Friday, May 30, 2014

Return Of the Veteranz

I called my last post a "later release for somebody like DJ Hollywood," but you could still consider that the first round of musical recordings for somebody who just happened to manage to have a long run.  This on the other hand, is a straight-up comeback record by some of the oldest school artists our genre's got. The Veteranz is kind of 1997 "super group," consisting of DJ Hollywood, Lovebug Starski (here spelling it Luvbug Starski) and The World Famous Brucie B. And they've come back out on the strength and production of "The Original 'Shake Dat Ass' Man" DJ Mister Cee. It seemed to be largely compelled by the attention Doug E Fresh got for his song "The Original Old School" featuring Hollywood and Lovebut Starski alongside members of The Furious Five and The Cold Crush; but of course there were a lot of instances of hip-hop's original forefathers getting put on records throughout the 90s.

This was pretty much just a one-off single inspired recording session rather than an earnest attempt by The Veteranz to sign a deal and start re-enter the music industry as a consistent group. But it was released twice, with an all-new remix retitled and kinda packaged as if they'd come back again with a second song. So let's start with the first release.

"Da Medicine" was originally released on Tape Kingz with two versions - not including the Instrumental and Accapella - the Party Version and the Regular Version. The difference is pretty simple: they're exactly the same song except the Party Version features additional "party voices" added throughout the track, just like many of the classic disco-era rap records used to have. To me this adds to the fun adn effect of the record and detracts nothing, so while it's not a huge difference (they're mixed pretty low anyway), it's the definitive version and you can pretty much forget about the Regular Version as more of just an incomplete bonus mix to pad out the 12".

But here's the thing about The Veteranz. All three of these guys are more like DJs and party rockers and strictly lyrical MCs. You know, it's not like we have Melle Mel, Grandmaster Caz and Kool Moe Dee here. I mean, at least Hollywood and Starski were experienced recording artists, but Brucie never even made records. And they definitely opted to play it safe here, because theyr eally don't rap at all. I mean Hollywood and Starski did rap on their old records, so it's not like they didn't know how. But they just don't here. I mean, there's a bit in the middle I guess you'd consider more traditional rapping, but the way they keep going back and forth and shouting, it doesn't much feel like it. They just do a succession of hooks and chants over a blend of hot and ever changing breakbeats by Mister Cee. In fact, this almost feels like a completed Mister Cee party record - you know, those instrumental 12" singles just bl;ending a mix of the latest and old school breaks for a couple minutes that all the NY DJs used to press up in small runs? It's like Mister Cee had made this record and then just had these guys talk over it as an after-thought.

So, as a result, it's okay... the beat selection is solid and the added layer of the Veteranz does help. But ultimately, it's boring. It's like you're just waiting and waiting for the song to start, right up until it ends. It's fine, for one of those generic party records, but it needed actual verses to feel like a proper, finished song. The Veteranz names' carry a lot of weight, but that's about the only weight they bring to the record. Their voices are pleasantly recognizable and there are references to their past work to catch; but talent-wise, any three guys you pulled off the street could've recorded these vocals.

But their name value at the time was strong. This collaboration was getting write-ups in music mags and press well beyond what any of these other party records got. The rest of the world wanted to hear it, and so Select Records picked it up and reissued it.

This time you got "Da Medicine" in Party, Regular and Instrumental versions just like the Tape Kingz single. But then, on the flip, you had "Da Remedy (Da Medicine Remix)" also in Party, Regular and Instrumental versions. Like I said earlier, it's the same vocal recoding, but the original instrumental has been switched out for an entirely new one. Here, Starski, Brucie and Mister Cee (no, not Hollywood) share production credit. It's a pretty cool, alternate version, which feels a bit more like a consistent song than a party mix, with a more old school feel thanks to some big programmed beats and conspicuous hand claps.

It's hard to pick a favorite between "Da Medicine" and "Da Remedy," but thankfully with the Select single, you don't have to. You only miss out on the Accapella. So it's a fun record, but it still doesn't have any real rapping. So it winds up feeling like a lot of Miami bass or indie NY party records. Listenable but nothing you'd really keep going back to.

And It's interesting to note that The Veteranz reunited in 1998. On the Flip Squad All Stars album, the final track is by DJ Mister Cee featuring Brucie B, Hollywood and Lovebug Starski. "How Ya Like Us Now" is a straight-up second Veteranz song. I mean, I'd consider any modern pairing of Brucie, Hollywood and Starski a Veteranz song, but with Mister Cee still on the boards? It's incontrovertible. They even refer to themselves as The Veteranz, even though they're not credited that way on the label. And, yes, it features all new vocals - albeit in the same, "many choruses and no verses" style, as well as a new instrumental. And party vocals. :)

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