Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Powerule's Off the Wall

I got a very nice email a couple... weeks ago?  I don't know, it's a pandemic; time has no meaning anymore.  But anyway, he suggested I should do something about Powerule; and my first instinct was to go to my site, find one of the multiple posts I've written and forward it to him in a nice reply.  But holy cow, he was right; somehow I've never done anything on Powerule over all these years.  So yeah, definitely time to correct that.

Powerule basically had three stages in their career.  1)  Their major label period, where Interscope picked up their indie single "Revenge" and put their album Volume 1 in every shopping mall in the country.  2)  Their raw 90s indie era, where they were putting underground 12"s on labels like Hydra and Stretch Armstrong's Dolo.  And 3) their recent internet-era comeback, which includes their second full-length album and a 7" through Red Line and Fat Beats.  Except for the fact that most groups don't have the tenacity to hang in there that long and go through each stage, it's a pretty typical, predictable story.  I don't mean that in a bad way, just that we've seen this path taken so often; if you were to fabricate a backstory of a hoax rap group, this is exactly how it would go.  Except there's one curious anomaly that doesn't make sense in the narrative.

"Brick In a Wall" is a 1990 single that came out on Revenge Records.  That's the same label as their 1989 indie debut, "Smooth."  When Interscope signed them, they included "Smooth" on that album, made a video for it and everything.  Then they put out the first single they recorded for Interscope, "That's the Way It Is" in 1991, which of course is also on the album, as is their next one.  But for some reason, that one single right in the middle, isn't.  It's not on any album, it's an outlier 12"/ cassingle-only single, with an equally exclusive B-side.  Why?

I suppose because of the sample?  This song is easily best known for being heavily based on a Pink Floyd sample, "Another Brick In the Wall."  Me being a purely Hip-Hop guy, I grew up with this single, completely unfamiliar with the source.  I recognized the "Big Beat" drums, but had no idea about the Pink Floyd.  I mean, I did notice it was making heavy-handed use of some kind of rock sample.  Besides the looped guitar riff, they even sample vocal chorus for the hook, which sounds like some distorted bunch of kids mumbling "[something something something] brick in tha wall!"  It didn't exactly sound like something Powerule orchestrated themselves.

So it makes sense that Interscope just couldn't clear the sample.  Except, then, why didn't they use the B-side?  I wouldn't think it's any kind of conflict with Revenge Records, since "Smooth" was on Revenge, too, and they grabbed that up no problem.  Oh well, guess we'll never really know.  Either way, I'm not mad at having some exclusive bonus songs from their Interscope era that they felt were strong enough to be a single.

That said, it might only be a single for the novelty.  I don't care about the Pink Floyd connection, but a lot of people seem to.  Personally, I don't think this is half as dope as "Smooth" was.  Still, a classic break beat turns it into something more credible than just a rap version of a rock song.  Ax provides a nice scratch breakdown in the middle of the song, and Prince knows how to capitalize on the mood of the instrumental.  But the rhymes include a lot of trite and easy platitudes, like "There's plenty of ways to get paid, so pursue it.  Just do it.  (Get into it!)  Be somethin', somebody, yo, anybody.  It's better than nobody.  Find yourself or you might take a fall and be another... brick in the wall."  His heart's in the right place, but he sounds like he's biting Ms. C. "Rappin" Pittman, The Rappin School Teacher: "in the school of cool, the first thing to learn is somethin' that brings me great concern.  This lesson can bring you tons of wealth.  Lesson number one is to love yourself.  Some of you say 'I love myself' and this just might be true; but you can't just say it, you have to prove it, by doin' the best you can do."  I also don't know why they title the song "Brick In a Wall," when both Powerule and Pink Floyd are clearly saying "the wall," which makes more sense metaphorically.

The B-side is actually sample-reliant as well.  "Let the Years Roll" is a nostalgic look back at how Powerule came up in their early days, "let's step back further in the Price Power's path, take a long look deep inside the hour glass.  'Cause years back, I wasn't down in videos, or even thinking of going to the studio."  It's got a decidedly funkier track with big looped horns, and each hook consists of the DJ playing a medley of classic breaks and samples.  "Brick" is always going to get the most attention, but I think "Years" holds up as the better song.

