Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Madness Over The Madness

It's time... no, it's past time that I talk about what's been going on with The Madness. The Madness is a group long known for releasing one rare and sought after "random rap" 12" in the 90s: "Sad Songs" on Royal Madness Records. It came in a sticker cover with one of the best logos for a hip-hop group ever. It's often been referred to as a NY 12", but the area code of the phone number on the label notes tells us they're actually from New Jersey. And thanks now to the internet, we actually know a whole lot more about them and their unreleased stuff has even been released on CD, vinyl and cassette in recent years. So let's dive in.

"Sad Songs" was Royal Madness's first 12", but not their only one. They also had a couple singles by a group called Ghettolandz, and if you read the label credits carefully, you noticed that they seemed to have a couple members in common. Well, the short version is that Ghettolandz is a 2-man group, consisting of the MC Naji and the producer/ DJ Izniz. Ghettolandz actually came out before The Madness, but on a different label: Ghettolandz Music. Then The Madness single came out, and then some more Ghettolandz joints, and that was it for their 90s releases.

So, essentially, Ghettolandz was the core, and The Madness was their extended posse. You know, like The UMCs and the Ill Demonic Clique, or a bajillion other examples. And the "Sad Songs" label wasn't too helpful telling us who all the other members were, but they did have a co-production credit for "Naji I God I Right," just like that with no breaks or punctuation. So it wasn't even clear, how those names broke down. Was "I God I Right" all one guy? Was Naji billing himself here as "Naji I?" There were a bunch of  possible combinations, but thanks to their reemergence on the internet, we now know line up is: Izniz, Naji, I God, Original Blackman, Shyheed, and I Right. Both songs here are produced by Izniz and written by Naji, I God and I Right.

To think, years ago I almost sold this record very cheap, and now it's a $250-300 record. I actually reviewed it for DWG years ago (with soundclips 'cause that's how those reviews went), and I think that may've been at least partially responsible for the revival of interest in their music. Sadly, DWG's reviews are no longer up, so I'll quote from it here:
This is exactly the kind of music you think of when you think rare, indie NY 12”s from the 90’s… rough, slow drums and a sparse piano loop; and hard, no frills rapping.  Think Shadez of Brooklyn meets Mobb Deep, minus the flash.  It’s got a simple but engaging hook, and each verse is another story of a young life gone wrong by a different member of Madness.  [Naji] starts things off:

“I was thirteen years old when I wanted Nintendo.
I asked my old earth and she said, ‘no.’
Her only excuse was you, ‘needed school clothes,
A roof over your head; you need to start settin’ goals.’
But I chose
To run the streets and skip school;
Shoot pool at the arcade, actin’ cool.”

This track only comes in a Radio Version and Instrumental, but it’s okay, since none of them seem to do any cursing here anyway.  The B-side, comes with a Radio Edit and LP Version (but no instrumental).

And that’s good ‘cause they curse a lot on the B-side, “Punishment.”  Where “Sad Songs” was a “concept song,” with a narrative and a message, “Punishment” is just each MC catching wreck.  The deep and thudding bassline stands out above all else, though there are a few atmospheric samples in the mix keeping things lively.
So, since that time, a lot has been going on with The Madness music. While they only released this one 12", apparently they had more in the vaults to release. Lost Records made a deal with them and released an EP called Undaneath The Sun, an EP which repressed the original 12" but also included three previously unreleased tracks recorded in the same time period, "Strictly Madness," "95 Was Live" and "So Many Suckas." They put it out on cassette and different colored vinyls... a really nice release.

Unfortunately, Lost Records got lost: not filling orders, not responding to customers, not responding to the artists... I've reviewed a couple of their releases, but unfortunately, they seem to be no more and there's a lot of bad business in their wake.

So, Izniz started his own label called The Cross Market and has released the material on vinyl, cassette and CD on his through their own bigcartel store. You can even get a special "Fuck You Ivan valuepack," which includes all three formats plus a hoodie.  ...Ivan is the guy who ran Lost Records.  And Izniz has taken things even further, also releasing more Ghettolandz material and a full length Madness LP called Rays Of the Sun.

Rays Of the Sun features all the songs on Undaneath the Sun, both the original "Sad Songs" cuts and the demo songs. Plus, it has six more vintage, unreleased Madness songs: "Imagine This," "Rain Storms," "Strictly Madness," "Remedy," "Intergalactic Tactics" and "Exposed To the Game." They released it on CD and cassette, both of which are still available as of this writing. They've also got some nice tees and hoodies with their logo, plus signed versions. The only downside? No Rays Of the Sun vinyl.

No vinyl until Chopped Herring jumped in. They've put out a six-song vinyl EP called Intergalactic Tactics 1995-1996, which features five of the songs from Rays Of the Sun, specifically: "Intergalactic Tactics, "Rain Storms," "Remedy," "Imagine This" and "95 Was Live." So that's one of the demo cuts from Undaneath the Sun and four of the exclusives from Rays. And, making it more exciting, the sixth song is another vintage Madness song that hasn't been featured on any of those past releases, "Won't Be Around This Year," based on the Craig Mack line.

It's worth pointing out, too, that Chopped Herring has also put out two vinyl EPs of the Ghettolandz material, called  Ghetto Conspiracy Vol. 1 & 2, to go alongside the Cross Market CD and cassette release of the Ghettolandz album, The Concrete Jungle '95.

So it's been a long, twisted journey, but The Madness's music is finally properly released, and available in every format you could ask for. Who could have predicted all of this would jump up after I reviewed that one, little random rap single those years ago?

1 comment:

  1. I'm so happy thet lost records and chopped herring
    released this great stuff on vinyl
    naji's voice fits perfectly to the intergalactic beats from izniz ;)

    and yes,the madness logo is fantastic i made my own t-shirt