Thursday, January 24, 2019

Slick Rick's "The Ruler's Back" ...The Forgotten Demo Version?

(You all remember Slick Rick's crazy cut "The Ruler's Back," but here's a rare, older version you probably don't remember.  Youtube version is here.)

Friday, January 18, 2019

Learn Along With Werner, part 10: The Last Thing Whistle Ever Recorded?

Guys, this is why I let the internet live.  Yeah, sure, corporations invade your privacy, hackers collapse governments, and people started DJing with mp3s instead of records.  It's been pretty awful, but then a thing like this happens.  I'm just poking around discogs and stumble upon a record I've never heard of by a group I've been a fan of since I was a kid.  And in this case, though it may be just a guest spot, it turns out to be a final chapter in their career.  I'm talking about Whistle, and this record from 1993 (their last album was in 1991, with one last single coming out in 1992) would appear to be the last thing they ever recorded, at least that actually got released.

The actual guy whose record this is, though, is M.C. Boo.  I'm fairly certain this is not the same M.C. Boo who was down with Magic Mike and the Royal Posse, or the junior member of BDP.  This is yet another MC Boo who just put out this one single record on Studio Records, a Maryland label best known for putting out novelty records like "Are the Redskins #1? Hail Yeah!!" and "Karate Man."  Not a good sign, but happily this is not a joke song but a sincere musical endeavor.

As you can probably guess by the title, it's a essentially a rap version of Stevie Wonder(who also gets a writing credit on the label)'s "I Can't Help It."  You could do a lot worse than chunky Stevie Wonder sample, and MC Boo's maybe not going to blow anybody's mind, but he's certainly a capable rapper, sort of in the category of Little Shawn.  He's kicking somewhat simplistic love raps, but with an ear towards more respectable lyricism and wordplay.  You know, by very early 90s standards, "I'm shakin' and breakin' and movin' and makin' the heart that you made me. I'm movin' and groovin' and soothin' the tempo you gave me.  The bass is kinda light and your eyes are kind, too; I guess that's why I can't help but to love you.  Yea, that's it.  I think I'm goin' crazy bein' round your sexy ways.  Your love is like a puzzle, but better yet a maze."

The only disappointing, but totally predictable, aspect is that Whistle are just here to sing the hook, not actually contribute to the MCing.  It's predictable, of course, because that's the direction they were always going in, away from rap and towards R&B, so of course they ended with a sung chorus instead of a verse.  And they sound good, although there's no moment where Terk comes in to really belt some more impressive notes or cuts by Silver Spinner.  It's a calm, laid back track with a mellow groove they just lay into.

There are a couple tracks on this 12", but they're all just variations on the one song.  There's the aptly titled Regular Version, the Instrumental, a mix with some extra (live) piano called the Piano Mix, and two shorter dub mixes called Doo Boo and Boo Beats.  By the way, it might be interesting to note that the label still says "Whistle appears courtesy of Select Records," so even though they didn't release anything further, Select was still hanging onto Whistle on their roster.  And not only is this Whistle's last record, it's seemingly M.C. Boo's first and last, which I'm... pretty ambivalent about.

He was decent enough, but not somebody I got excited about and would need to track down more of his discography.  I just bought this for Whistle, and honestly, unless you're a completist, it's not worth buying for them either.  They sound fine, the production's fine, Boo's rapping is fine, the concept is fine.  It's all just fine.  Not mad at it, but you're not gonna run out and slap it on a mixtape.  Once I put this away, I probably won't go back to it until I've completely forgotten what it sounds like and I see it on my crates and go, "what's this M.C. Boo record?"

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Father MC and the Broadway Star

It's a brand new year and it's well past time for another deep dive into the extensive career of Father MC.  So here's one I don't remember reading about in The Source: 1991's "Everyotherday" by Or-N-More on EMI Records, featuring, of course, Father MC.  1991's an interesting year for Father, because it's really his break out year, when his earliest hit singles broke and he came out with his first album.  The only guest appearances he had out by this time was the work he did on that one Ray Parker Jr. album.  So you could really describe him as a rising star at this point.

