Saturday, August 2, 2014

Mantronix With Tricky Tee

Tricky Tee is an MC who has not been done right by history, at least in terms of recognition. Hailing from the Bronx, Tee was originally one of the Just Four, a disco-era Grand Groove group, meaning they were signed to Grand Groove Records and backed by the Grand Groove Bunch band. But when hip-hop swiftly switched gears and disco was as uncool as you can get, Tee was one of the few who successfully managed to reinvent himself and create more hit records as a solo artist over much harder, very modern (for the time) beats. He signed to the ground-breaking Sleeping Bag Records, and it's probably their fault he isn't as well known today, since they neglected to put out a full-length on him.

He put out a couple hot singles, though; and this is his first: "Johnny the Fox." It's produced by Kurtis Mantronik, who was as cutting edge as it got; and it's one of his first projects, too. This came out right after Mantronix's first two singles; the catalog numbers are even right in order: SLX-00014, SLX-00015 and this one, SLX-00016. The latter two may even have been released on the same day.

Mantronix's MC at the time, of course, was MC Tee, so looking at the labels back in the day, first you read Mantronix featuring MC Tee then Tricky Tee produced by Mantronik - you could be forgiven for thinking it was the same guy.  They even have a similar rhyme scheme, possibly directed by their producer, or maybe it's just what feels the most natural flowing over his style of instrumental. It also helps that Mantronik masters his vocals the same way, with that slight, signature echo. And this is a total Mantronix-sounding track, with it's rapid-fire, multi-layered drum patterns, claps and that signature "blare" sound effect. And the percussion is so busy there really isn't anything else to the entire instrumental, nor does it need it. All you get is some simple but fresh scratching by his DJ E Z Earl for a hook and sometimes behind the verses.

But Tricky Tee distinguishes himself from MC Tee by simply being harder. He's got a deeper voice and stronger vocal projection. He just sounds like a tougher guy you wouldn't wanna mess with, as opposed to MC Tee, who sounds like a nice guy inviting you to sit and read comic books with him. Lyrically, the song is all about singing the praises of his DJ. He's the one essentially being dubbed the titular fox, though the name is only brought up in the song by the vocal sample that Earl cuts up for the chorus.

My copy here is the promo version, but the track-listing is the same for both. The main vocal track is on the A-side and there's a Radio Version on the flip. Also, as it's a Mantronik record, of course there's a Bonus Beats dub mix that's even longer than the proper song itself. And like most early Sleeping Bag records, the 12" plays at 45.

Unfortunately, Tee and Mantronik didn't continue their working condition. The Two Tee's would've complimented each other nicely, actually, on Mantronix's albums, going back and forth between the two. Instead, Tricky's next single was produced by Sam Sever... which I believe was his first record ever. Naturally, that was dope, too; so I still find it a little hard to believe there's no Tricky Tee album out there. I can almost even picture the cassette tape cover in my mind. Oh well. At least we got this record, which is hot.

1 comment:

  1. Loved the tracksuit Tee was wearing on the cover....fresh!

    Chriz The Wiz