use the theme song from The Love Boat. This isn't Hi-Tech; this is Hi Tek, the Ohio guy from Reflections Eternal and all that. This has a much more natural, substantive feel, thanks to Tek essentially just looping up a fresh old soul record, original vocals, big hand claps and all. And suddenly, even Phife's rhymes, which are unchanged from the original mix, sound so much better. It's essentially just a series of light-hearted similes and punchlines, which I guess is why the song's called "Miscellaneous." Listening to the hook, "The Joint" would've been a much more natural association. "Rock to the joint, roll to the joint, smoke to the joint, get crunked to the joint. Spike Lee to the joint, get wrecked on the joint," with multiple variations.

But anyway, it doesn't matter, because it sounds great. It's simple, but it's funky. "shorties sayin' my name like Destiny's Child," "love the night life like Sonny loves Cher." It's never particularly clever, but it's got all of Phife's charm. It's like Biz Markie's "I watched Star Wars just to see Yoda" verses; just bringing that care free B-boy freestyle vibe like he did on the Tribe albums, anchoring Tip's jazzy explorations to hip-hop's foundation. And it just sounds enjoyable. They're simple, easy to memorize lines that you want to rap along to the funky beat, couched in a couple silly little stories about meeting different girls at a party. One's from the South and is kind of a playful reference to the rise of Southern hip-hop, and one turns out to be an infamous character from some other records: "wanted to give me a hickey, but something's kinda tricky. Looked at the broad, oh shit, it couldn't be! The J to the A to the N to the E! You don't understand, ask EPMD. Thinkin' to myself, goddammit, why me? Thinkin' to myself, goddammit, why me?"

This record re-captures his essence the way his whole solo career should've. This is what we wanted to find when Tribe broke up. But it came kinda late and so it got overlooked. So this is definitely a 12" worth revisiting now. It's got a picture cover and includes Clean, Dirty and Instrumental versions of both versions of the song: the album version and the hot, exclusive remix.

R.I.P. Phife Dawg.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Other Side of Whirlwind D

Whirlwind D is back with, actually, only his second album. He's been steadily releasing vinyl singles and building a pretty full catalog, especially if you factor in the Solid 'N' Mind 12"s, it feels like this must be around his fourth album. But no, this is the sophomore LP. And I think we find him coming into a more confident veteran sensibility. There's more of a feeling that instead of just doing the best hip-hop that he can and throwing it together to make an album (which is in itself a pretty great way to make an record, mind you), he's got a more refined cohesion to the material. There's a lot of variety on this album, which I'll certainly get into, but it feels more like everything was carefully selected and designed to form an album with a purposeful mood, rather than just being "here's what I got!"

The elements I always look for on any of D's projects are happily here again. First and foremost, that means some really slick scratching my some clearly skilled DJs. Basically every song has some really hot scratches that could almost carry the beats by themselves on an purely instrumental album. Sir Beans OBE, Jabba the Kut, Mr. Fantastic, Miracle, and DJ Tones all put in great work on this LP. Seriously, not a single song doesn't have a turntablist cut loose on it; I love it.

Another element you can always count on D for is some solid production. It's all top quality craftsmanship here. Anytime I see Mr. Fantastic's name in the liner notes, I know not to worry. And he pops up a lot here. There's not a lot of guest MCs, though. D takes most of that weight on his own shoulders. He has one duet with Oxygen of Sputnik Brown, and he's got a posse cut with his crew. But most of Other Side consists of more personal, conceptual material with D on his own, and I raises to that level with more natural, nuanced rhymes and definitely an uptick in creative imagery from his last album.

Like, the title cut has a really dark, slow beat. It's by Specifik, but it's almost feels like one of those crazy tracks Vooodu would make for Ras Kass when he wanted to get really serious. It's about the ills of the world as viewed through the lens of our looming mortality. So yeah, it's painting all these dark pictures, but on the other hand it's kind of a traditional message joint. In fact, Whirlwind D is now officially the first rapper I've heard use the word "transphobic" in a song.

Then "Hate Makes Hate" puts a cool aggressive spin on message songs. Not quite 2 Black 2 Strong, but getting there.  heh  Don't get the wrong idea, though. It's not a big preachy album; Other Side is full of all kinds of stuff. D pairs up with a live guitarist, both going hard to create a rock/rap song a la the 80s' "The D.O.C. and the Doctor," "S&M" or "Beautiful But Deadly."  It's called "7 Eyed Monster," which is a clear metaphor for anger, but going hard about rage is pretty much the ideal subject for this kinda song. It's cool even that he tackled this type of song, plus the cuts at the end amp the tone up perfectly; but I'm glad he only did one like this. These rock 'n' rap songs are fun once in a while, but you wouldn't want a whole album of "Rock De La Stet"s. One and done, get back to the real hip-hop instrumentals. Actually, there is one more song with that guitarist, but it's got a totally different, non-rock vibe.

