Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Markie Deethroned

Here's a surprisingly little known record (not on Discogs, etc), considering it was a pretty major label release from a long established artist: Markie Dee's "Bounce."

Perhaps part of the reason for the obscurity is the name change... Prince Markie Dee, formerly of the Fat Boys had already established a fairly successful solo career for himself, putting out some hit records of his own in addition to producing a lot more. Still, his '95 Motown album, Love Daddy, failed to yield any hit singles, so I guess he was looking for a new image. So, here he's just Markie Dee... though the front cover sticks a little crown image in place of the word "Prince," but the spine of the tape and the tape itself just reads "Markie Dee," and that's how this record's cataloged; so this was a full-on name change... though the writing credits do credit "Prince Markie Dee"... I'm guessing it was a label-imposed change, perhaps? He has since gone back to using the "Prince."
And this record has a new (or at least different from his last two albums) sound to go with his new image... in addition to dropping the "Prince" from his name, this artist-formerly-known-as stepped away from his, frankly kinda boring, R&B-heavy last album style for a more traditional hip-hop track.

For this venture, Markie Dee plays it relatively safe, using Kool & The Gang's essentially unaltered "Hollywood Swinging" for the track. The rapping delivery is a bit more relaxed then the Prince Markie Dee of old, and clearly a bid for the Hot 97 market. I can totally hear it coming out of my car radio in the late 90's in my mind... ;-) There's a real Bad Boy sound to this record - so much so, in fact, that Puff Daddy and Mase used the same track and made basically their own copy of the same record for their record, "Bad Boys." Anyone who used to work at Crave, if you're reading this... that could have been your hit!
See, what happened with this was: "Bounce" came out on Mariah Carey's short-lived vanity sub-label (of Sony), Crave, in 1997. When Mariah Carey divorced former Sony/ Columbia Records CEO Tommy Motolla that same year, the label was shut down, making this Markie Dee's final record (to date). The fact that he's not even on his cover (it's a woman's breasts, because the song is named "bounce," right? How classy) and no upcoming album is mentioned in the liner notes suggests that it was over before it began, and Crave just threw this out into stores knowing there'd be no follow up.

Now, this song comes in two versions: "Bounce" and "Bounce (Ol' School Intro)." The first version features several live instruments, almost tuning up, showcasing the fact that Markie Dee still had the whole Soul Convention engine behind him ...there's even a female R&B singer doing her thing in the background of the hook. The "Ol' School Intro," on the other hand, dumps that and replaces it with the much easier, but also much catchier, horn sample intro to the original Kool & The Gang record. I think Markie Dee agreed with me that this is the preferable version, as it's the "Ol' School Intro" version that's used for the instrumental mix on the B-side.

The hook of the song, interestingly, is a play on some of Rob Base's from "It Takes Two." It's a peculiar choice, and a lot of people who didn't grow up with "It Takes Two" on the radio every single day like me probably didn't catch it, but check out this lyric comparison and see for yourself:

"I'm Rob Base and I came to get down.
I'm not internationally known,
But I'm known to rock the microphone;
Because I get stupid,
I mean outrageous.
Stay away from me,
If you're contagious.
Ladies love me,
Girls adore me;
I mean even the ones who never saw me
The way that I rhyme at a show"
"My name is Mark and I came to get down.
And I'm internationally known
For chillin' in my Benz with an eighteen chrome.
I got honies,
So outrageous;
We can get it on
'Cause Mark is the greatest.
Ladies, they love me;
Yes, they adore me;
Wanted to bounce the first time they saw me,
Bounce, bounce, bounce!"
...That's more than just a coincidence.
Today - that's right - he has a myspace page. He's how living in Florida where he hosts a radio show. Now, I don't know if you remember, but around the time of the Love Daddy album, he did a little press talking about a Fat Boys reunion album. In fact, the Fat Boys had done a little production and DJ work on his solo albums, so it's not like they'd ever had irreconcilable differences. Of course, tragically, Buff Love died in 1995. But there was still talk of putting out an album, using the tracks Buff had already recorded... of course, this never came out. But we know there's at least SOME Fat Boys reunion material recorded. Obviously, this needs to be released in some way, shape or form and anyone with access to this material, directly or indirectly, needs to get the f' on it already. Right now. I'm serious. Go.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Doin' the Mudd Foot

^Video blog!!
(Original content created for this blog; not just linking something by somebody else.)

