Friday, September 19, 2014

An Epic Curiosity Piece

Here's a random, little curiosity piece I picked up in a recent record haul: a 1995 Epic Street Records sampler EP. It features six songs - well, almost - of some pretty random stuff. I mean, it's all hip-hop material Epic Street had coming out at the time. It's not that random, like an indie heavy metal song and a thirty year-old polka record. But I think it's fair to say they made some pretty unusual choices here. Let's have a look.

It starts out predictably enough. The first song is "I Be," by the Mystidious Misfits, a pretty underrated little group of style-over-substance MCs that who really threw themselves into the gimmicky styles of the 90s and who, as a consequence, couldn't have existed at any other point in time than the short period they were active for. But they had some fun, slept on singles including "Upside Down" and the Buckwild remix of "I Be." The version here, though, is the album version, which is still pretty tight.

Then next is Funkdoobiest with "Rock On." Funkdoobiest is always a little unorthodox to feature on anything, just by virtue of their style. But "Rock On" was just the latest single at the time, taken from their Brothas Doobie album.

But now things get interesting... Next up is "verse" by Kool G Rap. It's not even capitalized like a proper title, because it's not a song called "Verse," but just a random, isolated verse by G Rap. So is it some radio freestyle or something? No, disappointingly, it's actually just a bit snipped out of one of his latest records at the time. Specifically, it's his part of "Take Em To War" (easy to recognize because the leave the hook on the at the ends) from his album 4.5.6. Basically, it's the song he did with B-1 and MF Grimm,  minus their parts, which I guess is kinda neat to have on wax if you're a G Rap fan who was never too impressed with those other two dudes. Turn it into a short Kool G Rap solo song.

But things are stranger still on the flip side, as next we have Mista Grimm's "Situation: Grimm (A Capella)." That's right, not the full song, which isn't included anywhere here at all... just the acapella. By the way, just to clarify since they often get confused, MF Grimm is the wheelchair bound MC who's down with MF Doom, and Mista Grimm is the dude who did "Indo Smoke" with Warren G and Nate Dogg. They're two separate dudes from opposing coasts. I once bought a Mista Grimm single when I was younger because I made that mistake, so I wanna make that clear to be sure no child out there ever falls into the same trap.

Anyway, "Situation: Grimm" was meant to be on Grimm's album, Things Are Looking Grimm; but that never came out (though promo copies exist). It was, however, released as a single. But not even that 12" had the acapella on it; so that makes it an exclusive to this EP.

Next up is Lil Vicious with his big single "Life Of a Shortie" featuring Shyheim and Doug E Fresh. He was a flash in the pan signed briefly to Epic Street and this was his only notable song, so nothing shocking about this inclusion.

And then, finally, another acapella. This one's by Dana Barros, the uhh... basketball player.  Epic Street put out a compilation album around this time called B-Ball's Best Kept Secret, centered around the terrible idea to get a bunch of professional athletes to record rap songs. I guess Epic liked Dana's the best, because they made a video for it and released it as the single, with remixes by guys like DJ Jazzy Jeff and Muggs. But you won't hear any production here, because again, we're given the acapella only. But, as with Mista Grimm, the acapella wasn't featured on the 12" single, making this another EP exclusive.

So, yeah, this is kind of a strange duck. That's partially a result of Epic's eclectic line-up that year, but the decision to include exclusive acapellas on a sampler (were listeners expected to dig the sound of the vocals and think "I bet it'd sound even better with music!" and go buy the albums?) is a bit of a head scratcher. And the idea to turn Kool G Rap's "Take 'Em To War" to just "verse" is weird; the label doesn't even tell you it's a portion of a fuller song, so it's not like a snippet tape. Maybe someone at the label figured G Rap was being weighed down by sub-par guests and thought it would make a better impression as just a quick, two minute song? He might've been right, but it's not like the other two guys were some wack, g-funk dudes who couldn't fit in with their host.

As for how desirable this is? I guess it's kinda neat, and I certainly got it cheap enough (less than a dollar). Some decent stuff on here, but it's not all solid. The exclusive acapellas are exclusive enough, but it's got to be a pretty short list of fans who would care for these particular ones. And the G Rap song, I mean, you could get the same effect by playing 4.5.6 and just pressing the stop button after the first verse. So, I don't know. It has a place in my collection, but I wouldn't pay much for it. It's just one of those random slices of wax that's out there in the universe.

No comments:

Post a Comment