You've also got a more traditional hip-hop-referencing track called "Pioneers," and a trippy one called "Avenger of Death." Conceptually, I can't even figure out who the titular avenger is supposed to be, but it's really about the grim, nighttime crime scene he describes anyway. And I like how D opens with that kind of classical hip-hop clever wordplay into his lyrics, but not for a punchline fueled battle rap. Instead he's using it for this moody crime piece. More like this please! But I think my favorite cut might be just the a light-hearted one he saves for the end. A few rappers have done that turn-your-closing-shout-outs-into-an-actual-rap-song before, but have any ever made it a posse cut? The mic is passed over an upbeat jazzy track with a deep groovy bassline, horn stabs and, of course, finishing with more tight scratching.

As you can see above, Other Side comes in an attractive color picture cover and also includes one of those old school inserts, like you used to see a lot in the day, with credits and thanks on the other reverse. This album includes his last single, "B-Line Business," but not the B-side, "Battle Tip 2015," leaving that exclusive to the 7". And everything else here is all new. If you haven't heard any of his material yet, I'm not sure I'd start out with this album... maybe the WD40 EP would be a better introduction. And then come back to this album later to hear the interesting direction he's taken since then. But if you've been following him all along, you're definitely going to be pleased and will want to jump on this right away.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Greatest Killarmy Song They Forgot To Release a Single For

Killarmy's first album had a lot of hot songs. Killarmy was dope. They were Wu-Tang juniors, of course; and maybe the official Wu were generally more talented. But pretty quickly, the core Clan started getting a little cartoonish. You know, they had their mafioso aliases: Lou Diamonds, Joey Bananas, Method Man starting calling himself Johnny Blaze. Then RZA started doing the sci-fi thing, and it was just like they were marketing themselves as toys for kids. "Now get Batman in is ice climbing suit!" etc. So the cool thing about Sunz of Man and them is that they were like additional Wu artists who weren't doing all the mainstream persona stuff. Then Sunz started making records like "Shining Star" and Shabazz left, and they were taking major label image direction, too. And I don't need to even talk about the direction Deadly Venoms took. So Killarmy was like the next group of Wu guys that were just real, raw MCs making records without trying to sell to the Saturday morning crowd.

And so even though they never made any gold-lined swimming pools for the Priority Records executives, their 1997 album Silent Weapons for Deadly Wars was in every head's deck. And they had three singles off of that, which is pretty good: "Camouflage Ninjas," "Wu-Renegades" and "Swinging Swords." And they had six rappers, which is a lot for a single group to get to know all at once; so at first it was hard to even keep track of them all and who was rapping which verse, especially since they didn't have the over-the-top personas or Milk D-like voices. Like now we know, because the Wu family's become legendary and half of Killarmy got solo albums and all But back in '97, it was just like they really were this army of privates the Clan had ready to record more albums. So maybe individually they weren't quite the well-rounded artists the bigger Wu stars were...

I still remember the first time I heard "Blood for Blood" and two of 'em used the same punchline. The one guy says, "slaughter tracks like Chainsaw Massacre," and then two verses later, another guy says, "we create a massacre like Texas Chainsaw." Like, don't you guys even check with each other in advance about what you're going to put on the record? It's not even a clever line to say once; it's just an easy reference. ODB already had a better line like that on his album. But having it twice on the same song, it's like two friends showing up their high school reunion in the same dress.

But that didn't matter, because it was like they had all these guys ready to come out and kick gritty NY verses over these incredible Wu-Tang tracks (RZA gets a mountain of credit, but most of their stuff was by the criminally underrated 4th Disciple). And so they had three singles, but they had another song, my favorite song on the album: "Fair, Love and War." They shot a music video for it and everything, which, you know... you can't even say about "Camouflage Ninjas" or "Wu-Renegades" (though the B-side "Wake Up" got one). This should've been big for them. Not Z-100 big, but at least mixtape big. The track is ill, but they never put it out as a single. Not even a white label promo 12". I think there's only been like two or three times in hip-hop history where a song's had a video and no 12" single (excluding this modern mp3 era). And Wu was putting everything out on wax in those days. Like I said, Killarmy had all these other non-video songs on 12", but not this one.

"Love, Fair and War" is one of 4th's tracks, and it's insane. What the heck sample is that? It's like a 70s war movie meets a video game with screeching bagpipes and classic Wu drums. Over the break, they lay in these dark, wartime newscasts saying things like, "it's very hard to maintain the emotional and political zeal that is needed to kill lots of people." Yeah, they also incorporate a lot of terrorism imagery that people would probably back away from in today's climate; but in a way that actually makes it even more effective in 2016.

