Saturday, March 21, 2015

Cold Chillin' Terminators, part 2 - Toasting With MC Shan

So yesterday we looked at a couple Terminators from the very beginning of Cold Chillin'. Now today let's look at a Terminata from the last days, 1994. Not counting represses and those Traffic reissues, Cold Chillin' stopped putting out music in 1996, ending with singles by their last few hanger-onners, Big Scoob and Shanté. But 1994 was kind of the last year they had a broad roster, signed new artists and still generally seemed interesting in putting out a variety of artists like a legit label. All their big Juice Crew artists had moved on, but '94 was still the year of The Genius, King Sun and Madame Starr. Essentially, it was the last year they were trying new things. And that included the first and last single by Terminata, "Get Bizi."

So most people probably have no idea who he is by this point, however Terminata wasn't a complete nobody, and in fact had worked with Cold Chillin' before. You might remember a short lived subsidiary Cold Chillin' started in 1992 (and ended in 1993) called Livin' Large Records. And one of the artists they signed to that imprint was YZ, making his post-Tuff City comeback. He'd changed his style drastically, but it was actually a really hot album. Instead of the smooth, calm flow over the more melodic Tony D production, he came back rough and ragga over some really phat, hardcore instrumentals. And the first big single off that comeback album was the song about his comeback, 1992's "The Return Of the Holy One." And if you look at the credits on that 12", the Fonta Leaf Splif Mix says it's featuring Terminator. In fact, he can be heard on the Original Flavor/ album version, too. And yep, that Terminator is the "Get Bizi" Terminata.

So, if you remember "The Return Of the Holy One," you might be saying to yourself: I thought YZ was the only guy rapping on that track. And you'd be right, and he's also the guy saying, "it's the return of the holy one, return of the holy one" over and over on the hook. But the guy doing the rugged ragga chatting in the background? That's Terminata.

And so yes, "Get Bizi" is more of a reggae record than a rappity-rap one. But it's definitely meant to fit into that mid-90s hip-hop/reggae blend that was going on. He even got an American rapper, and Juice Crew All Star, to produce and write the music for him: MC Shan. Shan had also put a couple singles out on that Livin' Large imprint - good ones, too - and was surely feeling confident making a reggae record after he turned "Informer" into one of the highest charting reggae hits since Bob Marley in 1992.

But "Get Bizi" was never going to be a big hit, and not just because Terminata wasn't as white as Snow. It's basically just really simple and repetitive. It's got a funky, old school reggae bassline and Terminata's voice sounds great once the the NY hip-hop drums kick in. But musically it's very understated and when you try to get into it, there's actually very little to the song. He has some short verses, but the hook is like 75% of the songs, where he just keeps saying "_____ get bizi 'pon the flex." It doesn't help that his verses are mixed pretty low, but I really think this was meant more as to be just a quick something for DJs rather than a song to blow up. Like a modern day "Shake It To the 61st," where they expect a DJ to just sample the line that applies to them, so like a New York DJ would cut up "New York posse get busy," and a west coast DJ could cut up "LA posse get busy," or just let the rest of the unassuming song play as filler. That probably explains why the only other version on this 12" is the Acappella.

The B-side, "Sex" is a little more of a full, lush song. It's got very New York hip-hop drums with another old school reggae-style bassline, though this time it's less prominent, played under some screechy horn samples and stuff more reminiscent of the YZ stuff. But it's still bouncier and more reggaeish than that album. If you're a fan of hip-hop styled reggae from this era, I'd say "Sex" holds up pretty well alongside the stuff that was actually getting the airplay in 1994. Again, it would never be another "Informer," but if it hadn't been buried as the B-side to a completely obscure, un-promoted 12", I think it would've gotten some spins.

I mean, personally, I would've liked it a lot better if it had a verse or two from YZ or Shan, but I'm admittedly a total hip-hop guy who listens to rap pretty exclusively. Still, though, I think this record would've lasted, at least in knowledgeable hip-hop circles, if it had a credible rapper or several alongside Terminata. I mean, lyrically, he's not saying anything anyway, just "champgagne-ah, that's what I sip." So there's definitely room to cut some of his stuff and get some names on there. But oh well.

