Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Triggerman 2000

Last time I did a post about The Showboys, I talked about their lesser known debut single that dropped the year before their big hit, "Drag Rap." Well, I'm gonna keep dancing around their classic centerpiece, and this time talk about their under-the-radar follow-up, "Triggerman 2000"/ YIIG'$.

The Showboys are from Queens, but in 1986, "Drag Rap" became a huge hit in the South, and is one of the most important records in the history of bounce music. "Drag Rap" was often mistakenly referred to as "Trigger Man," since Trigger Man's name is used so often in the song. In fact, when Profile repressed it in the 90's, they retitled it "Drag Rap (Trigger Man)." So know that, it's obvious that "Triggerman 2000" is their sequel to "Drag Rap," Orville “Bugs Can Can” Hall and Phil “Triggaman” Price's colorful gangster narrative about being pursued by the infamous real-life crime-fighter Elliot Ness. But "Trigger Man 2000" is actually just one song on their debut full-length album, YIIG'$ which they dropped on album, CD and tape on their own label Papergame Records.

There's no reference to their debut single (or their Christmas rap song from 1987), but this song is all about "Drag Rap." Seriously, the entire album is one giant ode to that song. It opens with one in a series of well-produced skits telling us how Bugs and Trigger are still on the run from Ness. Then they play the original "Drag Rap" (exactly as it was released in 1986) and after another skit where a judge sentences them to prison, they hit us with "Triggerman 2000."

Now, you'd be forgiven for thinking this song and album would be one huge piece of crap, but actually it's pretty dope! "Triggerman 2000" plays it very close to the original, using the same instrumental, including the crazy whistling and human beatbox breakdowns, but provide a very updated hook and all new lyrics. These detail the further exploits of Bugs and Trigger as they organize a jailbreak. They sound older (and Trigger sounds grimier), but otherwise this could easily have been a lost 1986 B-side:

Yeah, I'm in jail.
My boys ain't raisin' no bail;
Them niggas raisin' HELL!"

Oh yeah, they do curse a bit more than they were back in the 80's. But this whole song, in fact the whole album, is all about being a fun throwback... both to their 80's sound and to the old school style of 1920's era gangsters.

The rest of the album doesn't sound quite as old school as "Trigger Man"/ "Trigger Man 2000," but the samples of that record return in different forms and styles through-out the album. One song will have the same drums, another the same bassline. And the whole album continues the narrative of Bugs' and Trigger's escapades with elaborate skits and songs that continue the theme. For example, there's a skit called "Da Hideout" where some old girlfriends let them hide out at their place and lay low, which is immediately followed by the song "Ladies Luv Gangstas." The title says it all, I think.

Sure, it's a bit corny - The Showboys incorporating modern Southern elements to their old school styles - but it's surprisingly well produced, and the whole album feels much more like a "rap opera" than The Fugees' half-assed attempt at it (or The Fat Boys, who did it first). The only disappointment is that it peters out on side 2. Instead of building to a climax, the skits just kinda stop, and there's a remix and a song or two that don't quite fit in with the whole theme as well. So that's a bit of a let-down.

But seriously, when you hear that some old school rappers are coming out of retirement after fifteen years to do a sequel to their biggest hit, you hope for one thing and expect another. And I'm happy to report that more often than not, this is a lot more of what you hope for than what you'd expect.

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