Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Rappin' Vs. Christmas (and a special link)

Which is your favorite Kurtis Blow debut? "Christmas Rappin'" or "Rappin' Blow?" You might say, Werner, they're actually the same song, and sometimes you'd be right.  They are... except when they're not.

I've written a brand new post about "Rappin' Blow" for HiLoBrow's 'Herc Your Enthusiasm' series on disco-era hip-hop, which just went live here.  Check it out.  =)  And stick around for the rest of the series... 25 posts by 25 hip-hop writers, including Drew Huge of FatLace, Dallas Penn, Paul Devlin and so many more. The idea is that each piece is about a particular aspect of a classic, pre-'83 hip-hop record; i.e. not a post about "White Lines," but about the bassline for "White Lines," or a particular line of the song. So stick around for the whole series; it looks like fun to me, and I'm very interested to see what everybody else has come up with.  =)

And I thought I'd use the opportunity here to make a little intro and talk a bit more about "Rappin' Blow," because there's a lot of confusion about this song. You see, "Christmas Rappin' was originally released essentially as a novelty record. Rap was a fad and this was going to be a quick holiday cash-in. But when it was decided that Mercury was going to stick with Kurtis Blow as a roster artist, they decided to release it under a new title, not tied to the passing holiday, and so new pressings of the exact same eight minute and eleven second song were delivered to stores as "Rappin' Blow."  Little did they know that "Christmas Rappin'" would become one of Blow's biggest all-time hits that would continue to sell to this day, while "Rappin' Blow" became an obscure footnote.

So you say, okay, one song released under two titles. Simple enough, I get it. But, see, pop music has little room for the epically long disco songs of hip-hop's earliest years; and the song has been released in much shorter editions more often than not. And if you've heard the original, full-length version of the song ...which many people haven't, considering most albums release only half of the song with no mention of an extended full-length version you weren't getting in their package. But if you have, you know that Kurtis actually stops rapping about Christmas midway through the song. He's rapping all about Santa and the night before Christmas, then there's a break pause and he comes back and just kicks more traditional raps about himself.

So when record labels began cutting the song for 45s, compilations, etc; that made for an excellent chopping point. Most releases of "Christmas Rappin'" end with him saying, "merry Christmas, and to all a good night." On the full-length version, though, Adam White then comes on and asks Kurtis, "what did you say your name was?" And Kurtis begins to rap about coming from a planet named Harlem via a meteorite.

Now, since they're almost like two separate songs - albeit with identical instrumentation - that second half has often since been released as its own song, known as "Rappin' Blow (Part 2)." And I'm not just talking about cheap, generic "Rap's Greatest Hits" compilations  (although... those, too).  The second half of the song, "Part 2" was even included on Kurtis Blow's original full-length LP, which never featured "Christmas Rappin'" (because of that perceived novelty factor of the holiday subject matter).  So while hardcore fans and DJs who would've been inclined to pick up the original 12"s would know "Rappin" Blow" as a simple retitling; most people around the world grew up with "Christmas Rappin'" and "Rappin' Blow" as two separate, shorter songs - one a non-Christmas-themed sequel to the other. And yes, both short versions have also been released as singles, with different picture covers, etc. And there are even other 12" singles of it where Mercury simply calls it "Rappin'," with yet another unique cover. So while the original "Rappin' Blow" 12"s were forthcoming, saying "Previously released as Christmas Rappin'" right on the label... it starts to look like some of the confusion became a deliberate ploy to sell people the same song more than once.

But what the heck, how mad can you be at a Christmas rap song that rhymes "Rolly polly" with "Holy moley?" So now that you've read this drier piece... have a look at my more fun, light-heated post on a certain aspect of this record for HiLoBrow.  And have a merry August!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

2 Yutes Represent the Garden State

Here's a nice, obscure little Jersey gem: "2 Yutes" by Hybrid H, a pair of MCs named The Herbalist and Moe Mentum. This 12" single came out in 2004, courtesy of Infinite Impact LLC, and it's pretty much their only release. Technically, their was a full-length CD, called Out of Hybrination; but if you were never at one of their shows to hit up their merch table, or order it direct from their website back when they had one, you'll probably never see it. But this 12" got out into the marketplace... where it was promptly slept on, because it was t first release by an unknown artist. But it's accessible if you want to pick it up, and after reading this you might want to.

So I didn't even have to drop the needle on the vinyl to get the joke of the title. It's a My Cousin Vinny reference. If you don't remember it, just youtube it... said by Fred Gwynne, it's the most famous line of the movie (after Marisa Tomei's pants), so I'm sure it's in the trailer. But in case anybody missed it, they spell it out in the first line of the song: "I was just a yute like in My Cousin Vinny." And I almost wish they hadn't. "2 Yutes" is actually a pretty engaging song about growing up, over some nice production by producer 8th Wundah, who also kicks a guest verse. And apart from explaining the reference in the first line, they don't actually use it... they don't sample the film on the hook or tie either the accent or the film to the content of their rhyme; they don't have fun with it. It just kinda cheapens a pretty solid, indie hip-hop track into an "oh, I get it" moment. It doesn't ruin the song or anything, but a song's title shouldn't be something you have to get past to appreciate it.

The next track is "Clock Wise," which is another nicely produced beat by 8th Wundah. Conceptually, it's not so compelling... they're just generally flexing and rapping about themselves; and they're solid MCs, but not to the point where just them spitting is exciting in itself. So, lyrically it's filler, with only the beat making any real impression.

But then we get to the song that drew me in... "Garden State." These guys are definitely representing New Jersey. They've already mentioned it in "2 Yutes" and there's even a map of the state on the back cover. Anyway, this one's produced by somebody named Linguistic, with some very welcome cuts by DJ Mekalek. It's got a bouncier sound than 8th's stuff, but is still good stuff, especially with the added value of the scratches, rubbing in Biz Markie saying "can't forget New Jersey" and a various other hip-hop "Jersey" vocal samples. And lyrically, it's just a slew of shameless Jersey references strung together... everything from The Sugarhill Gang to the turnpike.

Look, I'm not as excited about this 12" as I was about Written On Your Psyche - The Herbalist sounds a little too much like Hot Karl for comfort, and there's the occasional corny line in the mix that should probably have been quality controlled out - but it's definitely an all-around good 12", especially for an obscure indie record you've probably never heard of, with added value for any Jersey head. It also comes in a nice looking picture cover and has instrumentals for both of 8th Wundah's tracks, as well as Clean and Dirty versions of each song. This isn't one of those records foreign dignitaries bid thousands of dollars for; but I definitely recommend it as a cheap pick-up.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Best Of the Best Of the E-Rocks

Dope Folks Records dipped deep into the Texas underground scene to retrieve their latest release, MC E-Rock's One the Hard Way. E-Rock's put out a grip of respected but virtually unknown outside of Texas albums throughout the 90s... Killfhanger in 1996, Southern Eclipse in 1998, and all the way back to his debut (I believe) single in 1990, "Elliot Ness."

For an outsider looking in, it can get confusing because there's a glut of artists calling themselves E-Rock. One of those Grape Tree Christian Rappers calls himself E-Roc now, to avoid confusion, but released his 1991 debut Listen To the G.O.D. album (which is actually not bad) under his original spelling, E-Rock. There's at least one rock band and club producer putting out records under the name E Rock. ...I don't know jack about them, but put the phrase "E Rock" into Youtube or discogs and see for yourself. And anyway, then there's probably the most confusing of all... one of Rap-A-Lot's infamous 5th Ward Boys, of course also from Texas, is named E-Rock, and he went on to put out solo and side projects... and coincidentally now also represents the Christian rap ethos.

So that's a lot of E-Rocks; but this particular artist is quite compelling, so it pays to keep track of who's who. While he's from Texas, and you can definitely here it in the way his voice and pronunciation; he's definitely on some raw, pure hip-hop vibe. Well, his later stuff is heavily g-funk influenced; but not this material from the early 90's; it's all tough NY-influenced beats and a hardcore, lyrical flow. His records - especially the ones from the era Dope Folks is repressing - is definitely on some classic "random rap" steez, not at all what you'd consider your typical Southern local rap. In fact, it was probably the fact that Peanut Butter Wolf picked a cut from One the Hard Way for one of his mix CD releases that put E-Rock into the ear of modern collectors and Dope Folks themselves.

