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: (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.

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