So who the heck are Or-N-More?  Well, as you can see in the picture above, it's that blonde lady and her boyfriend(?) standing behind her.  She's Or and he's More.  Or more specifically, she's Orfeh Or and he's Mike More.  She sings and he does the music, basically. They originally had a music video that used to get play on MTV under the name Genevha, because it had the gimmick of using old public domain movie footage.  Then in 1991, they became Or-N-More and put out one self-titled album, and this one single.  Father's the only guest rapper they seemed to've worked with, and Or-N-More kinda disappeared in a flash.  But what's more interesting is that Orfeh went on to become a pretty substantial contender on Broadway, getting nominated for a Tony in 2007.  You can check out her website here.  Meanwhile, More doesn't seem to have done as much, most notably producing Freedom Williams' C+Cless solo album in 1993.  But he also has music and writing credits on Orfeh's solo album almost twenty years later, so I guess they've held onto their connection, which is nice.

So let's get to the song already.  Well, "Everyotherday"'s a pretty straight-forward pop song.  The hook tells you directly what it's about, "every other day, you steal my kisses, boy, and then you just throw them away."  And the verses are basically all about how she's leaving this guy because he won't commit.  It's a very high energy, R&B/ dance hybrid.  Like a Madonna song that leans even a little further into the club vibe.  Or has a pretty deep and powerful voice, but this song doesn't exactly push her to challenge herself.  There's a few "dayyy-ee-ayy-ee-ayyy"s, but not exactly hitting any notes to make you say wow.  And the music's okay, with an upbeat hip-hop tone, but it never marries itself to the chorus in a catchy enough way to really resonate.  It sounds well made enough when you're listening to it, but it's immediately forgettable.

The fact that the song is structured so the vocalist is singing to a generic "you" boyfriend is the perfect set-up, though, to drop in a rapper to speak as the other half, "I never filled your head up, so now you wanna gas, and talk about Father like trash."  It definitely adds a more interesting battle of the sexes dynamic with conflict, where listeners can choose and relate to one side or the other.  In fact, it would be a much more interesting song if Father and Or traded verses back and forth, accusation followed by counter-accusation, like an authentic arguing couple.  Think of some really successful R&B/ rap hybrids like Grand Puba and Mary J's "What's the 411" or even Kwame and T Bone's "Ownless Eue."  But unfortunately they relegate him to the traditional, single quick in and out on an R&B song guest rap.

Oh, and there was even a music video for it with a bunch of dancers and Father doing his best Pete Nice impression in a spinning barber's chair.  Interestingly, Father has an extra vocal part, where he introduces himself mid-song, "yeah baby, this is the man women hate to love, Father MC.  I never told you I love you."  That extra bit isn't on the album version or any of the 12" remixes.

Remixes?  Oh yeah, I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't get into the stuff on the 12".  The 12" has a slightly extended Power Mix, a tighter Radio Edit, a Dub and all of that.  But the most important mix here is the Hip Hop Mix by Dallas Austin, a major R&B producer in the 90s.  I mean, he still is, but the 90s is when he was making huge hits for groups like TLC and Boyz II Men.  Like, if you don't know, just look him up; he's a major player.  So, anyway, this version toughens up the instrumental a bit, making a lot of use of The Fat Boys' famous "Brr, Stick 'Em" vocal sample and some fun little horns.  Most significantly, this version features an all new, completely different and actually much better verse from Father, too.  "Ya see, girl you told me that you'd be there to support my needs, but now I look in the window.  I thought I'd found love, 'cause I didn't dream of me and you forever.  I never thought of the ups and downs, the excuses you gave me."  It's more thoughtful and less cliche, reminiscent of his best lines in "Treat Them Like They Want To Be Treated."  Unfortunately, this new verse is instead of, not in addition to, his original one, so it doesn't really fatten out Father's role like you'd hope for.  But it still adds up to an overall superior version of the song.

There's also a Club Mix and a House Mix that add extra piano riffs, sounds and a proper house beat.  They go a bit too far in my opinion, though I have to say the Club Mix is funkier and more dance-able than the original album version.  Orfeh sounded like she was going for that house diva kinda tone in her vocals anyway.  And finally there's an Underground Mix, which at first sounds like it's going to be more of a stripped-down Hip-Hop version, with Father's verse coming right at the start; but then it just basically turns into a slightly altered Club Mix with a few extra vocal samples and stuff dropped in.

I mean, it's still what discogs describes as electronic electro synth-pop with RnB/swing and house elements added to the remixes, so I'm not actually recommending this record to any of you Hip-Hop enthusiasts.  And it's not a catchy enough pop record that I'd recommend it to kids or anything either.  But it's definitely an interesting little nook in Father MC's career that's at least worth knowing about.  Any day I can find a hidden Father MC verse tucked away on an obscure 12" single is a good day in Wernerville.  😎