Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Rappin' Vs. Christmas (and a special link)

Which is your favorite Kurtis Blow debut? "Christmas Rappin'" or "Rappin' Blow?" You might say, Werner, they're actually the same song, and sometimes you'd be right.  They are... except when they're not.

I've written a brand new post about "Rappin' Blow" for HiLoBrow's 'Herc Your Enthusiasm' series on disco-era hip-hop, which just went live here.  Check it out.  =)  And stick around for the rest of the series... 25 posts by 25 hip-hop writers, including Drew Huge of FatLace, Dallas Penn, Paul Devlin and so many more. The idea is that each piece is about a particular aspect of a classic, pre-'83 hip-hop record; i.e. not a post about "White Lines," but about the bassline for "White Lines," or a particular line of the song. So stick around for the whole series; it looks like fun to me, and I'm very interested to see what everybody else has come up with.  =)

And I thought I'd use the opportunity here to make a little intro and talk a bit more about "Rappin' Blow," because there's a lot of confusion about this song. You see, "Christmas Rappin' was originally released essentially as a novelty record. Rap was a fad and this was going to be a quick holiday cash-in. But when it was decided that Mercury was going to stick with Kurtis Blow as a roster artist, they decided to release it under a new title, not tied to the passing holiday, and so new pressings of the exact same eight minute and eleven second song were delivered to stores as "Rappin' Blow."  Little did they know that "Christmas Rappin'" would become one of Blow's biggest all-time hits that would continue to sell to this day, while "Rappin' Blow" became an obscure footnote.

So you say, okay, one song released under two titles. Simple enough, I get it. But, see, pop music has little room for the epically long disco songs of hip-hop's earliest years; and the song has been released in much shorter editions more often than not. And if you've heard the original, full-length version of the song ...which many people haven't, considering most albums release only half of the song with no mention of an extended full-length version you weren't getting in their package. But if you have, you know that Kurtis actually stops rapping about Christmas midway through the song. He's rapping all about Santa and the night before Christmas, then there's a break pause and he comes back and just kicks more traditional raps about himself.

So when record labels began cutting the song for 45s, compilations, etc; that made for an excellent chopping point. Most releases of "Christmas Rappin'" end with him saying, "merry Christmas, and to all a good night." On the full-length version, though, Adam White then comes on and asks Kurtis, "what did you say your name was?" And Kurtis begins to rap about coming from a planet named Harlem via a meteorite.

Now, since they're almost like two separate songs - albeit with identical instrumentation - that second half has often since been released as its own song, known as "Rappin' Blow (Part 2)." And I'm not just talking about cheap, generic "Rap's Greatest Hits" compilations  (although... those, too).  The second half of the song, "Part 2" was even included on Kurtis Blow's original full-length LP, which never featured "Christmas Rappin'" (because of that perceived novelty factor of the holiday subject matter).  So while hardcore fans and DJs who would've been inclined to pick up the original 12"s would know "Rappin" Blow" as a simple retitling; most people around the world grew up with "Christmas Rappin'" and "Rappin' Blow" as two separate, shorter songs - one a non-Christmas-themed sequel to the other. And yes, both short versions have also been released as singles, with different picture covers, etc. And there are even other 12" singles of it where Mercury simply calls it "Rappin'," with yet another unique cover. So while the original "Rappin' Blow" 12"s were forthcoming, saying "Previously released as Christmas Rappin'" right on the label... it starts to look like some of the confusion became a deliberate ploy to sell people the same song more than once.

But what the heck, how mad can you be at a Christmas rap song that rhymes "Rolly polly" with "Holy moley?" So now that you've read this drier piece... have a look at my more fun, light-heated post on a certain aspect of this record for HiLoBrow.  And have a merry August!

No comments:

Post a Comment