But don't misunderstand, this song's not really about anything. This isn't social commentary, it's just brilliant imagery incorporated into freestyle rhymes. Killa Sin (he stood out even at the time for how he used his name as part of an impressive multi in his verse) sets the tone with a little narrative about how they'd all spark it at the end of the day, "share a giggle and a Heineken" and have a cypher. Then the next three dudes (Dom Pacino, Beretta 9 and Shogun Assasson) just spit crazy ill verses with this military imagery and no hooks in between them, like, "Nightmarish visions of death, catch a flashback. This gunfire out of control; I'm getting sent back. Hell no. Make my way back to the foxhole for ammo. In enough shit to bury Rambo." It's what we used to call a monster jam, it could go on for twice as long and not wear out its welcome. In fact, I really wish it kept going and 9th Prince had gotten on there as well (I understand Islord was indisposed), and maybe even a guest or two.

But yeah, no single. I was going to say it's even more of a shame, because it means we never got that instrumental. But now that I think about it, there was an instrumental LP version of Silent Weapons. But still, somebody at Priority messed up not making this a single. I would trade a dozen junk "Wu Wear," "Say What You Want," "Killa Beez" and "America" 12"s for a "Fair, Love and War" sticker cover.

Monday, March 14, 2016

A More Teddy Riley "Pump It Hottie?"

So, ever since my "New Jack Swing" post, I've been on a bit of a new jack swing kick. And tonight I've been rocking some Redhead Kingpin 12"s, and I went right to one I usually skip right over: "Pump It Hottie." The Hip-Hop purist in me, the one that just capitalized "hip-hop" because Krs-One says to, is always like, that's his mainstream dance song. You know, usually "We Rock the Mic Right," "Superbad Superslick," or even "Do the Right Thing" are my go to's. But now I just want some good ol', thumpin' Teddy Riley instrumentation, so today is "Pump It Hottie"'s day. And there's every reason to blog about this 12" here, because it's got some exclusive 12" remixes not found on the album. It's almost more surprising I didn't write about this one in 2008 or so. But what can I say? There's a million great rap records, it's taking me a while to get through all of 'em.  8)

So anyway, 1989's "Pump It Hottie" is like pure Yo! MTV Raps. It's a dance song before dance music separated from hip-hop, and I can still picture the music video with the FBI Crew on a little stage performing for a room full of bicycle short-wearing models. At the end, each member walks off with a girl in arm, and Redhead taps his girl on the shoulder and it's a bearded guy in a dress, so he runs away. Times were simpler then...

In a lot of ways, the song's simple, too. Red's just rapping about girls dancing in a club, and the beat's a loop of Krafwerk's "Numbers," the same break used on "Planet Rock," "Traveling At the Speed of Thought" and 75% of early Miami bass records. What makes it compelling is the extra Teddy Riley music on top of that, the killer horn riffs and the funky bass... except, it's not quite as Teddy Riley as a lot of his classics of the time, like "My Prerogative" or "I Get the Job Done." The horns, as dope as they are, sound more like simple repeating loops; and actually if you look at the credits, Teddy isn't credited as producer. Redhead and Riley's brother Marky Mark are. Teddy is listed as mixer and arranger, though, so who can really say how that really adds up in terms of who played what notes and who decided where they should be placed in the song?

Those credits are also exactly the same for the 12" Mix, which is quite different, and maybe even more what I was after. Because this version keeps a lot of the core elements, like the bassline and famous horn riffs. But it drops "Numbers" from most of the beat (it does fade back in at times) with a new break, which sounds like live instrumentation. This one has a big horn solo in it. Over all, maybe it doesn't thump quite as hard, but it sounds much more like an original funk creation. If you're in a new jack swing mood, definitely seek this version out.

There's another remix on here, too. The Street Mix is by Joe the Butcher. His version is back to "Numbers," but replaces all of the other music with a some cool funk guitar samples and stuff. It's a little more minimal, too barren even. It's kinda interesting, but it comes up short compared to the other two versions. It's interesting to have, though.

And speaking of inferior but interesting to have, we also get Teddy's A Capella. Now, the acapella of "Pump It Hottie" has to be one of the least desired rap acapellas I can think of. Nobody was thinking, man, I need that verse where a girl tries to get Red to go home with her and he tells her no, just dance instead - I've gotta put that over something jazzy! But this isn't Redhead's A Capella, it's Teddy's. What does that mean? Well, first of all, it's not acapella; it's full of music. But you know the intro to the song, where they're going, "we got Philly hotties coming to the party tonight," etc? Well, it's basically that stuff an the hook laid over the a dub mix. In fact, it's largely the hook just repeated a billion more times, but there's more little improvised dialogue like, "we gotta get the girl with the afro outta here." There's also sound effects of cats meowing mixed into the track. Kind of a weird curiosity piece.

Finally, this 12" also includes "Kilimanjaro Style," which is an album track. It's a good 'un, though, and not at all a crossover dance track like "Pump it Hottie." This is his reggae-style track; but what I like about it is that it's got a sick reggae-inspired beat with the famous "Bam Bam" horns, but Redhead doesn't attempt a faux-Jamaican accent. He takes a bit of the style, mixes it with his own, and just kicks some freestyle rhymes in his own natural voice, and it sounds great. DJ Wildstyle has a nice and subtle scratch session at the end. When you've decided it's time to come down from your new jack swing high, this is a great track to get you off it.