Saturday, March 3, 2012

Father - MC = 69

In the early 90's Uptown was going through a big image change. And after two albums of combining R&B love ballads with new jack rap, I guess they felt Father MC was should change along with them. He hung up his sensitive lover persona for a that of a pimp on the Who's the Man soundtrack, and while he sort of walked the line for his third album; Sex Is Law definitely showed a harder, no-more-romance side of him. And, taking a cue from Hammer (never a good idea), Father dropped the MC from his name. This was the new, Notorious B.I.G.'s on his way Uptown, and that wound up spelling bad news for Father.

I remember being heavily disappointed by this album at the time. Just like The UMCs going thug, this was one of the most transparent and unwelcome image changes in hip-hop history. I didn't hate it; and I still picked up the singles as they dropped... but the Father MC we'd become fans of with his surprising break out "Treat Them Like They Want To Be Treated," and in his place was - what? A corporate shill? The fact that he changed his name to be like Hammer's markedly after Hammer's star had already flashed and burned out made a pretty easy case for anybody who wanted to argue "sell out" (in 1993, fans felt that meant something... you younger heads will just have to use your imaginations).

But revisiting it twenty years later, while I still don't hold it in as high regard as his first two albums, it holds up surprisingly well. This was the last of Father's big budget albums, meaning he still had an impressive line-up of the many producers Uptown could provide: Clark Kent, Eddie F, Ski, Pete Rock, Vance Wright and... on this single, the one and only Teddy Riley. And, while there's no Jodeci or Mary J on hand this time, Father still plays it pretty safe, doing what he does best: using classic, old school samples and keeping the raps pretty simple and straight-forward.

For Teddy Riley, this was the time of "Rump Shaker," not his earlier, more signature sound (a la "I Want Her" or "My Prerogative"), and it sounds it. This instrumental could easily have fit right into Wreckx In Effect's Hard Or Smooth line-up; and if it did, it could've been one of their hit singles. It's a pretty perfect blend of the tried and true "Jungle Boogie" break, including the horns and vocal ad-libs, by Kool & the Gang, mixed with the dark, ominous bassline from Hard Knock's "A Dirty Cop Named Harry." Two very different tones combining to make an interesting, new hybrid - the ideal instrumental illustration of the new Father.

Lyrically, it doesn't hold up so well. In fact, actually, even at the time it felt a bit silly. It's all a bit juvenile, like they just found out about a popular new sex term, and they wanted to launch that into a popular song... which is probably exactly how it happened. The chorus - "written and performed by" Buttnaked Tim Dawg, according to the liner notes... not really something I'd brag about, personally - goes, "I wanna hit you with a 69; I gotta hit you with a 69." I mean, y'all know what 69 is, right? Not exactly a position you "hit" somebody with.

But if there was any suggestion that maybe Father was using the term without knowing quite what it meant, the graphic lyrics clear him of that charge: "Nibble on my tip, now you got a taste of chocolate; let me lick you up and down... When I'm gonna bust, I put my milkshake on ya tummy." Okay?

To be fair, though, the song is a little more clever than I'm making it out to be. He makes "69" into a double entendre, as he explains that 69 is the code you should beep him with on his pager (he was really into pagers on this album... his other single was "I Beeped You") for an intimate encounter. So it's only a sex song for those hip enough to be in on the term. But the excessively explicit lyrics - not to mention the fact that, in the video, he actually staged a 69 position with his dancer, so we could all see exactly how it's done - kind of spoil the "this song has a secret double message" aspect to it. Obviously it has a double message; he's saying them both outright!

That's the album version, which is here on the single, too; but this release also includes an exclusive remix. The Uptown Swing Remix, by Teddy Riley as well, features the same "Jungle Boogie" elements, and the same chorus and all... but it turns the deep bassline down super low so you can barely make it out. I'm not sure why anybody would want a version of "69" where you can't hear the bassline, but here it is. It feels more like an unfinished version than a proper remix; but I guess it brings some more attention to the snappy percussion, which is cool.

The 12" features those two mixes, and the Instrumental of the Album Version. My cassette maxi-single[pictured above] is a little better, because it features all that plus the Uptown Remix Instrumental. And there's a promo 12" that's even better still - it features all four of those tracks, plus the Acapella... but the caveat is that it doesn't come in a picture cover. At the end of the day, I don't know if I'd recommend this, since the only exclusive remix is so underwhelming. But you might be pleasantly surprised revisiting the Sex Is Law album as a whole - did I mention it has a Pete Rock track?

1 comment:

  1. After reading this, I have to hear this album now. Especially the Tim Dog and Pete Rock contributions.