Friday, June 27, 2014

Before Cool V Was Biz Markie's Main Man

This one reminds me a lot of that Brothers Unique record, for some obvious superficial ways... It's an old school, PSA-like message song about the importance of education by a rapper who only put out one record. And it's produced by genre outsiders who usually make non-hip-hop records. Plus it's on Sutra Records.

But Abdul Tariq's record is also quite different. This time, it's not made by a bunch of jazz guys but disco guys. Specifically, it's produced by Bert Reid of Crown Heights Affair. And it's several years more modern, 1986, so it's got a much more electronic feel. Spacey sound effects, loud handclaps and multiple keyboard lines. It's super upbeat and happy, basically, with girls singing "got to get your education!" and Tariq joyfully shouting "pop pop pa-pa-pa-pop pow!" When he's not rapping to tell you to "keep your eyes in your books." What he lacks in skills he makes up for in sheer enthusiasm. And during all this, there's also a male singer on a funkier, almost Keith Sweat tip going off in the background.

The record label credits the R&B girls as Jamaica Girls, and that's not just a fun way to describe the neighborhood girls he brought into the studio to sing for him; they were an established disco trio who put out several records throughout the 80s. And they actually play a big part on this seven and a half minute song. They don't have a lot of lyrics, but they're singing more "pa-pop pa-pop"s and "educaaaayshun,"s through the whole song, even while Tariq steps away from the mic for breaks. The male singer isn't credited... perhaps it's Tariq himself. That would be a little odd, since he almost duets with him at one point; but it's certainly possible. And the keyboards are provided by Jeff Smith, who's apparently better known as a saxophonist. But here he's playing futuristic keyboard riffs.

But for us hip-hop heads, the most interesting name in the credits is easily Cutmaster Cool "V," who's credited with scratching on the B-side. Yeah, he's not on the main song. But on they have a Dub Mix and Instrumental on the reverse, and he scratches on both of those. I mean, you'd expect the Instrumental to be exactly like the A-side, minus the voices, but it's not. It's a couple minutes shorter and.... features Cool V.

And it's certainly the same guy. I mean, I could accept two "Cool V"s existing in this world as just a coincidence; but both calling themselves "Cutmaster Cool V?" It's gotta be the same guy. And this is 1986, the same year Biz Markie debuted on wax beat-boxing for Roxanne Shanté. In fact, the Dub mix features a small sampling of human beat-boxing, which could actually be a clip of the Biz. ...I mean, it's probably not, but hey you never know. Update: according to Cool V himself, it's him doing the beat boxing, inspired by Biz.

So yeah, the Dub Mix is the more hip-hop oriented of the two. It doesn't have most of the lyrics from the A-side, naturally, but it does have some vocals by Tariq unique to this version. And it has Cool V's cuts and that that really brief beatboxing moment I mentioned.

The instrumental has some scratching, too; but it's just for a little bit. Despite being called the "Instrumental," it's got a good deal of vocals, including a lot of singing by the Jamaica Girls. The most notable unique element of this version is that it has a huge saxophone part. Nobody's given credit for that on the label, but it's surely got to be Smith, right?

Anyway, this whole record is fun. It almost feels like one giant song, rather than three versions of one song; and that's the way I'd recommend listening to this one. Just rock it all the way through like a huge monster jam. Lyrically it's pretty light and preachy, but it's just so hyper you won't even notice. It's too bad Tariq didn't make any other records, because I'm sure they would've been fun. But I guess Reid had his non-hip-hop career to get back to, and of course Cool V was called away to make all those classic Biz records; and we wouldn't want anything to have stood in the way of those. So this winds up being just an entertaining one-off, as well as an interesting historical footnote.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, never heard this one. Cheers mate!