Saturday, February 10, 2007

Cheba Cheba, Y'all

Cheba! I always wanted to make a discography page for this guy, but a career that spans two 12" singles doesn't really justify it. His first 12" single, "The Piper," is actually the joint that got me into vinyl. I'd been buying hip-hop music since I was little (back when you went into Sam Goody's and it was filed under "BLACK" if you can imagine), but just being a kid in Central Jersey, I was buying everything on cassette (I still have my massive cassette collection, btw... in fact, almost all the classic rap albums I own are on cassette). When this came out, there was a video that played ALL THE TIME on Yo!, Rap City and Video Music Box, but amazingly, it only came out on vinyl. I guess that's because "The Piper" was the very first release on Ruffhouse Records, so their distribution wasn't really in place. So, anyway, tracking down this single is what got me to make the leap to vinyl.

"The Piper" sounds a lot like a Digital Underground record, with Cheba sounding a lot like Shock G. A lot. If they'd put this on Sex Packets, no one would've known the difference. I understand Cheba toured with DU, and he thanks God and them first in the liner notes, so there's definitely a connection.

Anyway, it's a really memorable track, with Cheba kicking a slow "Children's Story"-style narrative rap about a small town ("Cheeseville") infested with rats/drug dealers. A pied piper comes to town and lures them away, but when the mayor stiffs him on his payment, there's a reckoning. Cheba plays the narrator ("I was there"), as well as doing voices for the piper and the mayor. The instrumental is a pretty tight, mellow groove, produced by Joe The Butcher (who actually owns Ruffhouse, and who did all the tracks on both 12"'s), with some cool live flute work on the hook. There's also a Street mix, by Chuck Nice of Three Times Dope, which is a fairly generic "hip-hop remix," typical of its time.

If you thought "The Piper" was too corny for you, though, you won't even want to know about the b-side "Just Because." With a sappily sung chorus that goes, "Just because he wants to knock boots, doesn't mean he loves you... I really doubt it, baby" and Cheba stops to talk a few points over the track, saying things like, "damn, baby, is he treating you like a wet food stamp again?" The saving grace on this song is definitely the live instrumentation, a hallmark of Cheba's work, this time including live keyboards, guitar and percussion by industry staple Andy "Funky Drummer" Kravitz.

When he's not in narrative mode (and unfortunately "The Piper" is the only song in which he is), Cheba's rapping skills aren't really the draw of his records.. All his other vocal performances are pretty forgettable, and apparently they knew this, so the emphasis on the lesser-known "Business Doin' Pleasure" 12" is on showy instrumentals. To that end, Cheba and Joe enlist - in addition to live musicians for keyboards, acoustic piano, two guitarists, percussion and someone on "Conversation" - Grover Washington Jr. on the sax and Teena Marie on the hook. Pretty impressive for a 12" almost nobody's ever heard of.

The first b-side though, "Clap Yo Hands" (co-produced by DJ Jazz), eschews the live instrumentation for some more classical, sample-based hip-hop (using a bunch of familiar samples, including the main one used in Heavy D's "Don't Curse" and "Cold Chillin' Christmas"). And finally, "Dis Is Nice" reverts back to live instrumentation to the point where they don't even bother with the rappin'. It's a purely instrumental track (though Cheba drops a few ad libs every so often), with a lot of saxaphone (this time not by Grover, though).

Okay, that's about it. But before I go, I'll just make a little point about this blog. First of all, it might not be obvious the way looks, but if you click on any of the "featured" images, you get much bigger, clearer image without the watermark, where you can actually read the print of the label scans and what-not. So, yeah... the images actually don't suck (except maybe the digital photo I took of the picture covers in this entry), they're just thumbnails. Cheers. 8o)

5 comments:

  1. Absolutely loved the Piper song, had it on cassette single. Can't find it ANYWHERE on the 'net, would love to add it to my iPod. Have you seen it anywhere?

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  2. Yeah, there's a mint copy on gemm for $2.75. Can't beat that!

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  3. where can i find "just because", i have been searching for over ten years.

    jgees44@gmail.com

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    1. Well as of this writing, there are multiple copies on gemm, starting at $3, and 17 on discogs, starting at $3.95.

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  4. 2017 and I have to thank you. If not for this post I'd be a 100yrs old w/that "Just Because" hook runnin through my head killin me because I couldn't remember which single I flipped over to hear it.

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