Update 8/1/09:

^Embedded into Blogger version

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Your Head With Oil... Lots of Oil

Just a brief post to let you guys know: the NYOIL album is out and it's good, so go get it. 8)

Ok, I won't be that brief. It's called Hood Treason (The Warm Up Album), and it's 21 tracks deep, though that includes about 50% skits (mostly soundbites from radio interviews). Oh, and if you didn't know, NYOIL is the new rap identity of The UMC's own Kool Kim. ...I trust I'm not blowing his cover or anything here by revealing that (he has been "outed" on the 'net before already, and he does have his real name in the liner notes, after all). While I admit I didn't realize it was him when I saw the original "Y'all Should All Get Lynched" video, when you hear the full album and see his new video (which he's actually in), it's hard not to recognize him.

Anyway, this is really pretty solid and engaging. NYOIL's focus on "message" songs as being essentially what he's all about works for the most part - I think hip-hop fans are hungry for songs that actually have something to say - but by the end of the album things start to wear a little thin and feel a bit preachy. The production isn't all handled by DJ Slice (who produced the original, "Y'all Should All Get Lynched") like you might've expected... it's by various indie/unknown producers from all over. And for the most part, it's fresh and provides what I think the album was shooting for. The less said about the title cut, though, the better.

Hood Treason is definitely a step up on pretty much all fronts from his last indie full-length outing, The Haz Been (which still had its enjoyable moments, though, for us fans). This album is of course more serious, and as the album cover suggests, angry... but the Fly Guy is too smart/ mature to not let his wit and the lighter side of his message shine through, too. Songs like "Shout It In the Streets" and "Unreal" stand out especially, and he really flexes his skills on the drum track-free "A Quick 16:"

"Ounce after ounce
'Till the pound is bounced
And I'ma work that block and pound it out
And though my ears ring out with resounding doubt
I was down and out and now I'm 'bout it 'bout
'Bout to shout it out
I got that! Copped that
And if thecops cop then I'ma cop a plea
And if the plea don't set me free then I'll plead
On my hands and knees and beg God please to stop that!
You see these pigs change wolves to rats
And while these dogs chase cats,
These cats forget where they gangsters at
See, I was gonna drop a quick sixteen on 'em
And though I was wishin' to do a little snitchin'
My sixteen wasn't convincin'
Plus the DA had a bad day with a mind for convictin'
Y'all only wanted to sell a bit and celebrate
When I was celibate behind bars and gates
Tryin' to monkey around in the yard with weights
People had heard I'd turn states
I'd better drop a quick sixteen on 'em
B-b-but my verses was worthless
Nouns versus verbs is nervous
I mean I'm talkin' things, persons and places
To Action Jacksons and Scarfaces
Who spit straight razors and turn box springs into erasers
They fixed to drop sixtreen on 'em
And before they let go
I tried to scream for the C.O.
But the C.O.?
He ain't see, so
I bet you know how the rest go
And that's my sixteen."

NYOIL has his own site at nyoilmc.com that's definitely worth checking out, and, yes, he has a myspace as well. And The UMC's have a collective myspace, too, with some new songs on there. Good times. :)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

An Assassinator If the People Ain't Steppin'

In 1995, East/West Records had a really impressive line-up of many of the great, up and coming hip-hop acts. They had Omniscence, Lin Que (aka Isis, who'd just dropped a really hot solo single called "Let It Fall"), SuperNatural, The Juggaknots (yes, they had Clear Blue Skies back in '95), Deda Baby Pa (yaknow, of Pete Rock/ INI fame)... then they dropped the whole lot of them, shelved all their albums, and only put out releases by their big name artists, like ODB and Das EFX. And while, ok, maybe Coz and Daddy D weren't such great loses; all told, it was really one of the worst examples of a label dropping the ball in hip-hop history. One of those dropped balls was 8-Off the Assassin.

