Thursday, July 3, 2014

UTFO, Roxanne Shanté & Full Force - Roxanne, Roxanne (The New Chapter)

If you're under thirty, just go ahead and skip this post.

Now, for everybody still here - holy shit!

Where to start? Well, okay, Full Force is back with a new album. Not excited yet? Neither was I at first. I mean, I remember buying their first comeback album, Sugar On Top, and just thinking "bleh." I didn't even bother to pick up their second comeback LP in 2001, Still Standing, which featured mostly live recordings of their old hits. Who needs echoey, inferior renditions of records I already have? The ship had sailed on these guys, and I'm not even sure how big I was on their past albums. They were at best uneven. And this is a hip-hop blog, not an R&B fansite.

Well, it's still a couple months off, but on August 26, Full Force's With Love From Our Friends, which is finally their first comeback album to capture everything that was so great about these guys in the first place. And it's not just a new album, it's a reunion album with basically everybody they've ever worked with ever. I mean, granted, a couple of the superstars they've produced, like Justin Timberlake aren't here. And Lisa Lisa is conspicuously absent. But it's seriously an overwhelming list. Here's just some of them, the ones I'm not going to delve deeper into further below: Faith Evans, motherfuckin' Shiela E, Raphael Saadiq, Shanice (remember her?), Tisha Campbell-Martin, Tevin Campbell, Naturi Naughton, Silk, Troop (now that's takin' it back!), Next, 112, Allure, Regina Belle, Howard Hewett and Raymond Luke Jr. (star of that Broadway show Motown: The Musical). That's just the ones I'm not gonna talk about.

I said this is a hip-hop blog, not an RB fansite. So rest assured I wouldn't be covering this if there weren't also rappers on hand as well. And I'ma get to that, but for everybody who group up with The Full Force Family, let me finish geeking on the other stuff first. The roster is overwhelming, but what really stands out is that the production, instrumentation and arrangements are really strong here. This isn't a washed up group cashing in on their name and industry connections. This is a really impressive album.

It's also all over the map. Their press sheet says this album "reflects the group's broad range of sounds and styles." That's always been how Full Force rolls, but seeing as how this song features the entire planet, it's even more wildly all over the place. Ce Ce Peniston and Freedom Williams (our first rapper) come back to make a club hit. Of course Cheryl Pepsi Riley is back, and she has a great classically R&B song with Meli'Sa Morgan and Vivica A. Fox, who actually provides a killer intro. And there's a great duet with The Force MD's. With Love is often religious - this album even features a childrens' choir - but they manage to make it all sound great.

Okay, now get this. Remember how Doctor Ice ended his album with a crazy half skit/ half song with a cameo by Blair Underwood, as his character from LA Law? They even brought HIM back on here! He's on this posse cut where a bunch of guys, including Malcolm Jamal Warner, Omari Hardwick and Big Daddy Kane do spoken word poems about Heaven over a choral song by the Force and Najee. Actually, Kane's appearance is the most disappointing on this album, since the spoken word stuff is corny ("her persona would make Malcolm Jamal want her") and un-engaging on the most skippable song. The production still makes it very listenable, but Kane is just wasted here.

And okay, I'm almost done; but I've just got to talk about the craziest song on here, "Dance Dance, Throw Ur Hands Up In the Air Air" by The Force and Samantha Fox. Yup, they brought everybody back! And they're on full-on autotune mode; she sounds like Ke$ha; and unless you absolutely hate these kinds of songs (a lot of people do; couldn't blame ya) it actually works. This song really continues The Full Force tradition also of the crazy, silly B-sides, because The Force revive their characters from the House Party movies. You know the bullies with the crazy voices? Well, they're back in full "I smell.... PUSSY!" mode. And if that's still not enough for you, there's a bonus verse by Flavor Flav, yes also rapping in autotune. And man, he totally should've been on "Blah Blah Bla;" forget those wack 3Oh3 guys.

Look, this album was designed for a very particular audience whose minds are gonna be blown. But anybody else who checks for it will at least find very well made, eccentric album. And yeah, I haven't even gotten to the final, most important track yet.

If I didn't feel the need to fangasm over this project, I could've just skipped to writing baout this one song, because this is the one readers of hip-hop blogs should care about: "Roxanne, Roxanne (The New Chapter)." Of course, you know Full Force had to bring UTFO, the UnTouchable Force Organization back, and this is a whole new song all about that same old girl, with Force singing a new hook and the guys kicking all new verses. There have been a couple UTFO albums without the full line-up, so I guess I should specificy that yes, all four are back, Mixmaster Ice even has some nice scratching moments. The instrumental is a really cool blend of that original 1984 feel with all new, modern elements; and yes they hold true to the original by changing the instrumental for each verse. Bow Legged Lou's son is on here, and yeah, that feels like some forced nepotism, but he sounds fine on here for his short part, so it's alright. I remember tweeting to a fun, 2014 "Roxanne, Roxanne" update by some random internet rapper which was pretty fun; but this is a real deal follow-up by the original guys and actually given a physical release. Oh, and did I mention that Roxanne Shanté is on here, too? And she sounds great kicking it in total '84 mode, still setting it off on the EMD:

"Let me tell you the story I think that they forgot;
It was downtown Brooklyn,
It was really, really hot.
The day-a it was sunny,
He told me he had money;
He was broke and a joke
And he thought that it was funny.
He said he was a rapper,
I told him 'I should slap ya,
Start running sown the block
And them boys gonna cap ya.'
He went running down the block
But he didn't get far.
They caught him and they did 'im
Like it was WorldStar."

Thirty years later, they're all parents now; and they're finally having it out on a Roxanne record together. Whether you care about the rest of the album or not is one thing - just how many of your developmental years were soundtracked by all these people - but all you old school heads gotta at least check out for this new "Roxanne, Roxanne." It's good times.

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