Like The Terminators' record, Terminata's "Get Bizi" is more of an interesting detail in Cold Chillin's history than a great, must have record. But his story doesn't end here. Terminata still performs under then name of Terminator Six, and before I end this post, I think it would be interesting to take a quick look at his press bio (which can be found here, here and here), since it has a few interesting claims, including:

"Terminator Six is the first Reggae entertainer to sing a duet with a Rapper." and "the first to connect Reggae Artists and Rappers together." Well, that doesn't seem right; but let's see... Shabba Ranks' duet with Krs-One was 1992, the same year YZ and Terminator came out. So maybe Terminata was first. Super Cat with Heavy D was '92, Likkle Wicked and 2 Live Crew was '93. He did seem to be at the forefront of the trend. I mean, certainly hip-hop and reggae had blended earlier, if you think of guys like Daddy Freddy, or Shinehead being produced by Jam Master Jay. Or guys like Special Ed doing little reggae songs on their albums. But a reggae artist with a rapper? Well, Sly & Robbie's BDP album dropped in 1989, but I guess you could say they only did the music... Oh, Third World did "Forbidden Love" with Daddy-O in 1989. That's one, and it was a big single even. So yeah, no. I knew that couldn't stand up to scrutiny. Oh and wait, that Shabba Ranks/ Krs single came out in 1992, but it was already on the album which dropped in 1991.

"Terminator became the newest member of the Juice Crew which consisted of Big Daddy Kane, Biz Marke, Kool G Rap, Mc Shan." Well, he did sign to Cold Chillin', but so did plenty of non-Juice Crew artists, like Kid Capri and Too Bad To Be True. Who decides who isn't an official Juice Crew member? Marley Marl? I could see Shan telling him "you're official Juice Crew now," though.

"The Return of the Holy One by Terminator & YZ was released & Terminator was only 9 years old." Wow. So that guy in the video was only nine years old? Or somebody else was lip-syncing to his voice? He sure doesn't sound like a kid on that song...

"Terminator wrote Shabba Ranks first Grammy album for Epic records" and "Terminator Six is the Ghostwriter for Shabba Ranks first Grammy Album (Epic), Terminator Six is also responsible for connecting Shabba Ranks and KRS1 Boogie Down Productions." When he was eight?! Shabba's first Grammy was for as Raw As Ever, which dropped in 1991, a year before "The Return Of the Holy One," which we just read dropped when he was nine. So, yeah. I don't think so.

"Terminator Six is the creator of the Hip Hop Reggae Fusion," and "Terminator Six is responsible for connecting Notorious B.I.G.(Biggie Smalls) with Super Cat and enforcing the launch of P.Diddy (Puff Daddy) Bad Boy Entertainment." Oh man, I'm done. I don't even know what "enforcing the launch" means, but I think we can safely say some embellishing has been done here. I'd be interested to find out the exact 100% truth of all that. You know, I bet he meant 19 instead of 9; so it may not be a total pack of insane lies. haha

Anyway, I bet most of you guys didn't even know the Terminator from YZ's song had his own record. And he was on Cold Chillin'! Pretty interesting, huh?

Friday, March 20, 2015

Cold Chillin' Terminators, part 1 - Dissing Run DMC

"We're walking tall and we're called The Terminators" is a memorable line from Kool G Rap & DJ Polo's classic "It's a Demo" in part because of G Rap's ill delivery, but also partially because, as far as anybody knew, they weren't called The Terminators. I mean, you could probably take it as simply a general reference to being so bad ass that people consider them to be like Schwarzenegger's robotic hitman character from the 1984 film. And the fact that the line could be taken that way is probably by G Rap left the line in there, sort of like a subliminal diss, but not a diss. Because the line is actually a reference to something more. It's about DJ Polo's first group, The Terminators.

The Terminators had one record, "Forever Dis" in 1986 on Snowflake Records. My copy here is a 2004 repress. You can tell 'em apart 'cause on the original label the big "Snowflake" is written in blue, not white. Anyway, Snowflake Records was a division of Prism, which of course carried all the early Juice Crew records and changed its name to Cold Chillin' Records a couple years later.

