Tuesday, May 15, 2012

It Takes Two

"It Takes Two" is a hell of a record. Over surprisingly street edged beats, it defined the concept of dopey but catchy lyrics, not just to rap audiences, but to the popular culture as a whole. Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds were able to bond over it 20 years later in a major studio romcom, and the writers didn't even have to explain it. It not only predates similarly effective crossover mega-hits like "Bust a Move" or "Ice, Ice Baby;" Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock frankly did it better. This is a song that had one of the earliest bleeped out curse words in MTV's history, just so Rob could say, "I like the Whopper; fuck the Big Mac." Not even Greg Nice or The Beastie Boys could make meaningless non-sequiturs so memorable.

It was such a success, Rob & Rock wasted their entire careers trying to sequelize it. Whether it was a pretty flat-out sequel like "Get On the Dance Floor," or just an attempt to recycle the rhyme pattern (on "Outstanding" - listen to the bit about how he showers with "soap on a long rope" - it's total flow xerox) or the the famous "woo! yeah!" vocal sample* (the remix of their "Joy and Pain" single). Even "I Wanna Rock" on the Rocky V soundtrack was sampling his famous line from "It Takes Two" (well, one of many) for the hook. But this is hip-hop; we don't want knock-off sequel records. We want answer records.

And for some reason, girls always seem to make the best answer records. From The Symbolic Three to Super Nature (later known as Salt N Pepa) to Dimples D to Pebblee Poo to Evette Money to Ice Cream Tee to The Real Roxanne to Rappin' Roxy to Tricky Nicky to The Ghetto Girls to The Glamour Girls to PreC.I.S.E. to the queen herself, Roxanne Shanté (just to name a few).  There's just something purely hip-hop in the way that one gender rises to challenge of the other. Whenever the guys get too big and full of themselves, the girls come out to tell the other side of the story and take 'em down a few pegs.

And entering the to square off against "It Takes Two" is Florida's Icey "J" with her debut response, "It Takes a Real Man" on JBM Records. She uses the same "woo! yeah!' break as Rob and Rock, but subtly adds some faster, hyper, Miami-style beat elements to the mix. And lyrically, she answers and parodies Rob line for line. "I wanna rock right now; I'm Rob Base and I came to get down. I'm not internationally known, but I'm known to rock the microphone," becomes, "I wanna rock right now; you're Rob Base and you tried to get down. Now you're internationally known, but you still can't rock a microphone." And she keeps it up the whole way through, it's a constant, direct line-for-line response.

I mean, damn, look at this brief comparison. There are more words that are the same between the two songs than there are that're different!

"My name is Rob;
I got a real funky concept.
Listen up,

'Cause I'm gonna keep you in step.
I got an idea
That I wanna share.

You don't like it, so what?
I don't care."


"Your name is Rob,
You got a real weak concept.
Listen up,
I'm gonna put you in check.
You had an idea

That you wanna share?
I don't like it, so what?
You better care."

That bit might sound corny, but more often than the disses are cold enough to be genuinely amusing:

"You don't like Buddha?
That's okay,
But you can't stand sex;
You must be gay!"

"You're nothin'.
Yeah, that's what I say,
Rob Base,
You and your fat DJ!"

"I heard you flirt
With DJ Red Alert;
Took off your shirt

And laid you in the dirt."

She even opposes his bold fast food declaration: "I like the Bic Mac, fuck the Whopper!" Jeez. And just to seal the deal, Icey's brought along her own DJ to nimbly out-perform EZ Rock's closing cuts. Okay, admittedly, that wasn't tough to do... is he even using the turntable, or just repeatedly pressing the sample button? But Icey's DJ actually cuts it up really nice.

This 12" includes the full version, a shorter Radio Edit and the Instrumental. Better still, it features the all-original B-side cut "Icey 'J' Is On Wax," which really showcases Icey's skills, flexing her really impressive fast rap delivery over a banging beat and more nice cuts by her DJ. It shows she wasn't just a one-trick novelty rapper with an answer record; she and her DJ were the better artists (and Icey did go on to release a couple more records under the modified moniker, Icey Jaye). That's probably the hardest diss of all, and it also serves to make this record a lot more desirable even after the novelty of the A-side has worn off. ...Not that it's worn off for me yet, after 24 years. lol

*Not that Rob and Rock were the first to use it, mind you. It's part of a classic Lyn Collins break they borrowed from Shanté and Marley Marl's "Go On Girl."

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