Thursday, January 19, 2017

Flippin' PHD's "I'm Flippin'"

This is one of those posts I'm writing as much for my own benefit as for any of yours.  See, "I'm Flippin'" is a dope song from PHD's underrated 1991 album Without Warning on Tuff City Records.  And it was a single.  I mean, they practically released singles for half the album, but this one had a video and everything.  Raw, Queens street rap about dealing long before the rise of Queensbridge criminology and Cuban Links, Illmatic, AZ, Tragedy's reinvention, etc.  I mean, this was after Kool G Rap's "Road To the Riches" and "Streets of New York," so I don't want to oversell this as completely inventing a subgenre or anything; and I know Rick Ross and everybody has turned pushing weight into kiddie pop music nowadays; but I remember it was fairly eyebrow raising to have a music video be that detailed about hustling drugs at that time.

So anyway, besides being on the album, "I'm Flippin'" was released as one half of a cassingle I already covered on this blog, "Do It Any Way You Wanna Do It."  That single featured a couple remixes of "I'm Flippin'," or at least one.  It was a little confusing because I think at least one of the tracks on there is mislabeled.  And then there's the 12" single, which features six versions, the names of which definitely don't coincide with the previous single.  And it also calls two versions the Vocal Remix version.  So, it's just one of those 12"s that features the same tracks on both sides?  Nope.  Despite having two tracks called the exact same thing, they're different!

And that's why I'm at least partially writing this post for myself.  This is old music I don't exactly spin daily these days, and having three different releases (including the album), with alternate versions of the same song, several seemingly mislabeled, I can never remember what's what.  I can remember several years ago playing all the versions and working it all out for myself, and today I've forgotten.  So this time I'm making a record of what's what, so from now on I can just look it up on my blog.  And, you know, you guys can read along with me.  😎

So let's start with the album version.  That came out first, and it's a tight track with with hard drums, a cool bassline, a tight piano loop and another, crackly piano sample over the hook.  Like the rest of the album, it's produced by the HD of PHD, DJ Hot Day.  It's great, and it's actually a wonder they remixed this one at all because the original one works so well; I really have that extra hook sample.

So then we come to the 1991 "Do It" B-side.  It's interesting to point out, by the way, that this tape is mislabeled, and the music on the A-side actually plays on the B-side and vice versa.  Anyway, first up is the Vocal Remix, and it's largely the same as the album version with the same drums and piano loop.  But it doesn't have that older, jazzy piano sample on the hook, and instead makes a bit more of a meal of a new, poppier bassline.  Also, and I imagine this is why it's called a "Vocal" Remix, it features all new clean lyrics.  "Nigga with an attitude" becomes "trooper with an attitude," and a lot of "fucks" are replaced.  It's a decent alternative, and I guess it has a little bit more of a "cleaner" sound that would work better for a single and video, but I prefer the album version, lyrically and instrumentally.

Next up is the Instrumental Remix, and you'd expect it to be the instrumental of that Vocal Remix we just heard, right?  But nope, it's an all new instrumental remix, and it's really tight.  Bit horns and and shit.  We actually here this version with the vocals on the third and final version of "I'm Flippin'" on "Do It," the Original Mix.  So yeah, it's definitely not the album version, but a killer remix that easily tops the last one, even though, disappointingly, it also uses the clean lyrics (which makes it all the more confusing that they label it "Original").  Also, according to the notes here, it's also produced by Hot Day.  That's gonna come up again.

So finally we come to the 1992 12" single of "I'm Flippin'," which again, only features six versions of "I'm Flippin'."  First up is the Vocal Remix.  This is definitely not the Vocal Remix from the "Do It" 12", but a whole new remix, with a funky, more 90's sounding remix and a bit of a Pete Rock influence.  A very familiar, rolling bassline (it's the same one from Master Ace's "The Music Man," but shown in a very different light here) and soft echoing horns.  As the song starts, it's my least favorite version, but the extra horns and samples they bring in on the hook sound great, though; and there's a hot change-up that kicks in for a few moments where the sample set completely changes. Lyrically, it's still the clean version.

Next is the Instrumental Remix, which isn't the same as the Instrumental Remix we had on the other single, but the instrumental for the latest remix we just heard.  Then there's Acappella Mix, which is exactly what it sounds like.  And yes, it's the clean version.

Flip the record over, and we come to the Video Remix.  This is what was labeled as the Vocal Remix on "Do It," with the poppier bassline and yes, the clean lyrics again.  After that is another track labeled Instrumental Remix, but it's not the one from side A, but rather the one from the "Do It" single with the blaring horns.  And finally another track labeled Vocal Remix, which this time is that full blaring horns version of the song.  And yes, once again, clean lyrics.