Before that happened, though, East/West featured their impressive line-up on the live compilation album, Illstyle Live.

That's 8-Off pictured right there in front, holding the 8 ball. He's briefly introduced, where they mention a fact East/West mentioned that he got his start with Onyx. With his voice and rugged screamy style, it's easy to think he's an original member of Onyx or something (besides, in those days, all people knew as that Onyx consisted of Stickay Fingaz and... some other cats), but they're really just over-hyping the fact that he produced a handful of tracks off their underwhelming second album. Anyway, he performs his first single...

"Ghetto Girl." "Ghetto Girl" is his surprisingly successful self-produced venture to crossover to mainstream radio/video play and still be respectably non-commercial/wack-crap by letting him flex his rough, all-over-the-place flow on an "Around the Way Girl" type record. He gets away with it the same way Busta Rhymes got away with it on his very best singles. The b-side, "Neighborhood Hoe" (also self-produced, by the way... 8-Off's a pretty solid producer), is like his underground safety net. If you still found his ode to ghetto girls ("all over the world; all over the world!") too annoyingly blatant a crossover ploy, he had this to show he was still an macho, underground un-PC MC with woman issues. ;)

Anyway, 8-Off managed to squeeze one more single out of East/West Records before they let him go: "Alize for Dolo," again self-produced. The single also has a full instrumental and lyrical remix, featuring Mr. Cheeks of the Lost Boy, who phones in a verse so full of his own cliche lines ("puttin' Queens on the map," "LB fam got my back" etc etc) it borders on self-parody. But the beat, a very moody, slow and deep-bassed track produced by Mr. Sexx & Buttnaked Tim Dawg, is dope and 8-Off still comes tight, so it's still definitely worth having. There's another track on the B-side, "Kick Down the Fuckin' Door," a crazy hardcore number which is also the first track (after the intro) on his unreleased album, Wrap Your Lips Around This (Eastwest 61762).

...Which is really what everything up to now was just meant to be an introduction to. While, like all the others, Eastwest never released this album, they did finish it and give out this here prerelease promotional copy (The Source gave it 3.5 mics). All told, it's 17 tracks deep... all the songs from the singles are here ("Ghetto Girl," "Neighborhood Hoe," "Kick Down the Fuckin' Door" and "Alize for Dolo" - but the "Alize for Dolo" remix is exclusive to the single); plus there's a skit called "Skit #1" (yes, there's a "Skit #1" and no "Skit #2"... I don't know what's up with that), an intro and then 11 full 8-Off songs that've never seen the light of day. And that "Intro," is actually a pretty ill freestyle showcasing 8-Off's style over a crazy track. Just listen to this and then his labelmate's classic "Mind Tricks," and you can tell exactly where SuperNat (well known to be a very talented mimic, as well as off-the-head freestyler) picked up that style from. So, it's really 12 exclusive tracks (the skit really is just a skit... where 8-Off is at a club and some guy comes up and tells him his wife is cheating on him).

Unfortunately, there are no production credits on my copy of the album, but we can presume most of it is self-produced... and we know from ads and reviews that at Sugar Bear and Diamond D also produced at least one track a piece. Whoever produced what, it's all tight. The only guest vocalists are R&B singer Horace Brown on one of the only slow songs, "Used To Have It All," and Panama P.I., an up and coming MC who never quite came up (though he had a pretty good song on the Sprung soundtrack), on "Propa Swerve."