So, the original One the Hard Way was a four-song EP on Serious Records from 1991. And it's a killer: the beats, the rhymes, the samples. It's the whole package, a great EP. But Dope Folks have gone one better, and added two more tracks from his extra-rare "Designed To Make U Swing" 12"! "Literary Freak" is this wild track that starts out using the same loop as Brand Nubian's "Slow Down," but the beat is surprising and totally flips. They're not quite as hard, but both songs are a showcase of awesome samples. Only a very small run was pressed, because it was originally meant to be a promo for his upcoming third album, Vitamin E. When that ultimately never got released, those two songs wound up becoming very rare. But not anymore, because Dope Folks threw them on here as well.  :)

The original One the Hard Way was a phat picture cover, so it's a little sad to see it get downgraded to a sticker cover here (the sticker's the same image as the picture cover); but the fact that you can now get the original EP and the 1993 12" for just $20 brand new more than makes up for that. I highly recommend this one... just check out the audio clips and hear for yourself.

And I mentioned E-Rock's still doing it, right? He's got a facebook and a new album in the works. And there's even more exciting news if you trawl through his twitter... he's got the Vitamin E reels and is finally putting that lost album out! So don't get let crazy number of E-Rocks overwhelm you, this is the best material by the best of the artists named E-Rock, and it's your loss if you sleep.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Talking Heads In Flightt

In 1989, Yo! MTV Raps was in love with a sample. An unknown rapper named KC Flightt had sampled a pop, new wave 80's group that was already a long time MTV favorite, The Talking Heads. And unquestionably, the combination of "Once In a Lifetime"'s drums and bassline, plus the loop of bells that sometimes went with it, made an ideal hip-hop break. It had this soft, funky origin, but sounded undeniably tough as a hip-hop beat. The song also had a spacey theme, which suited itself perfectly for a music video, and major label RCA Records was prepared to cough up enough dough to get Talking Heads' lead vocalist David Byrne himself to appear in the video, and give the whole thing a cross-genre co-sign. You could just see the network executives' minds connecting all the dots for "Planet E" to become "Walk This Way part 2."

Well, it didn't turn into a phenomenon like that, but it was successful enough. I liked it enough as a kid that I wanted it, and when I couldn't find the single, wound up buying the whole album [pictured, right]. It turned out not to be very good... for reasons which would've been obvious right from the single if I'd be a more astute listener back then. But I was young, so I wound up just listening to "Planet E," which was wisely positioned as the first track, and never really venturing into the rest of the tape again.

So, this had an appealing track And the song had a very clear sociopolitical message to ward off the critics... although frankly, a little more subtlety would've gone a very long way. So what wasn't to like about this record? Well, this is a house track, for one; so even with a perfect sample like this (which gets billing as big as the guest artists on the album's liner notes), it really lacks the delicious, crunchy percussion of a real hip-hop track.

And what's up with the MCing? He's not even rhyming.  Well, okay, sometimes he rhymes, but it's inconsistent and very strained. Even the lyrics on the back cover are printed in paragraph form, as opposed to line by line. So while he sort of has a hip-hop flow, this song has to be considered at least a partial cross between spoken word and rap. His delivery actually winds up being pretty similar to the Talking Heads' own spoken verses. Perhaps that was intentional, but then it begs the question... why do we need this second version if he's duplicating the original so closely?

And for "spoken word," it's not even compelling poetry - while again it's a good, timely message, it's far too heavy-handed and simplistic. It's a little narrative about a planet where the people are divided "we'll call one Group A, and the other.... Group B"). They're separated by culture and class, and SPOILERS: racism is bad. I will give him credit for one small detail, though - he at least never comes out on the last line and says, "and the 'E' stands for 'Earth.' I'm talking about Planet Earth!"

So it's all just about The Talking Heads, but just how original was this sample selection even? This could almost be another Chill Rob G Vs. Snap situation. Because most heads today who treasure "Same As It Ever Was" as a break aren't going back fondly to this KC Flightt 12"... they're replaying DJ Chuck Chillout & Kool Chip's killer "Rhythm Is the Master," which transforms the same break into a killer "fuck that house shit" hip-hop jam with real tough MCing and some really fun and creative samples on the chorus. It was on a major, too (Polygram), so they also had a video and managed to score their own hit. And historically, it's pretty much the version that won out. The only thing is, neither of these artists actually had it first.

In 1988, the year before "Planet E" and "Rhythm Is the Master," somebody else had this sample. Long Island's Sugar Bear only released one 12" in his career, a single on the obscure label Coslit Records (later picked up and reissued by Next Plateau, which still wasn't really a major). And like Chuck and Chip, his version trounces all over the KC Flightt version, while using the same loop in the same way. It never really got the love back in the day, though, because it was independent. There was no music video, and so never got to duke it out on MTV with the others. RCA could stick David Byrne in their video like there never had been a "Same As It Ever Was" rap before, and the overwhelming majority of their audience were none the wiser. And that's a shame, because it may actually be the best version of all (though it's a close call).

But let's not write off KC Flightt entirely; he was a legit house guy. He's not just the vocalist; he produced and wrote his whole album. Today he's mostly known (again, because of that video) for being the guy who rapped with The Talking Heads; but his earlier single "Let's Get Jazzy" was an important, early record in establishing the subgenre of hip-house (and what got him signed to RCA in the first place). And while In Flightt was his only album on his own terms, he's stayed in the music business, recording with other jazz fusion/club whatever acts and is still around to this day.

And perhaps best of all, the 12" has a Hip Hop Mix of "Planet E" (also by Flightt) that's hip-hop purists will surely prefer. It's got a real breakbeat (I think from the same Bobby Byrd joint "Raw" came from) and a little bass riff from "White Lines." It doesn't have the mainstream appeal, since the original House Mix takes so liberally from "Once In a Lifetime." I mean, even the chorus and breakdown consist of vocal samples from there. Byrne might be lip-syncing to them in the music video, but make no mistake, it's all just lifted off that one record. So mainstream audiences will prefer the House mix just for essentially being a Talking Heads song; but the Hip Hop version has to at least get more respectability points for being original. If the rhyming was better, it could stand up alongside the Chuck Chillout record.

So, both the House and Hip Hop versions are on this 12". There's an Acid Drop Mix as well, which goes in the opposite direction, making the song more awful and clubby. And finally, there's another song on the B-side, "Dancin' Machine (Acid House Mix)." The original version of "Dancin' Machine" isn't from his album; it's an exclusive B-side to one of his other singles, "She's Sexxxy." Anyway, some of the production elements (by remixer Hudson "Hot Mix" Beauday) are interesting, but the MCing is just terrible, and turning it into acid house sure doesn't help.

Today, you're more likely to sell this to a Talking Heads fan than anybody. And I'll take Sugar Bear and Chuck Chillout over this any day - I think Byrne picked the wrong rapper guys to co-sign. If he was in the other guys' video, he could've been an animated superhero. But I can't front, every couple of years I still get the urge to put this one on the turntables and revisit "Planet E."

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Mink Made Of Coyote

Okay, pretend you're a sexy young model... a slender beauty with candy-colored hair and the world at your fingertips. I know, you were pretending that already, right? Great, no judgement here. So we're on the same page: you're this model, you're popular, getting into all these industry parties, and you meet pretty much the most popular rapper in the world. Of course he likes you, it's a whirlwind romance, and he hooks you up with your own musical career as a glamorous rapper on a major record label with the biggest producers.

Life is breezy until now people start to judge you. Now that you're in the international limelight, you're being scrutinized by more than just the industry insiders you charmed in their penthouse gatherings. Are you really musically talented? Did you earn your position? Maybe after Faith Evans and Lil Kim you're the third girlfriend this guy has propped up and it's getting more and more transparent, and it's looking pretty bad for you. The pressure's on, everybody's looking, you're sweating under the spotlight. Your long-advertised album got stuck in the system... hyped up promo copies were spread all over and then it was never released.

Epic Records dropped you, but you've got to keep your name out there until your big name friends can get you safely secured at a new label to begin your second "debut album." You've got to regain that buzz, recapture the fans, prove that you're not some fake sell-out, you're more than tabloid gossip fodder, you're an artist, damn it. You're a true talent, you're smart, you're dynamic; the world needs what you've got. So what do you do?

You remake "Ice, Ice Baby" by Vanilla Ice.   lulz

Yeah, apparently if you're Charli Baltimore - or one of the "brains" managing her career - you think the ideal comeback single for your troubled ingenue is the most infamous crossover pop song by the genre's least respected one-hit wonder of all time. Whaaaa?

Why? What is the thinking here? Was everybody in her camp so out of touch that they just thought: she's great, "Ice, Ice Baby" was great - perfect match! Or maybe it was somebody's idea to "own" the hate and criticism she was getting? Like, this would turn the tables on all her haters? Maybe it was meant to show that the world's most hated MC and the world's most hated track had would show us all by setting the streets on fire with this amazing new version. Maybe it was meant to be ironic. Who knows?

