Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Return of Hot Chillin'

Back in 2007, the early days of the "limited" game, a new record label entered the scene, run by none other than the man himself, Marley Marl. One of the greatest, if not the greatest, hip-hop producers of all time releasing unreleased Juice Crew classics restored from the original masters from his very own vaults? There's no reason to ask questions - anything Hot Chillin' puts out is an immediate essential.

Like with 2009's Juice Crew EP, though, Hot Chillin' is more of an imprint than the actual label doing the releasing. It's still a never-before released, vintage Juice Crew hit directly from Marley's vaults, but this time the pressing, distribution etc are being handled by a new partner, Roots Forward Records, marking their first release. And for a beginning label, you can't ask for a better first release than a cracking, unreleased Craig G song from 1987.

But is it vintage? Other sites covering this 7" are playing it safe and just skating entirely around this issue, but fuck it; I'm going to tackle it. It's been brought up by multiple heads that this song "sounds too new" to be legit (remember Top Shelf 8/8/88?). Of course in many ways it sounds old - his flow is straight out of "The Symphony" rather than anything he's kicking nowadays. And the drums (more on them later) are classic Marley alright - right down tot he fact that he's used them before. And Marley has 'fessed up to reusing drums on multiple records that did get released, so it's hardly unlikely that you'd hear the same break in an unreleased joint from his vaults. If it's newly recorded, it was definitely meant to fool us.

But the argument is that it sounds "too clean," too "glossy" to be 25 years old, and to be honest it really kinda does. I mean, you gotta remember, 1987 would put this right after "Oh! Veronica" and "Transformer," which are absolutely primitive by comparison. And now, nothing on Roots Forward's site, Facebook, Soundcloud etc. state exactly what year this song is from... they just say "pulled from the vaults of the legendary Marley Marl;" but that doesn't mean anything date-wise - he could've recorded it and put it in his vault yesterday. Bloggers and vloggers are saying "'88" a lot, but I can't figure out where they're getting that year from. I found an old facebook announcement from Roots Forward that specifies, "from the golden era," and that's it.

Well, the controversy was enough for me to take it to Twitter and ask the man himself, @MC_Craig_G. And he replied back, "Nah it's a song from 1987." Assuming for a minute that it's not a Top Shelf-style hoax, Craig shouts out "buyin' records on Cold Chillin'," so it's gotta be before 1989, because Craig signed to Atlantic, not Cold Chillin' like the majority of the Juice Crew. At the end of the day, it still has an unexpectedly smooth sound to it, but I don't see firm enough grounds to accuse anyone of faking the funk (and, after all, Marley has tons of genuine unreleased heat is his vaults, why would he mock one up?). And, just like with Top Shelf 8/8/88 - even if it IS a fake; it's an awesome fake that sounds great and I'd have to have it in my collection even if it was newly recorded! :)

Now, until some new, concrete info comes forward, I'd say the case is closed... even if that may not to be everyone's satisfaction. So let's put it behind us and talk about what a neat, little record this is!

The joint's a banger, with - as I said - Craig G in full "Symphony" mode over a hot break-beat from Dexter Wansel. You surely remember "Theme From the Planets" being used to awesome effect in records like "In Control" by Sway and Tech, "Last Night" by Kid N Play, "Gutfest '89" by Digital Underground, the "Understand Me, Vanessa" remix by Anttex and "Tuffest Man Alive" by The Fila Fresh Crew. But unlike those songs which take practically the whole instrumental - which always sounds incredible - this one stops short, only using the opening drum loop. Like I said before, it's one Marley used famously elsewhere - after the big programmed drums at the opening, which Eric (cough cough, Marley) B keeps on top for the whole song - this is the drum loop he brings in for Eric B & Rakim's "I Ain't No Joke."

But then he flips it to a whole new direction, and brings in a smooth, head-nodding piano loop, helped quietly along by some atmospheric synth sounds in the background. And there's just some very simple, subtle scratching of a Rakim vocal sample ("tear it - tear it up") for the hook. In fact, it kinda sounds too subtle for '87... Uh-oh, wait; let's not go there again!

This record is limited to 300 hand-numbered copies; 100 pressed on clear (clear) vinyl, and 200 on black. As you can see, mine's clear and #17. It's not too unreasonably priced at $20, though that's a bit high considering this is just a 7", as opposed to a proper 12" (probably the only reason they haven't already sold out by now). Those of us who pre-ordered it over the holidays also received a nice, little bonus: a mix CD of disco-era Christmas rap songs,, including even one or two I wasn't hip to. Definitely appreciate that.

After all due consideration, this record has both my support and recommendation. And there seem to be both clear and black copies still available, so if you haven't already, I'd suggest dropping by the Roots Forward store and grabbing yourself a copy.And as for the future, Roots Forward has already announced four upcoming vinyl projects, including "the 2nd label release which will be an early 90?s gem being released again as a limited edition 7" single." And Hot Chillin'? Well, it's been ages, but they still have a page promoting their next release, HC003: Marley and Premier mixes of that wonderful tribute to Mr. Magic that was released mp3-only in 2009. Man, I hope that still happens!

Update 1/6/12: - Just heard from Roots Forward. According to Marley, the song is from 1988.

1 comment:

  1. Go on an testify !!

    The LYRICS may have been from 1988, but if the guys at the label honestly think that this is a Marley production from 1988, the same year that Droppin Science & The Symphony appeared, im Adolf Hitler !