The songs are pretty varied ("Science Fiction" is a lot of fun and "Ghetto Airline" is downright weird), going from freestyles to narratives to songs about girls... Here's a taste of his style (from "Catch a Body"):

"Palms wet,
Plus my forehead starts to sweat,
Hoping I don't have to get down like Bernard Getz.
Lips chapped;
Got a tec in my lap in case po-po wanna react.
Siege hat,
With the flap right over my eyelids.
All of a sudden,
I hear the voice of the conductor,
'This is the last stop on the A train, motherfuckers!'
Got off,
Lookin' for a kid who walkin' around from outta town;
I saw him on one of the platforms,
Sportin' a ill frown.
Where's he at? Punch him in the crown.
Two niggas is with him,
'Well, blow me down!'
Fuck around and I'll paint the town red.
Niggas don't give me my C.R.E.A.M.
I'll have all y'all clown niggas dead!"

Of course, without hearing it in his hectic, voice-changing style (like I said, think SuperNat's "Mind Tricks" only faster), you're only getting a fraction of the picture. The production on the whole LP is hot, and 8-Off's flows are dope and creative... the lyrics are often clever. Really it's a shame this never came out. But, over the years, some of the other albums East/West slept on managed to sneak their way out to the open market, so maybe there's still hope for this to be rescued by one of those entrepreneurial indie labels. In the meantime, at least there are dubs floating around out there.

Today, 8-Off is still producing and releasing his own music... he changed his name to Agallah (a name he even drops a few times on Wrap Your Lips Around This, so it's nothing new), put out some 12"s and mixtapes, then formed the group Purple City. He put out his second (or his first depending how you keep score), You Already Know, last year; and yes he has a myspace page.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

If You've Been With Us for a Long Time, You Might Remember This One

Ok, I'm going to defend another oft-maligned album that's not really all that great, but it's in no way the travesty it's made out to be, and it's certainly not the ridiculously misguided mess DJ Polo's solo venture was around the same time (although I might have something to say about that one in a future post, so stay tuned...). The production is pretty solid and consistent, and as an MC... well, that's the album's weak point, sure... but is he really any worse than "producers on the mic" like Diamond D, Pete Rock or Ant Banks? I don't really think so.
For those who can't see the big jpg at the top of this blog entry, I'm talking about Eric B's self-titled solo album on his own 95th Street Recordings. When news of Eric B & Rakim's split came out, it was all hip-hop fans could talk about for a while. And while we all anxiously awaited Rakim's long-delayed return, Eric actually beat him to the punch with this universally panned venture.

(the full-page ad he ran for his album... same as the album cover, but uncropped)

The reasons for the poor reception are pretty obvious: it's full of love songs, the stories of Eric B's shady behind-the-scenes tactics and tales of how almost all of his beats were actually produced by Marley Marl, Large Professor, etc were getting more and more press daily, and it could never stand up to fans' expectations after his records with Rakim. Even though he got Freddie Foxxx to co-write the album with him and help him with his flows, there was no way all of the fans who'd been lead on a strong by reports of both solo outings would be satisfied with Eric B's soft voice and cheesy lyrics on the mic. Honestly, I think if he'd just waited and let Rakim come out with HIS disappointing solo material first, fans would've been more understanding/ appreciative of this album... but I guess he wanted to be the first to capitalize on all the press and get what he could while he could (this attitude towards his career is also evidenced by the fact that Eric B dropped out of the music game right after this).

But, really, once you get past hating on him for all the... well, perfectly valid reasons.to for hating on him, this album is actually a rewarding experience. He plays it conservative, only slightly modifying soul classic after soul classic into hip-hop beats that you really can't help but get into, from The Commodores' "You're My Painted Picture" to Cameo's "Candy," even if they've been used once or twenty times before.

