Sunday, July 30, 2017

Big L Grail On Record Store Day

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(This past Record Store Day, we got one killer release, with some very long-awaited music by the great Big L.  Youtube version is here.)

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Return Of Silver Fox, and a New Label Enters the Ring

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(Kool G. Rap's mentor and O.G. member of The Fantasy Three. Silver Fox, returns with an all new single.  His debut.  Youtube version is here.)

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Wernski Is Rockin' On the Radiooooo

Hey, folks, I was just a guest on the Newt Podcast, a Hip-Hop podcast hosted by comic James Mascuilli that you can listen to here or on ITunes, Podbay, or wherever you like getting your podcasts from.  So you know, if you're the sort of person who finds yourself visiting this blog, maybe it's something you'd be interested in checking out.  My episode and another one interviewing DJ Mighty Mi were both posted on the same day.  Remember "Mighty Mi For Your Stereo System?"  That was fresh.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Death City Boyz Vs. The Bopsey Twins

Sometimes you just talk about a good record.  This is a one shot single by a group called the Death City Boyz out of Clinton, NY, better known as Hell's Kitchen.  "The Bopsey Twins" came out in 1985 on Snowflake Records, the same label as DJ Polo's original group, The Terminators, and it's just a solid record all around.  Yeah, it's a record about girls (we'll come back to them in a minute), but the rapping by the three Boyz: Nasty Prince B, KMG and Johnny Rock is pretty strong.  But the real hook of this record is the phat production with super big beat, deep bassline, and very catchy electro elements, including cuts by their DJ Professor Paul.

Now, if the name "Bopsey Twins" sounds familiar, it's because it comes from a long running series of children's books called The Bobbsey Twins.  Seriously, there've been hundreds of them, going back to the early 1900s.  It was a boy and a girl and I think they solved mysteries... I never actually read them.  This record doesn't really have anything to do with those characters, though, it's just referring to "Bobbsey/ Bopsey twins" as a nickname for any two inseparable friends.  In fact, in this song, they're literal identical twins, two hot girls named Katie and Kim - one sexy, one shy - who each of the Death City Boyz have romantic run-ins with, and of course it's a misadventure, mistaking one for the other ("Now hold up, man, now it's me to do the dissin'.  I was goin' out with Kim, but it was Katie I was kissin'!").  I'm not quite sure if it's meant to be funny, but it's not really the story-telling aspect of this record that works.  The Boyz have great voices and flows for 1985, and high energy interplay with each other.  And again, they sound kind of hardcore for such a fluff topic, which goes great with the electro production, mixed by DJ Frankie Bones.

There are a couple mixes on the 12": Long Version, Short Version, Dub and X-Rated Version.  Despite the name, the lyrical differences between the X-Rated and other versions are pretty slim, and it really doesn't live up to its "X-Rated" name.  But it is a little more sexual, starting with the second verse, where the line, "found Katie in my house, in a nightgown" becomes "found Katie on my bed, without a blouse."  And at the end of the verse on the original, he brags "we did it mid-town style!"  But he says "doggie style" on the X-Rated.  Later, they call Katie a "ho," but on the original they say "she's so low."  Finally, in the last verse, Katie is either "the one I screwed" or "not the one for you," and she either got "horny" or "hot."  And the biggest difference is a whole extra couple of lines in the final verse, "yes, we hopped into the sack and she was ready to work.  And I thought in my mind I was Kimmie's first, because she started to scream, and she started to shout, and now the whole East Side knows that I busted her out," is only on the X-Rated Version.

Actually, I've been calling the Long Version the "original," but it's probably more likely they wrote the X-Rated version first, and the label asked them to rewrite those lines for radio.  Anyway, as you can see, the X-Rated version isn't exactly a Blowfly record; they probably thought the X-Rated was clean enough when they wrote it.  So, lyrically, I'd definitely say just go with the "X-Rated" version, because it sounds more natural, although the long version does also have some extra, funky instrumentation.

So, like I said, this was a one-off record for the Death City Boyz, meaning it was their only song.  But Prince B and KMG continued working with Frankie Bones and formed a singing group called Spirit Matter.  I'd say they were better rappers than singers, but they still had some solid, electro-style production, and released a couple respectable freestyle records, particularly 1989's "Betrayal."  But none of it was as dope as "The Bopsey Twins."

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Really Hidden Jewels

Here's a really obscure and interesting one.  The name, Hidden Jewels, turns out to be quite apt.  On the surface, it's just a compilation album of old, common funk records from the 70s... some James Brown, Funkadelic, Roy Ayers and a lot of War.  There's one Beastie Boys joint in the mix, which is a little random.  But otherwise, it seems pretty straight forward.  It's a 1998 mix CD, meant to sell you on buying a bunch of Polygram vinyl reissues.  "CLAIM YOUR VINYL JEWELS TODAY CALL NOW!" it says in the CD booklet, and there's a bunch of phone and fax numbers for "interested jewel buyers."  And so in a way, it's as much of an advertisement as a mix.

Or should I say, three mixes: the sapphire group, the diamond group and the ruby group.  This gets into some ridiculously corny shit that fits perfectly with the goofy, tacky album cover above.  On the inside, we learn that the Ruby Mix is funded by "Milk-crates," and Diamond Mix's religion is "Baptist."  And it's all laid out over a map of Sherwood Forrest.  lolwhut?  But, here's the first hint that this album might actually be worth looking at.  Each of those three mixes is by a different DJ... an actual, credible talented and established DJ.  These are mixes by DJ Rhettmatic, Mr. Len and DJ Drez/ Dr. EZ.

So, it's not just a compilation of these old songs, it's a mix, with scratching, beat juggling and interesting things like that.  So, okay, kinda cool.  But still, the CD was made first and foremost to sell these old records, so the DJ's can't too much musical transformation with these 12"s.  They still largely wind up having to let each song play out unaltered for long stretches at a time.

But there's still more, and here's why this CD (and yes, it's a CD only release) is actually worth tracking down.  At the end of each mix, each DJ gets a posse cut with their crew.  So, at the end of Rhettmatic's mix, there's a big Visionaries posse cut.  And it's not just one or two of them, whoever wasn't busy that day, it's the full line-up: Key Kool, 2Mex, LMNO, Zen and Dannu.  Mr. Len's mix ends with Dujeous? (I know, we were all hoping for The Indelibles; but you can't front on their Wax Poetics EP), and DJ Drez has the whole Living Legends gang (both Mystik Journeymen, Murs, Eligh, Aesop and The Grouch).  And they don't come off like just quick, mixtape freestyles.  The verses feel written with hooks and the tracks feel professionally produced, like proper songs.  And because they're rocking over loops of these classic, 70s funk breaks, they're actually better than a lot of these guys' other records.

So, overall, the mixes are decent.  They are solid records, and the DJs are talented.  But nothing to go out of your way for.  But the posse cuts?  Yeah, if you're a fan of any of those crews (and odds are, if you like one, you think all three are dope, because they're all kind of in the same wheelhouse), you want these tracks.  Keep an eye out for this one in your local dollar bins, because I don't think anybody's going to recognize this as a keeper, but it sure is.