The group was really just a duo, like Kool G Rap and DJ Polo, except the MC was Polo's old partner, Frost. I got to ask G Rap how Polo made the switch and why he cited their name on "It's a Demo" in my 2011 interview, "Polo and Frost started together first. They were the team first, before I even got in the picture with Polo. Once I got in the picture, to my understanding, Frost was having differences with Polo. Because Polo wanted to do promotional stuff that Frost didn’t necessarily want to do… things they weren’t getting paid for. So when me and Polo linked up, I was for anything to accomplish my dream. Whether it was something we gotta do for promotion, get ourselves out there or get paid, it didn’t matter to me. I was gonna do it because I was hungry and I wanted it that bad, because I knew what I was capable of doing poetically. When I mention Terminators, it was out of respect for the name Polo had before I even got into the picture. If you notice, I didn’t really use that name anymore other than just using it as a punch line or a metaphor. But I did not affiliate myself and Polo as the Terminators after that. The first time I did it was just out of respect, like, this is your thing you got going before I even got into the picture, I’ma wave that flag."

So how is the actual record? I mean, you could probably predict that Frost isn't the amazing innovator that G Rap turned out to me - almost nobody could be expected to play on that level. But how does it compare to most other '86 rap records, and who are they dissing on "Forever Dis?"

Well, you already know from the title of this blog that they went after Run DMC. Nothing subliminal here, it's a very straight forward attack. It's not clear what their beef with them comes from - quite possibly they just went at them to make a name for themselves - but it's perfectly evident Frost doesn't like 'em:

"You may think I'm cruel, but that's okay;
I've got a job to do, so let me earn my pay.
Run DMC, somebody really don't like
The way you MCs be yellin' on the mic.
...
Both of you are crazy, you've flown the coup.
Wearin' all this sayin' that you're souped.
Now that I say it, it wasn't real groovy

When I saw your face when I went to the movies!
You think you've got something to prove?

The name of the movie was Krush Groove."

The entire song from first to last is very specifically going at Run DMC.  But you might've gotten the feeling, reading the above sample, that the rhymes are a little stilted. They are, and Frost's deliberate, plodding delivery doesn't help. The beat is okay, it's pretty hard and stripped down, but it's a bad match for Frost's style, and Polo doesn't really do much. There isn't really any actual scratching, they've just got "Pee Wee's Dance" vocal sample, "get busy" on a sampler and play it at different pitches. You know, like "(Nothing Serious) Just Buggin'" and all those 80s songs.

Overall, the song's okay. The beat's too simple, but at least it's hard. It's really just the fact that they're dissing Run DMC that anybody would go back and revisit it.

There is a B-side, though, which is a little more lively. Simply titled "Polo," this one actually features some scratching. It's a little rudimentary, but of course it's from '86. They also stutter a sample like on the last song, this time just Frost saying "Polo." It's a similar, hardcore big drum machine beat with horn stabs, and Frost raps about how great his DJ is. Well, except for the last verse, where he digresses to tell us how stylish his girlfriend is, "she'll put you in a trance, make you do a stupid dance. Make you act like a fool, make you wanna go to school seven days a week, ooh the girl is so sweet." The song concludes with somebody doing a cheesy Mexican accent playing the part of Jose, a promoter looking for the great DJ Polo.

Neither song is that great, but they're listenable enough. Both instrumentals are also included on the vinyl, though I doubt many heads would be picking up the wax for those. Their historic value is certainly the most compelling aspect of these songs, and in that regard, they certainly satisfy a lot of curiosity.  Come back tomorrow for another nearly forgotten Cold Chillin' Terminator.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Watch My Moves... 1999?

So last year, I wrote a pretty extensive post about Dooley-O's classic "Watch My Moves," which debuted on radio in 1990 but didn't make it to wax until Stones Throw rescued it in 2002. With his DJ/co-producer Chris Lowe, he introduced the world to the Skull Snaps break from "It's a New Day," which they later retooled for Stezo's "To the Max." And I also talked about how a duo named CKO and Sta-La-Fro make a knock off of it, with the help of the late Paul C! It's a pretty compelling saga... which seems to have one more important vinyl installment yet to come, but more on that later in the year.