The first song is the single (yes, there was a single), "I Can't Let You," the fifty-millionth song to use Maze and Frankie Beverly's great, "Before I Let Go." And unlike some examples (like K-Solo's "Ya Mom's In Our Business" or Keith Murray's "The Rhythm"), Eric B doesn't just take the infamous bassline, he uses the whole instrumental. But you can get into this groove and enjoy it just as much as The Funky Four Plus One, Lakim Shabazz, The Outlaw 4, Steady B, and everybody else's version of this song.*

The second track, "Love Trap," uses the same loop from Foster Sylvers' "Misdemeanor" that The D.O.C. used for "Funky Enough." If he wasn't already at enough of a massive disadvantage being compared to Rakim, setting himself up against The D.O.C. only makes him look even weaker. And on another song, he takes Run DMC's "Peter Piper" break, setting himself up for yet another unflattering juxaposition. Unfavorable comparisons did this man in, I tell you.

It's worth pointing out that not every song on here is a love song, by the way. On "Louis Burrell - Theme Song," over the same classic piano and drum loop (an all-time personal favorite of mine, by the way) used by Melle Mel on "Piano," Tragedy on the "Grand Groove" remix, etc., Eric B answers his critics and former associates,

"I wake up in the morning and the phone is ringing.
Yeah, Tony's on the phone and the song he's singing
Is the same old song about money:
'Gimme, gimme, gimme.' Man, it ain't funny.
I try to be a straight up man and do my business right,
But everybody's so game tight, it makes me wanna fight.
A black man with his own -
People lookin' at me like I'm doing something wrong.
Everybody's got their opinions. I ask, what is this?
Now everybody's a professional in the business.
Eric do this, Eric do that;
But only Eric B made the record sound phat.
I gave a lot of jobs to people I know;
Took 'em on tour, showed 'em what to do.
But all I ever got was a knife in the back.
Is that what I get for tryin' to stay black?"

The album ends with the only non-Eric B.-made track, "Why Oh Why," an R&B ballad written and produced by Prince Markie Dee & The Soul Convention (who were a really big thing for about five minutes back then), sung by...? I don't know. Could it possibly be Eric B himself? Anyway, it's awfully cheesy and a big mistake to close the album with. But even with this song and Eric's lyrical faults throughout the album ("You see, I think about high school, when I was just a young tyke... trying to chase the mic. But now there's more than a mic to chase; I gotta stand and be your man, and let no one else disgrace. This ain't your average Pebbles and Bam Bam jam; I'm really trying to tell you how I am"), there's enough can't-miss breaks to make this worth picking out of the dollar bin. Sure, it's no Follow the Leader; but it's no Shaq-Fu either.

Update 8/27/07: Today, Eric B is pretty much out of the music biz, I guess... But yes, he does have a myspace page. Interestingly, he doesn't mention this album in his bio, but he does have this to say about his former frontman, "Rakim, out of view for five years, re-surfaced in 1997 with The 18th Letter but, with Pete Rock and DJ Premier's productions lacking the symbiosis of the Eric B collaborations, it bore the unmistakable whiff of nostalgia a legend resting on his laurels, rather than a new rap blueprint."

*By the way, in the interests of protecting you guys from the mass amounts of misinformation littering the internet, I'll just point out briefly that this song does not feature Freddie Foxxx like it says on discogs. He cowrote all the songs (except "Why Oh Why") and raps on none of them.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Keep Hope Alive

I have dubs of Freddie Foxxx's Crazy Like a Foxxx and Young Zee's Musical Meltdown, and even Crustified Dibbs' Night of the Bloody Apes. I have original CD copies of 8-Off and Champ MC's albums, an EP of tracks off Omniscience's Elektra album, and I was able to download SuperNatural's Natural Disasters off of emusic.com. DWG Records pressed up classic, unreleased material by Phill Most Chill and Godfather Don. Ill Bizkits, Mikey D & the LA Posse and Ultimate Force's old albums eventually got released, only a decade late. Even Serch finally released (albeit as mp3 only - boo! Hiss!) the tracks he recorded with Pete Nice for the unfinished Ichibod's Cranium record... So, why couldn't it happen?