The cassingle pictured above just features the two songs in a cool picture cover.  The 12" has the same cover but also includes instrumentals and acapellas for both cuts.  There are definitely singles in their catalog that I prefer (the Erick Sermon-produced "Rock Ya Knot Quick" is a killer).  But this one's not rare or expensive at all, so if you're a Powerule fan, there's no reason not to have it in your collection.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Bla.Zé the Live Homie

Here's one that's grown on me.  And by that, I don't mean I thought it sucked when I first heard it - it's inarguable that dude can rap right at the top.  But if this hadn't been on vinyl, and it was just another mp3 or youtube video, I would've listened to it the once and forgotten about it just like the bajillion other up-and-coming artists on the internet who you barely catch in passing and instantly forget.  But since I've actually got it on wax sitting here next to me, I ran it back a second time, paid a little more attention...  And then later that night, without expecting it, I've got the flow in my head and I find myself feeling the urge to go back and play it a couple more times.  I know springing for physical releases is a luxury we all can't afford, especially right now; but there's something palpable that makes audiences meet you half way when you commit your music to tangible form.

Hell, if you've been following this blog just a tiny bit you know we're still discovering obscure rarities from decades ago, while digital-only tracks by recent cats that had serious backing have completely vanished.  Did you know Grand Daddy IU, for example, had an EP called Long Island's Finest, back before Stick To the Script?  It's gone now; you can't find it on the 'net or anywhere else anymore.  And that's a crazily talented, established artist who's been signed to major labels and made great music for decades (apparently he has a new album called The Essence coming soon!).  Very few have that kind of staying power, so if his mp3s don't stick...

Well, with that indulgent tangent over and done with, let's get back to Bla.Zé.  The point I was dancing around up there is that this newcomer's debut single was good enough to draw me back, though he's fortunate he got Hip Hop Be Bop Records' backing to make that possible.  HHBBR made a name for themselves giving new voice to old school greats like Silver Fox and Sugar Bear, but now they seem to be investing in new artists.  But they're still given the full HHBB treatment... And I don't just mean that it's a small hole 45 7" in a slick picture cover, but they're bringing him in-house with production by Clandest and cuts by DJ Credit One.

But if you're guessing this is another UK rapper, you're mistaken.  Bla.Zé is from Wisconsin (I do believe that's the St. Louis Arch on his cover there) and his two-song single is "Never Give Up (Man On a Mission)" b/w "Awaken'd."  The A-side, as you could surely surmise from the title, is an aspirational song.  It's got a breezy, smooth summertime groove that's an ideal panacea for these depressing times, with a cheerful, throwback hook: "I'm all around the world, hangin' with the fly girls, feelin' like the Fresh Prince.  Shout out to Will Smith."  The beat's got a cool early Tribe/ later Jazzy Jeff vibe to it - my favorite part's probably the "Dis Be the Def Beat"-style shakers that come in on the chorus, along with Credit One's subtle but infectious cuts.

"Awaken'd" has a similar feel, but comes with a little more energy thanks to a combination of some catchy, rolling drums and a more tongue-twisting flow from Bla.Zé.  This is more of the skill flexing calling card track.  The one thing that might be a little divisive are the Rocky-like key-horns.  They're pretty catchy and definitely take you along for the ride.  Personally, I don't mind them.  But if you find the artifice cheesy, they might put you off at first... It doesn't help that they're associated with almost every corny battle rapper's debut CD from the last 20 years.  Still, the fast-paced bassline that has to hustle just to keep up with Bla.Zé's complex rhyme scheme ("I awaken from my slumber to the sound of the thunder; and I don't know how long that I've been sleepin' down under. I need some nourishment to calm my spiritual hunger, my astrology's a lottery and I'm playin' them numbers.  I'm searchin' for the missing piece of the puzzle; they think that I'm trouble, don't need no more, no need for rebuttal. They leave in a huddle, they're measly, they're needin' more muscle. I'm just speakin' what's on my mind, no longer needin' a muzzle"), and some more showy cuts by Credit One should keep anyone's head nodding.  Just stick with it.  Like I said, it was immediately obvious this record wasn't bad, but it wasn't until my second or third listen that I was able to get fully on board with what these guys have created.  But now I'm glad that I did.

