Friday, January 8, 2010


In 1994, Tuff City released The Basement Tapes 1984-1990 by The Ultramagnetic MC's (which Ced Gee refers to as volume 1 on the CD), a pretty self-explanatory compilation of some dope unreleased material. And in 1996, they released they released a second volume, New York What Is Funky. It was then that Kool Keith felt compelled to speak out, issuing a statement on the label of his Big Willie Smith 12" "Prepare" on his own Funky Ass Records. In fact, he did it twice, following up the message with a similar one on his "Don't Crush It" single (from Sex Style).


Tuff City kept on anyway, releasing albums until 1998, totaling four (and a fifth announced, but it was just a live album, so it would've been nice, but probably not such a great loss). Now, I mentioned "On the CD" above, because the CD version of each album is different than the vinyl versions. Sometimes the sequencing is different, but the key difference is that each CD has at least two bonus tracks not included on the LP. Here's a proper breakdown of those:

*The Basement Tapes 1984-1990: "Ced-G, Tim Dog (Lab Free Style)" and "Ya Not That Large"

*New York What Is Funky:
"Tim Dog Live On Capital Radio" and "I Like Your Style" (an alternate mix of the song that was featured on Funk Your Head Up)

*Mo Love's Basement Tapes:
"Kool Keith Wild," "Wack MC's," "Freestyle" and "D To the N"

*Smack My Bitch Up:
"Nervous" and "Talkin' Out Your Ass (Remix)" (the original of which was on Mo Love's Basement Tapes)

There were also two 12" singles on Tuff City with songs from these releases, one of which included the otherwise CD-only bonus track, "Ya Not That Large." (Remember, you can get the full track-listings for both 12"s and both versions of each album on my UltraMagnetic discography page).

Another key difference is that the first two volumes featured intermittent narration by Ced Gee, telling you (briefly) the history of some of the songs. If you're a vinyl purist, but want to get a sense of what that was like, check out that aforementioned "I'm Fuckin' Flippin'" 12" with "Ya Not That Large On" on the B-side... they include Ced's explanation narration for that song there, where he explains why the song cuts out in the middle (because the engineer was "gettin' weeded").

And the last difference is that, on the back cover of the 1998 Smack By Bitch Up CD (it's not anywhere on the LP), Tuff City finally responded to Keith's label shots with one of their own:
"Don't Believe the Gripe: Kool Keith Cashes Tuff City Checks." From what I recall, there was never any question that they might actually be straight up bootlegs, but that Ced Gee perhaps sold the material to Tuff City without including the other members. Davey D paraphrased a radio interview, where Keith explained, "producer Ced Gee had fallen onto some hard times [he's hooked on crack] and had done some very hurtful things to the group in an attempt to satisfy his habit. One of the things he did was sell the groups old studio out takes and practice songs to Tuff City Records. Tim Dog explained that the label owner Aaron Fuchs then put out a 'fake' Ultramagnetic MCs album. Not only was he issuing old studio out takes as songs, but he also scanned some pictures and with the aid of adobe photoshop had created an album cover which depicted the group alongside a guy they didn't even know. Kool Keith explained he had no idea when the photos were taken... and what's ironic the 'unknown' member of the group was just as shocked as Kool Keith to see himself on the cover. Entitled 'New York What Is Funky'.. Tim Dog explained as he shook his head that the lp with it's sub par recording made the group look bad and it's sad that folks will go so far to make a buck..."

I believe Kool Keith has since recanted the "crack" comment. Certainly, Tim Dog told Vinyl Addicts that, "to my knowledge Ced Gee was never on crack. But I once made a reference to the way he sold the music to Aaron Fuchs like a crack head. Basically a crack head would sell your moms TV which costs 500 euro and sell it for 50 because they’re desperate. So I made that reference to Ced Gee," which I think explains that rumor away.

