Thursday, October 14, 2010

Straight Back Into the Jungle

This is just one of those all-time great 12"s. It's great because the music is great. It's great because it's an important single off a classic album. And it's great because it's full of 12" exclusives that are at least as good as the album stuff everybody's familiar with. This is "Straight Out the Jungle," by the Jungle Brothers on Idlers Records.

Now, this isn't their first single... in fact, it's their third or fourth. They'd already blown some minds with their debut, "Jimbrowski," impressed with "Because I Got It Like That" and "On the Run" and crossed over with "I'll House You." But they still hadn't released their strongest 12", the title cut from their first full-length Straight Out the Jungle.

"Straight Out the Jungle" is just one of those epic moments in hip-hop history nobody seems able to replicate anymore. There's just a handful of songs where the sound, their flow and deliveries over the beat... just sound perfect. The production seems simple, a few simple samples over a great break-beat. The lyrics aren't much to speak of (though there's some nice interplay between the MCs and creative use of echo effect), but it's just something that the most brainiacal of backpackers or slick-talkingest of gangsta rappers will never capture. It's that perfect hip-hop sound.

But, like I said, the song itself is just the beginning. You get the L.P. Version you're all familiar, plus the instrumental. And that alone would make this a must-have. But now let's talk about all the amazing material on here.

First you get the Jungle Remix, which is about twice the length of the original. Smartly, it keeps everything about the original, all the rhymes and sounds from before are here, the brilliant horn sample on the hook... And they don't over-complicate the track by just dumping a bunch of extra sounds on top of it. Instead they just extend it, adding new breakdowns, scratch-sessions, a moment of odd but effective ,extended keyboard notes. This is the way, the only way, to improve on a masterpiece: leave it intact and just build carefully around the edges.

But heck, that was just side A. The first song is "The Promo." This was a bonus track on the cassette and CD versions of the album, left off the LP (a lot of stuff gets left off of LPs when labels try to squeeze albums onto a single LP for production cost reasons). This is one of the Jungle Brother's all-time great songs, thank to its unique combination of freestyle rhymes (featuring the one and only Q-Tip) over a slow beat coupled with one of the most memorable, exotic horn loops ever. You may remember Natural Elements flipped this instrumental themselves decades later, and it was just as effective then, in a whole new era for a whole new audience. It's timeless like that.

But hey, if just having "The Promo" finally released on wax isn't impressive enough for you, the next track will surely push you over the line. "In Time" takes the exact same instrumental as the "The Promo" but lyrically it's a whole new song. Now it's a serious, politically and socially conscious song (and possibly the first rap song to promise a black president?), with a classic hook ("In time, my brother, in time"). And yes, Q-Tip is back for this version, too, being surprisingly openly religious. "The Promo" was fantastic, but this manages to make it seem frivolous in comparison; this is the real song.

But there's still more! You surely remember "Sounds Of the Safari" off the album - a purely instrumental affair where the DJ cuts and loops various ill samples and makes them all sound like the natural sounds of a jungle. Well know you get "Straight Out the Jungle (Sounds Of the Safari Remix)," essentially a sequel to "Sounds Of the Safari." The original track is the same, and some of the freshest moments from the original recur, but essentially it's a whole new DJ track with the DJ cutting and blending a whole new stack of records. This mix at times perhaps sounds less genuinely safari-like - the gates are opened for a wider variety of breaks and samples - but it's never any less fresh.

If you're looking to fill any gaps in your collection, this is one to jump on. Because just having Straight Out the Jungle, the album, isn't enough. You gotta have this 12" companion piece. Fortunately, it's not rare or hard to get a hold of; plus it's been repressed at least once - probably a couple times - over the years. It's out there... waiting for you to come find it. ;)

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