Monday, July 6, 2020

2020: Year of MC Mechanism

(DJ Too Tuff's recordings with MC Mechanism the Articulate One have finally been secured on vinyl thanks to Chopped Herring Records. Youtube version is here.)

Friday, June 19, 2020

Willie D On Juneteenth

You'd think there would be considerably more Hip-Hop songs about Juneteenth, or at least mentioning it.  But outside of stuff released in the last few years, say before 2017, it's surprisingly rare.  I've been racking my brains, and have come up with one: Willie D's "U Still a aggiN" from 1992 of his second solo album, I'm Goin' Out Lika Soldier.  Rap-A-Lot was pretty stingy with singles in those days, but this did make it out on 12", too, as the B-side to the album's sole single "Clean Up Man."  There it's spelled "You Still a Zaggin," but if you think about it, I'm sure the album spelling is correct.

Looking at the cover suggests this was meant as more of a split single for "Clean Up Man" and "Rodney K," as in Rodney King.  Both titles are on the cover and you've got a sexy lady's hand with a cigarette holder and a hand-written letter on the left, while there's a black man screaming as police cars descend on him on the right.  Apparently, there was a 7" single with the full "Clean Up Man" imagery released in full by itself.  But whether you consider it a "double A-side" or whatever, "You Still a Zaggin," which isn't even hinted at on the cover, is a B-side.

"Clean Up Man" is a fun, gender-flip of the classic 70s record "Clean Up Woman" by Betty WrightJhiame (here spelled Jiame) sings roughly the same hook with reverse pronouns, and they both loop the same funky guitar riff.  It's the quasi-radio friendly joint about stealing girlfriends they made the video for and everything.

Then "Rodney K" was more the real lead single for the streets.  Besides going considerably harder musically, with a killer track, "Do It Like It G.O." energy and cuts by DJ Blaster, it was super controversial.  Because the hook repeats "fuck Rodney King," not "fuck the Rodney King incident" or "fuck the police who beat Rodney King," but actually Rodney King himself.  I remember having to explain that one to my mother back when I wanted to buy this single in the store as a kid.

Of course, the reason he's saying this is because the song didn't come out in 1991, when he was attacked by police; but in 1992, right after he spoke out against the protestors who had taken to the streets following the police officers' acquittals.  I mean, it's not fair to say he spoke out against them, but his famous "can't we all just get along" call for non-violence was understandably taken by many, including apparently Willie D, as asking black people to simmer down in the face of this terrible injustice.  Of course, he explains it better himself in his song, "I'm tired of you good little niggas saying 'increase the peace and let the violence cease,' when the black man built this country, but can't get his for the prejudiced honky.  Rodney King, god damn sell out, on TV crying for a cop?  The same motherfuckas who beat the hell out ya!  Now I wish they would've shot ya.  'Cause this shit is deeper than Vietnam; and ain't no room for the Uncle Tom.  Let the white man dress you up, and mess you up; I wouldn't be surprised if he sexed you up.  'Cause you look like a gay, letting them white folks tell you what to say."  I'm pretty sure I didn't even attempt to tackle the homophobic angle to my parents.

But I'm here to talk about the third song.  Sorry, it's easy to get distracted by a number like "Rodney K."  It's actually interesting, I was just writing about how the message of one of Chubb Rock's songs was essentially neutered in its clean edit by the removal its critical, repeated line "you're still a nigga."  Now here's Willie D making the same point with the same line five years earlier.  That point being, the systematic racism built into our country is still going to mistreat minorities with racism no matter what they say or do in terms of appeasement, playing along, etc.  Of course, Willie D puts it a little less gently, "Now even if you're light, and damn near white, you'll get smoked because you're in the same boat.  Surroundin' yourself with white folks in your video; like Paula Abdul, she's a silly ho. Although you might only be one percent black, troop, they still consider you a mook. But she says she ain't black. Now how the fuck she figure? Yo bitch, you still a nigga." 

There's a common theme here of laying blame on victims of racism, not just the perpetrators.  Willie D didn't title his debut album Controversy for nothin'.  But didn't I start out this post by saying this was a Juneteenth song?  Yep!  In fact, this is where I first learned about Juneteenth as a kid.  So say what you want about the negative aspects of his music, but Willie was demonstrably successful in communicating positive messages with his music - I'm living proof.

