Thursday, April 18, 2013

From Dopeland To Jersey; What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been

Almost any other record would be eclipsed by this story. Pretty much an exact year ago, GoodFelons Records announced one of their most exciting upcoming projects, Kev E Kev and Ak B's Welcome To Dopeland. GoodFelons was a good little label that was releasing limited vinyl of some exotic, old school hip-hop that never got the proper vinyl treatment back in the day. You may remember my review of that sweet Mood EP last year, that packed their first two 12"s with some previously unreleased bangers. Well, this may've been their most desirable release yet, so a lot of us heads quickly pre-ordered and waited... and waited... and waited.

The release date was pushed back. Okay, that shit happens. Then it was pushed back again. Then the label stopped replying to emails or posting updates on their facebook or twitter. People who'd ordered other records never got their wax. There were rumors... one of the guys who ran the label wasn't returning the other guy's calls... Donte (of Mood) announced that he never got paid... Hurricane Katrina possibly messed up their computers... there was a crazy mafia drug connection?!  Seriously, click here, then here, spot the common name and draw your own conclusions.

Whatever the Hell had gone on behind the scenes, the Goodfelons' store closed, everyone who'd paid was out some serious cash and worst of all, this fantastic and important piece of art was lost to the world. But enterprising diggers have an amazing knack for connecting with their precious vinyl, which must never be underestimated. The record plant that pressed the vinyl was discovered, and what's more, the Welcome To Dopeland EPs were there! In a box, waiting to be paid for.by the MIA head of Goodfelons. They wouldn't sell them to us, the people who'd already paid for their records, but at least they existed; they were somewhere in the world, so there was hope we might eventually see them.

Well, after some frantic lawyering, Kev E Kev was able to wrestle the records free and into the secure - and overseas - arms of Diggers With Gratitude. And faster than anyone could say, "throw me the idle; I throw you the whip," they got the records into the arms of us who'd been dying for them since last April. It would have to be a pretty damn good record to be worth all of that, wouldn't it?  Well, thankfully and impressively, I can now say: this baby was worth it.

This here is the definitive Kev E Kev and Ak B record. Label-mates of Super Lover Cee and Casanova Rud, these guys released two highly regarded 12"s ("Listen To the Man" and "Keep On Doin'") in the late 80s - both of which are included here. Like their DNA International brethren, this features that brilliantly crisp and funky sounds of Paul C, who mixed, engineered and co-produced just about everything on here.

But this release goes far beyond just re-issuing their classic singles. It also features four, previously unreleased Kev E Kev and Ak B tracks, all also produced by Paul C. And three of them are fantastic... I'm a bit soft on "Protected," which has Ak B kicking a different, smoother style over a boring lead sample. Kev's cuts definitely elevate matters, and it's a well written song... but I'd file that one under Good rather than Great. But the other three are everything you could hope for... the title track may actually be better than their known hits.

Oh, and that's not everything on here. Rounding out this EP is "Out for the Count," which originally appeared on Marley Marl's In Control vol. 2, which introduced Kev and Ak to an international audience. It's a banger that had us all hoping they'd be in the second wave Juice Crew roster. Oh, and it's not just the album version we all remember from 1991; it's a never-before-released Extended Mix.

And Goodfelons really did this release up right, too.  Limited to 350 copies, 75 copies were pressed red, 75 are yellow (yellow, which I went with because I thought it matched the label colors more) and the remaining 200 are standard black. The labels feature a fun rendition of the Goodfelons' name in the style of the old DNA logo, and as you see, it comes in a sweet picture cover. An even more limited (250 copies) Instrumental version was also released, in a sticker cover and pressed on wild "splatter" color vinyl.

Honestly, as proactively and doggedly as I've been following the story since day 1, I still don't know enough of what went on behind the scenes to say whether Goodfelons deserves the degree of ill will they've garnered from this mess. Were they just a little label that went bust because their reach exceeded their grasp, or a surprisingly aptly named criminal outfit? I understand that one of the guys from Goodfelons actually played a role in freeing these records from the label and getting them to Kev; and they obviously put this great project together in the first place. And I don't know if DWG has anymore room for goodwill after all they've amounted over the years, but if they do, they've certainly earned it with their efforts here. This is probably the end of the Goodfelons label, but looking at this record now, I think everyone involved with this record deserves a round of applause - it went on a heck of a wild journey, but came out as what we'll surely look back on as one of the top releases of the year.

6 comments:

  1. You should note that, by all accounts, the guy mixed up in the criminal investigation you linked above is the one who went above and beyond, helping Kev to recover the records and fulfill the orders. (I believe even while he was/is incarcerated)

    The Canadian guy is supposedly the one to blame.

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    1. To be honest, I'm not clear enough on all that to say so. There seem to be two different guys named John involved, unless one of the last names is a pseudonym?

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  2. I think all the Johns are the same person but as far as I know all the blame (for the record orders) has been laid on Sean.

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  3. I received my red vinyl pressing a week or so ago. I also splashed out on one of the instrumental test pressings signed by Kev E Kev and Ak B. worth every penny. Classic material!

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  4. I have a test pressing on clear vinyl of this but it's the vocal versions,any idea how many of these were released?

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    1. Sounds like this one: http://www.discogs.com/Kev-E-Kev-AK-B-Welcome-To-Dopeland-EP/release/4467100
      Only 12 copies pressed; that's pretty sweet.

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