Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Viper and the Doctor

A couple weeks ago, I got a nice e-mail and a request for a blog post on Vandy C. Then I got distracted by other posts I wanted to make and forgot about it... but look, I've remembered! Yayy, me!

- Now, before I start, I'll point out that Fifth Element has recently gotten through with a terrific series of posts on Vandy C, including a pretty definitive video interview.  Some of the best hip-hop blogging of the year, so be sure and check that out, starting here. - 

So I decided to take a look at Vandy's very first record, "'V' the Viper."  I found out about this record pretty early.  By "early" I mean early for a kid in the suburbs who didn't have access to old school, underground vinyl and was just buying the latest rap tapes at the local Sam Goody's. But word of this record stood out because of one of the featured guests, Doctor Ice.  I was big into that whole Select Records scene, including UTFO and of course Whodini, too - so I was really curious about this obscure, old school record that featured an early appearance by the Doc.

And, not having heard it... I wasn't even sure if it was the same Doctor Ice. After all, there was a Doctor Ice who put out a record on Enjoy Records all the way back in 1981.  In fact, I'd bought that record thinking it was the Doc Ice I became a big fan of by the time he dropped his solo album, The Mic Stalker. So I was pretty disappointed when it turned out to be some other Doctor Ice. I didn't want to get burned again. Over the years, I started to see Vandy C's name come up as a producer on some pretty random projects (Kid Flash, The Don)...

So fast forward a bunch of years when I became older and more learned, and started picking up classic vinyl, etc. I finally got this, and was happy to discover two things. Yes, it was the "real" Doctor Ice like I was hoping it would be, and also this Vandy C had the talent and sensibilities to make a good rest of the record.

This is a two-song 12" from 1986 on Whop Records (and yes, we will be doing the whop before this review is out).  The first song is the song without Doctor Ice on it: "'V' the Viper."  It's an interesting blend of hardcore street and an upbeat dance record.  It's all about rocking the club, but with hardcore horn stabs, rough deliveries ...well, by 1986 standards.  It's not quite "It's Yours," but they were definitely one of the early groups ushering in the new, post-disco rap era. The rhymes are tight, and as super old school and low-tech as the instrumental is, unlike many records of that era, every element of the track holds up today - when you listen to it now, it works just the way it was supposed to back then. And it's not every record you get to here the MC brag about his Centipede score.  =)

So then track two is "Do the Whop." This was the era when everybody had a smurf or whop record, from Jalil to Blaq Poet. And so this is their perfunctory dance track. But they make it more than just another generic entry in a long line by A) just having some tight production chops with a big, infectious beat and some really catchy vocodering and B) turning it into a minor posse cut. You've got Vandy and his partner Bill Blast, plus fun guest verses by none other than the original Doctor Ice (I think I may've mentioned already him already?) - he brings all of his charisma and a sense of fun to the table, even kicking a little chorus of Dr. Pepper commercial.  And lastly T-Funk, who's got a funky deep voice - Vandy C went on to produce his record the following year.

Vandy C was a dope producer, and I can safely recommend pretty much every hip-hop record he laid his hands on (with the possible exception of The Don); and this, their first outing, is definitely right up there. It's a fun, old school party record, but considerably more street than you'd expect... and that's definitely a good thing.

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