What I do know is that the second album wound up getting shelved, too; and Def Jam dropped her just like Epic. This single, simply titled "Ice," never even made it to the consumers, only pressed as a promotional white label advance for radio and mix-tape DJs. The world's most obviously, singularly bad idea somehow didn't seem to work out for them.

But, fuck it, it's a fun record. The record goes back to the original Queen sample and uses more of the original record. This has a dual effect. On the one hand, it lends it a slightly more raw and tough tone than the original "Ice, Ice Baby," which winds up with a more pure Hip-Hop feel (ouch!). But, on the other hand, it feels lusher, smoother. It's more "musical" simply by virtue of having more of Queen's instrumentation in it, and that winds up giving it a more feminine feel.

Because it came out years later, Charli gets the benefit of being able to come with a more relaxed, naturalistic flow. I mean, hell, I love the hyper, bombastic flows of the 80s and early 90s; but Charli comes off more mature and in control with her fully modern (for the time) style. Then you can double that because she's got Mase guesting on here. Conceptually, her rhymes are the most cliche, "everything everybody criticizes about the Puffy era of rap" stuff... loosely strung together non-sequiturs, bragging about being a "bad bitch," with impossible riches and silly claims of violence ("I even put nines in niggas' scrotums"). But hell, there's a reason so many people wrote that stuff - because it's fun and catchy, and it all works great with Charli and Mase back-and-forthing it over one of best suited for Hip-Hop basslines ever.

It's not a great song you can take seriously and honor alongside Melle Mel's "Message." It's the kind of record you put on when the argument gets too heated. She talks about her guest, "all I wanna do is get his cake and sit on his face." Face rhymes with Mase!

There's nothing on here but the one Main mix on both sides. What more would you want anyway? In 2011-2012, Charli mounted a big comeback, where she recorded a third, unreleased album. The bigcartel is still up here; but I wouldn't recommend throwing any money into it, since it still has a "September 25, 2012" pre-order date. But you really only need one Charli Baltimore chumpie in your collection, and this here is it. Everything else in her catalog is either leading up to or leading away from this record. "Ice."

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Looks Like I Caught Disco Fever Again...

Yooo... When was the last time I made one of these pages? The world needed it, though. hehe Seriously though, it's lots of info that wasn't online, and I started making it for the same reason I made the old ones back in the day: to sort all this stuff out for myself. So enjoy; hope some of you guys out there find it useful, too.

By the way, fans might be interested to learn that Balli is still doing it. Check out his website here.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Return Of the One Liner, Omniscence Interview

It's a great time to be an Omniscence fan. His rarest material is getting remastered and pressed on vinyl, making it obtainable to many of us for the first time. His famously shelved Elektra material is making its debut after a nearly 20 year wait. And he's mounting a comeback, recording and releasing all new music. Now's the perfect time to finally catch up with him and get his full story. I mean, how many artists didn't just get favorable reviews but even a Rhyme of the Month in The Source, and then still not come out? So many heads have been on the hook since then, waiting for answers.

Definitely, definitely. It's been crazy, man, it's been a crazy journey;. I've kinda been able to experience both sides of the game, as far as being an independent artist -  which that's pretty much been most of the gist of it. But those couple years on Elektra, I did get to see what it was like to be an artist on a major. So I'm one of a few cats who I guess can say I've seen both sides of it, you know?

And what's crazy, is a lot of people don't connect... Well, they do now, thanks to brothers like yourself. But before now, a lot of people didn't connect the two different eras, due of course to the infamous "i" in Omniscience, and then the "i" that is not in Omniscence. Ha ha!

I was going to ask you about that! What is the story with the two different spellings? Was that just a mistake on 6th Boro's part?

No, no! Every MC has been at this point and time in his career in the early stages when he's trying to find a name. And, you know, I'm lookin' in the dictionary, I'm looking in magazines... And I came across the word "omniscence" actually spelled the way that it's spelled now. In the dictionary. And it had two definitions; one was "all knowing." But that was actually not really the definition I wanted to try to represent. But it was the second one, "having infinite knowledge," which means to me that there's no limit. Like "omni" means all, and then of course science or "scence" would me the knowledge of it. So Omniscence meaning there's no limit to what I can learn, there's no limitations on me. So that's why you have that raw side of me that's kinda ignorant: I'm smashin', I'm whylin'. But then there's a certain consciousness to me, too. And there's always been a battle between the two.

When Fanatic and I did The Funky One Liner EP, I wanted to insert that "i" because I went back and did my research. And that is also a word as well. And they both pretty much have the same meaning. But I wanted to insert the "i" because I felt at that time, I had been around some of the Five Percenters, and I'd been getting some of the knowledge of self. So I decided to insert the "i" because I felt I had more of a science to what I was doing.

Then eventually, when I got to Elektra, I was told there was some artist, or maybe an album that had that name already. [I think it might've been this one - werns] So i reverted it back to my original spelling of the name. So it was all a conscious effort on my part; but if I had been thinking ahead of time, I would've just kept it the original way. Because that did throw some cats off, I do believe. But you know, it's a new day, and thankfully everything is being thrown out there for people to understand now.

Yeah, with Dope Folks putting out your back catalog now, almost all together, that's gotta make it clear to pretty much everyone that it's all the same guy.

Right, right. The only record of mine that sounds the least, or separates itself from all the other records, would be the Back To the Lab joint, "Lost In the Music." Because I was so young, and I hadn't learned out to put some "umph" in it. And I was a really young guy so my voice hadn't started to come into its own. "Lost In the Music" was the very first song I ever recorded, and only the second or third rhyme I ever wrote. If you listen to the record, there's no ad-libs, no doubles...

Because what happened was, we ended up going to record the whole album - that means everybody that's on the album - was all recorded in one day! It was a long time ago, but I just remember about twenty of us being in a guy named Starchild's house somewhere way south, a very southern part of North Carolina I';d never been to. He had like an in-home studio. And you really had to know your rhymes because time was limited. I just went in and done it in maybe two takes and it was over.

But it was a great time, because I had come from a more rural part of North Carolina, and I had never ever been in a studio. And I'm around these guys, some of whom had made records, like my man Dizzy and KSB. And when you listen to that record, you can hear especially with my man KSB Fresh, he was really seasoned. That record "I'm Groovin'" to me... You know, I got a lot of the props for the record, which I fell slightly deserved, but his flow and his cadence on that record, man. To this day, I'm amazed by it.

Yeah, there was a lot of surprisingly impressive stuff on that album.

Yeah, it was! You know, these guys... Kevin K, of course Dizzy who had been in B.A.D. Rep. I'd already heard the B.A.D. Rep record and of course the Bizzie Boyz. Living in the rural part of North Carolina, we didn't get to get out a whole lot. So there was a college radio station, 90.1, and I could barely pick it up on my stereo in my mom's house. So Friday nights, I'm like 14, 15 years old, I wasn't doing a whole lot but I had a love for this music. So you had the legends of the game, you know the Big Daddy Kanes, EPMD, Public Enemy... all those records were playing on the station. but then they would bring in these Payroll Records, and they wouldn't miss a beat. The quality and the officialness of the record... I just thought they were some cats from New York, just bein' honest. And then one night, the DJ, god bless him, Texas Pete, he said, "I want you all to know, these records that I'm playing from these guys are your very own. They're from North Carolina." And then one night he even had them come up to the studio and do a big interview. So I was a fan of these guys like a year or more before I even met them.

Being out in that rural part, it was almost impossible that I would meet these guys doing their thing out in Greensboro, which is definitely not a metropolis, but compared to where I was from it was. But I had a cousin who was going to this college the radio station was airing for. And she ended up moving from where I was from to Greensboro to stay with her aunt. And one night, she calls me like, "guess who I live right up the street from!" I'm like who? And she's like, "you know, those guys, the Bizzie Boyz?" She didn't even know who it was, she was just like, "he's one of the members of the group the Bizzie Boyz; I met him last night." It ended up being Ski. I don't know what they had, some little fling, but it wasn't serious. Some little teenage fun. But anyway, she arranged for me to meet him.

So I met him, and I was just mad nervous. He put on some beats, and Will Ski was like a lyrical assassin back then. I look to him as being the illest lyricist to ever come out of North Carolina, but people don't even know it.

Yeah, now people just know him as Ski Beats.

