Sunday, March 4, 2012

Who Is Cadillac Dee?

Alright, guys. If you want to push the boundaries of exploring rare and obscure hip-hop, today's post is for you. Today's post is about a rapper named Cadillac Dee. Never heard of him? Me either, and I'd love to hear from somebody who has.

All credit goes to TheOldSchoolRapKing for bringing this find to me. He discovered this on a dig in Virginia, so I'm going to assume that's where this project is from, as there are no other hints as to its origins; but of course that's not at all definitive, and should be taken for what it is - an assumption. There's no J-card (it may well've been born with one, but it didn't have one by the time it got to us), so the only information we have is what little's written on the tape itself.

The artist is Cadillac Dee and the title is New School - Vol 2 ...which implies, naturally, that there's a Vol 1 out there, as well, somewhere. It's produced to us by someone named D. Rivers (who isn't Dee, because he says his real name in one of the songs is Donald Bacall) for Light Years Productions on New Style Records, and it's from 1989. That's what we know.

From 1989, but it sounds more like 1986. In a lot of ways, it reminds me of those old Profile 12"s; not the least of which is his use of a synth version of the Dragnet theme on "Court." It's a lot of synths, a lot of big, 80's programmed drums, and some seriously old school raps. I guess it's a throwback (ironic, given the title) because the recording was (presumably) so far removed from the major hip-hop scene.

The track-listing is screwy, too. It promises seven songs, plus one instrumental, but really 2 songs are clearly missing. "Rastaman" and "Cadillac Dee - Battle" are both promised on side B but never materialize.

The songs we do get are "Never Say Never," an inspirational tale with big synth horns and "Court," a story about how getting arrested for selling crack and for some reason he keeps going back to court and getting his sentence increased. That, plus the Instrumental makes up side 1. Then on side 2, we have "Dear President," the message rap about how we have "poor people out there on the welfare. The president knows but he don't care."

"You're a Sucker" starts off the most promising, rubbing in what I think are the opening drums to "South Bronx;" but then the same generic drum machine kicks in. It's got actual scratches, but they're so muddy. It's still objectively the best song... "Never Say Never" might be catchier with its fake horns and many synth lines all playing at the same time; but on paper at least, this is the best song. Echoey handclaps at least make for the only attempt to do something different with the percussion, and he changes his flow towards the end to a reggae style... wait a minute. This is "Rastaman" now, isn't it? Yeah, "You're a Sucker," "Cadillac Man - Battle" and "Rastaman" are actually individual titles he gives to each verse of the same song. That's weird, but at least I get it now. I think.

Then, finally, "My Cartoons" is essentially just the instrumental to "Dear President," slightly altered (although you could really say almost all the instrumentals here are essentially the same, just slightly altered); but he occasionally says some popular cartoon phrases like, "yabba dabba doo." A pretty disappointing note to end on.

This is a fun artifact, but not a great album. The simple and repetitive beats can best be described as "plodding." Most of the songs let the beat ride for several minutes after the rapping is done, too; so it feels like every song ends with the Instrumental version. It sucks the energy down a lot when you're just like "when is this going to end?" And the raps aren't bad, but they're pretty flat - imagine someone like Spoonie Gee, minus the wit, wordplay and personality.

But now I'm making it sound worse than it is. The best moments are genuinely enjoyable. This would've worked better as just a 12" with two songs; but it's extended nature at least makes it a more fascinating piece of lost art from hip-hop's past. Who was this guy? Was he from Virginia? How many more of these tapes did he put out? Did he go on to anything else? Somebody must know.


  1. Cool find. Here's what I know about him:

    Cadillac Dee is from San Diego, and new Style was a label that released one-off singles from various local rappers from 1989-1991 (I have 3 other releases on that label). But I've never seen this one, and it must be the first.

    I have another release by Dee, not Vol 1 but a later release (I wonder if "Dear President" is different):

    Thanks for sharing. Would love to hear some soundclips sometime.

  2. Hey, thanks for posting! I never would've guessed San Diego. It turns out Dee was pretty prolific.

  3. Just picked this tape up myself, Werner, so happy to see your post and the extra info. Nice one.

  4. I remember bumping My Cartoons back in the day! That joint was tight. I have been trying trying to find that track for years, and to this day!