Thursday, September 10, 2015

As If MC Shan Wasn't Hip-Hop Enough...

It's been a while, I think it's time we come back to another one of those subtle, but slightly improved Marley Marl 12" remixes. You know, not the kind of thing where a song's given a whole new instrumental, but just where all the same elements are tweaked and arranged slightly differently, and wind up making the version on the 12" single sound just a little iller than the album version. This was becoming a regular Marley M.O. with examples like "Ain't No Half Steppin'," "Arrest the President" and "Juice Crew Law."   This is MC Shan's "I Pioneered This" from 1988.

Like "Juice Crew Law," this is another single off Shan's second album, Born To Be Wild. But unlike "Juice Crew Law," this isn't a case where you have a main, commercial single without a remix, and then a second, promo version with it. In this case the remix is right there on the main, picture covered 12" single. It starts off with the regular Vocal version, which is the same as what's on the album. And there's a Dub and A Cappella mix on the B-side. But the stand-out track on this single is the one marked Hip Hop Vocal. Now, the vocals are the same on both versions... I guess they just mean to say this is the vocal version of the Hip-Hop Mix. And even the beat is kinda the same. A casual listener who didn't hear both versions back to back might not even realize he'd heard to different versions of the same song. But when you pay attention, the differences might be subtle, but they're still substantial.

One of the reasons it can be hard to catch, too, is that on the original version, the beat isn't constantly doing the same thing. It's not one simple loop repeated from the beginning to the end of the song, it's shifting and going through variations. So at any point when you're listening to the remix, it's easy to think "oh, I'm just not listening to that part of the song right now." But the remix is definitely different. I'd describe it as more "broken down," more fucked with than the original, which often lets the bassline repeat a full refrain.

Here, we never hear more than half at best, it's more choppy. Like a lot of these remixes, it's like Marley just went back in and played with it some more, making it more original and "hip-hop sounding." Hence the name of the mix, I suppose. I could see a lot of fans, especially more mainstream audiences, actually preferring the original because it stays truer to the original sample, sounding a little more "musical." The remix also changes, well, the mix (i.e. the traditional definition of a remix), so the drums and horn stabs are a little harsher, adding to the harder feel of this remix, which is a definite plus in my book.

"I Pioneered This" is a pretty cool song either way, though. It's kind of the sweet spot between Shan's more awkward, younger records (the extreme example being "Feed the World") and his more out-there, genre switching stuff when he stopped working with Marley. This is MC Shan in full Juice Crew soldier mode, that ideal end of the 80s era.

It's pretty 80s lyrically, too, with him declaring, "Puma's the brand cause the klan makes Troops" and "I transform just like a Decepti-gone." Yeah, that spelling's right, that's how he pronounces it. I don't think he was being clever, there; I think he just wasn't that into Transformers.  ha ha  Plus, he says "write a will for your family's conveniency. Rappers I serve without mercy or leniency," which is one of my favorite contrived hip-hop rhymes of all time. Conveniency!

But seriously, Shan sounds great over a hard but smooth Marley Marl production. The main sample is the same one Big Daddy Kane would later use for his killer remix of "Uncut Pure." It's great, especially the Hip Hop Mix. And because it's right there on the main, commercial 12", it's not rare or expensive to get a copy, like some of those others are. Crate staple.

No comments:

Post a Comment