Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Record for Halloween

Happy Halloween, everybody! I thought I'd come with a haunted holiday-themed blog entry today (and I hope to see other hip-hop bloggers have done the same when I check my bookmarks later)... the spooktacular "Amityville (The House On the Hill)" by the man who actually coined the term "hip-hop," Lovebug Starski.

If you're too lazy to click enlarge on the image in the top left there, I'll tell you what it says on the front cover, "Record comes with a free >>Black~Hole<< for the time~shift appearances of Horror and Inter-Stellar guest~stars!!!" This came out in '86 on Epic/CBS Records and is actually a 45bpm 12" (not unheard of, but certainly a little less than usual) single off of his album, House Rocker. The song is produced by Kurtis Blow, and it did pretty well for itself... charted on Billboard's Top 100 and was a Top 20 dance hit in the UK. Heck, it oughta if it comes with a free Black Hole. ;)

Anyway, this is a "monster mash"-style record, in the tradition of Whodini's classic "Haunted House of Rock." That's of course the unfuckwithable original Halloween hip-hop record, but this one is really great, too. Granted, it's dated - I mean, even for it's time, it's dated. Kurtis Blow's rock & disco inspired production, and Starski's "radio DJ" style of rapping weren't scoring him any points with the kids fiending for more stripped down and hardcore Run DMC and LL beats. Honestly, by this time, all of the Lovebug's real hits were behind him; and he never put out another record after House Rocker.

But now that it's ALL old school, we're no longer hung up on what's keeping up with the latest trends, and we can simply appreciate all of these records at face value, this is a just a damn good time. The production is really upbeat and very catchy, with a crazy mix of syntheizers and live instrumentation, combining Sugarhill Records style funk guitars with 80's rock guitar solos. And Starski enhances his stories of partying with crazy monsters in the Amityville house by going so far as to do full-on impressions of his characters, from Dracula to Captain Kirk. As the other great Starski would say, "you can't beat that with a stickball bat."

So, yeah. Dig this one out of your crates and give it a spin before you go trick or treating with the kids today. And if you've got a little time, drop by Starski's myspace page (although there's not a lot there right now except for some cool pics) and wish him a Happy Halloween, too.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Two Shots

"Burnin' for Another Shot" is the only record ever put out by MC Connection*, and not much really seems to be known about them. They name-check themselves, so we know they're MC Lonestar and MC Money, and the writing credits on the label only suggest that their last names are Randolph and Robinson (that's assuming the MCs wrote their own material). The one name in the credits we do know something about (though less than you'd expect) is the third writer and sole producer of this record, John Robie. John Robie was a member of Planet Patrol, and worked on a number of similar style records around this time, usually in collaberation with Arthur Baker. But where Baker continued to make records, do interviews, and develop an online presence (he has his own website as well as a myspace), John Robie seems to has silently disappeared from the music scene.

One notable hit that John Robie wrote and produced is "One More Shot" by C-Bank.

"Burnin' for Another Shot" is... not quite an answer record like we know them today (a la "No Pigeons" or PreC.I.S.E. MC's "So You Think You Got Em Locked"), but simply a rap version of "One More Shot," something that was very in vogue at the time (a la "Planet Rock" being a rap version of "Play At Your Own Risk," "The Erotic City Rapp" as to Prince's "Erotic City," or even MC Boob's "Do the Fila" as to Joeski Love's "Pee Wee Dance"). In fact, the b-side to "Burnin' for Another Shot" is actually "One More Shot (Instrumental)," credited to C-Bank rather than MC Connection. Not that there's really much of a difference, anyway - except for dropping a keyboard solo and posibly a few sound effects, the instrumentals are the same. And, for the record, that keyboard is missing from the instrumental mix of the original C-Bank 12", too.

