Friday, May 16, 2008

Kurtis Blow's German Period

Here's one even some of you bigger Kurtis Blow fans probably missed: "Chillin' At the Spot" b/w "We the People." It came out on Public Attack, a division of Moonbase Records; a label out of Frankfurt, Germany in 1994.

1994 was a comeback year for Kurtis. He hadn't recorded or released any new material since his run ended with Mercury Records until '94. Then the Raiders of the Lost Art compilation came out, featuring a new Kurtis Blow song ("G-Party"). Mercury put out The Best of Kurtis Blow. And Kurtis Blow... went to Germany. There, he did a couple guest verses with German recording artists Techno Cop and Power Nation; and he made this 12".

It's an interesting 12". The first song comes in two versions: the radio and "Jeep" mixes (plus instrumentals for each), both produced by local producer Rudy Rude. Unlike, say, "The Boys From the Hill," this doesn't fit in perfectly with his classic material. It's definitely more contemporary (for '94, that is); and like "G-Party," this song also features a couple of essentially unknown guest rappers (they're uncredited except that the writing credits name a T. Washington and D. Wedington). They're not bad... but they certainly don't add anything better than what Kurtis Blow could do on the mic himself. And Blow is, after all, the selling point here. So I'm not sure why he seems to've felt the need to bring in younger cats to fill all his new music.

The beat has a lot of layers, including a really nice horn sample, some nice slow drums, snare, a guitar sting on the hook and a bassline that almost sounds like it was played on a xylophone. It's definitely attempting to fit in with the more relaxed, cool sounds of the time, by artists like Pete Rock & CL Smooth, and is reasonably effective. The beat and samples switch up for some of the verses which is cool, too.

"The Jeep Mix" is ok... a bit more stripped down with a cool vocal sample on the hook. But without the catchy horn sample, it's just not as compelling as the original.

The subject matter is simple and summed up entirely by the title. The hook features a couple girls (or one girl with an echo effect) softly singing the familiar line, "chillin' at the spot... with my homies after dark. Oh yeah..." A few of Kurtis' lines are corny (hey, at least try to look surprised); but for the most part his and the other MCs' rhymes are fine... just a simple, summer cool-out jam.

The B-side, "We the People" only has one mix (though there are instrumental and "Bassappella" mixes). Like I said, they songs don't sound like vintage Kurtis, but his style was always progressing (for good or ill), and just like Back By Popular Demand sounds different from "Rappin' Blow," it feels like this would naturally have been his sound had he never stopped recording. This song sounds a little less focused, and therefore less appealing, than the A-side, but it's ok. It features the same guest rappers, plus a reggae artist this time (presumably M. Breunig from the writing credits). The beat is listenable, with a cool drum track, the same "shaker" percussion that was used by Slick Rick and Dana Dane on songs like "Treat Her Like a Prostitute;" and simple and repetitive bassline that'll stay stuck in your head, and like the title suggests, the lyrics are on a political tip, very much along the lines of "The Message," which he even quotes at one point. I wouldn't mind hearing these lyrics with the delivery and instrumental of say "8 Million Stories" or "Street Rock." As it is, it's all too relaxed and "smooth" to really catch your interest.

If you're a serious Kurtis Blow fan, or just a general old school completist, you'll want to track this one down (woot! picture cover!)... it's certainly an interesting moment in Blow's career (after these 1994 German recordings; he wouldn't do anything until Nadanuf featured him on their remake of "The Breaks" several years later) and not bad for what it is. But if you don't fit into either of those categories, you can sleep peacefully at night having given this one a miss.

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