That album cover scan you're looking at ran in February 1995, claiming to be available on Like Records through Red Distribution. Home Team's (the ultra-backpacker duo that put out the delightful Live Via Satellite From Saturn album, original Poison Clan member Debonaire and his cousin Drugz) infamously unreleased Malignant Graffiti. The copy reads, "Pick it up! Hometeam is back with their new album 'Malignant Graffiti'." The catalog numbers are XR-213-1 for the vinyl, XR-213-2 for the CD and XR-213-4 for the tape (kinda makes you wonder what XR-213-3 was meant to be, doesn't it?). It's listed with a bunch of other Luke Records projects, all of which were released right around the time of this ad, though some - like Christmas At Luke's Sex Shop - were rather limited. This suggests to me that the album was finished and just about to be released before it was pulled (it shows up in various music catalogs all the time, but of course stores can never fulfill the order... go ahead and try it. I have; it's fun); so there has to be a copy out there somewhere. Something stored in Luke Records' vaults if not actually distributed press release copies. So, come on somebody. Dig it out and leak it, already!

...By the way, the entire page is black and white, so it's reasonable to guess the proper album cover would've actually been in color.

While we're at it, I wouldn't mind stumbling upon however much was recorded for Biz Markie's Remember Me? on Tommy Boy and Craig G's Return Of the Seventh Letter on Scotti Bros. Records either. And on yet another related note, have a look at my old post on Pudgee's King of New York album, and scroll all the way down to the bottom. I just uncovered a little bit more info and updated the post today.


Thursday, August 9, 2007

High Art

If you're looking for another post about lost classics, dusty breaks, over-intellectualized, obscure indie rap 12"'s, check back tomorrow. But if you're in the mood for a great, cheesy/silly rap song that could only have been recorded in the 1980's, then sir, you and I are on the same page.

Following up their hit single (and the last record they would put out on Macola), "Doo Wah Ditty" - a remake Manford Mann's gianormous pop hit of the of 60's, featuring, bizarrely, Sir Nose D’Voidoffunk, that got a lot of play on Yo! MTV Raps - The 2 Live Crew decided to repeat the formula for their cut on the soundtrack to Ivan Reitman's Twins, this time remaking The Coasters' "Yakety Yak."

It's produced by Luke Skyywalker (back before George Lucas made him changed his name... Boo, Mr. Lucas! I shall continue to call him Skyywalker; and what's more: I'm not buying Star Wars on DVD until you do it right!) and sole writing credit is given to Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller... though I somehow doubt they actually wrote the raps that Brother Marquis and Fresh Kid Ice take turns kicking.

No, this is corny, but it's pure hip-hop. It opens up with Mr. Mixx scratching up the chorus. Each MC sticks pretty close to the concept of the song with very short verses, "When you're told to do something by your mom and dad, don't frown in their face or get mad. Because as long as you're livin' under their roof, you better mind your mouth or get Dad's boot!" It's interesting to note that even though this is a 2 Live Crew song recorded between Move Something and As Nasty As They Wanna Be, this song is completely clean and sex isn't even hinted at (probably Universal Pictures' decree), but there's still a decidedly hip-hop bent whenever they drop lines like, "you better act like you got some sense!"

Then Luke joins them on the record, sounding like he got good and drunk for this, singing verses of the song as the famous horn riff is finally allowed to play for the chorus. The rapping is simplistic and unimpressive (after all, The 2 Live Crew never really aimed much higher... at least not until they replaced Brother Marquis with Verb and formed The New 2 Live Crew, years later), but it works. And the real talent of the crew, Mr. Mixx, steals theshow on the breakdown when he starts cutting up the line "Pick Up the Papers" from the original song. The only thing that would be better than what we've got here would be a 5 minute performance of just Mr. Mixx mixing up two copies of "Yakety Yak" over the beat.