In the meantime, I'd like to talk about another obscure little chapter in the story that I didn't mention. See, before Stones Throw helped kick start Dooley-O's comeback in the 2000s with that "Watch My Moves" 12", Chris Lowe had already started mounting a little comeback of his own. In the late 90s, he started releasing indie 12" singles on Bronx Science Recordings. His second 12" was a collaboration with Large Professor and his third featured Sadat X and Dinco D. But his first was a bit of a quieter release, since it didn't have any big name guest stars on it. It was just a little song called "The Non Stop." Oh, and there was a B-side called "Watch My Moves."

I guess I'll cover "The Non Stop" real quick first, though of course it's the B-side that raised the big red question mark. Well, it's got a big, chunky bass line with a slow vibe over hard boom bap drums. And yes, Chris raps on this. He wrote and produced it; it's a total solo effort. And he's not bad, pretty equivalent to, say, Diamond D in terms of producers who rap. He's got a pretty tough voice and a simple flow. The rhymes are pretty basic braggadocio stuff about how he's going to "produce a track and make a killin'." It's a pretty nice little cut with a cool, throwback hook to the golden era, "we gonna rock... to the non-stop." There's even a line in the first verse where he says, "don't watch me, watch my moves."

Yeah, so that just really makes you flip this over already. And, well, "Watch My Moves" absolutely does not feature the same original instrumental loop, but the actual, underlying drums sound like the same Skull Snaps' ones, just slowed down a bit. It's another hard but slow funk track, on some EPMD type shit, with a neat horn riff on the hook. And it's Chris Lowe rapping again, not Dooley, although he does mention him, saying, "you ain't got nothin' comin' against Dooley-O and Chris Lowe." But the hook, yes, is "don't watch me, watch my moves." In fact... all the lyrics are from "Watch My Moves 1990." It's a total, word-for-word cover. Well, almost total. Instead of starting off verse 2 with, "yes, another KGB production," he says, "yes, another Chris Lowe production." And he's got a slower, less dexterous flow than Dooley, which along with the totally different samples gives this song a totally different feel. I wouldn't be surprised if some heads heard this and never made the connection to the original, if they hadn't heard it in almost a decade. It really does feel like the EPMD remake of "Watch My Moves."It's pretty cool, but not on the same level as the original.

It basically just has me wondering why he made this new version, instead of just spitting some new verses and making it an entirely new, different song. I mean, in 1999 the song hadn't been released by Stones Throw yet, so I'm sure he and Dooley both thought of the original as a totally lost, unreleased song. So maybe the idea was just to recycle a good hook and set of rhymes? Maybe it's meant to be an in-joke for the few CT heads who would recognize it. The label just says it's written and produced by Lowe, although Dooley High Music ASCAP is listed, while it's not on the A-side.

At any rate, it's an interesting, fairly obscure but not at all rare 12". The instrumentals for both songs are also included, and it led to a many more releases by Chris, including two full-length albums. A curious and funky footnote.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

How To Write the Concise Guide To Rap

The Concise Guide To Hip-Hop Music is the latest book by Paul Edwards, the How To Rap guy. I missed How To Rap 2, but I'm glad to see him broaden himself up topically this time around. Even the original How To Rap didn't seem like a particularly useful tool for aspiring artists to learn how to rap; but it worked fine as an enjoyable collection of hip-hop anecdotes by a nice variety of hip-hop artists. And this book is the same as the other books in the sense of its form and style... the book is a collection of individual paragraphs transcribed from interviews with tons of hip-hop artists. And that's still a very entertaining way to structure a hip-hop book.

But now it's no longer constrained by having to act like a tutorial. Being simply a "guide" to "hip-hop music," pretty much anything any of these artists has to say on the genre fits in perfectly. The book is divided into three general categories: Hip-Hop 101, Influencers (where artists talk about each other), and Hip-Hop History. All those subjects are nice and vague, so anything interesting anyone had to say could be worked in. And those categories are broken up into lots of shorter sub-categories, like Diversity, Lack of Innovation and Experimentation or Debunking Hip-Hop Myths (although a bunch of the book's "myths" and "facts" seem to be just very subjective opinion). Some of these are as short as a single page. But that's fine, because I don't think we want to read long diatribes on subjects like these, we just want to visit them for as long as our favorite artists have something interesting to say about them and then move on; and that's what we're given.

