Thursday, February 11, 2010

Marley In the Mirror

"Check the Mirror" is pretty much the track used to illustrate how far In Control vol. 2 fell from vol. 1. After all, vol. 2 had a lot of dope tracks: Tragedy's "America Eats Its Young," Ak B and Kev E Kev's "Out for the Count"... Hell, even Marley Marl's own rap track, "No Bullshit," was alright. But Marley went for a wider scope on that outing, with a little more new jack swingy moments and giving his R&B group The Flex a solo track... and the flagship of What Went Wrong was Portia's "Check the Mirror." So of course he chose it for the single!

Actually, I remember thinking back in the day that this track wasn't so bad, and today it gives me a nice feeling of reminiscence for all the time I spent watching BET after school. I mean, I kinda like new jack swing, and the track is well produced if you go for that sort of thing. Portia was an dancer turned R&B singer "who also rapped." Her singing's okay... I doubt anybody came out of this eager for her solo album; but the track, with a funky piano line, bouncy beat, boards and synthesized back-up vocals made for an upbeat good time.

Now, this is the CD single (the 12" only came in a plain sleeve as far as I know), but it has essentially the same track-listing but with two extra mixes, totaling SIX different versions of "Check the Mirror." So strap yourself in for some serious neo-pop soul swing!

Actually, it's a lot to listen to, but it's not too complicated to break down. You've essentially got two key mixes, the Mirramix and the Reflection Mix, and both of those come in regular, extended and instrumental versions (the 12" only has the extended and instrumental mixes). And neither of these versions are the same as the album version, which isn't included here.

The album version was a little more hip-hop, and the remixes are a little more dance. The drums, stuttered hook ("ch-ch-ch-ch-check the mirror, y'all") and all the vocals are retained, but the remixes go for more of an almost house music feel. The album version had harder drums and old school samples (horn stabs and such), not to mention some scratching, that are all dropped for the single.

The Mirramix adds some vocoder and some additional keyboards. It starts out with a nice little acapella lick (sample?), that recurs once or twice throughout the song. There are more little touches and changes, especially on the extended mix, but the main distinction is that it downplays the deep bassline of the original, playing up instead a new, lighter keyboard line that plays throughout the song. The main piano loop is the same as the album version, though, so this mix doesn't feel too far removed. This is the version they used for the video (yeah, there was a video for this).

The Reflection Mix, then, is even more club-oriented with more new keyboards and spacey disco sound effects. The extra acapella lick is back on this version, too. The signature of this mix is that the keyboard player is really allowed to shine here, getting a couple solo numbers and everything; and the piano riff of the album version is completely dropped.

But even if you don't give a fig for Portia and her dance music, this single's worth picking up for the B-side: "At the Drop Of a Dime" by MC Cash. This is a pure hip-hop track, with Cash kicking freestyle rhymes over a fast but very hard hitting track. It's pretty much all rugged, layered percussion, a lone horn squeal and a bassline until the hook, when the "UFO" riff screeches in the background and Marley gets on the 'tables and cuts up his signature like from "The Symphony." It's a fast, unrelenting experience with a seamless blend from verse to scratching to verse.

"At the Drop Of the Dime" was also on the album, but this single features an exclusive extended mix. It's not a remix - the instrumental's completely unchanged except where the album version would end, this one keeps going into a whole new third verse! The beat's allowed to ride out more at the end, too... but a whole new verse? That clearly bumps this up into Definitive Version status. It's more furious freestyling just like the other two verses ("now watch ya step, no beef, no Rambos; the Cash just keeps 'em souped like Campbells"). Oh, and the instrumental is also included for a final treat.

So yeah, another worthwhile single that can be had pretty cheap. Buy it for the MC Cash, but the Portia stuff's at least a fun bit of nostalgia. Kinda wish they'd included the album track, too, but oh well. They already included a lot, so can't really complain. Oh, and if want some more Portia nostalgia, she's got her own channel on Youtube, with her music video, an interview, and footage of her dancing for LL Cool J and EPMD. Check it out and relive the early 90's. :)

No comments:

Post a Comment