Friday, January 7, 2011

Check Amper Rock Out, Baby

"Generating my fane base on mixtapes in NYC, undergrounder surfaced, blessed by R-E-D."

What we have here is a rare, single-sided, promo-only 12" of one of the great exclusive joints from Red Alert's mixtapes that he released over the years on Next Plateau Records. Specifically it's King Amper Rock's "Check me Out Baby" on Not Productions (the label's only release, catalog # NOT-001). There's no date on the label, but smart money would put it right around the same year as Red Alert's album on which appears, making it 1996.

This is exciting first of all because it's a great song. The mix of funky, old school conga drums with dark, atmospheric samples is pure New York. And so is Amper Rock, with a voice and flow reminiscent of Lord Finesse, with just a slightly rougher edge. Lyrically, he's just focused on some light flow flexing and representing where he's from - Uptown, emphasized by the DJ cutting up the phrase "Uptown style" on the hooks. The DJ is uncredited, but production credit is given to Big Will, a producer who did a lot in the late 90's/early 2000's, often with partner Heathcliff.

This is more exciting because, since Red Alert's albums -even though they were pressed on wax - were mixed. As anyone who's longed for a proper version of Ultramagnetic's "Bait" on 12", with it's final verse can tell you, a good mixtape can be an affecting musical experience in and of itself, but it's far from a definitive way to enjoy a song you're a fan of. So only with this 12" can you hear it play through properly.

And it's exciting because this 12" has an exclusive remix. Actually, it has three, but the other two are just minor variations of the one. Basically you've the LP Version, which is the one you know from Red Alert Presents... Then you've got the Party Remix, which is practically a completely different song. The beat's a bit familiar, but it's completely different than the LP Version, even darker and smoother, with no scratching. And more than that, it's a complete lyrically remix as well! All three verses have been swapped out with three new, completely different verses. It's essentially a whole new song, with only the cue to "check me out, baby" on the hook carrying over from the original.

And even that similarity is stripped from the Harlem On the Rise Version. This one's the same as the Party Remix except that the hook has been replaced with a softer, "Uptown's gettin' money" hook, which was heard briefly as the intro to the Party Remix. So now there's really no connection to the original left at all. And interestingly, by the way, the label has an asterisk marked after this version, with nothing else on the label suggesting what that asterisk is supposed to mean. I expect it's there because this new hook is being provided by somebody other than Amper Rock (the voice does sound different) and they intended to credit him somewhere on the label, but then forgot.

Anyway, finally is the Party Remix - Radio Edit. This one's exactly what you'd expect: the Party Remix with the few curse words censored.

So, all in all, this is a pretty hot 12" with more exclusive material than you might think. And it's a nice display of a talented MC representing Harlem who should've gone on to a lot more. Amper Rock has stayed in the game for years (and an unreleased demo I found of his from 1998 shows some of his unrealized potential), but unfortunately, this was his only record. So seek it out; it's worth it.

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