And by favorite artists, I'm not even going to try to list everybody quoted in this book. It's a lot. Old school, new school, east coast, west, indie, major. I'll just list some at random to give you an idea: Pete Rock, Dr. Dre, Domino, Brother J, Tech N9ne, Melle Mel, Kool Moe Dee, Prince Paul, Kool G Rap, Rah Digga, MC Serch, Bill Adler, Charlie Ahearn, Mannie Fresh, CJ Moore, Doug E Fresh, Coke La Rock... It's a really impressive and seemingly endless line-up. But it's not all the artists' words. Edwards gets in here to introduce every topic, and generally be the glue between rappers' thoughts to turn the book into a more cohesive read. It's handy and well-written if you don't know much about the topic and very easy to skip if you do.

Some of the artists quotes are very short and only loosely fit the category they're in. For example, there's two and a half pages dedicated to Drum Machines. Q-Tip's full contribution under this heading is as follows, "[On the song "Excursions,"] I put a reverse [Roland TR-] 808 behind it, right before the beat actually kicks in." That's it; that's the whole thing, in and out. The section starts with a couple introductory paragraphs explaining what drum machines are by Edwards, and then quotes by Kurtis Mantronik, Schoolly D, Big Daddy Kane and Rakim, and then that Q-Tip quote. As any kind of overview or or text on drum machines, I guess you could say it fails; but I think that's just because, like How To Rap, this book still isn't quite what it pretends to be. As just an interesting collection of thoughts and tidbits about drum machines by some great hip-hop artists, it works perfectly fine. That's this book in a nutshell.

This Guide delivers on being concise, too. It's noticeably shorter and even a little bit smaller than How To Rap. Especially when you consider the last 49 pages are "Notes" and the index [How To Rap was like 35% index, too, as I recall], and that every page is full of headings, subtitles, and line breaks between every artist's quote. It's a very breezy read. And even so, it's hard to resist skipping around, finding your favorite artists or the most interesting sounding topics rather than reading from start to finish. But that's fine; I'm sure the author knew that's how most of us would approach the book, and it works perfectly. The press info for this guide calls it "the first book of its kind," which I think is pretty misleading. Apart from the title switcharoo, it's really the third book of its very specific kind. But that's cool, because the first left us wanting more, and this book delivers exactly what we wanted - even if it's not exactly what it claims to deliver - and in a slightly freer and more rewarding manner. An entertaining book for anybody interested in hip-hop music, not just aspiring rappers. Sign me up for #4.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Even Harder 2 Obtain

Most of us came across 12 Block on the third volume of Nick Wiz's Cellar Sounds compilation albums. Their 1996 song "The Presentation" also made it to wax on Cellar Selections vol 3 set. But dedicated Stretch & Bob fans who follow the demos they used to play on the air and have been trying to track them down remember the name. You see, 12 Block are actually essentially an alteration of the Long Island group Hard 2 Obtain, who released the rather highly regarded album Ism & Blues on Atlantic Records in 1994, and then disappeared seemingly without a trace. The answer to that mystery turns out to be 12 Block.

Listening to that album, you'll catch plenty of references to them being "from the twelve block." Well, one of the main MCs from 12 Block is straight up one of the main MCs from Hard 2 Obtain, Taste. 12 Block's DJ, Nastee, isn't the same guy as in Hard 2 Obtain, but if you read the credits, he did produce two tracks on their album. And thanks to the info Heavy Jewelz uncovered, we now know the third guy, A.Math, was originally going to be a full-fledged member of H2), but sat out the first album to finish his degree. Unfortunately, it turned out to be their only album, but he did at least turn up for a guest verse on it. So now we know, after Ism & Blues, these three guys recorded the 12 Block demo, which got played on the air, and lead to them working with Nick Wiz.

Because, yeah, that sought after demo was recorded in 1994-95, and Heavy Jewelz has obtained and remastered all six tracks for this EP, M.I.S.T.: Movin' Island Style Thorough. And to be clear, the beats here are not by Wiz, but all self-produced by DJ Nastee.

I thought I'd never heard any of these tracks before; but when the title track came on with them freestyling over Gangstarr's "Just To Get a Rep" bassline and the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it, don't fit, don't force it" hook, I was like, oh, it's this song! I remember wanting that back in the days, I just lost the plot that this 12 Block demo was that joint. No wonder people have been after this one.

