Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Ten Laws of Rap

Now, if you know The Showboys, you surely know them for their follow-up record, "Drag Rap," which has nothing to do with cross-dressing, but is actually one of the key precursors to gangsta rap. And despite the fact that these guys were straight out of Queens, the instrumental also turned out to be a very influential record in New Orleans, Memphis and Texas. They also had a fun track on the Profile's classic Christmas Rap album. But for some reason, this, their debut 12", is always slept on.

It's a little less crazy than "Drag Rap," without stuff like the Dragnet theme and Old Spice whistle; but it's a really fresh old school treat. It's got deep bass and piano lines that sounds very 90's for a record made in 1985, with a nice, slow drum track and of course a ton of more dated hand claps. The boys themselves do a lot with their delivery, sometimes rhyming in unison, sometimes passing the mic for short individual verses and sometimes going back and forth, word-for-word. They even harmonize (sorta) for the hook, "We know laws are meant to be broken... but if you break these, you'll be a half-steppin' MC." The scratching's super simple but still sounds fresh.

So, what do the 10 laws, by which all MCs must abide, amount to? Of course, they take a whole song to explain it, but essentially the boil down to:

1) Expand your vocabulary
2) Try to dress debonair
3) "Never curse on the microphone, because it sounds ignorant like you have no home"
4) Don't have too many MCs in your crew
5) Rock a live beat
6) Don't lip-sync ("the words supposed to flow straight from your mouth")
7) "If you use harmony, you gotta use it right, or you'll sound like the Pips without Gladys Knight"
8) Have something to say
9) Keep up the energy when you perform
10) If you forget the lyrics to your songs, "have a live beat to the work for you"

...Sounds like advice many MCs could still stand to hear today.

The next song, "Cold Frontin'" is similar in a lot of ways, but harder, and the piano is replaced with a grinding heavy metal guitar loop (and s slick horn sound they drop in every once in a while). The music doesn't sound as ahead of its time as the last one, and the inclusion of the guitar sound is obviously inspired by Run DMC's "Rock Box," but they were at least at the front of pack of groups throwing in that metal sound that everyone from The Fat Boys to the Beasties were doing a few years later.

My version's the promo version, but - I think I may have pointed this out in a previous entry on a Profile record - the only difference is the little "Loaned For Promotional Use Only; Not For Sale" notice, and the fact that the label's in black and white, as opposed to their usual golden brown color. In both instances, you get the vocal versions on side A and the instrumentals for both tracks on the flip. If you enjoy old school rap, you'll definitely be very pleased with this one; and since it's so slept on, it's an easy scoop.

No comments:

Post a Comment