Friday, February 10, 2012

The Original Gangstress

Today, Antoinette is just known as the female MC who lost when she dared to tangle with MC Lyte. You know how you keep hearing MCs bragging about how "yo, I'll kill your career" in diss records? Well, this is one of the few instances where that pretty much actually happened, It didn't help that the rumor had it that Lyte wrote her own rhymes, while Antoinette didn't (I'm not sure how 100% that is, though... Antoinette may have written at least some of her own verses - she does get a writing credit on her album, after all - and it's no secret that Lyte has had writers for her records over the years; but it didn't matter. Lyte came out with the hardest diss records from a female MC ever - I don't think even Antoinette's parents would debate who won.

But it's still a shame, because Antoinette put out some hot records. I mean, if you tell me Big Daddy Kane ghost-wrote a song (and he supposedly did ghostwrite for her), that's gonna sell me on it, not put me off it. So good writers, a good voice, hard flow, producers like Mantronix and Ced Gee in their prime... sign me up!

Not that every 12" is a buried gem ("Never Get Enough" can't get lost enough to the sands of time IMHO), but a lot of them are, including this one: "Who's the Boss." "Who's the Boss" is the title track off her debut album on Next Plateau, and just one of several dope singles that album yielded. Antoinette comes tough, rattling off hardcore rhymes, including a quick semi-subliminal shot at Lyte ("Grab your cup and I'ma fill it to the brim. So take a sip; don't bite your lip; don't take bites out, or it's gonna be MCs' lights out"). But it's really not another Lyte diss record, just a general battle joint that goes hard.

It's produced by Jay Ellis and IG Off. That's right, remember that DJ Spinna duo that made a lot of noise in the backpacker scene in 1999, IG Off and Hazadous? Well, long before that, he and his earlier partner were regular producers for Antoinette, doing a grip of tracks on both of her albums; and they were good at it, too. "Who's the Boss" plays it a little safe by using one of the most classic and oft-used breakbeats of all-time, James' "Give It Up or Turn It Loose" Remix; but there's no denying that the Jungle Groove sound is raw as Hell. And I like that, instead of using any of the many brilliant horn samples that pop up all over that record like many, many artists - from the great to the wack - who came before them have. Instead they brought in their own from somewhere else, and it compliments Antoinette's tone perfectly. Finally, add 360's cuts as the final ingredient and voila, it's très magnifique!

Oh yeah, there's also this Mission Impossible schtick in the song, where some guy tells Antoinette that she's our future and her mission is to destroy MCs or something. It works a little better in the music video than the when you're just listening to the record; but basically, the less said about that the better. It at least manages not to be too distracting.

So, you've got a great 80's rap record on your hands. And it's got the Instrumental, Acapella... But that's not the half. Also on here is the Club Mix by DJ Pooh. Yeah, that DJ Pooh, the great west coast DJ producer from The Compton Posse. Apparently he was able to get away from making hits for King Tee long enough to come east and do a remix for our girl. And it's even stronger than the original. Pooh keeps the same breakbeat for the drums in parts, but then swaps them out for other drums intermittently, also stripping away the horns to add whole new layers on top. Most noticeably, he pulls in that killer piano loop that Gangstarr turned into "No More Mr. Nice Guy," bringing it in and out. 360's cuts are also brought up in the mix and sound a lot cleaner and aggressive. This is one of those, "damn, why don't they make rap songs like this anymore?" records.

You also get the Instrumental for DJ Pooh's Club Mix, and then flip it over and you get another 12" exclusive. A whole new song (and its accompanying Instrumental) called "Hit Me With Your Best Shot." But this one is... not so good. This is a very poppy track - a rap cover of Pat Benatar's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" replete with an uncredited woman (I assume it's not Antoinette herself!) singing a Benatar impression for the hook. It's produced again by Ellis and IG Off, but this is obviously a product of the fact that Antoinette came out of Hurby Luv Bug's camp. This is probably something Salt 'N Pepa were gonna use, then decided against. There are even back and forth interplay bits, which Antoinette does... with herself?

"Boys make noise!"
"They do?"
"Of course they do.
"Move your hands, boy..."
"No, chill. I want him to
Do it to me groovy."
"I won't repeat it;
He gets me heated."
"You're dreamin'!"
"No, I'm schemin',
"I think you're buggin'."
"I think he drives me crazy.
I'll be his wild thing;
Just give me some room,
And push it harder.
In fact, make it boom!"

Yeah... this interplay was surely meant for the duo. Also, I think "push it" is a reference to their big hit, especially since the whole song is set to the "Push It" drums; though the "make it boom" line must've been added to personalize it for Antoinette ("Baby, Make it Boom" was her single right before this one). Of course, the most obvious one is the Tone Lōc reference. This has "please play this on MTV" written all over it, except they neglected to actually shoot a video for it. It's got a simple, electric guitar riff dominating the instrumental - a tinnier version of the main refrain in the chorus of Benatar's original.

Still, it's engaging and enjoyable enough in an empty-headed pop kinda way if you like that stuff. I mean, you could take from a lot worse sources; and they turn it into a proper hip-hop track with proper drums, etc. I can see every contributor who's ever written for Rolling Stone face palming as I write this, but I'm certainly gonna choose to listen to this over Pat Benatar's original. This is the hip-hop version, after all; and I'm a rap fiend. So if you're in the mood for L'Trimm, Young MC, Nicki Minaj-type pop rap and you don't care about the lyrics; this one's serviceable enough.

But of course, the reason to own this is the A-side. A great album version made even better by an exclusive DJ Pooh remix. Don't front on Antoinette; she had some seriously hot joints. Just... push the pop stuff out of your mind.


  1. alway digged her voice. and delivery. soundin raw and gritty. btw. big up werner for your well elaborated work. i am a frequent reader.salute from germany. uno

  2. Always wondered if the IG Off who produced Antoinette and the member of IG Off & Hazadous were really the same.

    And it seems they aren't.

    Just turned my IG on and saw this video on "The Paul C. - The Movie" instagram page: