Monday, May 14, 2007

The Boyz Are Back In Town

Here's another one that very little has ever been written about... "The Boyz From da Hill" b/w "Here We Go" by The Sugarhill Gang, on Diamond Head Records from 1994. I don't know much about Diamond Head Records, except that they were based out of Englewood New Jersey, and the following year, they put out a solo 12" by Sugarhill Gang member Kory-O, entitled "One Never Knows."

"Wait a minute," you exclaim, "Everybody knows the Sugarhill Gang is three guys - Wonder Mike, Master Gee and Big Bank Hank!" Yeah, well, guess what. This is '94, and things done changed.

Back in 1985, Master Gee left the group, to release one solo 12" on Atlantic Records (called "Do It," and it's actually pretty good) and ultimately retire from the music scene. He was replaced, in turns, by Kory-O (he was featured on tracks like "Work, Work the Body" before the group initially stopped recording) and another MC who decided o call himself Master Gee: former West Street Mob member Joey Robinson Jr. - son of Sylvia Robinson, president of Sugarhill.

In an interview with (click to read the whole thing), Master Gee had this to say about his imposter, "What me and Mike are doing now is working to get out and let people see the real deal, because some people aren't even sure about who's who. They think that this other guy is Master Gee. ... First of all, you're not supposed to use someone else's name. There was never an agreement made between him and I. As far as performing, he didn't write the lyrics, he didn't record the songs. He's not really entitled to say that he's me. There's only one original member performing as the Sugar Hill Gang right now, and that's Hank. The rest are stand-ins and they're duping the public. When people go out to see them, they're not getting the real deal. ... With me stepping away from the group, [The 2nd Master Gee] felt that it was his opportunity to go on the road and take my place. He was involved in all the sessions, but he never performed on any of the hits, 'Rapper's Delight,' 'Apache,' '8th Wonder.' That's all me."

But on this single, Hank isn't the only original member. The line-up here is: Wonder Mike, Kory-O, the 2nd Master Gee and Big Bank Hank... hence the four people on the album cover (by the way, that's the CD single you're seeing pictured above... the 12" single is a plain, white sticker cover, with only text). They've updated their flows and styles somewhat, partially to keep up with the faster beat and partially with the times. It kinda works, though:

"Come get a damage[?] of more delight
Coming from the hyper than hype wonder, the Wonder Mike,
The party rocker, smooth hip-hopper,
Whole house shaker, big fly money maker
In the house. Yeah, you know the sound.
The original, lyrical, biggest on the mic around:
(Sugarhill) back in full effect,
Hits the spot, mic's checked and flexxed - next!
Yo, we took hits and start stackin' 'em...
We're the first MCs to go platinum!
Mad props to the crew first on the scene;
We set it off and went and got the CREAM.
The name's the same, the fame, the aim, the claim;
The tracks are fat, and it's all that.
We gon' take a strip and start pimpin' it.
Stand back as the boys start rippin' it!"

Perhaps even more interesting than the MC line-up is the musical line-up. Continuing Sugarhill's tradition of getting great studio musicians to lay their tracks, the first one is by Kool & The Gang(!), along with George Mena and Reggie Griffin (it's essentially the "Jungle Boogie" instrumental). And despite their label change, they're still produced by Sylvia Robinson, Joey Robinson Jr., and David Gunthrope for West Street Productions. All in all, it's a pretty lively, enjoyable tune, with a catchy hook: "It's the boys from the hill! The boys from the hill! With the pow pow boogie; Never ran, never will!"

The B-side, "Here We Go," is a bit of a more traditional, "smoother" hip-hop number, with all musical tracks performed by Reggie Griffin, and co-produced by Reggie Griffin and Sylvia Robinson. It's got that pseudo-g-funk sound that some indie midwest group might produce. There's also a "Jeep Version" of "Here We Go," which really isn't much different from the first. It's ok if you like that sort of thing, but it's the A-side that makes this worth the purchase for Sugarhill fans.

Today, the Sugarhill Gang is fairly broken up, though sometimes certain members (originals and replacements) will tour as the Gang. Wonder Mike and Master Gee have formed a new group called MG Squad, with some of their friends. Here's a link to their myspace page.

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