Tuesday, April 1, 2014

RapMasters 7: The Best Of the Laughs

If you were a kid who loved in rap in the 80s, you've gotta remember the RapMasters tapes. Sure, there were a cap ton of compilation albums with no exclusive material, even back then. But they all tended to have the exact same songs.  If you wanted "Rapper's Delight" and "It Takes Two," the world was your oyster. But if you were ready to delve deeper, you didn't have many options outside of finding all the original records. So RapMasters was a welcome alternative. Sold cheaper than your average cassette and so widely distributed, you could pick them up at delis and comic book shops. And sure, they contained the same over-exposed songs every other compilation did. But since it was an on-going series that eventually reached fifteen volumes, they were forced to get more creative with their song selections just to fill all that space.

(Behold: the whole lot!)
And that they did. Some relatively underground stuff, like the Too Kool Posse, old Just-Ice, Schoolly D, Ultramagnetics... They actually gave you a nice selection of what was available from the genre, and whoever was making the selections had some really good taste. Priority Records put these out, but they had a surprisingly New York bent. Each one was tape was loosely based on a category, like The Best Of the Rhyme, The Cut or The Old School. Some were pretty distinct - The Best of Hard Rockin' Rap featured all songs with 80's metal guitar riffs - but others, like Best Of the Jam, were pretty generic and arbitrary. On the inside they listed all of the volumes with all of the track-listings of each tape, and you could tell the budget went up for the later entries, because the last four tapes had an extra fold out that included each song's writing credits and copyright info.

Since this is April 1st, I've opted to focus on RapMasters 7: The Best Of the Laughs. It's actually a pretty well-thought out line-up. While every song definitely can be seen as a sort of "funny" song; it's not a collection of hip-hop's goofiest novelty rap records. No Rappin' Grannies or Rodney Dangerfield cheesiness. Rappin' Duke is on hand, and so is Joe Piscopo's crazy "Honeymooner's Rap" with Eddie Murphy (curiously billed here as Lost Episodes, as they were on Laff Attack, even though that name doesn't seem to appear anywhere on the original records); but most of the songs are by credible artists. Whoever put this together was definitely concerned with making a genuinely good listening experience for hip-hop fans, not just stringing along a bunch of silly foolishness.

Like, if you were assigned to come up with funny rap songs from the 80s, would you have come up with Chubb Rock's "Caught Up" or the unexpectedly adult "That Girl's a Slut" by Just-Ice? But, yet, they're certainly humorous raps. There's two Fat Boys songs: "All You Can Eat" from Krush Groove and "Chillin' With the Refrigerator" with William Perry, probably their most novelty-style record. There's also two from Bobby Jimmy and the Critters (not only was he hip-hop's own "Weird Al "Yankovic, but he'd just signed to Priority), naturally. Doug E. Fresh & MC Ricky D's "La Di Da Di" fits the bill very appropriately, and you also have T-La Rock's obscure album track "Tudy Fruity Judy."  ...Yeah, there's a lot of human beat boxing on this tape.

So if you're looking for a good, silly mix to celebrate this April Fool's Day with, don't forget that golden b-boy stanced figurine from your youth. He always brought The Best Of everything.

1 comment:

  1. Yo, shouts from the U.K.

    These compilations look vaguely familiar, I'm sure I've clocked these in a bargain bin over this side of the Atlantic at some point.