So, let's set the scene.  This is a slower song, especially coming after "Rodney K," with Willie in his smoother mode.  He's rhyming over a classic Sly Dunbar sample, and we've got that reggae element amplified by K-Rino delivering a tough ragga chorus (a style I was disappointed he didn't continue with on his own albums).  Willie lays it down, "mama's outside, barbecuing ribs and links. It's Juneteenth, but to me it don't mean stink. It's a date of emancipation, but everybody wonder why Willie ain't celebrating. But things ain't perfect. I'm looking beyond the surface. So instead of drinking beer and playing dominoes, I'm sitting in the room with my eyes closed."  Again, I can't think of another Hip-Hop song that ever named Juneteenth once [please, leave them in the comments if you guys can], let alone make it the topic.

Actually, I called K-Rino's part the chorus, which they sort of act as in that they come between each of Willie D's verses with a more sung vibe.  But he's actually dropping full complex verses himself, which differ each time, going off on those he considers to be "white man in the middle yet them black outside" and imploring, "black man, get the government's dick out your eyes."  So overall, the point is that he can't bring himself to celebrate Juneteenth when things are still so unfair; and unfortunately, that message reverberates as strongly now as it did twenty years ago.

I was surprised when Rap-A-Lot wound up releasing a video for this song, too (though not surprised that they didn't attempt one for "Rodney K").  It's a strong, black & white representation with the slightly scrubbed title "Still Black" and some re-recorded cleaner vocals.  There were even promo 12"s of "Still Black," which I've never heard, but apparently have a radio friendly version of "Rodney K" on 'em, too.  The main retail single of "Clean Up Man" b/w "Rodney K" and "You Still a Zaggin" features the explicit, album versions of all three songs though, plus their instrumentals.  They're retitled "Fuck Rodney King" and "You Still a Nigga" on the vinyl single, but I believe this cassette is the only one with the picture cover.

Friday, May 29, 2020

X-Clan Says "F.T.P."

Gee, I wonder what brought this song to mind tonight?  If you're not immediately hip to what "F.T.P." stands for, X-Clan removes any doubt with their shout and call hook, "F.T.P. means? (Fuck the police!)"  Now, Hip-Hop songs protesting the police go way back, and of course this isn't the first "Fuck the Police."  NWA's is the most famous, and it was also abbreviated to "FTP" on the 12" to code the title enough for stores to sell it.  Then Jay Dilla had a single called "Fuck the Police" many years later, and acts like Success-N-Effect had "Fuck 1 Time;" and again, there's a million great songs critical of corrupt police from "Coffee, Donuts and Death" to "A Dirty Cop Named Harry."  But the one I've gravitated to right now is X-Clan's.

It's from their second album, 1992's Xodus, but it was also released on a 12" single, as the B-side to "A.D.A.M.," which is the one they did the video for and everything.  And unfortunately there's no sweet remixes or alternate versions here, not even an instrumental.  You just get the album version and a Censored one where they flip the curses.  But at least it comes in a classic picture cover and gives the song a little more breathing room than the LP.

A lot of people I've talked to seem to hold this image of X-Clan as one-note and humorless, but the inventive way they marry the classic bassline from Special Ed's "I Got It Made" with En Vogue's "Hold On" is a creative, and despite the context, fun blend.  But of course, the context does turn it into a dead-serious call to arms.  Brother J's cadence and flow is very similar to his classic "Grand Verbaliser, What Time Is It?" on this one.  But now he's here to settle some very specific scores:

"We the people that are strong and able
Remember Yusef onto Gavin Cato,
Eleanor Bumpurs, Steven Biko, Huey P,
Murderers of Malcolm and death of brother King.
Government’s producing that white Kryptonite,
Making sun drinkers into zombies of the night.
So now I walk the street, more or less discreet,
‘Cause the one to take me under might sing the same beat.
But how many brothers must a brother see
Shot in the street by dishonorable defeat,
By a silver badged chump uniformed like a redcoat?
I might just catch a flashback and tighten up your collar.
Don’t scream a whiff, I won’t help you if you holler."

