Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Still Fat for the 90's

I'm not going to introduce Lord Finesse because he doesn't need it. But any fan who's looked into his catalog in the last ten years will find an overwhelming number of releases - most on vinyl even - presenting us with lost remixes, demos and unreleased tracks. His back catalog has been - and is still being - lovingly preserved like few very few other hip-hop artists' have. Most of the official ones came out first through Soundtable/ No Sleep, and more recently on Slice of Spice (Vinyl Addicts also got a pretty sweet release out there) in collaboration with Finesse's own Underboss imprint. Quality music on nice vinyl releases, and they're 100% official, not bootlegs. But with so much being put out there, it can be pretty daunting to sort through, especially since so many of the songs seem to have been released multiple times as different versions.

Well, what we have here is a brilliant, brand new double LP (or CD if that's more your speed) release that cuts through the thick. It doesn't include everything - because there's simply too much for any one release - but it's a pretty thorough collection of the me must-have material at least from his Funkyman (album #2) period. It's called Funky Man: The Prequel on Slice of Spice/ Underboss Records.

Because it's so complicated following what's been released where, I'm going to tackle this album track-by-track, and give a complete break-down of what's included here.

Before I begin, though, I have to make something clear. Slice of Spice have remastered every track here from Finesse's original DATs and reels. So everything they've put on here (and their other releases) are fresh remasters compared to the material that was released on Soundtable or any other label. Those were all respectable and official releases, too, so none of them sounded bad. But Slice of Spice's do seem to be consistent and substantial improvements in sound quality every time - this isn't one of those situations where only professional DJs are gonna notice the difference. For a more casual fan, though, if you have the old records, then how essential the new masterings are will be a personal call. Maybe you need the upgrade or maybe you're satisfied with what you've got. But the short and sweet of it is: the SoS masterings are consistently superior to the others, and definitely the ones to scoop up if you don't have any yet. Also, just to be clear, in cases when it's the same song on two or more SoS releases - like "Fat for the 90's" being both the first song on this LP and as a B-side to one of their picture discs - then they're exactly the same.

Okay, now let's get down and dirty:

A1) Fat for the 90's (Original Version) - produced by Diamond D - This mix first appeared on Soundtable/ No Sleep's Rare and Unreleased vol. 2 in 2008. That was CD only, though, so they put it out again on Rare Selections vol. 2 vinyl EP the same year. Slice also put this out as the B-side to their limited Still Funky for the 90's shaped picture disc (it's shaped like his head!). It's hard to say which mix is better - the one we've all known for 21 has some really chunky, compelling samples. This one is rawer and edgier, and I think suits AG's guest verse better. Maybe familiarity is tainting my judgement, but I have to side with the original. But this is absolutely a worthy alternative.

A2) Isn't He Something (Showbiz Mix) - produced by Showbiz, obviously - This is NOT the "Isn't He Something (Original Version With Intro)" from Rare & Unreleased vol. 2, which seems to basically be the same as the regular album version, except with an extended intro. Instead, this is the "Isn't He Something (Unreleased Mix)" from Rare Selections vol. 3. You couldn't be blamed for assuming that the Rare Selections mix would just be the same mix lifted from the Rare & Unreleased, but pressed onto vinyl; but nope - they were totally different. So yeah, this is the second one, the substantially differing one, from the EP.  It begins off with a funky, dominant Weather Report sample; but as the song progresses, a variety of interesting sounds and samples swap in and out of the mix, and there's some really hype scratch choruses that live up to the crazy horn riff from the familiar mix.

A3) Funky On the Fast Tip (Original Version) - produced by Lord Finesse - This mix was featured on Rare Selections vol. 1, mistakenly titled as "Fat for the 90's (Alternate Beat)."  It's not "Fat for the 90's," though; it's "Funky On the Fast Tip," and is now also available on SoS's Still Funky picture disc. I have to say, though, Finesse made the right choice to re-do this one. The original version here is cool, another one of those changing sample sets throughout the song, so you're not always listening to the same instrumental. But none of them are as effective or flat-out dope as the one we've known.

