Monday, March 16, 2009

The Boogie Boys Vs. Kool Moe Dee

I'm surprised more people don't know about this one, though I guess the reason why is kinda obvious: it's a 12" exclusive B-side to a song that didn't catch on. But it's cool, and really ought to be better appreciated.

Ya see, back in 1987, Kool Moe Dee issued the now infamous "Report Card" - where we he graded the twenty or thirty-odd top rappers of the day, giving them scores in various categories like vocabulary, voice, creativity, etc. (click right to enlarge-->) - with copies of his latest album, How Ya Like Me Now. I actually didn't see it until years later, because the report card wasn't included with the cassette version. :( The lowest scoring group was (unsurprisingly) The Beastie Boys, earning a C (70). The second lowest was The Boogie Boys (77, C+).

True story: I have a friend who, when she got a C in grad school class, went to her lawyer, threatened the teacher and school with legal action, and got her grade improved to an A. How fucking Ferris Bueller awesome is that?

Well, in that same spirit, I guess The Boogie Boys decided not to take heir C lying down, and issued a diss record towards Kool Moe Dee. "Body" b/w "K.M.D.[as in Kool Moe Dee, see?] Step Off" dropped on Capitol Records in 1988.

In an interview I did with Romeo JD, he described working on the third album, "You know, I'm not really criticizing the producer to a degree, because he was just trying to be on the next level. Sometimes you've gotta do that; it's a risk you take. But at that time, we were like the only group that was on a major, major label, and we had to do something to try and separate ourselves. But you have to be careful, taking yourself so far that you take yourself out of your element. That's why on the Romeo Knight album we tried to make sure we reached back and had a couple of joints that were just real basic and raw. We had a song called "This Is Us," that was my favorite joint on that album. It had just this beat, you know? Another joint Boogie wrote was "Pitbull," and that's the kinda joint we really wanted to make sure we had on that album. And then we had a couple joints that were a little more musical or whatever, because some people expected that from us." Well, "Body" would surely fall under that latter category.

Actually, like all of The Boogie Boys' production, it's got a pretty cool, unique sound. It's got a hard, fresh beat and some interesting samples and a few cool scratches. The only real corniness comes from the songwriting's basic concept, an ode to the human body. The lyrics have a distinct "this was written for children" vibe that comes up in a number of Boogie Boys songs. But if you can get past how silly it is (and nobody's around to overhear the silly songs you're listening to), it's a pretty solid song, worth checking out.

But if "Body" is an example of the Boys' crossover capitulation to their mainstream audiences, then "K.M.D. Step Off" is one of their most successful cases of keeping it real and raw.

Now, this is kinda interesting. First of all, "K.M.D. Step Off" isn't on the album, it's an exclusive B-side. And if you actually read the label (which is no easy feat considering the shiny silver lettering they printed over the bright yellow background!), it's the "12" Remix" version. But there was no other version released before or since, so this "remix" is actually the only version ever (except for some lost original version probably locked away in Capitol's vaults somewhere).

This version doesn't feel much like a remix, anyway. It's one hardcore, kinda West coast sounding (like something early NWA or CMW would use) breakbeat, with scratches by both DJ Shock and Romeo JD. At first the lyrics are standard battle rhymes (although the opening, "From the South/ To the West/ To the East/ To the North/ K.M.D./ Step Off, step off!" is clearly a reference to The Treacherous Three's "New Rap Language"). But about halfway through, Boogie Knight calls out Moe Dee specifically, and the rest of the song is about him (and they call him "homepiss" a lot):

I'm screamin' on you.
My name is Boogie Knight
From the Boogie Boys crew.
Homepiss, you're dope,
I must admit;
But your judgement on the Boys
Are illegit.
On your report card,
We got a low score;
But you're on your own tip.
You got us all wrong.
Got the nerve
To say you're more versatile,
When we rap AND sing;
You must be wild!
Nigga, please,
To you no credit is due.
The rap world
Doesn't revolve around you.
Our records are better
Than the ones ya made,
Even though
We didn't get... stupid paid!
Survival of the Freshest
(in old school, harmonizing style) Was a masterpiece
In versatility...
And creativity...
And most of all,
In originality.
(back to straight raps) Check out the rap called
'Colorblind World;'
The words and rhymes
Made a scholar's head twirl.
For your own concern,
Take notes, homepiss,
Look, listen and learn!
I know you, I see you,
I can't believe
You got beside yourself
Like that - nigga, please!
Just got on the chart
And you're talkin';
We had an album and a single
That went top ten.
Next time you're judgin',
Better look real deep;
Compared to whatever we do,
(Say what?) You're weak!"

One really cool part of the song is how they vary their styles, at one point declaring "now we're gonna do just what you do, but do it much better than you" and diss him in the "New Rap Language"-style delivery. It sounds really fresh!

So, it's a fun piece of old school rap history... even "Body" isn't so bad. And it's a cool little sticker cover 12" with dub versions of both tracks, and it can be scored super cheap. Even if you passed on Romeo Knight (and you're missing out on having one great album cover in your collections if you do), the 12" is definitely worth scooping up.

Oh, and by the way, the MC who scored highest marks on Moe Dee's report card? K.M.D. himself, of course.

1 comment:

  1. Wasn't it phase II who did the cover for the Romeo night lp?