So, how is this record? Well, as I said, the production is essentially identical, which inthiscase is a good thing,because Robie's work on "One More Shot" was cutting edge. Now, the original version of "One More Shot" featured vocals by Jenny Burton who, largely off the strength of this single, went on to put out a pair of rather tepid solo albums on Atlantic. On this song, her voice sounds a bit weak (possibly partially the fault of being undermixed) and doesn't really take off until the chorus. So replacing her with two boisterous rappers definitely breathes some welcome energy to the track. And me being a lifelong hip-hop head, it's probably a forgone conclusion which version I'll prefer, anyway (although possibly the ideal "Shot" would feature the MCs doing the majority of the vocals, but retaining Jenny Burton on the hook). And if you're reading this blog, I'm guessing the same conclusion can be reached about you. ;)

The lyrics are simple and the delivery is rudimentary - even for '83 - with both MCs mostly shouting their lyrics together in unison, only ocassionally breaking out for a little back and forth exchange or two... not unlike, again, "Planet Rock." I don't know if the MCing is ever so compelling that we should mourn the lack of a follow-up from MCs Lonestar and Money; but certainly anyone looking for an old school good time can't be disappointed by giving this dollar bin classic a spin.

*There were a few releases in the early 90's put out by an "M.C. Connection" ("Work dat Pigtail" and a song called "Ridiculous Bass" on a compilation titled Knowledge Is Power), but judging by the names in the writing credits (Green, Nance, Doland and Powell), the label (one doesn't say, but the other is from Michigan), the year, etc etc... I'm pretty sure these are not the same guys.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Def and Defiance

Sometimes this will show up on EBay with the dubious label of "random rap." But, in fact, "Wild, Wild West" by Def and Defiance is actually the first record by Big Dad (Darryl Pierce) & Muffla (Dwayne Simon) - better known as the group they later recorded as, The LA Posse - after they went solo from Uncle Jamm's Army. This record came out in 1985 and they still very much had that Uncle Jamm's early west coast sound... as Muffla said in an interview at (that's a really good, in depth interview on a really good, in depth site, by the way... for instance, I bet you didn't know that Big Dad and Muffla were originally two of the first Critters of Bobby Jimmand the Critters, dancing for their first ten shows), "If you had a keyboard, an 808 drum machine, and a vocoder; you could make any West coast record you wanted."

And that's what this record is all about. A fast, 808 drum track, keyboards playing various riffs on Enrio Morricone's infamous whistling theme from The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, accompanied by various sound effects and whoops from Western films (some sampled, and some I believe made by the artists). Muffla was Def and Big Dad was Defiance (still in the act of finding themselves, Dwayne and Daryl, or Def and Defiance, put out their next record under the name Double D). They do use a vocider machine at times, but other times rap in their own, distinctive voices, and this is when you really get a sense of, "yes, this is that LA Posse." The lyrics are pretty simple and kept to short verses like:

"You wanna dance?
You want romance?
The wild, wild west
Gives you that chance.
From San Diego to the Bay,
We're talkin' Cal-if-orn-I-A.
Not New York City or DC,
LA's the home of Double D.
Our message here?
Our point across:
Everyone knows,
LA is boss.
From sea to shore?
We rock hardcore.
We lead the pack -
East coast, bust that!
The west is wild;
Fresh LA style.
Get off your butt
And dance a while,

Despite the similarity in name (and use of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly theme), forget about Kool Moe Dee's record (not dissing, though... that's a classic)... this is really like a cross between some early Egyptian Lover and Jonzun Crew's "Space Cowboy." Now, tell me, with a combination like that, how could you go wrong?

Both Big Dad (here) and Muffla (here) have myspace pages, but they're both set to private at the moment. There are also a couple of LA Posse myspace pages here, here and here, none of which are set to private. So check out what they're up to today, while you rock to some of their tunes from yesterday.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Day One

^Video blog!!
(Once again - this is original content created for this blog, not me linking some random Youtube vids created by somebody else.)

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Systa, Systa

Here's an obscure one most of ya'll will probably be glad to learn about… Systahood's "M.O. Money," from '97. I originally picked this up just for the Sakinah Britton (you may know her better as Sah-B) appearance, but it turns out to be rather nice as a whole.

Systahood is comprised of two women who grew up in East Orange, NJ: the MC, Kandi and the DJ, Twista (no relation to that Twista, naturally). This was their only release before they called it quits because, as Twista said in an interview with (the interview's no longer up on their site, though unfortunately, so don't waste your time searching for it), "I had bills to pay and I was fortunate to have a career I could fall back on [a clinical operations coordinator in the pharmaceutical industry, apparently]." Even before putting out this single, though, she also co-founded Systas 4 Systas, an East Orange charitable organization, whose mission (according to the IRS) is to "combat juvenile delinquency." As Twista explained it, "this is a grass-roots organization in which five childhood friends and myself noticed that the external support organizations and community services we were once privileged to have, were slowly disappearing. We wanted to do what we could to deter the younger generation of women from teen pregnancy, drugs, alcohol and gangs."

