Saturday, December 22, 2018

Guess Who's Made a Comeback? You'll Never Guess, So I'll Just Tell You!

Even as another year fades away, it marks one last interesting development in Hip-Hop.  You guys'll never guess which old school MC just made a comeback with a brand new record.  Well, except those of you who looked at the picture on the right.  That's right, it's Sugar Bear, the Strong Island MC who only put out one, exciting and highly regarded 12" single back in 1988 on, well... it originally came out on an indie label called Coslit Records, but it's far better known for the more broadly distributed second pressing by Next Plateau Records.  Red Alert blew it up on his classic We Can Do This album.  I wrote about it a bit here, in a post on KC Flightt, as Sugar Bear was the one who actually beat both him and Chuck Chillout to the popular "Once In a Lifetime" break, but at some point, I should give that record its own post, because it has an equally great, "Once In a Lifetime"-less B-side.

But anyway, yeah.  That was a great record, but that's all he ever put out.  He did a couple guest spots, most notably on producer Richie Rich's I Can Make You Dance album, "Coming From London" ("can't you tell, from the way I walk and talk, I'm coming from New York? But what brought me to London: a homeboy that was really somethin'").  Apparently in the 90's he also did some token rap verses on R&B songs, none of which I'd ever heard of before until I checked out Sugar Bear's discogs page.  So I guess he did keep his hand in it for a while.  But even so, it's been a very a long time, and he has to be one of the last guys I was expecting to see jump dramatically back on the record with a brand new single.

And you bet your ass it's on vinyl.  "It's Hot" is the latest release from Hip Hop Be Bop Records, the guys that delivered Silver Fox's comeback last year.  If this becomes their regular schtick, mounting hot comebacks by the genre's most neglected legends, I will remain permanently enthralled.  I am 1000% on board.  Oh, and by the way, you may remember me mentioning in my post about their last record, that their catalog numbers curiously jumped from HHBB-7-001 to HHBB-7-003, which raised the question, what happened to the elusive HHBB-7-002?  Well, this is it - the single that was evidently originally planned to come out between the two Silver Fox 7"s.

Now, getting down to business, The Powerful Powerlord sounds as good as ever.  His distinctive voice sounds just the same, energetic as ever, and he's kicking a style very faithful to his '88 debut.  He hasn't missed a beat in all these twenty years.  "Stop sweatin' me; you're runnin' out of towels.  Who?  Look at you; now you're an owl.  This is the new kind of style, comin' from Strong Isle, so let's get biz.  You think it's a game and I bet that you're havin' fun; but there will only be one Powerful Powerlord Sugar Bear in the atmosphere, so you can't tear up nothin' but a piece of paper. There's no excuse for catchin' the vapors.  Gonna rip up the contract, do my contact and you best believe that I had to come back."

Production is once again provided by Clandestine, who knows just the kind of track to lay down for Sugar Bear's vocals: hardcore, but with a focus on high energy rather than street gruff.  Fresh drums, a heavy classical music-type loop and a deep horn tone reminiscent of The UBC Crew's ominous sounding "UB Style."  There's also a remix which is pretty cool when you focus on it, but overall feels a little flat.  The one thing that keeps this single from quite hitting the heights of the 1988 record is the samples.  This feels more made up of studio-created elements than raw, chunky samples; so it doesn't really have the soul of the original songs.  But the fact that it's still the original Sugar Bear holds it all together.  And of course, one element that really sold Sugar Bear's old school stuff was the tight scratching sequences he included on both songs.  And thankfully, that's just as present here, thanks to DJ Credit One, the same guy who also did Silver Fox's joints.  His cuts are really slick to the point where I don't understand why I'm not coming across him on more records; he should be getting a lot more work.

So this record's a 33 1/3 7" and comes in a colorful picture cover that recalls the logo and artwork from the original Coslit cover (even more rewarding for those of us who only have the Next Plateau version that came in a generic label cover, which is most of us).  I definitely recommend this for anyone everyone who's been bummed for decades that Sugar Bear only ever had the one single.  And Hip Hop Be Bop's got me on the edge of my seat for what they're going to come out with next.

1 comment:

  1. Happy New Year

    Glad you like the single and thanks for the excellent write-up as usual. There are a few things planned this year and hopefully a couple that'll really surprise you.

    All the best for the year ahead.