Oh yeah, by the way. Everything else on this soundtrack is garbage. I'm not even sure I've ever listened to it all the way through. This is certainly the only rap song. It comes right at the end of side A, so you don't have to worry that anything like Phillip Bailey and Little Richard's duet, "Twins," will come blaring through your speakers at you if you're not quick enough to turn it off.

It should also be noted that this was released as a 12" single, as well; but it only features some remixes and a shortened, "radio edit" of this song. If you want the proper version, you've gotta get the soundtrack. ...I mean, it's not like it's gonna cost you anything, anyway. ;)

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

C'mon, Get In the Car, Guys. We're Moving To Japan

Look what just came out in Japan only! A full album of lost, never before released tracks from a ton of the best rappers recorded in 1988. What's the deal with this? I'll just let the album's notes speak for themselves:

"Introduction: 17 years ago a small recording studio, TOP SHELF, located in the basement of a brownstone in the East Village section of New York, was looted during the Thompkins Square riots of 1988, displacing the recordings of many soon-to-be Hip Hop stars. The studio had been the meeting place for many rappers, neighborhood kids, and producers that would later be responsible for the greatest period of the Hip Hop age, "The Golden Era." A search commenced soon after the recordings were lost, but nothing was ever found. So sought after were the tapes, they soon acheived Holy Grail status amongst Hip Hop circles. Despite years of searching, and dozens of hopeless crusades, the tapes remained lost. No one was quite sure who took them or where they were... until now.
After an extensive investigation and search that lasted two years, the recordings have finally been recovered by Fab 5 Freddy and myself (Benjy Grinberg). They were found dozenss of miles from the site of TOP SHELF in an abandoned strage faciilty in North Jersey [woot! Jersey represent!]. ...We sought after the lost recordings of TOP SHELF because they were rumored to be among the hottest songs from that era, and we thought it was a tragedy that the world never got to hear them. It turns out that these two-inch tapes are truly a treasure chest--a time capsule of the energy and excitement of 1988 Hip Hop."

And this really is the wet dream it sounds like - everybody comes tight on this. It starts off (well, after a brief mic check intro by Fab Five Freddy) with Black Sheep kicking a short, fast rap track, which is tight... and believe me, I've never been a huge Black Sheep fan. Special Ed's song is just the perfect raps over the perfect beat... it could easily have appeared on his first or second album. Big Daddy Kane kills it, Biz Markie's song is just great fun, and Melle Mel and Grandmaster Caz duet showing impressive skills considering even '88 would generally be considered well past their prime. MC Lyte rocks the same loop her rhyming partner Positive K did on his classic "The Nightshift," only with faster drums for more of a freestyle/battle rhyme-type flow. There's no production credits on this album besides the phrase "Anonymous Top Shelf producers,", which is a shame, because I'd love to know who did what on this. There's a crapload of nice scratching on Chubb Rock's song. The Jungle Brothers' is nice, though their rhyme style gets a little redundant. The only kinda disappointing song is Smooth B's solo venture, "I Want My Money Back" (he needs to give that hook back to Mixmaster Spade, who knew how to use it), and even this number's not bad. But Craig G (here spelt Graig G... heh) Doug E Fresh (using the same "Go Stetsa" vocal sample Groove B. Chill would go on to make a hit out of a couple years later), Grand Puba and Just-Ice all come with dope songs. It all ends with a serious track from Master Ace, "Revolution's 'Bout To Start," which is a great narrative and uses the type of scratched up speeches on the hook like I haven't heard since "Black Is Back" or "Dirty Cop Named Harry."

100% must-have. Manhattan Records, the Japanese label that put this album out, has a site at: store.mmagg.com, and yes, they have a myspace page, too. Go get it.

Update 09/15/07: So, any of you who've joined me in any of the many message board or blog discussions of the legitimacy of this album will have already determined that it is quite definitely a hoax. But, surprisingly, The New York Times has actually picked up the story and gotten some real answers - read the whole thing here (brought to my attention by Jaz, who runs the Cold Rock da Spot blog, on the DWG forums). Still, it does leave a few questions unanswered... like who actually produced each track, and when can we get a volume two?

