Saturday, October 7, 2023

Yeahhhhhh Get Ready Ta Roll

In 1992, an indie New Jersey rap crew put out their first record under the handle 2 Hard Ta Handle called "That Girl," which combined kind of a pop dance track based on Alicia Myer's oft looped "I Want To Thank You" (Father MC and the Fu-Schnickens used it that same year).  After that, they toughened up their image and came out as Ready Ta Roll with two harder and more impressive 12"s: 1993's "The Real Hip-Hop" and 1994's "Drug Game."  After that, they split up, though their lead MC, Supreme, carried on into production, doing a bunch of stuff for bigger artists like AZ and LL Cool J.

Anyway, those two Ready Ta Roll 12"s became rather pricey, sought after minor grails in the "random rap" sphere.  But luckily, last year, they were reissued as a new EP with all the A and B sides from both singles, including the instrumentals.  Plus, even more excitingly, two never before released bonus tracks.

So, as you can guess from the titles, the "The Real Hip Hop" / "Ready Ta Roll" is a little more on the backpacker tip, talking about "lyrical skills" and taking "your very next show and let's turn it to a battle date."  The production is both smooth and raw with big boom-bap drums and crisp jazzy samples.  And Supreme's got a deep, hard voice (which was even impressive on "That Girl").  You'll fall in love with this music on the first listen.  But if there's a weakness, it's that lyrically, he can be a little stiff.  Also, the hook on the first track also name-drops all the big artists of the day ("the real Hip-Hop, you know the kind of Hip-Hop Pete Rock and CL Smooth got?  The real Hip-Hop, the real Hip-Hop, you know the kind of Hip-Hop Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg got?") feels a little gimmicky and more than a little ass-kissy.

There's some very 90's shout hooks, which anybody nostalgic for the 90s will especially appreciate.  "Ready Ta Roll" lets their DJ Tysheen get on the mic, and he's pretty dope, too.  That's good, since he doesn't get to do much scratching on here.  Only the B-side to their second 12" really let him lay down some cuts with a tight Lakim Shabazz vocal sample.  Tysheen gets on the mic on that one, too, though you almost wouldn't notice, since he's just as capable an MC as Supreme.  But "Drug Game" is their classic.  It's got their most addictive production and a serious message that feels heart-felt rather than preachy.  Even when he brings up "the devil's tricknology," it feels like it's coming from a place of genuine anger and frustration rather than some finger-wagging principal.

So yeah, yeah, yeah, okay, but what about the exclusive bonus tracks already?  Well, honestly, one is a lot more exciting than the other, so let's work our way upwards.  The first is a never-before released remix of "Drug Game."  It doesn't say so on the label anywhere, but I'm pretty sure this is a new remix, created for this EP.  It's produced by a Greek DJ named Jazzy Chavo, who I don't think was even active in the music scene back when "Drug Game" was originally recorded.  But it's still dope.  He brings in an entirely new sample set for this mix, but keeps the original drums so the vocals don't sound out of place.  And this new track is moody, subtle and strikes a similar mood of jazziness without being too dark.  I can't imagine any fan of these 90s tracks not digging this new take on the material.

Finally, there's "Live Episode," which when I first saw it listed in the track-listing was going to be a live recording of the crew freestyling on a local radio station or taped at a vintage show.  But no, it's a proper, fully studio produced Ready Ta Roll song, recorded in 1995 but just wasn't able to be released before the crew broke up.  The production is just as crispy as the songs from their two 12"s.  Supreme, now using the name Chop Diesel and Tysheen are both back on the mic, and Tysheen gets another chance on the turntables as well, cutting up a little "Just Rhymin' With Biz."  It's absolutely as fresh as their last two singles, even better than some of the songs.

Limited to 250 vinyl copies (in a full picture cover) or 300 CD copies from Hip-Hop Enterprises, this is an excellent way to pick up Ready Ta Roll's rare material.  And even those deep collectors who've got both original 12" will want this for the killer '95 track (and stay for that slick remix).  I got mine a little late (did I mention this came out in '22?), so it's only available direct from the label on CD, but as of this writing, the wax still appears to be in stock at VinylDigital, Juno and places like that.

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