The rest of the EP is nice, too. "The East" has a super smooth, cool out vibe and deep bassline. And "If It's On Like That" is like a mix of early Souls of Mischief flows and vibe over a phat New York boom-bap track and jazzy sample on the hook. The way they drop the Biz Markie vocal sample over the hereafter instrumental of "3 Everybody" is ill. The songs on the B-side sound a little more like typical low budget indie 12" stuff, but that's not a bad thing. It's all got a cool, laid back but gritty vibe to it. There is a little bit of a dated feel to some of the punchlines and excessive pop culture references, but they get away with it just off of how slick they say it. "Anything" is the kind of song you'd hear on an old mixtape and have you wondering "who was that?"

So M.I.S.T. is limited to 300 copies, 100 on a cool black and white blended vinyl, and the other 200 on standard black. Both versions come in a solid large-sticker cover.  It's a very cool presentation. It actually dropped earlier in 2014, so it's already sold out on HJ's main store. But I see there's 7 copies left, as of this writing, via their bandcamp. After that, you'll have to get it used or just settle for the download (ick!), so move on it if you haven't got it already. 'Cause you're gonna want it once you wake up to it.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Dose One's 8 Mile CD

Be Evil is is a limited 2009 album/mix from Dose One I just recently picked up  because I missed the CD when it was first released. That's the problem with the indie music scene these days: with everyone self-distributing, you have to be up every single artist you like's ass, on multiple social media outlets, or you never even hear about their rare indie releases. But I stuck it on a couple watch lists and in 2015 I've finally got it for a reasonable price.

So Be Evil runs the gamut from impressive to cringe inducing, mostly spinning around somewhere in the middle. It's 100% freestyle, and not just in the old school sense where the rhymes don't have to pertain to any specific subject matter, but meaning entirely off-the-head. More than half the songs are live recordings from radio performances, battles and stage performances. A lot of it's acapella, or over some pretty random, constantly changing beats. It's a very patchwork experience, with the recording changing sometimes even during the same CD track. Sometimes Dose comes with a slick flow over a good track and comes surprisingly tight for a totally unprepared song. Other times, you hear him stumbling for words and reaching to put together the most generic battle phrases and broken ideas like, "you can get a crutch and a kick in the butt. For what you came up here to get desecrated. Who's next to get my dick in they guts? Where you want it, gut or gut?" There's moments you're surprised he put it on the album for everyone to hear and last for prosperity.

Some of the battles also feature his opponents, and they run just as broad a range. One will have a pretty nice flow and punchlines, showing up Dose on his own record, others sound like it's their first try rhyming. One "battle" just has Dose and the other guy yelling over the top of each other, not even rapping, just yelling cheesy "snaps" at each other until the other guy gets completely flustered. Dose certainly wins, but it's not a remotely impressive show on anybody's part. It's just embarrassing and reminds you why most hip-hop heads switched to r&b when they hit thirty.

Dose also takes some surprising shots at other MCs. He calls Arrogant a wack rapper (really, in 2009?) and comes up with a whole little verse about Eminem:

"Oh, that's wild!
You really like the most famous sell out white rapper,

Hire black friends, come back as actor-
dude ever? You respect that? Well, I sure don't.
He can get nothing but his throat slit with a hot quote.
Mm-hm, Never freestyled then, probably don't now.
All he is now is some kind of fiscal cow.

That a bunch of people suck on the teet of."

Oh, okay. Didn't know he had an issue with him.

Anyway, I don't want to get too down on Be Evil. The impressive content easily outweighs the junk. And it was nice to hear him back firmly in the hip-hop genre, as opposed to whatever indie electro folk rock or whatever he keeps drifting further into. I think he's already gone back, so wave goodbye. Dose is full of creative energy, which makes this at least interesting for fans of freestyles and indie battles. But none of it is ever as listenable as his written songs, and it really just points up the fact that off-the-head rap battles don't make for a good album. Rap battles have come a long way since the carefully rehearsed routines of the Cold Crush and Force MCs; and it wasn't necessarily a good way. Be Evil is ultimately just a curiosity piece, because it has almost no replay value.