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Funk You Up

"Hold up, is he a man or a girl? What in the world? You sound like Cheryl the Pearl." - Kool Moe Dee dissin' LL Cool J on "Let's Go"

Here's another kinda rare one that's extra dope. This is the first solo joint by one of the great, first female group to put out records The Sequence.* Now, The Sequence are often referred to as the first female rap group... even by Van Silk on The Posse All-Stars compilation album that featured this single. But The Mercedes Ladies would actually have them beat as the first rap group, and Sha Rock of the Funky Four Plus One was around before, too... but Lady B and The Sequence were the first females to put out a record: 1979's "Funk You Up" on Sugar Hill Records. They were also the first Southern (or even non-New York) rap group, hailing from South Carolina. Not quite what we think of when we say "Southern rap" today.

They went on to put out a bunch of great records with the Sugar Hill Band, including three full-length albums and a classic duet with Spoonie Gee ("Monster Jam"). They kept putting out records until Sugar Hill folded (except as a catalog label) after being totally eclipsed by the new school movement heralded by Run DMC... their last record was "Funk It Up '85" - the title alone tells you they were struggling.**

Today, Angie B. has changed to a new, very prolific career as a neo-soul singer [for those who don't know, neo-soul is a fairly new genre, taking the vocal stylings of great, classic soul songs and mixing them with wack hip-hop and club producers... you know, like Erykah Badu] under the name Angie Stone (her new last name after marrying Rodney C of the Funky Four + One). But before that, another member of The Sequence went for hers and recorded an overlooked classic.

"Don't You Sit Back Down" came out on Spring Records (Spring Records and Posse Records are essentially the same label... their generic sleeves have both names printed on them, and both labels have the same NY mailing address) in 1987; produced by Donald D and co-produced by B Fats. It's just as if somebody said, "man, I'd love to hear a mix of the The Sequence's beautiful, old school songstress rap style and the new, cutting edge (for its time) sound of The Wop," and some demented genie was listening.

I mean, it really is like the girl version of "Woppit," only twice as funky; and Cheryl is a more skilled MC (which isn't saying a whole lot, granted...). Programmed drums and handclaps, a possibly live bassline, and dusty horn samples set you up for another hard-hitting horn stab in the chorus that'd make anyone jump out of their seat. And Cheryl isn't afraid to stir up a little drama and talk about her previous situation with the infamous Robinson family:

"I used to be a part of another deal;
It got so funky I was forced to chill.
It got so bad I couldn't pay the rent;
I'm still wondering, now, where the money went.
But I decided to stay around a little bit longer;
The label was weak, but it made me stronger.
Strong enough for me to take another chance,
With a beat so funky that'll make you dance.
I used to be down with two other girls:
Angie B, Blondie, and we rocked the world.
But now, since I'm on my own,
All I need is one microphone.
Donald said, 'Cheryl, the choice is yours!'
He said, 'I got the keys to open the doors.'
I said, 'if you're with it to take a chance,
Leave it up to me and I'll make them dance
Like this!'
Just a message from me to you:
Don't let nobody tell you what you can't do.
Because I know that if I don't succeed,
It won't be because of you; it'll be because of me!"

Disappointingly, there's no sign of Cheryl the Pearl in the music scene or on the internet in general today; but Angie Stone should have her own site at: angiestoneonline.com (it seems to be down now) and of course her own myspace page. She says she's working on her fourth studio album, Baby. Feel free to message her and tell her how much the world needs a Sequence reunion on there somewhere. ;)

*What's that? I don't have a Sequence page on my site? Well, I do now! I just made it in conjunction with this post! So go check it out and enjoy... it even documents all the releases of Angie B's massive solo catalog.

**They put out a "Rappers Delight Hip Hop Remix '89" from The Sugar Hill Gang, too.