Friday, August 3, 2012

Ego Trippin' Part Zero

A lot of De La Soul fans were probably confused in 1993 when they dropped their single "Ego Trippin' (Part 2)." Where was Part 1? Did I miss it? You could pretty much separate the real heads from the mainstream by who actually knew that Part was actually the Ultramagnetic MC's classic single on Next Plateau Records in 1987. And since then, other artists have made their own sequels and homages... Tech N9ne did a song called "Ego Trippin," MCJ and Cool G did, Waka Flakka Flame did, Steady B did... Snoop Dogg titled one of his latest albums Ego Trippin', and there's some electronic band called Ego Trippin' that's been putting out records for years and years.  I've never heard 'em, but I keep seeing their records all over the place.  Kool Keith made his own sequel (and that's not counting that silly "Ego Trippin' 2000 (Rmx)" from Bootlegs and B-Sides), called "Ego Trippin' '99" on a Sway and Tech project.  The title first appeared as a 70s funk record with a little break in it called "Ego Trippin'" by a group called Please, though I think it's more likely Ultra got it from Marvin Gaye's later record "Ego Tripping Out" Ultra just made an incredible record, that turned out to be powerfully influential on the genre, something they surely never anticipated when they were recording it.

But it's not rap's first "Ego Trippin'" record.

Two years before Ultramagnetics or anybody else touched the title (1985), Super-Wolf and Company released "Ego Tripping" on Big Bad Wolf Records.  If you've ever heard of Super Wold, it was probably on one of Sugar Hill Records' bajillion rap compilations, because they'd released his debut single "Super Wolf Can Do It" back in 1980.  That record's great, I love it.  Very funky and pure disco era, with Super Wolf rapping in that pure old school, Frankie Crocker radio DJ style with the bass-y voice and everything. After that one single is when he drops off the radar for the most part, but he actually continued to relaease records for years on his own label, Big Bad Wolf (which also released the original "Super Wolf Can Do It" before Sugarhill picked it up and gave it major distribution), and this was one of his later ones.

Super Wolf seemed to find himself caught in that weird phase a lot of disco-era rappers were in 1985. Whodini, Run DMC and drum programs changed hip-hop forever, and no one was checking for guys who rapped like The Sugarhill Gang anymore. It produced final records like Jimmy Spicer's "This Is It" or anything Kurtis Blow did after America... stuff that completely fails compared to their classic work, and yet fails to fit in with the new style of the day either.  But, actually, Super Wolf pulls through alright.

The new sound is definitely here musically. Simple cuts, big beats, fake horns, ringing telephones, fake handclaps and silly human beat-boxing right out of The Fat Boys' "All You Can Eat." And, meanwhile, Super Wolf is still rapping like it's 1980.  It's really goofy and should be a huge embarrassing disaster on paper, but... it kinda all works somehow. The beat is as silly as anything was in that period, but it's still funky; the bassline is actually fresh, and there's some funky guitar tucked away in this track. And Super Wolf is smart not to leave his comfort zone as a rapper, sticking to what he's good at, which is what most rappers who try to change with the passing fads generally fail to do.  The beat throws you off at first, but when you hear the familiar wolf howl comes in, it's a relief to know that the Super Wolf I'd been hoping to hear again is back, being himself. He's basically just here to kick some simple cautionary tales about letting your ego trip and encourage the break dancers in the audience, but he sounds as good as ever.

Despite the record being billed with "and Company," the rapping is all Super Wolf.  The Company presumably refers to the girls who sing on the chorus ans scratch mixer Terry Alexander (KX-96 - he's really not at all impressive, but having the cuts still adds to the energy of the song). And whoever the human beat box is.

In a way, this is as rare you'd expect an obscure 80's rap record from Tennessee (that's right, Memphis was putting out rap records as far back as 1980) to be. But Super Wolf must've been big enough to press up more than just a super tiny run; because I see these around online, relatively inexpensive.  If you're a fan of "Super Wolf Can Do It," this one is pretty different, but I recommend it anyway; I still don't think you'll be disappointed. And, hey, it's rap's original "Ego Tripping" - that's gotta count for something, right? Ultra did the classic, and De La did part 2, so that must make this... part 0. The rare first chapter in what's become a long, surprisingly enduring legacy.  ;)


  1. it's so funny how they steal the logo from this Austrian blues record label: