Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Don't Watch OR Sweat My Moves (Paul C Vs. Dooley-O)

In 2002, Stones Throw Records released one of their best records, Dooley-O's "Watch My Moves." If you don't know, Dooley-O is Stezo's cousin and a highly underrated Connecticut producer. As you can see above, the single is actually titled Watch My Moves 1990, because this record is actually from long before 2002... in fact, I would think it would have to be even a couple years older 1990, but we'll come back to that. The point is: it's a classic, long lost recording that was finally unearthed over a decade later, and has some compelling historical significance, in addition to being pretty damn funky.

The second guy on the cover there (above, not left) is Chris "C" Lowe. You may remember him from his numerous 12"s on Bronx Science throughout the 90's, including one with Large Professor. Chris and Dooley came up together and made their earliest records together, including this one. It was, by all accounts, the very first record to use the now famous Skull Snaps break from "It's a New Day," one of the most often used, and still greatest, break beats of the genre. Chris and Dooley discovered, used it and broke it on radio with this song. But, while it played over the air, it was never really properly released on wax. So when Stezo wound up sampling the same break for his debut single, 1989's "It's My Turn," that wound up going down in history as the first record to use Skull Snaps instead. Stezo has full production credit on that single, but Chris and Dooley have both said - and no one's contested - that it was their idea taken from their record.

...See what I mean? If Stezo took it from "Watch My Moves," for his 1989 record "It's My Turn," then "It's My Moves" has to be older than 1990. I didn't go to college for nothin'.

So this is already a great record with a compelling story, and really I could just wrap up this post talking only about this record. It's a killer instrumental and Dooley sounds dope over it. It's also got a cool, vintage B-side from that era called "Headbanger's Ball," with an instrumental almost just as tight. Plus an instrumental-only song called "So Let It Be Written;" another sample-heavy banger.

But the story just got twice as interesting when one of my readers (shout out to Dom for this!) forwarded me a link to this:

"Sweat My Moves" is a title pretty similar to "Watch My Moves," obviously, and hey listen - it's the same break-beat and virtually the same instrumental all together! Reading the description and the poster's comments, this "was a beat designed by Paul C. for the group Cko & Sta-La-Fro, they was signed to the record label DNA International Records in 1988-1989." Ah-ha! This is a record I've known about for years, but never actually heard or been able to track down (because it was essentially a promo-only unreleased single).

CKO & Sta-La-Fro. I knew the story but hadn't even known their names 'till now. There was a great article that got posted on all the diggers' forums back when Stones Throw was releasing this and the Stezo record. I can't find the post I originally read it on, but here it is, cited in full on a blog called The Lowe End Theory. It's basically all about the Stones Throw singles and the story of the Skull Snaps discovery; but let me quote a small part of the article that brings this all together:
"Having recorded "Watch my Moves" and "Crazy Noise", Dooley, Stezo, and Lowe took the cuts to the University of New Haven’s radio station for immediate airplay. This would prove to be a telling glimpse into the future of Dooley’s Skull Snaps break, as one listener jacked it from the airwaves the first time it was ever played! A student of the University of New Haven (UNH)and the nephew of the owner of DNA records (of Super Lover Ceo and Cassanova Rud[sic. ...Although if he makes a modern day comeback, Cee should consider changing his name to Super Lover CEO; that could work for him] fame) had looped the opening parts of the song, and made his own version of “Watch My Moves” called “Sweat My Moves”. It had the same beat, same lyrics, and the same hook (with the word “sweat” replacing the word “watch”). One week after debuting the original on the UNH radio station, Dooley heard the other kids version on the very same show. He walked down to the radio station, roughed-up the DJ, and never heard that version again."
This is that UNH record! The Paul C. connection makes sense, since DNA was where he was working with Super Lover Cee, Kev E Kev and whoever else... I think he did the Too Poetic record as well? That was his place of employ. So if owner's nephew (Sta-La-Fro?) came in with this recording, it makes sense that they would've given it to Paul to mix and engineer. It's worth pointing out, though, that it doesn't have the same lyrics, just the same hook and beat. In fact, the MCing is so different, that this is more than just some cheap knock-off, but an actually compelling little record in its own right. Yeah, it's cornier (CKO's real name is Oscar - CKO stands for Cool Kid Oscar - so he sings the Oscar Meyer Weiner theme song, not once but twice), but it's still kinda fresh, and probably actually works better now, glossed over in nostalgia, than it would've struck heads listening to it back when it was created.

I guess this was actually pressed on wax, at least a couple promo acetates or something, since the Youtube poster talks about having had vinyl copies of this; and I guess that's what the college DJ would've been playing. I'd sure love to stumble upon one someday. The same Youtube channel, WarbucksNYC - apparently a hip-hop producer himself, also has three videos interviewing CKO in more modern days. But unfortunately they don't talk about his foray into music, just his car. It seems he has a PhD now and is pretty happy living in New Jersey.

There's also a link to an ITunes mp3 of the song, but it's dead. Apparently this was also once listed on Amazon Music, too, but it's also been removed. Check out that amazingly cheesy and inappropriately milquetoast stock image they came up with to go with the song, too! Anyway, I'd assume those mp3s were killed because this Warbucks guy (could he be Sta-La-Fro today, or am I over-reaching now? confirmed: he's not) posted them and was making the money from it, and then DNA stepped in. Because the song is now listed, as of February 2014, on ITunes and Amazon as part of a digital-only compilation called DNA International Music Group "Greatest Hits", Vol. 2.  ...Curiously, there is no Vol. 1.

So it's great that Stones Throw cast light on this lost little bit of history and gave us a terrific single to boot by releasing Watch My Moves 1990. I'm not usually a big Stones Throw guy, but I highly recommend this one. Dooley-O went on to release the full, lost LP of that material, which he also titled Watch My Moves 1990, on Solid Records in 2003. And he's since released more unreleased music he made through-out the 90s, and just this year released an all new album called OG Status.

And it's even greater to finally hear the last piece of the puzzle by CKO and Sta-La-Fro, especially since it turned out to be a credible song in its own right and not just a 100% amateurish duplication. And considering Paul C's name is attached to it, I'm pretty confident DNA could make a little money by pressing it up today as a vinyl single (hint, hint).

Oh, and guess who mixed Stezo's "It's My Turn" record? Yep, Paul C!


  1. Just interested as to why you don't rate the Stones Throw label?
    I think they put out some good stuff at times....

    1. Well, I do rate a couple of their other releases; but most of what I hear from that label feels generic, or a little too outsider. Like, just a silly generality; but it kinda feels like a hip-hop label for/by rock guys who are like, "rap sucks, but this is cool." But again, that's just an overall impression; they do have other good releases.

      They do seem to press a lot of excessive collectors' bait, though. And I kinda feel like Percee-P's comeback would've been better on a different label.