B1) Stop Sweating the Next Man (Lord Finesse Mix) - produced by DJ Aladdin and SLJ - This is the "Stop Sweating the Next Man (Unreleased Mix)" from Rare Selections vol. 2. It's a more subtle remix, in that both versions use the same basic "Punks Jump Up To Get Beat Down" bassline and sound pretty similar.  The main difference is a protracted horn note that plays over the hook.

B2) Show 'Em How We Do Things (Demo Version) - produced by DJ Aladdin and SLJ -This was on a Fat Beats compilation of unreleased material called From the Crates To the Files (CD and 2LP), and then turned up on Rare Selections vol. 2. And it's on a vinyl EP called A Little Something for the Homiez, which I think is a bootleg. But maybe Finesse pressed it himself, I dunno. Anyway. this seems to be exactly the same as what was on the original album, and at first I was confused as to why SoS put it on here - was I missing some subtle, remixed difference? But then I realized I always had this song because I bought the cassette back in the day. This was a CD and cassette bonus track missing from the wax, so it was making its wax debut on the Fat Beats comp, and its remastered wax debut now.

C1) Hey Look At Shorty (Demo Version) - produced by Lord Finesse -  Okay, once again, the versions on Rare and Unreleased vol. 2 and Rare Selections vol. 1 are different. This is the latter. Both are distinctly different from the one we all know; though I have to say I prefer that one to any of these alternate versions. This one's got a nice break, but is otherwise kinda boring, with a merely perfunctory bassline.

C2) Isn't He Something (Large Professor Remix) - produced by Large Professor - This is a.k.a. "Extra P Session Mix" on From the Crates To the Files and A Little Something for the Homiez. SoS also released this last year on the first of their Signature Seven 7" series of Lord Finesse material. It's exactly what you'd expect a Large Professor remix of a Lord Finesse song to sound - really dope.

C3) I Like My Girls With a Boom (Original Version) - produced by Lord Finesse -  This one's interesting. It first appeared on Rare Selections vol. 1, and uses the same sample as the regular album version, but where the first one used the opening guitar lick as a brief intro, this one keeps bringing that lick back throughout the whole song. It also sounds a little slower and bass-heavier. 

C4) KABOOM! KAPLOW! - EXPLOSIVES! - I'm sorry, I'm just being a goofball. There is no track C4.

D1) Praise the Lord (Underboss Remix) - produced by Lord Finesse and Davel "Bo" McKenzie - I should point out that this and the next track are specifically labeled as bonus tracks.  This is NOT the Diamond D remix from Rare Selections vol. 1 (which is too bad, because that was awesome). This is a new mix, I think, not as good as the others but still pretty cool with some funky piano notes and a cool organ sample and definitely worth your time. It's exclusive to this LP.

D2) Kicking Flavor With My Man (Underboss Remix) - produced by Lord Finesse and Davel "Bo" McKenzie -The classic duet with Percee-P is given a cool, gangsta rap vibe with this mix. I prefer the original, but am definitely happy to have both in my collection now. Again, it's a bonus track and I assume a contemporary remix, though SoS did already release it last year on 7".

So that's the run-down. Most (though not all!) of this material has seen the light of day before; but this is a nice definitive edition to close the book on each of these tracks for good. And to cinch that, SoS has gone all out with the presentation as well. First of all, it's a solid 180g double LP in a fresh gatefold picture cover. How many hip-hop albums have gotten gatefold covers? Not many! And it's been released at the standard, no "special limited" business price of $19.99. But if you do want to spice it up even more, you could pay just a little extra to get the same 2LP pressed on a limited run (250 numbered copies - mine is #30) of cool silver (silver) vinyl. And if you really had the money to lay out and were a hardcore Finesse fanatic, you could get the crazy pre-order package which included the double LP on silver wax, an Instrumental EP (6 tracks, pressed on white (white) wax in a sticker cover), that picture disc I mentioned earlier, and an exclusive 7" with that awesome Diamond D mix of "Praise the Lord" that I really wanted on the LP. I think you'd give your mailman a hernia with that one. Unfortunately, that big set was only available during the pre-order stage, so if you didn't get it by now, it's too late. But the LP, black or silver, is still available, as it only just came out. If you order it direct from SoS, you also get a free digital download emailed to you, plus stickers. =)


  1. EPIC! Thank you for such a comprehensive and detailed review Sir :-)