But it's worth noting that while Tuff City responded that Keith had indeed gotten paid, they didn't say that 'till 1998 (remember, Keith called them out in 1996), so it's possible they only finally squared it away with Keith and them after two years. Anyway, TR Love gave a less sensationalistic account of what happened years later in an interview with Unkut, which I'm inclined to believe is a little more accurate, "Actually, those tapes had gotten stolen and got in to the wrong hands, and when Ced found out he immediately thought he needed to get it out there, so he started doing The Basement Tapes. There was rumour goin’ around that Ced was on drugs, this, that and the third, that’s why he was sellin’ the tapes – but it wasn’t that. It was just the fact that we wanted to get those songs out, but we were gonna do something like a compilation of our greatest hits, but when the first couple of songs started leaking, everything just snowballed. So we just let it go. Aaron Fuchs was just a lucky person to buy into the situation and be able to do what he had to do to produce it."

At any rate, if you've allowed Keith's remarks to make you write off and dismiss these albums, you've really missed something here - there's a lot of nice material on all of these. Granted, the sound quality was varied, and one song ("Smack My Bitch Up" which was also made the title of one of the compilations) was doubled up and included on two volumes - did they think heads were really that excited that some punk/dance band sampled that same "Give the Drummer Some" phrase that it would be some kind of goldmine? Oh well. There's still a crapload of great material here, from a sick demo track to radio promos to a superior alternate O.G. version of "Message From the Boss" from their second album. Some songs are better than others and you could nitpick all day, but there albums blow anything the group put out themselves at the time.

But even across all these volumes, this doesn't encompass all the ill, unreleased UltraMagnetic tracks... Unkut has posted some smoking hot radio rips of alternate mixes of "MC Champion" and "Message From the Boss" (different than the one I mentioned from Mo Love's Basement Tapes) that I'd love to hear cleaned up and properly released. Kool Keith's own website also lists some unreleased UltraMagnetic songs on his discography page, but you can't tell from the titles if these are vintage songs or stuff from one of their many reunions in the 2000's. I know it's been over ten years since their last volume, but maybe we could convince Tuff City to take one more look into their vaults for a fifth Basement Tapes album? And if there's not enough material for a full album, I think we'd be exceedingly happy with a 12" of the remaining songs.


  1. Thanks for clearing all that up, Werner. Shit, I didn't even know they were on CD at all. So, I never knew Tuff City tried to answer the "dis".

    I believe also, on the end of one of Keith's songs from around that time (maybe one of the versions of "Keep It Real"?), he also says something implying to not buy Tuff City records. Pretty sure he said, "Tuff Titty".

    And I agree that we need some more unreleased and/or cleaned up Ultra.

    I think it was Dante Ross who says he has a bunch of Kool Keith solo demos from around 94-96 that Godfather Don produced.
    I definitely believe the hype, cause here's one here. I had this from a Bobbito tape back in the day. I believe this came from either someone at phila or that nes guy at dirtywaters. I separated it from a tape rip. I wish I could remember who shared this, but regardless, thanks to them:
    Kool Keith - Time Is Now(Suckas Be Gone?)??

    If you haven't heard this one, prepare to love it!

    Thanks for another great break down. Peace.

  2. Gift in 2010

    The BEST ULTRA CUT EVER...NEVER RELEASED!! IT IS THE ORIGINAL MIX FOR MC CHAMPIONS (not the full version its a bad copy found on a tape)

    It's just a shame it never came out!!


    just join the 2 rows below.

  3. Hey Werner,

    you might know it but there's another hint on the Prepare / Keep It Real...Represent 12" in the run out groove etched in:



    There are also some other etchings on the first few Funky Ass Records releases (KTR-001, KTR-002 and KTR-007) but these are not refering to the bootlegs...

  4. "did they think heads were really that excited that some punk/dance band sampled that same "Ego Trippin'" phrase that it would be some kind of goldmine?" did you mean "give the drummer some" phrase?

  5. @ MD - Oh hey, I never noticed that. That's pretty cool.

    @ Anonymous - Whoops! You're right; correcting that now. 8)