Right, because of he went on to establish himself in a great way. Have you ever just met a guy who can do everything? He could do graffiti, he could break dance, he could rap, he could do anything, you know. He was like a superman. It's in his blood.

Anyway, long story short, he put some beats on, said some incredible lyrics, and I was kinda scared because I had never really written anything. So I attempt to freestyle, and I'm fuckin' up big time, man. Ha ha!  I'm bumblin' and he's like, yo money, look man. Just take these beats home, take your time and write what you wanna say. So I went home, of course I wrote a couple verses, and worked on 'em. I recited them every day until I had 'em in the head. And I kept buggin' my cousin like yo, I gotta get back up there to see Will Ski again! So, when I saw him, I dropped the verses on him, and he was just like: you got it, man, you got it. So, from there he introduced me to Eli Davis who is now the manager for R&B singer Anthony Hamilton. And the second cat I met was Fanatic.

But what ended up happening at the time, as you well know, is Payroll split up. So the guys who were in the Bizzie Boyz had to make a choice. Pretty much Fanatic and the owner of the label, Roland, were at odds. Because Fanatic at the time was producing pretty much all of it. Mixmaster D had done a couple tracks, and Fanatic was in the process of teaching Ski how to make beats, so he wasn't really a bona fide producer at that time. So Fanatic felt like, he being the man behind those records, he wanted to see Payroll go a certain direction with their deal structure. Because they had a big deal on the table with Atlantic Records; and for some reason that deal fell through. And the end result was Fanatic was kind of bitter that deal fell through, and I think he blamed Roland for that.

So there was a split, and Roland, Ski and Nyborn went to New York to get where it was happening at. And Fanatic and DJ Def who later becomes Mark Sparks and was also one half of B.A.D. Rep... they decided to stay back and form their own production, which was Def Rhythm Productions. They wen out and recruited a few more cats. And Ski was actually the cat who originally brought me into the circle, but I'll never forget him calling me. I was only sixteen years old, so it's nto like I can just take off and go live in NEw York. My mom wasn't havin' it! So he was like, you're in good hands with my man Fanatic.

And so, from then on, I started working with Fanatic. And also Mark Spark, he also produced what were my demos.

Wait, I gotta interrupt now. Those demos... do you have them? Will they be coming out?

Ha ha ha! You know what, it's really crazy, man. I'll be honest, I don't have them. But a few years back, I wanna say this was '98... I actually had a CD that had a few of those joints, about four of them. They were rough, man, I don't know if they could even be mixed or mastered to sound up to quality. But I had a CD with those joints, and I don't know what happened to that shit. I really think somebody got their hands on it, and I should've valued it more... That's how I feel about a lot of things now. I was a young kid, but even at that time I should've kept my hands on that. But I'll tell you something good, Werner.

Right after Back To the Lab, there was maybe about ten MCs involved... Well, it got shortened down to three of us. Cats weren't feelin' it, or... I'm not gonna say no names, but let's just say it got narrowed down! Ha ha So three of us: me, Dizzy Dee, and D-Mack. And this is real important because, after that happened, we formed a group called SoHo, which was short for Southern Hospitality. And we ended up signing a deal with Kenny Smith, a basketball player from North Carolina who played for the Houston Rockets. Well, back then he was a Queens cat, so you know he had music in his blood, and he wanted to sign a hip-hop act. So we recorded four songs, and I do have those.

So, getting back to the story... After Ski left, Fanatic was just like my mentor. At this time, I had an actual flow, but he was still putting together concepts for songs. My input was always welcome, but he was still the man. Fanatic was a real producer; he ain't the type of cat that just wants to slide you a beat and then say he produced it. He will do that, but he really played a big part in our early records. Mark and Dizzy had that tie from B.A.D. Rep, and D-Mack was their man, Mark brought him in. So those three had a certain bond, and me and Fanatic had a certain clique. We were all together, but we ended up splitting up because Fanatic really believed in me and he felt that this deal with Kenny Smith wasn't going to pan out. Really, he felt bad for all three of us, but he knew he could not get all three of us out of that contract. So he was just like, yo, you just need to go tell Dizzy and D-Mack that you wanna go solo. Man, it was one of the hardest things that I ever had to do, because they were like my big brothers. They really showed me a lot in the Back To the Lab and of course the Southern Hospitality days. It was a very hard decision for me, but I did it. And their was some animosity behind it, too; but it did wind up being the right move, I feel, because God makes no mistakes. If I hadn't done that, we probably never would've had a Funky One Liner EP.

But SoHo ended up putting out a 12", it's called "Shortie." It's actually a dope record, produced by Mark Sparks and Laquan, who is actually MC Romeo, from Back To the Lab. And I gotta say something about him, too, before we move on. He is very instrumental in the records Mark produced, even though Mark got a lot of the credit, but he goes by the name of Laquan now, and him and Mark kinda came into their own sound at the same time. Mark got a lot of the credit - which he deserved! - but Laquan also deserves a lot of the credit for coming through with that sound as well.

That's not the same Laquan from "Now Is the B-Turn?"

No!  Ha ha ha! I'm very glad you brought him up; you made me remember him. But actually no, this is another Laquan who was MC Romeo. I don't know if you're familiar with the sound that Mark Sparks kind of graduated to after the early Back To the Lab beats, which was more the classic samples, James Brown, etc. Then of course when he want on to do the Grand Puba stuff, and some stuff with Guru. He did a few things... his sound got more jazzy.

And smoother.

Smoother, exactly. And Laquan, I wanna say, aka MC Romeo - he was very instrumental and played a big part in that as well. And this record, "Shortie, Who's Your Friend" embodies that sound. It's really dope. And Dizzy and D-Mack, they body that joint. And MC Romeo, in fact, he's actually rhyming on that, too! It's featuring him, so he's actually rhyming at the end, and he and Mark Sparks produced the record.

So moving on, I'm solo again and it's just now me and Fanatic. And he was like, yo, we've got come through with some shit! And at the time, a lot of the records had a certain sound, and Tribe and them had started to come through with that sound, and I feel Fanatic was very influenced by that sound The Funky One Liner EP. If you notice, it has a lot of those horns; and of course Pete Rock was a very big influence.

So you hear the horns, the jazz samples and the hard snares. And I just zoned out to those joints. I probably wrote the Funky One Liner EP in the matter of one week. He hit me with all these beats on a beat tape, and I was of course heavy into the leaf. Ha ha! Nothing came as natural as those records came as natural as when we recorded those songs out of Ultimix Studios in Greensboro. It was just a vibe that we had, and I just can't explain it. Everything came together, and it was one of those records that was more about just a vibe. It was the era where everybody had the Timb's strapped up and the hoodies just like "rah!" But in reality, I was still this country boy from the rural part of North Carolina, you know, my mom's trailer. And it just had an energy I don't think I could ever truly duplicate. A lot of people say, "take it back, take it back!" But the sound of those records, the vibe that I was in... that was a zone indeed.

Now, that was on 6th Boro Records, but who was that? Who ran that label?

Hey, that was Fanatic! The deal was this. There was a studio called Ultimix, a serious high quality sixty-four track mixing board, fully equipped facility. It was top of the line, owned by a guy named Bradley Hinkle. Fanatic met Bradley, let him know who he was and probably turned him on to the Payroll records, and Bradley probably saw that there was something about this guy as opposed to a lot of other cats... he was serious about his music. So they formed a partnership and a friendship. I'm nto sure how Fanatic was able to pull off a lot of that studio time, but he pulled it off. It owuld be late nights, and we'd have to get in there and do our thing.

And of course, Ultimix had previously pressed up a lot of records themselves. They did a lot of club remixes of popular songs. I guess that's why it was called Ultimix to a degree. They'd do mixes on certain 12"s...

Yeah, I remember those kind of records.

Right, and so I think Brad had the connection to a nearby pressing plant; I think his name was Les. But at any rate, Fanatic was more or less able to be the owner of 6th Boro Records. That was thew title he came up with for his production company, and he was able to put that on records through his connection with Les and Bradley. I'm not sure if there was a kick-back to them for that, but 6th Boro is Fanatic.

Right, because Funky One Liner wasn't the only record on 6th Boro.

Of course. You had The Funke Leftovers. Fanatic had always wanted to be an artist. He didn't just want to be, he is an artist. You see, most producers aren't like that where they'd shape the ideas and push the artist and sculpt the record like that. Now lyrically... he needed my help, I'll just say that. I was the ghostwriter on pretty much all of the Funke Leftovers stuff. The plan was to come with the Funke Leftovers who were appealing to more of the ladies... they were wearing the leather vests with no shirts on.