If you want it, though, and don't want to wait another five and a half years to find it for a good price online, you can at least download it from his bandcamp for a buck. There's also a short, seventeen minute sequel called Free Evil, which was only released as an online freebie. I listened to it once, and I think it was actually more consistent than Be. But if you're a serious fan, you've probably already got this and are quite happy with it; there's enough here for that.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Chilla Frauste and DJ Magic Mike

Today's record is the third and greatest single by Chilla Frauste. Chilla released his first single, "Bed Time Stories," a more playful old school rap, in 1988 under the longer name of  Cool Chilla' Frauste and the Ice Cold Crew. He then signed to Miami Street Records and released some more traditionally Miami-ish dance records, "Get Off" and this one, "Get Up, Get Down, Get Funky, Get Loose." Now this is 80's Miami bass, where the emphasis was on uptempo, still disco inspired dance records rather than ultra-sonic bass tones to vibrate your jeep; and Frauste was more into that than anybody. He was also did all his own beats and was probably more of a producer who rapped than a rapper who produced. When he finally released his album in 1989 (Don't Fight the Feeling on Vision Records), a big chunk of the tracks were purely instrumental.

So, he's not really a strong MC, and he wasn't really that great of a producer either. Most of his work was just competent and despite being fast and upbeat, kind of flat. So his best work was basically just when he had a great sample to drive the track. "Bed Time Stories" used the same Nu Shooz sample Spyder-D did for "I Can't Wait," "Don't Fight the Feeling" used that classic Herbie Hancock sample Digital Underground used to create "Underwater Rimes" and Busy Bee flipped on "Kiss My Ass." You get the idea. Those songs are always his best, and "Get Up, Get Down, Get Funky, Get Loose"is the best of those. In Frauste's catalog, the best of the best.

You can guess the sample this one's based off of just reading the title: Teddy Pendergrass's "Get Up, Get Down, Get Funky, Get Loose." And Frauste is happy to give credit right up front, his opening verse includes the lyrics, "James Brown funk is dope but played. You don't own any record he's made but 'Brand New Funk?' Forget it! I got something better. Teddy's the most greater; I'm the trend setter. Go for what you know, move with the flow. Teddy and Chilla are runnin' this show!" Unfortunately, those are the most interesting lyrics. The rest is all just "say 'party right here, party over there.' If you wanna party, we can party 'cause the party's everywhere," kinda stuff and he basically comes off as a second tier Rob Base. But at least he keeps up with the tempo and it's alright anyway, because the heavily used sample (they use the bass, horns, and even the original vocals for the choruses) really is funky, and sounds extra hype on this racing Miami drum track. Plus, Chilla has a secret weapon.

He's not credited anywhere on the label, but this record features guest scratches by DJ Magic Mike. And he doesn't just add a little "jigga jigga" behind the hook. He fucking goes off on this. Especially on the extended Dance Mix on the B-side, he has long scratch solo where he's juggling the bassline and then starts scratching Whistle's "Just Buggin'" at the same time. And the way he chops up Pendergrass's voice and slices up Whislte's signature whistle sound is incredible. Classic funky soul samples combined with some of the best scratching on a hip-hop record over over a high energy beat? You haven't heard this record, man, get it.

Unfortunately, that recommendation doesn't apply to the rest of Frauste's catalog. Maybe "Bed Time Stories," though that's got a very different tone, and still comes in second place to Spyder-D's record. But "Get Up, Get Down, Get Funky, Get Loose" is absolutely where it's at.

"Get Up" was also Frauste's last solo single, and he only had the one album. He came back in the 90s as the leader of a small group called the Boom Junkies. He did most of the raps, which were still pretty flat and generic, and the production, which was even more high energy but still lacked that spark to really inspire repeat listens. Their last song was a collaboration with Disco Rick on one of those obscure Vision Records compilation albums. It's really just all about this one 12". Get it.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Omniscence's Raw Factor Fully Realized

It's now after the conclusion of the Raw Factors series of 12" records from Dope Folks records, which included three songs apiece (plus exclusive instrumentals) off of Omniscence's legendary unreleased album, The Raw Factor. Between that and the original 12" singles on East/West, we've almost got the whole entire album in our mitts. And now it's time for this CD/ cassette release of The Raw Factor on Gentleman's Relief Records to put the cap on it.

