Thursday, June 18, 2015

Back On the Battle Tip

Whirlwind D is back once again, with a new vinyl single (his last one was just a few months ago) of contemporary Classic Hip-Hop. And yes, once again he's got some fantastic scratching and strong production along with him. It's another 7", but it comes in a high quality picture cover; and it's always great to see the b-boy vinyl game marching on.

This one's called "B-Line Business," referring to his label, B-Line Records, even though Tru-Tone Records is the name printed in giant text on the actual record. It's pretty much an anthem for the roster, where everybody's name-checked and mission statements are codified. It's the style that really brings you in, though: quick and high energy with tough cracking beats and rhymes mixed with a instrumental produced by Specifik. Specifik's been making records in the UK for a while now, but you guys will probably remember him mostly from having contributed to Whirlwind D's last couple records. It's got a bumping, head-nodding bassline; but once again it's the ill, dynamic turntable choruses that really steal the show, this time vigorously provided by JabbaThaKut, who uses at least a dozen different records for a single hook. Those scratch breaks just make you want to listen to the song over and over again, but it wouldn't work if all the elements weren't coming together and firing on all cylinders as they are here.

The B-side is "Battle Tip 2015," a follow-up to his killer Solid 'N' Mind single that was pretty much lost in 1991 and remastered and re-released in 2010. When I first heard it, I assumed it was a sequel song, with with D spitting similarly themed rhymes over a new but reminiscent track. But as it played on, some of the more creative, colorful imagery started sounding awfully familiar, and I realized it's all the same lyrics as the original. So this is basically just a remix, produced by Waxer this time instead of Johnny F (interestingly, the back cover specifically adds "based on an original Liberty Grooves production" to his production credit).

I feel a bit funny dismissing it as "just a remix," though; 'cause it's pretty great. It naturally retains the rapid-fire drum style of the original, since that's key to the song; but it's otherwise quite different, giving it a dark and freshly atmospheric tone with dark, ominous bass notes straight out of a horror movie. And Waxer's name is dubbed in over Johnny's name during the line that originally went, "Johnny F cuts with blaze of fury," but not, curiously, the line "Johnny F drops an original break." I wonder what the motivation was to redo this in 2015? On the one hand, I feel like the original knocks just a little bit harder, and if I had to choose which one to take on the lifeboat with me, that's the one I'd choose. But on the other hand, this is really fresh. Where the original was comprised of samples we'd heard on other rap classics already, this is unique and unfamiliar, made with sounds I've never heard before. After his impressive work on Whirlwind's previous projects, I'm always up for another Waxer original, and when it's for a fast, hardcore rap track like this, all's the better. But why "Battle Tip" instead of an all new song? Oh well, both versions are different and good enough to be worth owning anyway, and since Whirlwind D's records are always so reasonably priced, there's no reason to make a Sophie's Choice scenario out of it.

Yeah, it's only £6.00, which I guess is still standard for a 7", but it feels like a bargain now that we've gotten used to paying "limited" prices for our wax in recent years. It's a small-hole 45 (the preferable option, unless you're that dude with a jukebox in his man-cave), and like I said it comes in an impressive picture cover. Fans of D's previous work will definitely be pleased with this release, and probably already had it on pre-order since it was first announced on forums anyway. But even if you haven't been following his work, this wouldn't be a bad one to cut your teeth on: maybe not his ultimate masterpiece, but an engaging, slick little record.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Before There Was Raw Produce, There Was... Eddie Bone

Raw Produce released their debut 12", "Cycles," in 1995. And we've already looked at the very first record they worked on, 1993's New England Massive EP which they produced on. But there's a record in between those two, and it's actually on a fairly major record label: Tommy Boy Records. Pitch, on his own, produced the first and last single by Eddie Bone in 1994, the self-titled "Eddie Bone."

Now, looking at the name, picture cover and title, you might expect this to be a pretty terrible pop rap song best left forgotten. That's probably why, even though he came out on Tommy Boy, pretty much nobody's ever heard of him. But it's actually pretty interesting.

Eddie Bone is actually from Texas, and he's on some smooth shit, sort of a cross between Q-Tip and the Penthouse Players Clique. This is a two-song 12", and Pitch only produced the first song. The B-side, "Check the Game," is a more traditional gangsta rap track. The girl singing the hook on the A-side is credited, but the Nate Dogg-lite guy who sings this chorus is uncredited. Could it be Eddie Bone himself? I don't think so; but I'm not ruling it out. It's not brilliant, but it's got a pretty cool, light gangsta rap vibe; that'll at least having you nodding along to it.

But of course, we're all here for the A-side, "Eddie Bone." Eddie doesn't come off as well here as he did on the B-side, but Pitch has cooked up a really interesting instrumental for him. It's jazzy and pretty unusual, not exactly like the stuff Raw Produce would later make for themselves, but it hints at it for sure. And I get the logic behind naming an early record after yourself to market yourself. If all the kids are singing "Eddie Bonnne" after having listened to the radio, they know what CD to buy. Makes sense. Ultramagnetic did it, Stetsasonic did it, Public Enemy did it... The problem is it just comes off so silly and corny. Eddie sounds like an executive-crafted rap act (which he probably was) when he says lines like, "this is something for you G's to ride to," but it's the chorus that really kills it. Ramona DeBreaux is the girl unfortunately taxed with the duty to sing "Eddie Bone, ya loves ta' bone" over and over on the chorus. And she freestyles it a bit at the end, but her singing on the main chorus is really flat, like she's just saying it rather than singing it. There's no way heads were going to take this seriously in '94 and give Bone a career.

So, sorry Eddie Bone, that's the breaks. That hook was a real shot to his own foot. But again, the instrumental is pretty lush and groovy. It's got kind of a g-funk slide whistle thing in it, which is a little heavy-handed and I could live without; but it's a pretty great track. And fortunately both instrumentals are provided on this 12", so you can buy this just for Pitch's quality work, sort of like how all the Large Professor collectors still buy that Kid 'N Play 12" about not doing drugs. Pitch's production is really on that level. And if you're in the mood for a light-hearted guilty pleasure, you can play the vocal versions.