Yeah, I remember that video!

Ha ha! Exactly, the Jodeci look back in the day, with the leather and the boots and no shirt on. And you know me, I was strictly hip-hop. And he knew that, so he was like, we're gonna throw this out there and see what it does, and we're gonna work on your joint at the same time. So Funke Leftovers came out before myself... Brick Flava dropped a record, I think that was before me, "The Bossman." It was a guy named Rock from Newark, New Jersey, and I think Fanatic was working with him and myself almost simultaneously. Rock was really a one-man show, but they were billing him like a group because he had some guys around him that I guess were his hypemen or whatever. And then of course after, you had the Lord VI and the "Cheeze" record that was just ridiculous I feel. That was actually recorded around 1996, a little bit after my deal with Elektra. So Fanatic has continued to uphold the 6th Boro name, even of course with his production credits for various people including of course Lil Kim, Michael Jackson, "Speechless" for Beyonce. He's done some really big records, so the 6th Boro name lives on. But Funke Leftovers was the one at the time.

I've thought about picking up the Funke Leftovers record, but then I figure Dope Folks is probably going to put that out any minute.

Oh yeah, Dope Folks haven't already put out the Leftovers?

Not yet, but I bet it's coming.

Oh, it's coming, it's definitely coming! Big ups to John Kuester over there. I just recently got acquainted with him, because I had no part in that Funky One Liner record [the reissue]. Because they were dealing with Fanatic, I guess, and he had the masters, and Fanatic and I weren't in contact then. I kinda let that slide, because that project was Fanatic's baby and it was on his label. But big ups to John because when you get to the Raw Factors, that's now something that involved Elektra, 3 Boyz From Newark, myself and Fanatic, too. And that's not something he wanted to move forward without myself being involved in. So we got together and talked about a lot, and I got a lot of respect for those guys at Dope Folks.

I'm gonna be honest, Werner. People were hitting me up since the beginning of the internet! We'll just call it the myspace era, because that was really the first time people could truly reach out to me. And from that time, people were hitting me like, "you name your price!" And I'll be honest, I was really avoiding people and not responding, you know, even saying I'm gonna put this record out myself. But the reality was: I didn't have the record. I didn't have the masters. Fanatic did. And him and I would speak about it, and he would always say: I gotta do some digging... I gotta go through my stuff and find it... I think I got a cassette...

I think what happened was Fanatic did not have it himself either. But he was over somebody's house, and I'm not gonna name who it was - that person will remain anonymous - but he told me what happened. He saw it, and he took it. Hew was like I gotta have this. It was on a CD, and it was crispy. So he was able to get some of the records from that. And from digging, he had found some of the masters that he had stored from some of our Hit Factory sessions as well. Because we recorded some of it in the Hit Factory, and we recorded some of it in a studio out there in Montclair New Jersey. It was all mixed by Ben Garrison, who was an in-house engineer for Vincent Herbert, who we signed with. But the album was mastered by Chris Garrison from Sterling Sound, a lot of people don't know that.

But you talked about you releasing the album online, and I remember you announcing that back on myspace... And you wound up putting out some mixes, like mixtape versions of Raw Factor. Like not really the album, but stuff from it?

Right! Let me get into that, man. It's the myspace era, a little bit before, I'm just getting acquainted with the internet. And of course the first thing I wanna do is google my name and see who knows what. And I'm putting in "Raw Factor" and I'm coming across this one particular collection of songs called The Raw Factor. And I'm looking at the titles like, this ain't The Raw Factor! But what happened was - and I'ma be honest Werner, I didn't put that out. That's what a lot of people thought, and that's why they were hitting me for the records like "I'll pay whatever!" But what that particular Raw Factor is, first: "Lost In the Music," which is totally way before The Raw Factor. Then it's The Funky One Liner EP.

Well, now, gotta say this. Of course, you do know that "I'm On Mine" and "Maintain" were on the official Raw Factor that was gonna come out. That was a deal me and Fanatic made with Vince. They were like, "we will sign you, but we want those records on the album." Because we thought the album was gonna stay in that same lane as The Funky One Liner. But when you begin to hear the record, you'll see that it was during that time that Biggie had came, and he really had messed the game - well, not messed it up in a bad way. But he made it really hard for other rappers to come out, because the labels wanted that formula of back when Puff started sampling the old 80s records. And Biggie made it so MCs had to switch it up a little bit. And I can't front, he impacted myself.

I always felt that, as an MC, I should be able to rock over any type beat. If my name is Omniscence, going back to that, there should not be a certain style that I'm stuck in. So some of those records you'll here, like the one where we sample Al B. Sure... I'm not gonna say it's totally away, but sonically I mean. Lyrically, I felt I continued to try to keep it a certain way, but sonically, musically, you would've never heard Al B Sure sampled on The Funky One Liner EP. That was the effects of being signed to a major.

But there's more out there than just the older stuff and the singles...

Well, after the Elektra situation, Fanatic was like, "let's make a 6th Boro compilation." He had now connected with Lord VI and he had an R&B group that he was dealing with. This was recorded in Ultimix, and I wish I could get my hands on that as well. But on this compilation is where you get the songs "Stage Domination," "Causin' Terror." It was a few joints, and if you listen to those, now we're moving further up in time, I've been scorned by the industry, things didn't go right for me with The Raw Factor. It was a harder edge on those records, because of course I came back home and I was dealin' in some street life and different experiences of just being back into general population. Because of course I didn't wanna go get a job. So I was out there kinda whylin' a little bit, out of my element. But you know, I do love those records. Those are some of the dopest records that have never been heard. And I truly believe Fanatic has those records and is going to be bringing those forth. There are about five from me.

So that Raw Factor consisted of all that. And then, this is the most heinous thing about that Raw Factor which pissed me off the worst. They put the fucking snippet tape from me and Big Kap on it.

That's what it was! With that stuff of you talking to Kap, I thought you had to be involved with the mix, like you two made a mix-tape out of the album.

I was like, really man? So can you how imagine how I was feeling? Up 'till not too long ago! I was really sour about this Raw Factor. But you know, the crazy thing, people were like, "yo, that Raw Factor was dope!" Ha ha! And I was just like, nah, that ain't really The Raw Factor, man. It's just a blessing that Dope Folks and Fanatic was able to make it happen, and that I was cut into the deal as well. It's just a blessing, because those records that you're going to be hearing from Dope Folks are official Raw Factor records. And, I don't know how to explain it... They sound really good to me now, years later. Back then, I was like, I don't know, man... I think people wanna hear that Funky One Liner stuff. But now, listening to those records, especially the title cut, "Raw Factor." That song is a representation of what I want the whole album to sound like. That is one of my favorite recordings to this day; I'm just glad people got to hear that particular record.

"If You Got Beef." Of course you remember that Black Sheep record where Dres is going buck wild and then he wakes up, "I dreamt I was hard." That was just me and Fanatic being like let's just record some hard, grimy, ill shit. Because I think that was the backlash of Vincent. Because god bless Vincent Herbert; he's a visionary, responsible for Lady Gaga coming out. He was a great business man, but I think his influence on us kinda took us from that Funky One Liner sound, so "If You Got Beef" was maybe me going a little too hard going hold up, we're still those dudes and we will still bring it like this. But if you go back to The Funky One Liner, it was a hard record, but it wasn't that hard. It was more natural to me. But now I go back and listen to "If You Got Beef" and it's like, yo, that was just dope.

Well, I know you've got one song that's even harder than that, which people haven't heard yet. I blogged about it before, called "When I Make Parole."

Oh my god, oh my god! Another backlash though, Werner. At that time, of course, Boot Camp was hittin' hard, Smif & Wessun had The Shinin' album. And then my man Rock from Brick Flava... he's actually in the "Touch Y'all" video. Fanatic is lip-syncing his voice sayin', "yeah, no question!" That's Rock; and he was just charged. Me and him were feedin' off each other and he's actually the guest appearance on that record. We were just releasing some anger I guess you'd say on that record. Because if you look at Vincent Herbert, his work to this day has been mostly R&B affiliated. There's nothing wrong with that at all, but The Raw Factor is the result of a raw MC coming together with more of an R&B based executive producer. And musically, the only time that has really worked to me has been Biggie and Puffy. I think Vince thought in some way he could pull off what Puffy was pulling off, and... we'll never know, really, what the record would've done. Looking back on it, I think this is dope, but back then I was really concerned about The Funky One Liner people who supported me from that era. I'm proud of it all, though, I wouldn't change a thing. And I'm very glad this music is getting to be heard.

