Sunday, June 28, 2009

Whistle and Jazzy Jeff Transform Together

Disappointingly, this is the only single off of Whistle's second album, Transformation, that features any rapping (there were two other singles: "Falling In Love" and "Right Next To Me," but they were pure R&B). It's a genuine double A-side - the picture cover is flippable, so whichever side you face out shows one track on the bottom and one on the top. It's also in keeping with the album's gimmick, where one side is straight R&B and the other straight hip-hop. So, being the site this is, let's start with the hip-hop.

"Transformation," is of course the album's title cut. It's a fun song, but certainly feels like an unlikely choice for the lead single. It's an up-beat, party style track, co-produced by The Hitman Howie Tee and Whistle, with Jazz and Kool Doobie kicking various short verses, which seem loosely (at best) tied to a common theme (additional lyrics credit is given to Kangol, of UTFO, who worked a lot with Whistle over the years). Perhaps most memorably, for such a typically G to PG rated group, this song features a very unexpected verse about S&M group sex in the middle of the song:

"Pay attention, people;
Kool Doobie is speaking.
There's a lady
That I've been seeking.
I see her over there
And I'ma ask her her name;
And if she's with it, yo Jazz,
Bring your whip and your chain!
(I got a rope!)
Bring your rope so we can tie her down!
(And handcuffs!)
Handcuffs so she won't move around!
(I got a radio.
I'll bring it down to your room.)
What for?
(When she screams, we can)

I'm sure it's all meant in good fun and not intended to be taken too seriously, but it sure does... stand out. Still, if you can get past that, there's a lot more to this song that one outlandish rhyme. Silver Spinner cuts up Rakim's classic "pump up the volume" vocal sample for the hook, while some girl sings "traaanns... formation!" in the background. Silver's cuts are dope and, appropriately, he throws in a bunch of nice transformer scratches.

But that's just what was on the album. On this 12" is a surprisingly undervalued "Transformation (Swing Beat Mix)," which is remixed by none other than DJ Jazzy Jeff (and engineered by Joe the Butcher). Bear in mind, this was 1988; and Jeff was not working with anyone outside of his LPs with The Fresh Prince. Yeah, he did a few underground tracks beforehand, and has done plenty after; but I believe this is the only outside production/remix he did during this era. Anyway, it features all new transformer scratches (I guess by Jeff this time, though Spinner proved himself just as capable on the previous mix), and a bunch of new samples - some vocal samples, some instrumental, giving the whole song a more chopped up, wildly varied feel. And if that wasn't enough, it's a vocal remix, too, with all new rhymes from Doobie and Jazz, mixed in with the old ones... some verses start off with the old stuff, then switch to new lines, and vice versa (but don't worry, they all include the S&M part lol).

Then, there's another remix, called the Street Mix (at least, I'm pretty sure this is the Street Mix and the other is the Swing Beat Mix... the sequencing on the label is screwed up; so this is my best guess), which is again substantially different. There's new scratching again on the hook, this time primarily cutting up Cheryl Lynn's "Got To Be Real," and the instrumental has been replaced with a classic, funk breakbeat - the same breakbeat and bassline The UMC's used for "Invaders of My Fruit Basket" the following year. That's right, you wouldn't normally think of these guys as being the first to any classic breaks; but Whistle had this ultra-funky groove first. And it's impressive how much naturally funkier the rhymes sound over this break. This one's also got an extended breakdown at the end with some more classic, old school samples; and also uses the new 12" remix rhymes.

Finally, is the other A-side, "Still My Girl." Like I said about their other R&B songs on this album, they went pretty classical on this. It's co-produced by Kangol and Whistle, and while it isn't acapella (in fact, the Instrumental version is included here... think long, drawn out synth lines), it really puts all of the emphasis on the singing rather than the music, which is put in a pure backdrop role. This isn't the sort of new jack pop style R&B you might've expected, but pure ballad. Still, these guys were capable singers (if a bit bland when you take out the 80's studio tricks). And, unfortunately, that's the direction they took their career after this album, sadly giving up on hip-hop.

By the way, it's interesting to note that on their next album (Always and Forever), Whistle took another stab at this song and recorded "Still My Girl (90's Version)." I'm not really sure which I prefer. It's all about The A side,anyway. Or, umm, side 1.

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