Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Who Remembers Jibri Wise One?

Jibri Wise One dropped his self-titled album in 1991 on Ear Candy Records, a label that traditionally had very little to do with hip-hop. Honestly, when I saw it in stores I just bought it because of his name. I guess I was expecting a Lakim Shabazz/ YZ-type rapper? That's not quite what we got... he has as much in common with Young MC as he does either of those two. I mean, he does have positive message songs, like "Time To Get Black Up." But most of the production, all handled by the duo of Angelo Ray and Chip Allen, who give away the kind of corny pop production they're going to provide just with their names, was clearly going for the "let's appeal to kids" route. And Jibri's delivery went right along with that.

But hey, I was pretty much a kid myself in 1991, and I dig this album. The poppy production didn't bug me, I liked the variety, and I didn't really notice the lyrical short-comings. It was all good to me. But even at that age, I could see this guy wasn't going to blow up. I was happy to see his video on Yo!, but of course they chose his house song for the lead single. It was a pretty cool mix of "Atomic Dog" and "Rapper's Delight" (or "Good Times," I guess, strictly speaking), but you don't debut with a house song if you want a career that lasts more than two records. Craig G just barely got away with it because of his Juice Crew status, and even now it's his record heads politely don't talk about.

And his second single, this one, I don't think they even bothered to make a video for. They chose his token love song... it's like Ear Candy wanted him to fail. The song is "I'll Be There for You," which at least forgoes the ultra-sappy, bland whispering non-flow over soft R&B crooning* in favor of a very upbeat, new jack swing style. At the end, even kicks a little Keith Sweat style singing. It's as corny and commercial as any rap song ever got in 1991, but it's fun if you dig records like Heavy D's "Somebody for Me," and clearly objectively better than a lot of the really corny stuff from the album, like his rock hybrid song "Livin' In the Life" or the silly "Life Ain't No Movie."

But there's a reason heads give this particular single a second look when they come across it in bins: it's got a 45 King remix! For the first and only time, they reached out in the realm of real hip-hop producers for Jibri and... they couldn't've picked a worse time.

They didn't give him a dope, street B-side to produce... they asked him to remix a pop, new jack swing love song. Say what you want about the original, but it works for what it is. The production is slick and and has a consistent groove that persists through a bunch of different song elements, from the keyboards to the chorus.

So here, we get some of the original new jack swing pieces, including the girls singing the chorus, and some signature 45 King-style jazz samples in tight loops. The King's pieces would sound great on their own, but merged with "I'll Be There For You," it just doesn't work. Jibri is clearly rapping for a pop tune, not these funky, dusty horns. And the original isn't even on here, so unless you have the album, you can't hear how the song is supposed to go.

What you do get is 4 versions of the 45 King mix [I've got the CD version,a s you can see... but the vinyl has the exact same track-listing]... The full Vocal, a shorter Vocal Edit, the Instrumental and shorter Instrumental Edit that matches the Vocal Edit. And, finally, there's one bonus remix: the 7" Nati Mix, where Ray and Allen take their own stab at remixing the song. And, well... The 45 King can at least take it as a consolation that these guys didn't fare any better than he did. Well, actually, their mix is a little more consistent, but they're trying to make it into like a Euro club track or something, and shit just always sucks.

So, it's interesting. I still find myself enjoying Jibri's album, despite a strong dose of corniness. And "I'll Be There For You" is one of his better cuts. But, ironically, the album version is much better than the remixes and the 45 King mix is to be avoided (except for 45 King completists). So, if you're interested, you're better off just investigating the album and skipping this single, despite what every instinct is surely telling you. heh

*He has one of those on his album, too, of course.

1 comment:

  1. I REMEMBER HIS song "TIME TO GET BLACK UP" , BEEN LOKKING FOR IT SINCE I HEARD IT IN 91 , MY KIDS FRIEND PLAYED THE TAPE IN MY CAR AND I PLAYED "BLACK UP" FOR TWO DAYS OVER AND OVER BEFORE I GAVE IT BACK , i was 31 yrs old, 53 now ,i been searching since then , not knowing 'anything' about song or artist,label or anything,well i thought of it and entered it in my new "SMARTPHONE" and found this blog and my SONG ,ordered it off amazon and its on its way[cant find samples or video as you said , I LOVED THAT SONG AND THOUGHT IT WAS GREAT ,youare right ,"they may have wanted him to fail" because "TIME TO GET BLACK UP" WOULD HAVE 'BLEW HIM UP' , thank you for this article, BLESSINGS ON YOU!!