Friday, April 18, 2014

Before There Was Sparky D, There Were...

The Playgirls is one of the oldest female rap groups on wax*. Before making her name feuding with Roxanne Shanté and getting involved in the epic Roxanne Wars, Sparky D was one one of The Playgirls, who released their debut 12" single in 1984 (Sparky's famous debut, "Sparky's Turn," dropped in 1985). It's called "Our Picture of a Man," and it came out on Sutra Records, home of the original Fat Boys albums, along with many others.

This is back before 12" singles were typically loaded with B-sides and remixes, so it's just the one song and its Instrumental on the flip. But it's pretty tight. Produced by Spyder D, who'd go on to back Sparky's whole career all the way to today, it's got a very funky, appealing track. Spyder's voice even appears on the track. And The Playgirls have cool voices, a lot of energetic interplay and some smooth flows for 1984. It's 1984, so yeah there's a ton of hand claps and definitely sounds of the period. But it's always shifting and feels very alive, with elements of the music changing through out all the verses... There's keyboard horns, and a funky keyboard bass; plus a catchy xylophone riff and some very naturalistic sounding drums for '84.

They really rock it. Ostensibly, the song's about... well, like the title says, their idea of an ideal man, versus the men they meet in their everyday lives who fall well short. And they definitely address that: "Think it's all about you, ain't a damned thing funny. You've got to be crazy if you want my money. Money ain't the world that a fellow needs, but you'd rather go spend it all on cocaine and weed."  But they wind up breaking into so many harmonies and choruses, and eventually just ditch the concept all together and kicking fresh bragging rhymes 'till the end of the record. Like they're just having too good of a time to worry about dragging the topic to the end of the song, and that good time is contagious.

Now, not to be confused with The B. Girls - the all-female rap group Sparky joined later in the 80s - the Other Playgirls are Mo Ski and City Slim.  Sparky's the only one who made a name for herself outside of the trio, but they turned up one more time on Sparky's "The Battle," where they have a pretend beef and battle each other on NIA Records. It's a shame they didn't record more, because all three of them were good rappers' but I guess it was just Sparky who got the momentum after "It's My Turn." That's too bad, because I think some more Playgirls records would've been more fun than just Sparky on her own. But I guess it just wasn't to be.

The group (including Spyder) briefly reunited in the 90s, though, to release an independent 12" answer record to Apache's "Gangsta Bitch," but that was mostly just another Sparky solo record, with City Slim only appearing on one of the three songs and Mo Ski completely MIA. ...In fact, according to the shout-outs at the end, they don't know where she is, saying, "to my girl Mo Ski, where ever you may be. If you're out there, here's a shout out." It was also on a total, grimy 90's hardcore vibe; totally oppositional to their past sound... but still fun. I don't think The Playgirls could help being fun.

That's why this record holds up much better than you'd expect it to. So if you've never heard it, I recommend giving it a listen. It's a treat.

*Not THE first of course... The Sequence's first 12" dates all the way back to '79!

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