One of those five friends, apparently, is Sah-B - an online charity database lists, M. Sakinah Britton as "(Community Representative) Vice President" for Systas 4 Systas Inc. So I'm guessing that first initial stands for Mawiyah, which solves the mystery from my old "Just a Summa Day" post. I think we can now safely assume Sakinah is using her middle name, and her full name is Mawiyah Sakinah Britton. You see? You dig around long enough, and you find out fun, obscure info. Here's another fact I found that way - Systas 4 Systas is also the name of a hair salon in East Orange… They have different mailing addresses, but since there's only two listings for "Systas 4 Systas" anywhere in the world, and they're both in East Orange, I decided to call them up and see. It's the same answering machine thanking you for calling Systas 4 Systas Inc. So that's them, too. 8)

Ok, so now you know who Systahood is; let's take a look at their work. "M.O. Money" starts off with Sah-B's guest verse (she also does the hook), and she comes off pretty nice… definitely still retaining some of that voice and flow that made her early work so enjoyable. Kandi takes the mic for the next two verses… she isn't as good (in terms of voice, lyrics, or flow), but certainly capable enough to keep an indie record like this afloat. Most impressively, the production, handled by Twista, is hot. Gripping horn samples and a fast, captivating bassline definitely pull you right into the song. The b-side, "Keep It In the Fam," is solid, too. It's more mellow, driven by a slower, deeper bassline (and yes, instrumentals are included for both). Kandi is a bit of a victim of her times here, filling her lyrics with lines like, "we stick together like stacks of new money," but hey, it was '97; who wasn't writing like that? Anyway. you can easily see why the A-side was picked to be the lead-off track, and this song is definitely the worse for not having another guest appearance by Sah-B, but you'll like both. And all in all, this rare, indie release (as far as I know, the only release on True Records) is definitely worth tracking down if you can.

It's been a long time since we've had a release from Sah-B - I was very disappointed to hear she wasn't featured on the new LOTUG album - and she doesn't seem to have much of an online presence (i.e. a myspace); but since they're working together, maybe there's still a chance Sah-B will come back, with some production from Twista and a guest verse from Kandi. …Come on, guys; make it happen.

Update 1/27/11: I just finally found the vinyl version of this release! The track-listing is the same for both, but we can glean some interesting tidbits of info from the label, including the fact that Kandi's full MCing name is actually Kandi Kain, and that this record was actually executive produced by Cool Vee!

I've also since learned some more about what Systahood is up to these days... Kandi Kain has written a book! It's called Hip Hop Holla-Backs, and apparently it's "the first of its’ kind to feature crossword puzzles, word searches and jumbles, trivia and artwork for coloring fostered around the theme of hip hop." She's published it herself through her own company, Tru Systa Books, which has a website at

There's also a website for Systas 4 Systas over at It's got a heap of info on what they do over there, so I'll just let you go explore... By the way, I guess Sah-B got married, because there's a bio for one M. Sakinah Reed. So congrats, Sah! :)

Friday, October 12, 2007

Complimentary Egg Roll With Your Order

This 45 comes free with Percee-P's Perseverence album if you buy it from many online sources (accesshiphop, ughh, etc). Most places seem to offer it (with the CD or the LP), so if you're buying from someplace that doesn't carry the package deal, you may want to cancel that order. Because, yeah; you'll be wanting this.

The whole album is pretty good. Like I (and practically everybody else, to be honest) predicted in an earlier thread, Percee dependably kills it on the mic, and the production, entirely by Madlib, is decent, but not great. At its best there are some nice, dusty loops ("Ghetto Rhyme Stories" is a particular stand out), while at its worst, it sounds like the soundtrack to a Sega Genesis game. It's definitely a dope, very worth having album… but if he'd dropped a few weak guest MCs who can't keep up with Perc (like Vinnie Paz and Guilty Simpson… I mean, whose dumb idea was it to make THAT song the new single, anyway?) in favor of some obvious guest producer choices (Showbiz, Diamond, Buckwild, Premiere, Finesse)… this could've really been the album we'd been waiting for all these years. As it is, it's just a good, solid album - which you can easily quibble about, but you'd be missing out if you passed up on.