So three Raw Factors with three songs each equals nine songs total [college degree, you've just paid off!]. This album has thirteen tracks, plus four bonus tracks, on both the CD and cassette, which we'll swing back around to later. So that means there's four non-bonus tracks on here that weren't on the EP. So obviously the big question is what the Hell are those songs?

Well, two of them are simply "Amazin'" and "Touch Y'all," the two original singles from the album that actually did get released back in the day. The idea with this Raw Factor release is to be the full, original album, so it only makes sense to get them back into the mix. Even for all of us who already own those singles, it's good to have them in the line-up just so we can listen to the whole album properly like it was meant to be. That's all cool, but that still only brings us to eleven. What are the last two?

1) I'm On Mine - Remember how I said the song "Maintain" was a mess on the old mix-tape/ bootleg downloads? 'Cause you had a couple tracks with that title, and another with a different title, "Greatest MC in the World," but had the same instrumental? Those versions were all messed up, and some screwed it up more than others, because they just did things like rip the old snippet tape and mash it up with the singles, past releases and all kinds of junk. That last one is what's happened here; it's actually a song from The Funky Oneliner EP, though many fans probably first heard it on the boot and think of it as a Raw Factor track. "I'm On Mine" is what was called "Greatest MC In the World" on the boots; they clearly got the title from the vocal sample from De La Soul's "Ego Trippin' Part 2" where they go, "I'm the greatest MC in the worrrrld," that the DJ is cutting up here on the hook.

2) I Gotta Maintain - And here's the proper version of "(I Gotta) Maintain," the full-length song, not just the snippets. It's the same version I have on my old promo EP, which was always one of Om's best to me, and another one from The Funky Oneliner EP. So that's eleven Raw Factor tracks and two Funky Oneliners for good measure.

With the release, I think we can finally put those misinformative unofficial releases to bed once and for all. We've got (almost) the whole album, in robust sound quality, and even a couple extra tracks. Oh right, and we've got bonus tracks, too.

The four bonuses are the "Touch Y'all" remix from the original 12" single, which featured Sadat X, and one of the two "Amazin'" remixes from that original 12", together giving you an even fuller Raw Factor experience. And then there's "Wreckognize" and "Freestyle After a Philly," which are two songs from his Funky Oneliner EP - kind of odd choices, but hey, who's complaining about two more dope Omniscence songs being on their albums?

So that's all 17 songs, we've reached the end... unless you leave the album playing and hear the extra bonus, uncredited 18th song not mentioned on the track-listing. And yes, by the way, it's on both the CD and cassette versions. It's the other, often forgotten "Touch Y'all" remix, the one that doesn't feature Sadat, by Fanatic that was also on the 12" single. Nice.

And let's talk about the actual physical product - although for the record, the whole thing (minus the hidden track #18) is available for download as well, on Omni's bandcamp if that's your thing. The cassette is pretty limited, to just 100 copies, and is pressed in cool, red plastic. The CD is a bit of a wider release, not just available from GRR's online store, but sites like ughh and hhv. It also includes liner notes written by Omniscence, telling the story of how the album was recorded all the way through to it ultimately not getting released back in the day.

So this is pretty great for Omniscence fans. The famously unreleased Raw Factor is now out on all formats, and all top quality releases. It's  pretty damn definitive, I'd say. Except... Interestingly, all of this still leaves one Omniscence song from my East/West promo tape still unreleased. "Keep Giving Me Love" was another smoothed out collection of fun, freestyle rhymes with a shout chorus, this time over a sample of Al B. Sure's "Nite & Day." I'm really not sure why everybody's still sitting on that one. Hmmm...

Update/ Errata (2/13/15) - I originally credited this album with "finally" allowing us to hear "Maintain" and "I'm On Mine," which were cut/ poor sound quality on the bootlegs... forgetting that both tracks were originally part of The Funky Oneliner EP. So while it's still a great package and a chance to finally get the (mostly) full album as it was originally meant to be heard, those two tracks won't actually be new to fans who have the original Oneliner EP, or the more recent Dope Folks repress.