Saturday, March 11, 2023

Larry Larr Meets The Fat Boys!

Okay, he met one Fat Boy.

It's been a while since I've written a proper post on here, so I'm coming with what I'm sure you're all demanding: Larry Larr's love song.  "Larry, That's What They Call Me" was Larry's big single from his 1991 debut album, Da Wizzard of Odds on Ruffhouse/ Columbia Records.  There was a video and everything.  But unfortunately it didn't blow up and by 1992, he was unsigned again.  But there was one more single the label before Columbia gave up, proof positive that the label didn't know what to do with this raw talent: "Confused," the token love song every rapper had to do for a major label to prove they were versatile.

That said, Larry was versatile, and he was able to make this song swing.  It's not one of those slow, whispered, "hey girl, you know I love you, girl, from the night until the day, girl, until you're mine forever, girl" songs everybody started making since "I Need Love."  I mean, he does lay down a bunch of cliches interspersed with the word "girl" a lot in the first verse: "girl, I hate to strut you inside my rap, but girl, you got me hooked; you're all that.  I love the way that you look, the way that you walk, the way that you dress and the way that you talk.  Girl, I'd like to have you for my own.  Girl, I can't help it, let me take you home."

But he's rapping fast on a high energy track with that hard P-funk "zoom" effect X-Clan used to love being constantly cut in by his DJ Mad Ice.  It's like a hardcore new jack swing track with live funk guitar and this girl Stephanie Miller singing her heart out for more than just a repeated hook.  She gets to delve into some back and forth, reminding me of Kwamé's "Ownlee Eue" or the songs Grand Puba used to do with Mary J BligeChuck Nice produced most of the album, but two guys named Craig "Make The Gruve" Caruth and Rob Williams did this one.  Which makes sense, since this isn't the kind of Philly street track Larry was the real master of.  But honestly, this song works and even manages not to feel out of place on the LP.

If you want to hear an out of place song on that album, check out the CD version which has an exclusive house song called "Get Funky."  Wow.

Anyway, that's "Confused."  It's super 90's.  Like, check out this exchange, "(Larry, I'm sorry; I didn't mean to hurt you.)  Girl, I'm cooler than the cat in the Cheetos commercial."  But the writing gets better when they get into the meat of the song and why it's called "Confused."  It's about young, capricious lovers cheating and naively wounding each other.  Stephanie really killed it here.  I tried looking her up online but apparently she didn't take off like she really should've.  Discogs links one or two credits many years later, and I'm pretty suspicious that it's a different Stephanie Miller.  But it surely didn't help her that Columbia kicked her off the single.

Yeah, "Confused" is an album track, but the single is notable because it has exclusive remixes that it puts first.  I have the CD single, which has all the same versions, but the 12" single has a B-side called "Keep On Y'all," which is right off of the album.  The back cover credits vocals by EST, but disappointingly, he doesn't rap on it; he just comes in to do the shout outs at the end.  It's a slick song, though, and the kind of thing Larry's fans really wanted from him; it makes a lot of sense to see it on the B-side.  Alternatively, the CD-single just has a bonus radio edit.  Otherwise, the two's track-listing's are the same.

So let's get to the Fat Boy already!  Yeah, who's an artist you'd least expect to turn up and remix Larry Larr?  Prince Markie Dee and the Soul Convention?  Well, it fits considering this is a 1991 new jack love rap.  Yes, the two Marks have gotten on board not just to remix but "Remake" it.  They'd already started making a name for themselves producing this kind of stuff for Father MC, but this was before "Real Love" and before they came out with any of their albums and people had really caught on that Prince Markie Dee had reinvented himself outside of the Fat Boys.  But they've turned it into a real Soul Convention song, with their signature piano and completely replacing all of Miller's vocals with their own whole group of uncredited R&B girls.  And honestly, they're good, too, riffing and crooning behind all of Larry's verses besides just the parts in between.  They've turned it into a sweeter song, though they keep some of the original percussive elements and "zoom" effect, stretching it out to over six and a half minutes with lots of solos and extended choruses.

They even made a music video for it, though I don't remember ever seeing it on Rap City back in the day.  It's cut down considerably to a more traditional radio-friendly length (and yes, shorter than the Radio Edit on the CD single).  So you don't really get the Soul free-for-all vibe of the full-length version, which lets the girls open the song acapella and take over the last few minutes until it's almost a gospel song, except instead of professing eternal love for Jesus, they beg for Larry's forgiveness.  It's actually kind of epic.

There's also a Hip-Hop Mix of "Confused," also by Mr. Make the Gruve.  Instrumentally it's pretty dope, just layering in a bunch of classic breaks and samples.  It's got the famous Lyn Collins "Think" break, famous as Rob Base's "Woo! Yeah!" "It Takes Two" beat, as well as the "Mardi Gras" bells.  It's got some "Let's Dance" in there and that sick shredded electric guitar sample Professor Griff used for "Pawns In the Game."  It's dope, even though Larry's relationship raps don't really fit.  But it really falls apart when they try to lay Stephanie's vocals on them and they don't gel at all.  It's pure tissue rejection.  Too bad they didn't set Larry's "Get Funky" vocals to this instead.

But anyway, yeah, this didn't work out for Larry Larr.  He got dropped.  But things went better for Prince Markie Dee, who'd go on to produce a host of A-list artists and sign to Motown to release his own albums with the Convention.  It's a shame he didn't reach back out to Larry and fit him into Love Daddy somewhere.  But then again, they probably wouldn't've been able to recreate the magic they got here.  Because this single's surprisingly good.  So actually, maybe it would've been better if Stephanie Miller joined the Soul Convention.  Then again, maybe she did.  I don't think those girls tended to get all their credits on those albums.

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Back In the UGSMag

The new issue of UGSMag is out, and guess who has another feature article in it!  Good guess, but no.  I'm actually talking about me!  I've got a big, seven-page interview with renowned NJ producer The Custodian of Records.  And it's not my usual career-spanning kind of interview.  This time I wanted to talk about something specific: the business of releasing music today.  Pressing vinyl, CDs, streaming platforms, working with indie labels vs doing it all yourself.  I feel like I've been studying it for so long from the consumers' side, I wanted to understand it from the artists' side.  And he's got some good stories.

There's some other good stuff in there, too: a Noah23 interview, book reviews, a whole interview with Charli 2na about his action figure and my personal favorite: an interview with the head of Hand'Solo Records.  It actually compliments my piece really well.  And yes, I'm already working on something for issue #4.

Oh, and I trust you guys all know about this by now.  If not, get on it!  I'll do a proper video on it when my copy arrives; but yeah, it goes right alongside Young Zee's Musical Meltdown as a project I'm excited to have played a small part getting out to the world.  And yeah, it's not the last project with the Dust & Dope guys either.  😎