So, now getting to this 7": it's "The Hand That Leads You (Egg Roll Version)" b/w the instrumental. When this was still a pre-order, most sites just said, "free Stones Throw 45," so it was to discover we'd gotten a proper Percee-P non-album single, rather than just a label sampler of snippets or something.

It's called the "Egg Roll Version" because the bulk of the instrumentation is sampled from "Egg Roll" by the late Philly-based 60's funk/jazz collective, The M&S Band, a rare/obscure release later popularized (well, as far as these things go) in the late 90's on the Funk 45 reissue label. And this mix (also done by Madlib) is hot… much better than the LP version; and that was one of the stronger album cuts itself. It's just a couple of massive horn loops, with some nice scratching on the hook, provided by J-Rocc of The Beat Junkies… these are hotterthan most of Madlib's scratches - which I'm guessing by the sound of 'em are done on Serato (Madlib provides the scratching on the LP version and most of the album tracks; though J-Rocc did two; including the aforementioned stand out, "Ghetto Rhyme Stories"). On this mix, the emphasis is more on the actual scratching and less on the amount of vocal samples that can be squeezed into sixty seconds. Stand out beats like this are definitely up to headnodding par with anything Showbiz would've provided, anyway.

So, yeah. Get the album; and make sure you get this 7" with it. And let's hope the success of this project will encourage Percee to keep putting out records on the regular.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Lazy Freak

With all his rare, sought-after indie 12"'s, there's one Stezo 12" with exclusive material that always gets overlooked: the UK-only "Freak the Funk" remix 12". And since I'm all about looking at the over-looked on this blog, let's have that look, shall we?

On this one, hip-hop house recording artist Doug Lazy tries his hand at remixing Stezo's hit single, "Freak the Funk" (one of the few album tracks not produced by Stezo himself*; this was done by Vicious V, and like all the tracks on this album, mixed by the great, late Paul C.). This was just as Doug Lazy was coming out with hit singles on Atlantic, so though this collaboration wasn't exactly huge, it was kind of a big deal. But, when you actually listen to it, it's kinda not.

Wisely, Mr. Lazy plays pretty close to the original with his version, keeping the wonderful sample during the hook that really makes the song. He just changes the basic beat a little bit and slightly speeds things up, I guess to make it more danceable… (though, notably, he doesn't turn it into a house song). He drops in some additional samples and layers that add a little spice to the proceedings… if you've listened to the album version so much over the years - like me - to the point that it's played out and you need an alternative mix to keep enjoying the song, then this is what you're after. Oh, and be sure to check the "Dub Mix" for another variation on the instrumental, that's a little less "noisy" and features a new, smooth bassline

Perhaps an even more compelling reason to pick up this 12" is actually the less heralded b-side, Stezo's own remix (or, as it's written here, "remax" - whatever the heck that means) of his "It's My Turn"... that song with memorable lines like, "ugly girls, please take the mask off," and where he turns "anthem" into a three-syllable word. Like the A-side remix, "It's My Turn" is fundamentally unchanged here: it's the same vocals played at the same speed over the same "Atomic Dog" samples and drum loop (The Skull Snaps' oft-used "It's a New Day" break). Except, this time the original beat semi-regularly stops and switches to another familiar bassline, then switches back; and more samples (including more elements of "Atomic Dog") are sprinkled throughout. It's not amazing, but it effectively breathes new life into an album cut that's otherwise a little dull and monotonous. The changes aren't radical, just definitive; as if he's finally finishing a song that shouldn't have made it onto his LP as-is.

*At least, that's what the album credits tell us. Producer Chris Lowe has since taken credit for most or all of these tracks, saying on his myspace, "Chris maybe[sic.] best known for his early, ground-breaking work with Stezo (the group's debut LP Crazy Life[sic.] spawned classics such as 'Its Your Turn[sic.],' 'To The Max' & 'Freak The Funk') and for working closely with EPMD in the late 80's on Sleeping Bag/Fresh Records, Chris and Dooley-O were also the first to discover the famed 'Skull Snaps' break beat, using it for Stezo's now fabled 'It's Your Turn'[sic.] (re-popularized by Gang Starr's 'Take It Personal') which was duly noted on Chris' debut LP, Black Life, on the skit 'Do Your History.'" Stezo's cousin Dooley O (who has a myspace here) has also claimed a crucial, uncredited hand in the production… I've heard the story told a couple different ways, but I guess essentially Chris and Dooley found the one break, however they had mixed it with some other samples for an unreleased demo. And then Stezo wound up using that break and turning it into his song; but do some googling and decide for yourselves. I'm not gonna get too deep into it; because this post is about the UK remixes. Speaking of which, while you're checking out myspaces, go ahead and check out Doug Lazy's as well - it's here. Unfortunately, Stezo doesn't appear to have one.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

