Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Black Hummingbird and The Queen of Hip Hop Soul

I think we can all agree that Father MC's best MCing was in his Stupid Fresh Records day. But he was still doing quality work on his first two albums, before he went from writing sincere relationship songs to playing an ill-suited pimp/player role on his later material (if you'll remember, even his hit "One Nite Stand" from his second album, was about how he didn't want a one night stand, but rather a committed relationship). He seemed to figure this out later in his career, and at least devoted his albums to being equal parts love songs and player songs; but by that time he didn't have the producers.

"I'll Do 4 U" is Father MC's second single (of four) off of his first album, Father's Day; and with this release he was 2 for 2 in discovering huge R&B phenomenons with his back-up singers. He blew up Jodeci with "Treat Them How They Want To Be Treated" and now he was debuting Mary J. Blige.

Now, Cheryl Lynn's "Got To Be Real" is one of those rare songs that just sounds perfect as a rap track no matter how many times you use it. Sure, you can wag your finger at an artist using it for their lack of originality, but in the end you'll be digging it regardless. And Prince Markie Dee and his Soul Convention do a nice job updating it to a New Jack Swing rap/R&B hybrid.

The extended version featured on this 12" is a solid two minutes longer than what was included on the album. It has some extended instrumentation, but the primary focus is on additional singing by Blige, allowing her to break out of the strict confinements of the hook and flex her stylings. It's not a vast improvement over the album version... in that it's largely the same; but for my money it's the definitive version, and there's no reason to go back to spinning the shorter mix after you've got this one.

Lyrically, it starts out a bit slow, with some pretty weak, generic lines about how he'll treat you right and "get your bubble bath ready," but it gets a little more compelling when he talks about how he guards his feelings in the early stages of a relationship and refers to himself, in a rather clever metaphor as "the black hummingbird." It's not mind blowing poetic brilliance rained down from the Heavens, but clearly more thought was put into it than your typical pop radio tune.

This is one crossover hit that earned the success it found, and it's hard not to like it even if it's not typically to your tastes. The 12" also features the shorter Radio Version and the Acappella, not to mention the swanky picture cover. While hardcore collectors are paying upwards of $1500 for rare "random rap" 12"s, it's nice to remember that there's still heaps of nice little 12"'s like this that you can stick in your crates for pennies.

1 comment:

  1. I like Father MC's early stuff (don't even remember anything past the 1st album lol) but he was on the bill for my first real rap show (epmd, gang starr, chubb rock, dj quik & somebody im forgetting) & I'm kinda glad he was under the weather & didn't show up ha!