Well, of course, it wasn't just your album that wound up getting shelved. Those guys had a whole roster of strong MCs... Juggaknots, Lin Que, SuperNat, Pete Rock's guy from INI...


Right. And 8-Off, all those guys all got swallowed up. It was crazy.

I think what it was is that Elektra had two MCs they were focused on who had already established themselves: ODB and Busta Rhymes, obviously legends.

I'm just gonna speak on my situation. We were a label within a label. 3 Boyz From Newark was a sublabel distributed by Elektra. So we didn't ask for a lot of help or guidance, so I know that may've caused a little rift in that situation. And the word is that the budget for the album was being misused. And Vince had a deadline to get this album in to Elektra, and this deadline, due to a lot of sample clearances - 'cause now we're sampling really heavy - you can't just throw that stuff out there. And so there was a deadline that wasn't being met, so they pretty much shut the album down and were like, we're gonna have to talk about it. And I think Vince's plan was like, "Look, man, I've milked this thing for what it is..." His thing with me was like, "look, we're gonna go to another label." And I was so frustrated, like the sound had kinda got changed and now it's not coming out.

So what I did was, I'll never forget it. It was a conference call with myself, Fanatic, Vincent Herbert and Barry Henderson - who I don't know if you're familiar, is the long-time manager of R. Kelly and the uncle of Aaliyah - he was actually managing Vince at the time. So I told all of 'em, I need time, I gotta go back home. I gotta get my head together man, because I am the kid from the country, the woods, where you see cows and farms. I'm from that. And I had gotten way, way away from that living in New York City, and things were moving very fast for me. I'm trying to hold on, but when you start messing with my music, that's like taking my soul away from me, man. It became to be a little too much, so I was like yo I want out and I went back home.

So that's why The Raw Factor never came out. Your original question was about me and my label mates, who were some dope cats. I remember my man Daddy D.

He was associated with Latifah or something, right?

Right, yeah I think he was. All I can say, I don't know each individual situation, but I think the guys A&Ring the projects were not very knowledgeable, and the guys promoting the projects. Even up to Sylvia Rhone whose name rings bells. Everybody knows who she is but I don';t know if they were in touch with how to market these hip-hop records. Whereas with Ol Dirty, the Wu was in full effect so it was gonna sell itself.

And I think they had the Das EFX comeback then.

Right, right! They had Das EFX who were already established. But I don't feel that particular album received the marketing it deserved. That was a dope album. And then of course Busta, they had to push that. But I got to speak with all of these guys during that time, they recorded a live performance, which I'm pretty sure you're aware of, the Illstyle Live. That was just a great night where everybody showcased what we were bringing to the table and I gotta say, we were like a family. Everybody respected each other's work. I just don't think Elektra knew what they had.

And what was the connection with Big Kap? Because he was on Illstyle, plus your mix which turned out to be your snippet tape. 

That was my man, one hundred grand. I was introduced to him by a guy named Sincere Thompson, who also hooked up that record I did with Sadat X, the remix. Sincere's just an all around business man and he actually linked me up with Kap. Me and Kap were serious blunt smokers. We hit it off; he actually came out to stay at my crib in Jersey when we were recording The Raw Factor. And I would come out to Brooklyn and hang out with him. We bonded a little bit and that was a natural thing. And of course you know at the time - and probably to this day; I haven't talked to him in a while - he was rolling with Flex and the whole Flip Squad. So there was great potential to parlay that album; we had a lot of things going in our favor. But I still believe, as an MC... You know, some people were meant to put on that shiny suit or jump out and be that. And some artists are meant to keep it true to the core of who they are. But anyway, Kap is my man, and we actually performed five or six more times together, and each time was really good.

One thing that's kinda surprising, especially with your style and the times you were coming out - I guess it's because, coming from NC, you weren't so plugged into the scene - is that you never really did any guest verses on anybody else's projects.

Hey, that's right! You know, recently, I told my man K-Hill thanks for giving me my first guest appearance! You know, that's a North Carolina thing. But to be honest, Werner, I have always been to myself. I have never been that guy - and I regret that in a lot of ways - but I've never really been that guy, like, if we're at a party and X rapper is over there, I'm not gonna go over like yo I"m Omniscence and I wanna do a joint with you! I've always been to myself and I've always been hard to contact up until recently. I've really been to myself. I haven't really been traveling or moving around or anything. I've really been kinda around the way with my peoples and haven't made myself accessible to a lot of people. But I'm here, if anybody should ever wanna collaberate or do a joint, you never know what the future may hold.

Yeah, and certainly before I end this I have to get into the fact that you're back making records now.

Definitely, definitely! I feel like we saved the best part for last, Werner! Ha ha ha! I don't know, that remains to be seen. But let me just say as we're coming to the end... I have never met face to face John Kuesler from Dope Folks, who I hold in high regard. I've never met yourself, who I hold in serious high regard. And I have never met Debonair P face to face. But let me just say Debonair P is one of the truest cats, just how he and I have conducted business. And he is truly someone who I will go to bat for in any situation. This guy is the one guy... Everybody has always wanted to focus on the older records, which I love. I appreciate that love because any love is better than no love. So I get it and I appreciate that. But Debonair is one of the first cats to approach me and say, "I'm a fan from back in the day, but would you be interested in doing some new music? Like, do you still do this?" Ha ha!

Because, see,, the whole time, I never stopped keeping my ear to the music. I never stopped writing and I never stopped believing that I could do it. If this was football or a sport, I could see where as I age, that's gonna have a deterioration on my body and I can't do it... But this is hip-hop! What did Krs say? Even in that time, I'll say a rhyme! When I'm eighty, runnin' around like I'm wild and crazy. So Debonair is one of the first cats and was very instrumental inn me wanting to do this again, along with my man K-Hill, too.

So he shot me some music and I was really digging what he shot me. So with the "Raw Factor 2.0," what I wanted to do was... When you've been gone from the game as long as I have, you don't want to come back on some totally new, like, "is this Omniscence?" So what I tried to do with that record was recapture some of the flair and the rawness of the older records: The "Amazin'"s and the "I'm On Mine"s, "Maintain," alla that. Really "Amazin'" was the record I wanted "Raw Factor 2.0" to be similar to. The samples that Debonair chose was a little smoother, but I still felt that if I put the raw edge on it, we could capture that. And the response has been great!

Which lead to us doing this EP, which just came out.
Yeah, you say it just came out, it JUST came out, like yesterday [order it here]. My copy's still in the mail, I ordered the cassette.

Oh yeah man, I just got my copies the other day. And let me just say, other than the warmth that you'll get from vinyl that was done off a two-inch tape, there's nothing like hearing the warmth off a tape. Other than the vinyl; but it's different. It's really a different sound than the digital recordings..So for the fifty people that are gonna get that cassetre, man, y'all are really gonna get a treatr, man. It's really a good listen.

 And Sharp Objects is a different record. I really want to state that for the record, on this interview, I really want this to be known. It's me speaking on a few topics... Not to say these topics have never been touched on, but these are my perspectives, and my point of view on some of these things are actually sharp. They could actually pierce or cut the average person that's listenin'. As opposed to me just doing some freestyle or party records. That's why I call it Sharp Objects.

Because on "Raw Factor 2.0," people were like okay, he's still in that vein. And I still am. But you gotta realize that I'm forty years old. And when I did those records I was nineteen, twenty, twenty-one... I got a kid now, I got a girl, I'm living at home. But I'm still going out doing some things as well. Because I can't ever shake what's inside of me. So the record Sharp Objects is a perfect blend of me now, mixed with where I was back then. Because some things are never going to change; you can probably tell from this interview I'm still very hyped up about a lot of things. I just hope that the listeners who hear this record allow me to grow and mature, because that's simply what has happened. Because if you throw on the first Redman record, and then you throw on whatever his last joint was, you know, you're going to hear that's till Redman. But you're going to hear the differences in the cadence, the maturity of the voice. And I'm a lot calmer now. I'm still wild and rough, but I like to call it a controlled rage. Ha ha!

