Thursday, September 8, 2011

Come On, Come On and Scream!

Kurtis Mantronik's always been a guy who went back and forth between hip-hop and European-style club music - even when he produced for T-La Rock and Just-Ice, they were more electronic or experimental beats than you'd expect from those guys. So, you have to be prepared to leave your comfort zone a bit, as a hip-hopper, to appreciate Mantronix; and this single is no exception. I mean, is MC Tee wearing a pink scarf there? lol And I won't even show you guys the pic on the back. But not just the superficial image, even musically he walks the line... and eventually he went so far, he left us completely. But I don't think any head who appreciates production and original, innovative hip-hop can front on Mantronix's early material that influenced even the hardest of hardrock records over the decades.

Now, "Scream" was a banger of a dance number off Mantronix's second album, Music Madness. It featured Kurtis's progressive beats, a super funky bassline, distorting breakdown, Tee's loquacious rhymes (seriously... anybody who wasn't impressed with Tee as an MC, just compare him to his replacement, Bryce Luvah) and a simple 80's keyboard melody that'll stick with you for decades. If you gave fans a heads up that you were planning to remix it for the single, they'd've screamed at you to leave it alone. It's perfect as it is; you can't make it better; just remix another track.

But they did in fact make it better.

Firstly, wisely, they kept all the instrumental elements that made "Scream" so appealing on the LP. Same drums, same bassline, and yes, that signature keyboard riff is right here. In fact, for the first twenty or thirty seconds, the differences may sound inconsequential... the funky snare gets to play solo a bit, things are rearranged. But it's all the same elements that sound the same when they finally play together. There's a little extra, almost go-go pattern added to the drums, but you barely hear it with all the other funky percussion going on.

Then a new layer of keyboard horn stabs come in, and they sound fresh. The bass is played a little softer, giving the song a lighter tone... The breakdowns are different, with a funky whistle sample, that then flips backwards. And most importantly, on this one, Kurtis get busy on the turntables! You won't believe this shit is from 1987 - it sounds like some turntablist DMC champion from the 90's got on the record via a time machine, just to spice things up. If you ever assumed his skills were all relegated behind the boards, he shows and proves here.

In fact, I was so impressed with that when I first got this record, it took me multiple listens to realize that this is a lyrical remix, too! Tee's first verse is the same, but on the Radio Version, Tee replaces his second verse with a whole new one. And on the extended Club Version, he kicks both verses from the original and the new one.

Flip it over, and you get a funky Dub Version, which is more than just a barren instrumental, but an excuse for Mantronik to play around and bug out over the beat, bringing in all new cuts and samples, and even a crazy Martian voice effect applied to one of Tee's verses. It holds up just as well to casual listens as the vocal mixes.

And finally, for the purists, this 12" concludes with the original LP Version. Just looking at the track-listing, you might not've expected anything new here at all: Club, Radio, Dub and LP Versions - "who needs it? I already got the album." But actually, this 12" is pretty sweet.

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