Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Bad Mama Jama

I just recently picked up Fresh Celeste's first album, and was surprised at how banging it was... except for side 2, which was all cheesy love songs except for one track. But side 1 was great. And probably my favorite number on that album turned out to be a single, and here it is: Fresh Celeste's "She's Bad" on JR Records, from 1989.

Now, I referred to this as Fresh Celeste's first album, but she'd really ben in the game already for a minute. She was originally one third of a group called The M-4Sers (like "enforcers" but with an M), who put out two albums and a bunch of singles from 1988-1989. But then they broke up (I'm not sure why, but she mentions on her album, "I had a group, but now I'm here all alone") and Celeste wound up putting out her own records on the same label. ...The M-4Sers did one more album, too, without her.

The M-4Sers always had bumping, up tempo beats - typical Miami, but high quality - and nice scratching. Well, Celeste kept the nice scratching, but (mostly) chucked the rest, and instead came with tough, bare NY-style drums and hard rhymes. She started with a political, pro-black song called "I Ain't With That," with a tiny chopped samples ans squealing horn sounds, a la Public Enemy.  Not exactly what heads were expecting from a Fresh Celeste solo record. But while that was a nice surprise, the next song is what really had be geekin' [what? Slang's changed in the last twenty years? Why no, I hadn't heard].

I mean, I suppose it's slightly more pop, because it's got a little electronic keyboard riff to the beat, but the drums are so perfect, and Celeste kills it. And yeah, she's got nice cuts all over this, with a DJ cutting up Keith Sweat's "I Want Her" (among others), like they're taking new jack swing to the streets of Miami. There's a little bit of singing on this, with a girl belting out "she's a bad mama jama," and that riff I mentioned before sounds fucking fresh combined with everything else. It's one of those rare, perfect songs where pop rap elements that shouldn't work on paper just perfectly combine with some real shit to make something better than either camp would on their own. And you don't have to be a bass-head to appreciate this either; heck, there isn't even all that much bass in it; just some thumping away behind the drums.

The production, like pretty much everything by Celeste, is by Calvin and Carlton Mills (who was also the show-stealing DJ, under the name Ready Rock C... no relation to Will Smith's human beatbox)- two producers who started out as a group called Rock Force, and wound up being the in-house producers who produced just about everybody on JR/Joey Boy Records, and generally, just about half of Miami bass in the 90s. They wound up getting pretty paint-by-numbers and frankly, seeing their name in the credits of an album can be more of a bad sign than a good one... it's easy to forget they were doing dope records like this back in the day.

The 12" just features the one song, but it's fully loaded in terms of pieces - you've got the Acapella, Instrumental, Dub, Radio (shortened edit) and Dance version (which is really just the album version). There was also a single for "Hardcore Rap," which was kinda cool too; but this is way better. This one's bad.

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