That last line will strike as especially pertinent to anyone who's seen the video of George Floyd's murder.  But of course the whole song's just as pertinent now as it was nearly 30 years ago, which is both its power and the problem.  For a while it seemed like we were making at least some progress, but the way this song feels like it was written explicitly for today says otherwise.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Monday, May 18, 2020

What's Chubb Rock Hiding From Us!?

Sometimes I still think about Chubb Rock's last album, specifically the long time between when it was initially promoted and finally released, and how it presumably changed along the way.  I wrote in a past post about an interview where he said the then upcoming album was going to feature a number of up tempo tracks, which we never seemed to get.  Initial albums titled the album Clear the Decks, but looking back at the interview now, I forgot that it was also at one stage going to be titled Don't Sleep.  ...The Mind was the final title, in case you've lost track.

He talks in that interview about how it had never taken him so long to finish the album, and puts the blame on Select Records being slow to give him a proper budget.  But the fact that it was advertised like it was basically finished, only to be pushed back and delayed repeatedly makes me think multiple versions of the album were probably completed and then re-worked.  There must've been some push-back on those up-tempo joints, and he probably wasted time trying to talk Erick Sermon into appearing on "Beef."  Another big clue is that this album features a song called "East Vs. West (Remix)" when there was never an original "East Vs. West" released.  It's always begged the question: what else was left on the shelf?

But we did eventually get to hear the original "East Vs. West," thanks to sweet little white label 12".  The remix is a pretty cool track with a dark, moody beat produced by Domingo.  Rock makes the concept of the song pretty clear: "I don't understand all this east/ west bullshit."  Like his opening single "Beef," and a couple other points throughout the album, he laments the current state (at the time) state of Hip-Hop.  That material hasn't aged as well as much of his other stuff, since it's not all quite so relevant (is the genre really divided by coast much anymore?), but there's no such thing as a bad Chubb Rock album.

Anyway, this white label features "DomingoClean," "DomingoDirty" and "DomingoInst." on one side.  And on the other side, there's just regular "Clean Mix," "Dirty Mix" and Inst. Mix."  And by the way, listening to the Clean version really cripples the song, because it cuts out the whole point he's making (which, unfortunately, is still poignant in 2020).  But anyway, the Domingo side is obviously what we heard on the album, right?  And it's cool, but it doesn't really fit the song.  It sounds like it was made for a gritty crime story from the Raidermen, not Chubb trying to unite the Harlem Uptowners with the "Country Grammar" kids.  So it's great to finally hear the original concept.

And this one is more mellow, using the same sample Premier did for his famous "Shit Is Real" remix.  Perhaps it was a little too famous, and that's why they nixed it?  Maybe every single person he played it for mentioned the Fat Joe track so he decided he had to take it back to the drawing board.  Because otherwise I don't know why you'd drop it.  It still sounds good, and fits the tone a little more.

A little more.  It still doesn't quite feel like the lyrics and the beat are on the same page.  It's almost too much of a summertime vibe rather than stressing over this unwanted conflict.  And remember on the album, where Chubb Rock goes, "whether it's _____ or _____.  Whether it's ______ or ______?"  It sounds incomplete, like the instrumental was supposed to drop signature east coast and west coast samples in there.  Like: "whether it's ["Impeach the President" break] or [Roger Troutman G-funk whistle]," right?  But it's just blank, like they decided that part didn't get with Domingo's beat, so they just left it strangely vacant.  It reminds me of when they bootlegged Big Daddy Kane and 2Pac's "Untouchable" before Snoop could record his hook for it.  Like we're glimpsing the song's exposed bone.

Well, it's left blank in this other mix, too.

So is this even the original version?  Or is it just another scrapped alternate version by some other uncredited remixer?  And who's the DJ cutting up "Scenario" on this?  He's on this other version, too, so I'm thinking it's probably not Domingo, though the album credits don't name anybody else.  And what other tracks are still sitting in Select's vaults?  I bet there's a bunch, and it kinda drives me crazy still not knowing 23 years later.  😬😬😬

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

The "Don't Believe the Hype" for Our Current Administrations

There's a lot to be said for an artist who keeps a consistent schedule... one who doesn't keep overloading fans with slightly varied reissues featuring one exclusive new song every month, but who also doesn't disappear for half a decade leaving you to wonder if it's all over and done with.  It's 2020 and Whirlwind D is back with a new vinyl single called "M.D.M," and even before placing it on our turntables for the first time, there's a consistent level of quality we can count on, in terms of everything... the production, the writing, the physical product.  We already know we're not going to be let down.