LOTUG's Nas Bootleg

Ok, I covered all the other Undaground Butta releases, so I guess I might as do the final one. =) Although there's no artist credited on the label, this is Kamakazee's "On the Real," featuring Nas and Cormega. In an interview with, Blaq Poet of Screwball talked about how that song originally came about, "[w]ith that 'On The Real' shit, Marley had the DAT at his crib and Nas came up there one day and laid down shit first, to the beat. Then KL and Solo went up there and Marley was like 'Yo, I got some shit with Nas. Y'all cool with Nas, right?' 'Oh yeah, yeah. Nas is our man.' They jumped on the track, then Marley played it and motherfuckers was loving it." It was originally pressed up as the b-side to Kamakazee (the group Kamakazee was the duo of Screwball members KL and Solo, later known as Kyron)'s "The Bridge '95" 12". As an indie release from a then unknown group, it was a very small run; so when the B-side started turning up on mixtapes and playing on Marley Marl's Future Flavas show, a bootleg was inevitable.

The track's produced by Marley Marl, where he essentially just loops the very opening of The Soul Children's "Move Over" (listen to it; the first six seconds are pretty much the entire instrumental of "On the Real"). Well, Marley's name is on it, anyway. As to who actually produced it, K-Def had something to say, in his interview with Unkut, "I was on the radio one day, cause I used to the radio with Marley on pirate, I played that break for the first time and Marley had recorded that radio show and looped it up and then put Nas' vocals on it, and then claimed the fame for that track."

Now, a few of you reading this might be thinking, "hey; wait a second; I've got Nas's 'On the Real,' but it doesn't have KL and Solo on it." Yeah, there's actually been a couple versions of this song, though the beat never changes on any of 'em. First you have the original mix featured on this 12". But then, in 2000, Screwball included it as the final track on their Tommy Boy album, Y2K. But since Nas, as Hydra Records co-founder Jerry Famolari explained in his Unkut interview, "wanted a certain amount of money, so they took him off and they put Havoc and Mega on there." So, that's mix #2, with a new, alternate verse from Cormega and one from Mobb Deep's Havoc. Then there's mix #3 that came out in 2004. Nas included an "On the Real (Remix)" on his Illmatic 10th Anniversary reissue on Columbia, featuring his original verse from the first mix, and replacing any other MC's verses with two new ones of his own. Columbia and Ill WIll (Nas's imprint label) also put this version out on 12" that same year with clean, explicit and instrumental versions; b/w the other "unreleased" song from the reissue, the Large Professor produced, "Star Wars." According to The Record Inspector, however, some copies of this record (or at least one) are misprinted, featuring only the "Star Wars" b-side on both sides of the record. So listen to it in the store before you take it home. ;)

So, the Marley Marl/ Future Flavas connection sort of explains why this wound up being booted on The Lords Of the Underground's indie label, which otherwise stuck to putting out legit releases of their own music. DJ Mike Nice clarified on the DWG boards that the "[s]tory behind it was someone from the group left with a dat after a Marly session, their was some Real Live and Kamakazie joints on it as well." So, this was the second release on their label, and they gave the b-side over to Jac Swinga, DoItAll's little brother, to make his debut with his only released solo cut to date, "Coast II Coast."

Well, I say "solo," but actually the second verse is shared by two uncredited MCs Jac apparently met on the West coast. Anyway, they keep it short, and the weight of this song is all on Jac Swinga's shoulders, who carries it well. The production - which doesn't sound like Lord Jazz's more low-key approach during this era… could it be Marley? bounces along, with a nice little horn loop for the hook, as Jac Swinga, sounding kind of like UG using Masta Ace's Slaughtahouse flow, shines, narrating his trip "to LA, around the time of OJ." This song alone more than makes this 12" worth nabbing. Really, it's a shame those cats didn't use him a bit more.

All in all, a nice little 12", even if it is 50% boot.