Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Other Classical Jam

The Classical Two is one of those mid-80's hip-hop groups, like The Fresh 3 MCs or The Showboys, that are often written off as one0hit wonders, but in actuality they actually made... two good records. They're known for their debut single in 1987, "New Generation," largely because it's one of the earliest productions (though definitely not his first) of Teddy Riley, who was about to rule the latter half of the decade. It really makes distinct use of his signature funky percussion style and even a touch of the keyboard style from all his later #1 hits, and it features straight b-boy style rapping, so it's often a favorite amongst heads who appreciate Riley.

...And that's usually where the conversation stops when it comes to The Classical Two. But as I said, there's a continuation to their story. The Bronx duo, K-Born and LA Bru (R.I.P.) had originally come out on Rooftop Records through Brucie B, but the single was quickly scooped up and rereleased by Jive Records. And in 1988, Jive and Rooftop decided to put out another record from these guys even if they didn't have Teddy on the boards this time, and they dropped "The Classical Two Is Back."

Now, you can see from the black and white label and the "NOT FOR SALE" admonition (oops - somebody sold it to me!), that my copy is a promo version, but there's no difference in the track-listing. In either case you get two songs in vocal, Instrumental and Dub versions. And in my opinion this single does just what it set out to do: prove The Classical Two didn't need Teddy to carry them to be a viable rap act. Unfortunately, however, the increasingly commercialized industry took the opposite stance and opted to dead their careers rather than backing them for a full-length album. Oh well, even I have to acknowledge that while it probably would've been a fresh, quality album that I would still be enjoying to this day, it probably wouldn't've been a huge money maker if they didn't have at least some kind of gimmick and a new name.

"Classical Two Is Back" is just a fun, upbeat, funky record with just enough soul to keep it from sounding too pop. It's co-produced by Greg B of the Disco Four - a group I was always been a big fan of back in the day - and someone named Robert Wells, who worked on a lot of Kool Moe Dee's early Jive stuff. Possibly it got a little lost in the shuffle because the hook echoes their first single, saying, "we are rap's new generation" ...that shit confuses fans when you're only known for one song! They think, oh, I think I got that record already.

But this one is entirely different, with a completely dissimilar groove and rhythm. "New Generation" was great, too; don't get me wrong. But this is like the textbook definition of a head-nodder, and it does it without sounding half as poppy as Teddy's jam. The looped vocal samples, the subtle groove they don't bring in until the halfway mark, and the cuts by DJ Prince all come together, and the no-frills flows of the MCs just all come together to make one of those perfect rap songs that seem to only exist on old, overlooked 12" singles.

The B-side is interesting, too; but the magic isn't there like it was on the A-side. It's called "New York Is On Fire," and I appreciate their inclination to make a harder, street-oriented track, with rougher flows and a more atmospheric beat... but it just doesn't seem to be their area of expertise. The keyboard instrumentation sounds chintzy and cheap. The MCs go for a clearly Run-DMC-inspired style where they double-up each other's key words, that sounds like it's meant to be serious and intimidating, but they don't pull it off. I mean, it's okay; and the bassline is catchy; but unlike the A-side, this is one of those many 80's records that could slip comfortably into obscurity and not be missed.

But the A-side? That's some hip-hop definitely calling out to be revisited and appreciated. And if you're wondering whatever happened to K-Born, apparently he's been writing for mags like The Source and Hip-Hop Weekly and is/was working on a comeback album. I don't know if he checks in anymore (does anyone?), but he has a myspace page here.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the article. I grew up with K-Born and LA Bru. LA Bru practiced at my moms house while i spun. I actually has cassette types with LA Bru rapping over the hits of that time including Eric B for president. The memories............

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