"M.D.M.," which we're told at the end of the first verse stands for Modern Day Media (don't feel dumb; it's not an abbreviation in common parlance) is a topical stance against news and social media outlets pushing false narratives.  Rather than calling out names, it makes both the more general and nuanced point that the risk isn't just the obvious danger of believing and acting on obviously fake news, but how the proliferation of disingenuous takes can subtly shift the Overton Window to mislead even the savvier among us.  Or perhaps worse, it'll still reach the strongest holdouts through the society we share:

"False media, welcome to reality, a gallery of flattery based on big salaries ... Liberal views are extinguished invisibly.  Newspaper editors, now trained predators, brainwash a nation with lies and sedatives.  Alternative truths through arguments reduce.  Experts arrested while the rest are seduced ... Soon public policy plops from the sky like astronomy."

This song has D venturing a little further than usual into Public Enemy territory, and that's definitely not a bad thing.  D's delivery is a little more aggressive, and Djar One's loud, fast-paced guitar loop and horn stabs definitely feels like a blend of the lusher musicality we're used to from B-Line family (although technically, this 7" is being released by AE Productions) and the sort of thing Terminator X used to cook up.  I mean, it's an obvious connection to make, since the hook literally features Specifik cutting up some classic "Don't Believe the Hype" vocal samples, so no points for me there.  But the connections definitely run deeper.

If I had a complaint, and I guess I do, it's that the busy instrumental competes with the vocals making it hard to follow the lyrics.  Like, if I were to attempt to transcribe the whole song, I'd have several "[??]"s, which would be less of an issue with a simpler or more cliched song where we can fill in the predictable blanks even when we miss a syllable here and there.  But when it's fast paced and complicated, any little hiccup can make you lose the thread.  And this is a compelling topic where you absolutely want to get every detail, so it can be a little frustrating.  On the other hand, I don't think I'd want them to lessen the impact of the instrumental, so maybe I'm just saying an acapella track or even a lyrics sheet would've been nice.  You know, you only need to be told once that Erick Sermon's saying "Samurai Suzuki" to hear it right in your head for the rest of your life, but until that day, it's like a little jolt of static constantly disrupting the message.

Anyway, the B-side, "Time Waits For No Man," is Djar One's take on a six year-old track, originally produced by Phil Wilks.  In fact, it was D's first 7" single (as opposed to his previous 12"s), which I wrote about here.  It's a fitting companion to "M.D.M." as its themes feel more timely than ever.  Sonically, Djar One swings in the opposite direction, giving this one a calmer, more mellow vibe than the original, with slower drums and a dominant funk guitar loop.  Specifik's cuts seem to be the same ones from the original version, where they may've felt a little more at home, but they still work just fine here.  Pushed to choose, I do prefer the original, but this one's different enough to stand on its own.  And again, paired specifically with "M.D.M," it does form a cohesive whole that's somehow more than the sum of its halves.

If you're only in the market for escapism during this lockdown, this may not be the record for you.  This is for audiences who want their art to stand up and look them in the eye.  And like I said, the physical record's an attractive product in its own right, with a stylish picture cover.  It's a small hole 45 and as you can see above, also comes with a sticker.  If you've been collecting Whirlwind D records all along, this definitely isn't the one you're going to want to miss out on.  And if you haven't been checking for him yet, you might want to give this one a cursory check just for its immediate cultural relevance.

Monday, April 27, 2020

The Slept On and Shelved Works Of Supreme C

(A proper look at Supreme C's body of work has been a long time coming... so here's my crack at it.  Youtube version is here.)

Friday, April 17, 2020

A Nightmare On Elm Street rap, part 8

(Wow, there's more!  Freddy Krueger is back on the mic, in this series' first answer record, and this time he's out for MC ADE's blood... again!  Youtube version is here.)

