Saturday, December 24, 2016

Mr. Complex Week, Day 5: Into the 2000s

Let's end Mr. Complex Week with a festive, holiday potpourri!  Plex released a bunch of 12"s in the coming years, continuing his trend of jumping from one label to another.  He dropped a whopping five in 2000, although that includes Japanese remixes and tour-exclusive split 12"s. But his next, official domestic release was "Do It Up" on Blindside/ Fat Beats.

This record's entirely recorded and produced in London by Beyond Three, a trio of UK producers.  So this is his British single.  The A-side's from a pretty great underground compilation called Wide Angles, and just has Complex freestyling over a cool, subtle beat.  The concept's just your basic, I'm dope; you're wack with lots of silly similes and wordplay: "can you relate, like your mother's sister's kid?"  It's just an excuse for Plex's fun style and personality to shine through, and it works.  So I'm not sure it needed to be made into a single, but it's a great introduction to Complex on the compilation.

The B-side is a remix of "Visualize," which just begs the question: why are we still messing with that in 2000? It's alright, kind of a smoother take with a laid back piano loop and without Apani's ad-libs.  But I basically just listened to it once, said that's interesting, and never played it again.  I guess this is just his "Bust a Move," so he can't escape it.  Maybe after doing it live in every show, he was sick of that "wah wah" beat, or maybe Beyond Three just really wanted to take a crack at it.  But why ever it's here, it makes for a pretty forgettable single.

Speaking of forgettable singles, next we have "Rhapsody," which is really a pun title for a song about "Rap City."  Not the BET show, but a city where every street and corner is named after a rapper, "you take the Hip-Hop Road, which is connected to the Bambaataa Bridge to Kool Herc Highway," and so on.  You know, another entry in that trend of songs like "Labels" and "Pink Cookies," which yes, was fully played out in 2000.  The B-side, "Everybody Everywhere," looks like it's going to be an underground cipher-style posse cut, because it features Punch & Words, L-Fudge and Invincible.  But it's really a concept song where he narrates a little story of his everyday life walking around town, and the people he runs into are voiced by the guest MCs.  It's kinda boring actually.

But don't give up on the man, because his next single on Fat Beats, 2002's "Desire" is a winner.  Three hot tracks: "Desire," "Bomb Threats" and "It's Working," which work in large part because he doesn't forget the music in favor of being clever.  Punchlines still abound, of course, but it's a funkier, groovier experience overall.  "Desire" says it features Clip of BrassMunk, a Canadian group that was briefly on Battle Axe Records.  But like so many Complex collaborations, it's just him rapping, and Clip's just doing some of the hook.  ...Which is fine with me; the song didn't need anybody else.  And L-Fudge turns up again on "It's Working," which is a fun throwback to super old school 1980-style records.

The pendulum swings in the opposite direction for our final 12", 2003's "Glue" featuring Biz Markie.  It's a crazy, off-beat love song where Biz doesn't rap, just sings the hook in his classic, off-key "Just a Friend" way.  This beat doesn't swing like "Just a Friend," though, and the lyrics get a little too jokey, like, "I got your name tattooed on the side of my dick, and when you first read it, you're like who's this Merildow[sp?] chick?  I said hold up a minute, let me stiffen it.  Then it read, 'to my boo with lots of love, for infinite'."  Overall, it feels like the concept is there, this should've been great; but it just doesn't quite come together.

The B-side is a jokey sex song called "Scrape Your Back Out" with - once again - L-Fudge.  It just struck me as rather juvenile and I've only ever listened to it once or twice.  I mean, I get that there's a tradition for sex gag records, and if you're in the mood for that, you could do worse.  But in the end, this whole 12" feels like a novelty record rather than a genuine contender, which is disappointing.

Complex has only put out one more 12" to date, 2005's "Calm Down" on Penalty Records.  It features Vast Aire, and I'll probably pick it up one day, just to round out my collection.  Plus, most of Complex's records can be found super cheap today and he's always at least interesting.  His best records - like "Why Don't Cha" and "Gitcha Gitcha Gitcha" - are a kick, and even his worst are decent.  Out of day's grouping, though, "Desire" is definitely the one I'd recommend, but I've enjoyed going back to revisit his (almost) whole body of work on vinyl.  Even 20+ years later, Complex is always a good time.

1 comment:

  1. Wide Angles... my god I gotta dig out that record. The last time I heard it I was writing up a piece about LODP&D and stumbled upon a random Big Twan appearance. It was one of those tah-dah moments.