Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Other Strong Island Remixes

You've probably heard of the 1988 "Blue Mix" of JVC Force's classic (in the strictest sense of the word) hit, "Strong Island." It's rare, expensive, and if you see one at a record store, grab it quick and duck, because there's probably another collector looming over your shoulder about to sucker punch you in the neck for it if you're not prepared. AJ Rok gave Unkut a bit of the back-story to that track in a dope interview (click here to read the whole thing), "we did that too. The U.K. was giving us mad love, so we did something just for the U.K. It ended up going other places, but it was just for the U.K. It ended up coming back out to the States, eventually. They were giving us love so we gave them something extra."

But here's the thing. It's not really all that great. I mean, it's not bad. I'd buy it if it were freely available at a regular price... but it's nothing to get excited about. It uses all of the same elements as the original instrumental (wise, since the original instrumental is one of the most recognizable, signature sounds in hip-hop instrumentals), and just chops them up differently. And not in a way that's less appealing than the original mix. So it's interesting... it's a great curiosity piece for collectors... but for a casual fan, really, it's not worth your time.

But holy shit - why didn't anybody tell me DJ Skribble's mix was so good?

In 1998, Sidewalk Music (a label that otherwise seemed to specialize in crap) put out a promo 12" of "Strong Island" remixes. DJ Skribble was pretty big at the time, he was a regular fixture on Hot 97 and down with The Fugees. But I (and I guess most people) never picked it up, because hip-hop was getting over-run with junky remakes of hip-hop classics ever since Jason Nevins blew up for ruining a Run DMC record in '97.

But I recently picked it up, and it's great! Like the "Blue Mix," Skribble plays it safe by retaining the original instrumental elements... that crazy industrial sound and the horns and all... but he smooths it out just a little, and chops up the horns making a whole new, def horn riff. I can't tell you how perfectly the vocals sound over this version, it's just... perfect. I can't say this replaces the original, because again, that's really at the pinnacle of hip-hop tracks; but this remix is actually a worthy companion piece, and sounds like it could've been an original, '88 JVC Force cut. ...The instrumental is included, too. 8)

Then, on the B-side, there's another remix by Trade Secrets. As good as Skribble's is, this one is bad. He follows the same, unwritten rule of keeping the signature sounds, but this time turns "Strong Island" into some kind of jungle/drum'n'bass/what-the-fuck-ever mix. I mean, it's better than most records in that "genre," simply by virtue of the fact that it features JVC rapping and samples (and, to its credit, a fair amount of quality scratching); but who would want to hear "Strong Island" bastardized into some awful euro-club mix? I suppose this is Sidewalk's more direct attempt to cash in on the dance club DJs butchering hip-hop classics craze, but uh... yeah, let's just stop talking about it so I can hurry up forgetting that it exists.

So, screw the B-side, but the A-side is a must have. Do yourself a favor and pick it up some place for cheap while the crazy elitist collectors are busy spending thousands to outbid each other on that boring-ass "Blue Mix."

1 comment:

  1. never seen this 12" but will keep an eye out for it. thanks for the heads up. Trade Secrets also did a remix of 'I Know You Got Soul' which should be avoided at all costs.
    I think the blue mix of Strong Island is now a bit easier to find as a repress but I could be wrong.