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Chevy Chase On the Mic Gettin' Physical

It's April Fool's Day, gang, and once again, I'd like to present to not waste your time with a fake gag post but present you a very real, incredibly silly Hip-Hop record.  How about, oh, I don't know... Chevy Chase's stab at rapping from 1980?  Yes, that Chevy Chase, from Vacation, Fletch and Caddyshack.  1980, of course, is quite early in the days of rap records, and his song is called "Rappers' Plight," which, of course, is a riff on The Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight."  Now Sugarhill's record had been such a phenomenon that Chase was hardly in original territory to take a stab at "Rapper's Delight."  Female rappers Xanadu and Sweet Lady had already released a female version in 1979 on Joe Gibbs Music and there was a Canadian parody 7" released in 1980 called "Rapper's De Feet," where yes, they rap about feet.  There's also a curious cover version from Panama by a group called the Yimiyon Gang, but I'm not sure quite when that was released.

Anyway, it's not that surprising to see Chevy Chase take a stab at releasing an album.  This was after his time at SNL, and The Blues Brothers had already blown up.  Plus, he already had a history in the music industry before he became the Chase we know today.  He started out in a band called Chameleon Church, who released a major label album in 1968, and he was even the drummer for Steely Dan before they became famous.  So it was almost inevitable when he released his own self-titled album on Arista Records, which was even produced by one of the major musicians behind the Blues Brothers, Tom Scott.  And unlike some other SNL alumni who went on to release records, Chase was at least smart enough to stick to joke songs.

Such as it is.  I mean, "Let It Be" is just a straight cover of The Beatles' original, except his voice is pitched up, a la The Chipmunks.  And it doesn't get much funnier throughout.  A lot of the humor just comes from inserting drug references, and I think it's fair to assume this was all recorded under a variety of influences.  So his version of "I Shot the Sheriff" goes, "after toking all the PCP."  He has a parody record of "Short People," which was already a joke record, but he just inverts it.  So instead of "short people got no reason to live," he lists reasons why they're actually better off.  He does a version of "Wild Thing," where the whole joke is that he's crying as he sings the lyrics, and in the chorus he blows his nose.  I think one of the problems is that like when other comedians release albums, they want to prove that they’ve got genuine musical ability, too.  So the clever lyrics we're hoping for often take a back seat to indulging these guys' jam sessions.

But we're here for "Rappers' Plight."  And the good news is that you don't have to cop the whole Chevy Chase LP to get this on vinyl if the perverse sensation ever takes you.  The only single released for the album was "Short People" b/w "I Shot the Sheriff," and that was only on 7".  But there's a promo-only 12" called Three Cut Rebate From the New Fall Chevy, which as you can see comes in a sticker cover.  The first two songs are just "Short People" and "I Shot the Sheriff" again, but the third song is "Rappers' Plight."

And it's interesting.  Because he's got Scott and the whole band, it's got a well-played disco groove that definitely emulates the famous Chic bassline, but is otherwise distinctly original.  It starts off with Chase making fun of Wonder Mike's famous scatting, "a hip hip diggity dog and a bibbity bobbity boo, zippity do dah, coo coo ca choo."  Then we get into the first verse, where again, the joke is Drug References.  "The party don't stop if you wanna bop, I got uppers, downers, LSD.  Don't be low, have a blow, a little get-up-and-go, Joe.  Have yourself a little freeze."  And through the rest of the song, he does characters: a smokey drug dealer, and most memorably, a milquetoast square who's somehow wandered into the wrong party, "excuse me fellas, I hate to be a bother. I was wondering if any of you happened to have seen a little alligator purse; it belongs to my wife. She left it on the corner of the sofa over there."  This plays almost exactly like Bobby Jimmy's stock broker bit in his parody of Ice-T's "Colors" nearly a decade later.

Eventually the characters are talking over each other as the song devolves into chaos and it all wraps up in a weird sort of skit where Chase has walked out with everybody's stolen property.  I don't know if I'd say it's really actually funny, but it's amusing and easily the best thing about Chevy Chase.  I don't recommend the album, but if you're the kind of person who likes to mix a few quirky options into your crates, the 12" isn't terribly rare or hard to find, so it could make a fun, cheap score for the holiday.