And one thing I do think also is difference about Sharp Objects is it's a concept record, man. More than anything, I'm speaking on concepts. Each song has a meaning to it besides just jumping on a mic, which I've been known to do. But if everybody listens to this record and sticks in there with me, I also wanna say that Debonair and I are also planning to do a full-length album, which will include some of the songs from Sharp Objects. And on that album, I'm going to try to touch more angles that I can touch and there will be more of those punchlines and those metaphors. I gotta tell you this, too, before I gotta go. I really appreciate how you were able to point out that in the "Raw Factor 2," I was delivering the punchlines, but they were different. They weren't delivered in the way that let's say I would've done it back in the early nineties, because that would sound kinda corny now, certain things. So I gotta give it to you, your ear is immaculate, because you really peeked that out. So what I'm gonna do on the full-length record I'm gonna do, there's a record I'll preview for everybody right now... It's gonna be called "Return Of the One Liner." And we're gonna go for broke on those punchlines. And I"m gonna try to make them as witty as ever, but not corny. We're gonna see can I pull that off, Werner!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Friday, July 12, 2013

Truly Yours, Marley's Forgotten Remix

Marley Marl and Cold Chillin' have a history of releasing fantastic, slightly extended, reworked but not totally remade remixes on promo 12"s during the prime Juice Crew era. They're not all new sample sets or your typical "it's an all new version," style remix; it's basically just Marley going back to the lab, pulling it apart, and putting it back together again a little more exciting. A little more of his secret spice, as he'd say now. Think of Big Daddy Kane's "Ain't No Half Steppin'" remixTragedy's "Arrest the President" remix, MC Shan's "Juice Crew Law" remix, the Hot Chillin' extended versions... They've been some of the most compelling reasons for hip-hop lovers to start collecting vinyl over the years. Well, there's another one you don't hear about: Kool G Rap & DJ Polo's "Truly Yours" remix.

I'm not talking about that "Truly Yours '98" thing G Rap did with Pete Rock and Extra P, which had everyone wondering "why the hell is a producer album recycling instrumentals made by other producers?" No, this is a vintage, 1989 12" single, with another recooked-but-not-drastically-remade remix by Marley, on Cold Chillin' Records.

I'm sure very few of you reading this need me to tell you that "Truly Yours" is infamous. It's probably the coldest diss record not directed at another rapper. The beat is crazy, old school funky and G Rap just takes it real slow and direct as he puts his ex-girlfriends on blast over a chunky bassline. The second verse is also certainly the most homophobic rap ever committed to wax. It was the 80's, not the most enlightened times.. And really, the fun of it id that the entire song is just designed to make his targets feel as shitty as possible about their lives. "Yeah, you got a little nine to five; so what? What do you do for a living, slice cold cuts?" Hopefully, they're all hypothetical composite characters, like New York Magazine does.  =)

So, anyway, this remix. Granted, it's not as impressive as most of the others I listed above... not so much because this instrumental doesn't stand on par wit the others, because it does. But it's just not one where the remix was such an improvement, at least compared to "Arrest the President," say. But I'm surprised how under-represented it is. I mean, even when Traffic reissued Road To the Riches as a 2CD, 4LP set with all the 12" remixes and radio freestyles, they somehow missed this one. They threw on all those Dub Mixes and A Capellas, but left this off.

Granted, the remixing this time is really subtle. So much so, in fact, most of it could be written off completely as negligible.  The cuts sound more prominent in the mix, but they're the same cuts. The ending is noticeably different... after Marley says, "word, now you wild females know how G Rap livin'," on the album version it quickly fades out. On this 12" remix, the ending is extended, and the big break beat and "hold up, my man" vocal sample come back for a reprise before the song ends.

Surprisingly, the biggest difference isn't instrumental at all; it's in the words. Marley's words. Before the second verse, Marley prompts Kool G Rap by saying,

"Yo, G, man. Yo, you should diss her man. Yo, I heard he's a homo, anyway!"

But on this Remix Vocal, his line has been completely removed and replaced. Marley's still here, though, with a new prompt:

"Oooohhh woooh!  'Ey yo, 'ey yo. Yo, G Rap! Why don't you kick it about her man. He be dressin' funny, anyway! Ha HAA!"

Did Marley have second thoughts? Maybe he wanted to dial back his participation in the vicious verbal onslaught to follow. More likely in my opinion, this change was just made to make for radio. Somebody at Warner Bros probably told them they shouldn't say "homo" on the air. But in context of the rest of the record, which admittedly doesn't feature any actual curse words, that one line seems like a pretty soft spot. In fact, we know that even with the change, this record still wound up causing a controversy and boycotted off the radio. As Kool G Rap told it in his Unkut interview, "That 'other community' got a little sensitive behind it and I heard that they boycotted one of the stations in California that added the record into rotation. They snatched my record off the air, they snatched my album off the shelves at a real crucial point in my career. I might’ve had a Gold record with Road To the Riches if it wasn’t ‘cos of that."

 So, I really can't say this remix is essential. The instrumental changes are too slight to probably even ping most listeners' radar, and some people might consider the vocal switch to make this a censored, radio mix. It's certainly an interesting little 12", though. It also has a Dub Mix and the album track "Cold Cuts" on the B-side, so it's not a bad crate filler. There's also a second, promo version of this 12" that has the same A-side, but a Remix Vocal - Fade version on the B-side instead of the other stuff, which I presume is the same as the A-side, but fades out like the LP mix.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Learn Along With Werner, part 7: How Much Boodie Can You Take At One Time?

So, if you read my blog regularly, you know I've been pretty interested in the I.C.P.... meaning the Ice Cold Productions family, not the clowns.  I'm definitely a fan of Fat Daddy and his projects with Balli and Don Ugly (I'm sure it's only a matter of time until a Madd Blunted post or two crops up on here); and I was quite impressed with Shake G's tracks on the ICP posse album. I was interested in Da Big Boyz and was hoping to find other material by them, but unfortunately I don't think they ever had a proper release. But in searching for that, I did find that the similarly named ICP group Dem Boiz did release a couple singles (literally two), so I had to cop one.

This is their first release, called "How Much Boodie" and it came out in 1994 on CMBR/ Critique Records, distributed by BMG. It's produced by Afro-Dominican Eddie DM Wilson, who I believe is one of the Boiz, and also features a remix by DJ Roonie G, who I'm not terribly excited by, but I have at least heard of.

I'm sorry to report, however, it's pretty disappointing. It's a very generic "booty bass" track with a very uninspiring instrumental and "same ol' same ol'" concept. Hearing a line-up of MC passing the mic keeps things a little interesting, and makes me wonder how these guys would sound if they tackled a different style of song. We hear very briefly that Wilson has an exotic flow which could be interesting if actually put to use. I'm not sure how strong any of these guys are lyrically, but I can hear some interesting deliveries being given very little attention by the track. If they had a chance to flex their mic skills, they could do something at least more interesting; but as it is, they're mostly just kicking short, predictable "fill the space between the chorus" verses. There are some earnest attempts to inject energy into this song by bringing in different samples and elements throughout the song; but it's just not enough when the core is so limp. For everyone who hates 90s Miami bass music, this is exactly the kind of song they have in their minds.

There's a Low Rider Bass Mix, which changes up the percussion a bit, and I think actually works worse than the main version. It ends with an amusing "Sex! Or be destroyed!" chorus, though, which again hints that these guys might've been capable of better than we're shown here. And after that Low Rider Mix, there are two versions of the Roonie G remix: Radio and a slightly longer Club Mix, which breathes a little more life into things.  But at the end of the day, none of it's very good. You'd have to be a die-hard lover of the booty bass scene to work up a strong opinion of this single.

Based on the title, I don't expect much more from their follow-up single, "Body Talk," though I'm enough of a completist that I'm sure I'll have to at least give it a spin if I come across a copy one day. If it turns out there was a single from Da Big Boyz, though, that I'd have to get.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Godfather of Rap

Any old school head who knows their shit will hold up Spoonie Gee as one of the titan lyricists of the dawning hip-hop age. His narratives, his cleverness without forsaking his street edge. Groundbreaking classics like "Spoonin' Rap," "Love Rap" and "The New Rap Language" with The Treacherous Three. But then, it's like the story ends. Almost a flash - a strong, critical flash that forever changed the genre -  but still not much more than a flash in a form of music that was evolving at light-speed. Once Run DMC and T La Rock came, it was over for all those disco dinosaurs. But Spoonie Gee hung in there, man.

After the Sugar Hill era, CBS Records took him out for a quick spin, releasing the single "the Big Beat," but it never blew up and that was enough for them. But a smaller, indie NY label was working with CBS in those years, and wound up hanging on to Spoonie for actually quite a long time. And you can't really blame anyone for not paying much attention to all this... The production on later singles like "Street Girl" and "Get Off My Tip" would not have turned any heads in the new era of big studio product like Whodini or even The Boogie Boys, and again with Def Jam just popping up on the scene. When "The New Love Rap" dropped that same year, it probably looked like the misguided flailing of somebody who should've retired years ago.

