Saturday, September 26, 2015

Beat Bop... Part 2?

So everybody knows the record "Beat Bop," or at least they should. It's most famous, I suppose, for having a picture cover painted by the famous artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. But it would have a place in hip-hop history even without it. It's known as being one of - if not the - first alternative hip-hop records. I mean, people will disagree because how do you define strict parameters for "alternative," but it's a very old school (1983), funky hip-hop jam with some far out, "experimental" sounds. Discordant sounds and "random," instrumentation, extreme echo sporadically applied to the vocals.

It's by an O.G. graf writer, MC and breaker famous for his appearance in Wild Style, Rammellzee. He used to create these crazy Voltron-looking costumes and repped an art movement called gothic futurism. So he was one half, and the other was this young kid (at the time), K-Rob. The record's actually credited to Rammellzee Vs. K-Rob because it's ostensibly a battle, but it's not a battle in the sense you think of today, where they're dissing each other and rhyming snaps. They're just constantly passing the mic back and forth, trying to show each other up, either with their skills or their weird deliveries, and it's all set to one of hip-hop's funkiest basslines of all time. It's also possibly the most repressed hip-hop record of all time.

But that's part 1. Far less well known is this 2004 follow-up. It's a 12" single, as you can see above; but it's taken from Rammellzee's second album, Bi-Conicals Of the Rammellzee with Shockdell. If you don't know Shock, Ram and Shock did records together all the time, dating back to the Wild Style soundtrack. But fortunately they didn't just replace K-Rob with Shock, they brought K-Rob back for this song. ...Not that K-Rob had totally disappeared between "Beat Bop 1" and "2." He stuck with Profile Records to put out a couple singles in the mid 80s. "The Day K-Rob Came Back" is pretty hot. But he did fall out of the public eye later in the 80s, so it was a pleasant surprise to see Ram bring him back in 2004.

Anyway, "Beat Bop 2" and the Bi-Conicals album were on Gomma Records, which is a German label. There never was a US release, so don't feel bad if you slept on it; but by 2004 we were all on the internet, so I doubt I'm blowing anybody's minds talking about this. But I'd say it definitely qualifies as slept on.

And it's actually pretty good. I mean, when I first heard of it, I was definitely be prepared for it to be self-indulgent and terrible. And the album as a whole is probably a little self indulgent. But the single's cool. It's produced by some guy named Jaws, and it does a nice job of harking back to the feel of the original without using the same bassline or otherwise just rehashing it. There's some hot samples, the beat changes up, and yeah they do go right back into the same style of short verses and occasional funny voices. I kinda wish they would've tried to match the length of the original (4 minutes vs 10), but what we've got is all good.

Honestly, if you dig the original, you should dig this one. I'd be more cautious recommending the whole album - I think it's probably only for the serious fans. But the single? Yeah, they sound pretty old school for 2004, but it all works as part of its appeal. Definitely check it out. It's also got a B-side, "Pay the Rent," which is also produced by Jaws with additional rhymes by Shock and a cool electro throwback vibe. It's not a song I imagine people giving regular rotation; but it's got a strong concept and a great hook, which is just some guy yelling at Ram to pay his rent and abusing him. "Pay the Rent" has all the extras: instrumental, acapella, etc. But I'm sure "Beat Bop Part 2" is the one everybody copped this for. If you're in an old school mood, or were just dreading being let down by this, I say give it a shot. It's actually a worthy sequel.

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