Oh, and didn't I say PHD's production credit would come up again?  Yeah, yeah.  Well HD naturally gets production credit on the 12", too.  But on side A it also says it's Remixed by Rashand "Algee" Smith.  He doesn't have a lot of credits, but has done some dope stuff like Organized Konfusion's "Fudge Pudge" and "Latifah's Had It Up To Here."  So my guess is that Algee just did the 12" exclusive remix, the one I said had a Pete Rock influence; but the label doesn't exactly make the distinction clear.  He could've done all the remixes for how it's written out.  But I think he just did the one.

So, for those keeping score, the B-side to the 12" is exactly the same as the "I'm Flippin'" side of "Do It."  The same three tracks appear in the same order, just with different, conflicting labels.  That does leave the 12" with an extra, exclusive remix, plus its instrumental and the acappella.  Unfortunately, neither of the singles include the original lyrics anywhere at all.  The original, curse-laden lyrics, as well as the original instrumental, are only available on the album.  But the exclusive remixes are dope, clean or not, so you should definitely still check for those.  And at least he re-rapped the clean version as opposed to them using awkward edits or bleeps that always ruin the flow of a song.  It's a hot track, so I recommend all of it.  All told, there are four very distinct versions of the song, and every single one is worth your time.  And even though the "Do It" single has nothing exclusive on it by way of "I'm Flippin'," it still has the remix of "Do It," so you'll want that, too.  Tuff City has all these obscure 12"s, and I'm always like, "do I really need this one, too?"  And the answers almost always, "yup.  It's Tuff City; just get it."

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Portal Gun Reloaded

Alright, I did a video about UG's highly awaited new album Portals already.  Watch that if you're interested in my thoughts on the album.  But since then, the vinyl version has dropped, as well another new bonus CD.  All told, that's three CDs, a record and a tape, and a lot of different material between them.  So, I thought I'd do my thing and break down all the versions and all their respective bonus tracks in a little, comprehensive overview.

So, first of all, let's take a quick look at the LP.  Yes, LP.  I could swear I read when this was announced that it was going to be an EP, but I guess not.  Musically, the LP is exactly same as the main CD [left], all fourteen tracks including the skits.  So that was a nice initial surprise, when I was expecting a little "best of" 6-tracker and got the whole album.  It's limited to 300 copies and as you can see above, it's a dope picture cover, and the wax is a very cool splatter-colored vinyl.  They also included a some cool bonus stickers and a second poster with the order, which was nice of them, as I mentioned in my video, the posters included with the CD were bent and folded into the packaging.  This time they're nice and crisp, albeit unsigned.  Obviously the record itself is the important thing, but I appreciate when a label gets all the little extra details right like that.

In addition to the CD and LP versions, there's a cassette version.  I showed that in the video, but in case you don't feel like watching it, I'll repeat that it's a cool purple tape.  Not only does that match the album artwork, but it's a cool reference to the original Cella Dwellas purple tape cassingle that lead directly to Raekwon's famous purple tape.  The label describes the cassette as limited on their store, but I'm not sure to how many copies exactly.  Anyway, the tape introduces the first of the bonus tracks, "We Not Playing (Revisited)" featuring Ill Bill of Non-Phixion.  It's called "Revisited" because it's a sequel to a song they did together on Ide's 2011 album, Rite of Passage.  It's not just a remix, though, it's an all new song with all new verses set to roughly the same instrumental.

Next up is the Instrumentals album (titled Portals Bonus Material on the CD itself).  Yes, this features all 14 instrumentals from the main Portals album.  That's nice to have in itself, but then it also has four more bonus tracks on it.  First up is "Wordplay" featuring Ide, an all new song that they regarded highly enough to release as an online single.  It's not one of UG's "mystical" songs, but it's pretty fresh.  Then "We Not Playing (Revisited)" is on here, too.  Next is "Scripts N Scrolls," a song which was originally going to be part of Portals (it says so on the 2011 label sampler where it was first heard), but later wound up on Ide's album Uncovered Remains.  And yes, that is another mystical-style track.  And finally, the last track is "You Already Snow (2012 Version)," a remix of the duet UG did with Celph Tilted on Portals.  Not really a favorite song of mine in either incarnation, but it's a solid remix, production-wise.

