Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Yvette's Revenge


To tell the story of Yvette's Revenge, we have to get into the history of Yvette. Both Grandmaster Caz of The Cold Crush Brothers and LL Cool J dropped songs about a girl named Yvette in 1985. I think some people think of LL Cool J's coming first, because he was the bigger artist on what would become a major label (Def Jam), and it may actually have been released first. But Caz's record, on Tuff City, was just the latest (not the last, as we'll see later) step on a long road for his "Yvette" song. It's a classic rap \of his that he'd regularly break out at shows back in the day. If you want a more concrete confirmation, just check out the Cold Crush album All the Way Live In '82, which features Caz performing this song right at the end. 'It just so happened that the year Caz finally preserved it on wax was the year LL featured his take on his debut album, Radio. And there's no question LL would've been familiar with Caz's version; he's always name-checked Caz as a major influence whenever the question arose, and even featured Caz on his last album. I'm sure LL's song was meant to be a follow-up, really an answer record, to Caz's.

Caz's song is a fun, light-hearted narrative rap about what happens when he hooks up with a girl. It was possibly the number one punchline rap back in the day... I won't spoil it here (go listen to it if you've never heard it), and I'm sure it doesn't hold up as strongly today now that the novelty value of surprising punchlines has long faded from hip-hop; but hearing it for the first time back in the early 80's was a real "holy shit!" moment. And probably more importantly, it's a precursor to these girl story raps, a la "Roxanne, Roxanne," "Evon Is On," "Oh Sally," etc. Sure, by the time Tuff City actually got it out there, it wasn't so ground-breaking. But again, if you think back to when Caz first started doing it, that was ground-breaking. Furious Five, Soulsonic, Sugarhill Gang... none of those guys had anything like that. The opening verse of Spoonie Gee's "Love Rap" is really thing I can think of that got into the same territory back then; but he changes course after that first part.

So anyway, LL's song is a response, a sort of open letter to this girl named Yvette who he heard (from Caz's song, right?) that she gets around. I've seen it described as a message song about teenage promiscuity, but let's face it; it's really an excuse to come up with lots of funny ways to call a girl a slut: "They say you're a man-eater during the full moon - mascot of the senior boys' locker room. They said Yvette walked in, there wasn't too much rap, her reputation got bigger, and so did her gap." You've really got to have your Apologist's cap on tight to try to spin it as a positive song for girls; but this was young LL making a young record for an equally young audience. Nobody bought this tape in '85 looking for a feminist manifesto.

But here's where it all starts to come together... While, like I said, the original "Yvette" easily pre-dates "Roxanne, Roxanne" and clearly inspired it, the Yvette records didn't come out until the infamous Roxanne Wars were in full swing. Roxanne Shanté, The Real Roxanne, Sparky D and dozens of novelty acts were already hip deep in answer records .So to have a pair of major rap records, one mainstream and one underground, with a new girl's name on it, you know a new female rapper had to come out of the woodwork, adopt the name, and make an answer record as a vehicle to jump start her own career!


Introducing E-Vette (presumably because they figured kids looking for records by Yvette would look under 'E'?) Money, coming out of Philadelphia in 1986 with her version of "Roxanne's Revenge," naturally titled "E-Vette's Revenge" on Slice Records... the same label that put out "Do the Roxanne" by Doctor Rocx and Co. With her DJ, Kydd Freshh, E-Vette makes it perfectly clear who she's responding to and why, "Mr. Cool J, I heard you wrote me a letter. I wasn't gonna answer it, but then I thought I better. E-Vette, that's me. Cool J, you'll see that no one gets away from what you said about me!"

"E-Vette's Revenge" features big, programmed drums with almost the same pattern as LL';s, but a lot more echo-y. And the hook is delivered in the exact same cadence and style as LL's, with a chorus of girls instead of guys, changing "dear... Yvette, dear Yvette. Dear Yvette, Dear... E... Vette" to "You'll... regret, what you said. You'll regret, fuck them, Yvette!" Yeah, for all its suggestive talk, LL's song is free of any curse-words; but not Yvette's, she curses all over her diss. "I really don't know how this shit began, but to clarify this letter, I will - goddamn! First, not last, I will say this: LL Cool J, you know where to kiss!" She even goes in on his crew:

"I remember the time I first met ya, L;
Downstairs of the lobby of a damn hotel.
You, Cut Creator, Rick and Earl
Was explainin' to the world why you don't like girls.
'Guys fuck better!' you said real loud,
And suddenly, J, you attract a crowd.
Pretty pink men in their pink pleather pants
Dragged you and Cut Creator by the ass for a dance.
The lights went down, not a moment too soon,
And suddenly it got real hot in the room!
I heard a few moans and some voices said [or something. Those last couple words are hard to make out],
'LL Cool's gay so we fucked 'im from the back'!"

Pretty much her whole song boils down to denouncing LL as gay. Sure, she's basically just replacing misogyny with homophobia; but you've clearly gotten lost if you've come to these records expecting anything P.C. This is the 80s, these are teens, and these are some pretty hardcore diss records. Get the stick out and enjoy!

There's a couple versions on this 12": Vocal, Dub and Street. The Vocal version is actually a clean version with altered vocals... for example, "downstairs of the lobby of a damn hotel" becomes "downstairs of the lobby of The Hilton hotel." The Street mix on side B, then, is the dirty version. And the Dub is pretty self explanatory, but it's worth listening to just once because there's some guy on there (Kydd Freshh?) constantly calling LL an asshole and other profanities during practically the whole mix.


So, of course the Yvette saga didn't quite explode like the Roxanne sage, but there were a couple more entries in later years. In 1991, Grandmaster Caz hooked up with Malcolm McLaren and the Worlds Famous Supreme Team to re-record "Yvette" as a single on Virgin Records. It's got a crazy hook, totally different instrumental track and an all new title, but it's the same rap. This time they called it "Romeo and Juliet" because they were making a Shakespeare-themed record (if that sounds weird, it was - read the whole story of that project here). And Master Ace recorded his own answer record, also called "Dear Yvette" for his 2001 album, Disposable Arts  It's kind of the anti-promiscuity sermonizing some people pretended the LL song was.

And just like Shanté, Roxanne, and Sparky, E-Vette (as well as Icey Jaye, The Ghetto Girlz, Salt N Pepa, Anquette, etc etc) did use the attention garnered from her debut answer record as a springboard to record more, unrelated records of her own. She dropped a couple more 12"s on Slice before getting signed to 4th and Broadway Records. They put out one single on her in 1988, but her album never came out. She hung in the industry for a while longer (she has a verse on Lorenzo Smith's first album, way before he was with Luke); but unless she changed her name, that's the end of the story. You couldn't really count on a second Roxanne-level phenomenon. But if nothing else, we got a fun, early LL Cool J diss record out of it that's definitely worth keeping in the back of your crates.

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