And by 1987, the year of Rakim and the early classic Juice Crew records, even the new school that had left Spoonie behind was old school. But anyone who took the time to check in on what Spoonie was still tinkering around with over at Tuff City was justly rewarded. Spoonie had caught up with up and coming, cutting edge super-producer Marley Marl in 1986, and from there it was back on!

In 1987, he released this: his strongest single since the old days, "The Godfather." As he says on the record, "I changed my style; people just didn't know it." Spoonie had never lost it as an MC, and on this record he was coming back full swing to take his title back. He had the swagger of "Spoonin' Rap" combined with an updated style that put him back on the forefront of the day's lyricists. And Marley gave him one of his toughest breaks, with some raw cutting and a blaring horn loop for the hook. This could not only fit in perfectly on Paid In Full, and even be one of the hottest songs. This was a serious monster jam!

Unfortunately, Tuff City didn't really have the reach to get his record out there to have the impact it should've. It got some play and earned props to be sure. And Spoonie has doing everything right. He had early singles with Teddy Riley just as he was on the cusp of exploding. He was killing classic breaks, stayed working with Marley. Tuff City put out a solid full-length, but just couldn't really get it out there nationwide and compete with the majors for publicity. It also didn't help that some tracks did sound kinda shaky and unhip, like his ode to boxer "Mighty Mike Tyson." It would be hard to sell that to kids whose minds were just blown by "Night Of the Living Bassheads" and "Fuck the Police."

But "The Godfather?" Holy fuck, that is just timeless, great hip-hop right there.  How many copies did it sell? Who knows. Forget about it. This record is like a litmus test: if it's not in your collection, it's wack and turns green. There's not a lot to the 12"... the main vocal version on side A, and the Instrumental plus a Dub Mix on the flip. Killers like this don't need a bunch of remixes or B-side bonuses. It just sits there and commands respect. Did you ever see the movie The Godfather? It's just like that except it's a rap record instead of a wheezy, shadowy Italian guy. But that's the only difference.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Puppies Are a Lie!!

It's time I got down to the bottom of The Puppies' conspiracy, and worked out exactly just who's for real in this mess. What? You didn't even know there was a Puppies conspiracy? Ha ha! You probably didn't even realize that Jay-Z is the head of an evil, Satanic cult that's brainwashing our children. ...Okay, no, but seriously. There is a real thing with The Puppies.

Look at this "Big Booty 12"" put out by Vision Records in 1995. The first track is by The Real Pupps, featuring the legendary Disco Rick and Fresh Kid Ice. They also have a song on the flip-side with MC Roni D. Well, why would you specify that you were "The Real" Pupps, unless you felt that there was another group out there, capitalizing on your name, style and the media attention that should be rightfully yours? I can't think of another reason, but if you can it doesn't matter because that's exactly what's going on here.

If you were paying attention in the 90s when kiddie rap groups became popular, you may remember The Puppies. They were the big Miami bass representatives of that phenomenon who scored some hits with tracks like "Funky Y2C," "Summer Delight," and to a lesser extent, their club rendition of the "Hokey Pokey." They had two albums: their self-titled debut in 1994 and its follow-up, Recognize, in 1996, both on Joey Boy Records. Listen to those albums and they name-check themselves hundreds of times. Look at the album covers, watch the videos... It's two kids, a boy and a girl, named Big Boy and Tamara Dee. Sure, we remember them.
But were those two always The Puppies? Let's delve a little further into the history of the group. The first place you would've heard of The Puppies was The Dogs' infamous hit single, "Crack Rock," where a chorus of children taunt, "yo mama's on crack rock!" Or maybe you recall the kid on the intro to "Where Is Disco Rick At," Disco Rick's angry response to his former crew, Gucci Crew II's "Show Bizz," where a young kid yells, "can somebody tell me where Disco Rick at?" How about the chorus to "Ten Little N....s?"  They were never credited (the album was very light in song credits in general), but this was the inauspicious debut of The Puppies. That's the origin of their name - they were the little kids version of The Dogs.

A later album from The Dogs featuring Disco Rick, Beware Of the Dogs, is fortunately a little more forthcoming with its credits. The liner notes there spelled out the line-up of The Puppys[sic.] as: Li Greg, Extherlena, Sereba, Cantrell, Keysa, Latrell, Disheka, Chanelle, Terrick, Donta, Shalena, Dorena and Shunda. Holy crap, that's a lot of kids. But you'll notice two names that aren't there: Big Boy and Tamera Dee. Then, two years after that album, when Disco Rick left the label to sign with Luke, and Dogs member Ant "D" released his solo album, Top Dog, featuring The Puppies, the credits were a little different. They list the line up as: Big Boy, Tamera "D," Pup Pound, Melissa, Monique, Shante and Porsche.

Well, things are starting to become clear now, right? In between Beware Of the Dogs and Top Dog, Disco Rick left the label to sign with Luke. The Dogs was always essentially a solo act of just Disco Rick backed up by his crew. He did all the rapping, song writing and production. The line-up of The Dogs was pretty large on the early LPs, including guys like Rodney, Baby D, Damien, JJ, Peanut, Nova and DJ Tony Tone. When Rick left, Joey Boy Records tried to keep the group alive by making dancers Ant D and Peanut the lead rappers, and doing all the production themselves. Then, when Ant D wound up getting put on death row for murder, the label owners just became The Dogs themselves. They were certainly capable, since the owners are brothers Carlton Mills and Calvin Mills II, a.k.a. The Rock Force, who actually produced a large majority of the artists' albums on their label.

Now let's look at Big Boy and Tamera D's real names... Calvin Mills III and Tamera Dee Mills. That's right, Joey Boy just stuck their own kids in and took over the group name, making them the new Puppies. Pretty much the same thing they did with The Dogs... the artists were out but they kept the group names and continued to release records as if they were still the original act.

By the way, just to be thorough... you may've noticed that The Puppies second album, Recognize, says it's featuring The Pup Pound. That Pup Pound consists of Tinika, Tamyra and Candice, who may or may not be the same Pup Pound from Top Dog.

So, okay, here's the chronology of Puppies albums... Top Dog with Ant D in 1993, self titled in 1994 and Recognize in 1996. Now, this "Big Booty 12"" on Vision Records (which Disco Rick was a co-owner of)? 1995. Putting The Real Pupps right in the middle of The Puppies' two major albums. I suspect these songs were recorded for what was intended to be a full-length album by The Real Pupps, designed to challenge The Puppies for their name and clout.  But Vision became a graveyard of Rick's unrealized projects at that time, with singles and compilations promising albums by acts like Silence (Down 4 Life) and Roni D (Mind of a Mother's Child) that never came out. So they wound up just being included on this EP and a CD compilation called Bass In da Hood.

But just who are The Real Pupps exactly? Bass In da Hood has more detailed liner notes than the 12", but even that doesn't tell us much besides the interesting tidbit that Quad Star and Don Ugly (of Madd Blunted) had a hand in "Get Low, Get Low" and that both the Pupps' material is being released in conjunction with Phat Rat Records (who presumably would've released the album, had anybody done so). But actually listening to the songs, it gets a little more interesting...

They start laying claim to their authenticity by asking, "remember back in the days when we used to kick it with The Dogs?" They rap, but a large part of their act (just like the other Puppies) is providing hooks and shouted choruses. And a lot of that is sampled and replayed by the producers. Interestingly though, a major refrain from both of the new songs is actually a sample from the intro to the original "Crack Rock" song ("oochie wally wally, oochie bang bang" - long before Nas or The Bravehearts recorded their songs!), I guess to demonstrate that these are the real Pupps. But they name-check themselves, too; and while it's a little hard to make out since they're talking over some very busy instrumentals, it seems to be just two girls named Sereba and Noochie (guessing on the spelling, of course). Now let's scroll back up to the list of kids from The Dogs' album before the Mills brothers substituted their own offspring.  Sereba's there, but I don't see any Noochies. Maybe it's a new nickname, or maybe it's just one more kid being thrown into the mix. If anyone wants to come forward, I'd love to know.

At the end of the day though, all The Puppies/ Real Pupps kids sound the fucking same, and a large percentage of their performances seems to be created by their producers anyway. But I like that at least one of the original Puppies girls got to come back for a second round while The Mills' kids were making deals with Sony and Pandisc. It's a shame The Real Pupps' album never came out, not so much for the lost art, but just because it would've made for a pretty entertaining publicity battle to have two kids groups claiming to be the authentic Puppies. It would've made for some amusing Source articles, and all these Puppy records are at least fun examples of the more hype side of 90s Miami bass; you can never have too much of that.