Another thing I mentioned in my video was an mp3-only bonus track that people who pre-ordered the original package got.  Well, if you missed it, don't feel bad, because it's now found a proper physical home on this new bonus CD, Portals: B-Sides and Remixes.  This is a full-length album of ten cuts, no instrumentals.  Four of these are remixes of Portals tracks, including my favorite song, "Super Gods," and "Mind Right" done by Nick Wiz himself.  There's also a remix of "Ready for War," which is cool, but the track doesn't really match the vocals, plus another version of "You Already Snow."  One song is "My Soldiers" an older track featuring Casual and Smif-N-Wessun's Steele that was originally featured on Ide's Addicted To the Vision album.  So four remixes and an older song means five all new songs, which is pretty exciting.  The first is "Intro," but it's not just some little 30 second instrumental, but a full song with vocals.  Then there's "Might & Magic Pt. 2."  "Might & Magic" was one of the best songs on Portals, and I think this one is even a little bit better.  "Close Your Eyes" was that mp3 exclusive, and it's another great one, even better than a lot of the songs on Portals.  The other two songs are cool, too.  There's "Space Ghost" and "Doc Strange" (hey, that's what I called him in my vid!) featuring DV Alias Khryst.  It would be going too far to say this bonus CD is better than the Portals album itself, but it gives it a good run for its money.

So pre-ordering Portals is a thing of the past, as all versions have landed, with the vinyl arriving on my doorstep just in time for Christmas.  But looking at their site, you can still buy either bundle or every individual item separately.  The tape, each bonus CD, just the t-shirt.  So you can pick and choose however you want.  I'd recommend the main album on whichever format floats your boat [just kidding; vinyl all the way!] and the B-Sides CD, or a bundle if you're really a fan.  I mean, if this is your thing.  I could totally get how UG's "mystic" stuff is probably too strange for most people who just want a relatable pop song or a tale of grim, urban reality they can take seriously.  But I love it; UG's got a unique talent and I already can't wait for his next album.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Ringing In the New Year With... Who Else?

It's 2017, and what better way to celebrate than writing some more about Father MC?  Today's record is a little 1995 12" called "Sexual" on Spoiled Brat Recordings, the same label that released Kool Moe Dee's final LL Cool J diss and some of Kool Keith's earliest solo material. This is one of the singles from the strange case of Father's dueling simultaneous albums This Is For the Players and Sexual Playground, which you can read about here.  And, uh, be wary of the comments to that post, it's a bit of a minefield.

This is the promo version of the 12", where the label clearly hasn't been completed.  Not only does it leave off the specific track listing (this 12" features main, dub, instrumental and accapella versions), but the full song title, which is actually "Sexual Playground."  I'd stayed away from this 12" for a long time because I was associating it with the terrible club remix, simply titled "Playground" on the Sexual Playground album.  But this version, the original that was featured on This Is For the Players, is actually pretty good.

A large part of why it works is a large part of why a lot of Father MC records work: excellent sample selection.  This song uses almost the entire instrumental of Patrice Rushen's "Feels So Real (Won't Let Go)."  It's a huge lift, so detract some points for originality.  But what can you say?  When you loop a great 80s record, the rap version's gotta sound pretty great, too.  And, as Father is famous for, he's got another strong R&B chorus.  Now the album credits this to Danny Blanco, but there is clearly a female singer doing a duet with the guy on the chorus.  I won't say they out-sing Rushen, but they sound pretty good and it definitely comes together as a catchy, slightly campy redux.

I was also happy to see Father MC return to his slightly more romantic roots here.  This was his first album(s) after his time with Uptown; and at that point, he'd dropped the MC from his name and went from doing love and heartbreak songs to bragging about being a pimp and a player.  Here, you see the MC is back, and he's back to rapping about relationships over funky soul grooves with R&B singers on the hooks.  Short of him going all the way back to his 1st Fleet Crew sound, this is what I think all us Father MC fans wanted from him, and he delivered.

Not that it's a perfect song.  These singers are nice, but they're no Mary J. Blige and Jodeci.  And I called the song romantic, but that was a bit generous as the lyrics feature Father rapping, "now who wants the body, the body, the sexual irresistible player, women slayer" as the girl invites us to, "come on and play in my sexual playground." So it's not exactly Jane Austen, but you can't begrudge Father all his fun.  It's admittedly a bit corny ("if you wanna please me, you gotta squeeze me," "so if you want some TLC, creep wit me into ecstasy"), and it's one of those records where if you already own the 80s original, the modern day rap version can feel kinda pointless (you know, like Coolio's "Fantastic Voyage" or The Firm's "Firm Biz," where the best parts of the song are just what they lift from the original sources as opposed to their additions).  But it's all upbeat, cheerful and he never says anything too embarrassing.  It actually holds up fairly well, and I think I appreciate it more now than I did in 1995.  Good times.