Filed under: Features,Forgotten Beefs,No Country For Old (Rap) Men,Web Work
Written by: Robbie Ettelson
Nothing worse than pouring your heart and soul into shitting on another rapper only to be greeted by deathly silence.
Nothing worse than pouring your heart and soul into shitting on another rapper only to be greeted by deathly silence.
Do you ever sit around and wonder ‘What the hell happened to that marginally talented rap crew who released an album in the early nineties?’ If so, I’m here to help. It turns out that some of your old favorites didn’t all go back to working ‘civilian’ jobs after the roller coaster ride that is a recording contract. Some of them kept keeping on for another shot at fame, and a few are still releasing music this decade, believe it or not. I’ve previously posted modern efforts from The Legion and Freestyle Professors, but after donning my grey trenchcoat and developing a Columbo style wonky eye I was able to dig up the following:
There’s going to be a Sean Price album produced entirely by Lil’ Fame, which is a true reason for the CRC to celebrate since it means that we don’t have to hear Termanology waste any more Fizzy Womack beats for a little while, but also because they both continue to put in some fine work. That being said, some of these rap team-ups are inevitably better on paper than the finished result. I’m sure DJ Premier and Nas will get around to recording an album in 2050 to a captive audience of fifteen people, but in the meantime I’m still campaigning for an group featuring Grand Daddy I.U., Roc Maciano and Parrish Smith called Strong Island Styling, with Prince Paul on the beats. Since the build your own supergroup topic has already been done here, let’s stick to producer and MC combos.
Here are album five team-ups that I would pay money for:
Hitman Howie Tee got his start as part of CD III, before laying down the demo version of ‘Roxanne Roxanne’ for UTFO and helping out Full Force with some material, before lending his talents to Whistle, Chubb Rock, Special Ed, the Real Roxanne and Little Shawn. Later in his career he branched out into reggae (Vicious, Patra) and created pop (Color Me Badd, Madonna, EMF). Here are some of his more memorable moments when he was in hardcore rap mode.
The NMS Battle for World Supremacy was the place to be if you wanted make a name for yourself in the late 80s. Here are some of those involved reporting directly from the front line…
As the WWF (World of [W]rap Fuckery) continues to flourish, I can’t help but pine for the days when rappers would make actual diss songs in between the theatrics.
Forgive me if this is common knowledge, but I only just realized that the group Whistle, best known for their 1985 hit ‘(Nothing Serious) Just Buggin,’ released four albums on the Select label. Jazzy Jazz, Kool Doobie and DJ Silver Spinner were the original line-up, with Kraze and Terk joining in ’90 after
Jazzy Jazz Doobie broke north. At this point they abandoned rapping altogether and got on some Boyz II Men type shit for their third album Always and Forever. By the time 1992 rolled around, the crew was riding the Bel Biv Devoe wave and broke out the mustard hooded t-shirts to join the New Jack Swing movement bfore they rode off into the sunset.
While Whistle were doing R&B style love songs as far back as their first Howie Tee and Kangol produced debut album, it’s always amusing to watch groups adapt to the times. Although I guess it’s no worse than how Heavy D & The Boyz or Prince Markie Dee flipped their sound. Whistle should also be remembered as having recorded one of the worst Christmas rap songs ever.
So Doc Brown shows up and says you can borrow the modified DeLoran to go back in time. Where do you go? Here are a few rap related suggestions once you’ve tired of trips to ancient Egypt, seen the dinosaurs and punched Hitler in the throat:
1. Checking out Kool Herc DJing his sister’s rent party at 1520 Sedgewick Avenue, Bronx, New York in 1973.
2. Attending the Run-DMC show at Madison Square Garden when Run told the crowd to put their Adidas in the air.
3. Watching KRS-One battle Grandmaster Melle Mel at the Latin Quarter in 1987.
4. Witnessing Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five performing at the Audubon Ballroom on Broadway and 165th Street, Harlem, on September 2nd, 1976.
Hurby ‘Lug Bug’ Azor played a big part in exposing a different style of Queens rap to the world as his Idol Makers crew concentrated on dressing fly, club hopping and bagging the opposite sex, largely favoring story-telling over the classic brag and boast technique. Hurby’s appreciation of go-go beats, DMX shakers and classic breakbeats produced some dance floor classics before he broke through to the pop charts with Salt-N-Pepa’s ‘Push It’ and into the movies via Kid ‘N Play‘s Houseparty franchise. After producing a couple of records for MC Shan‘s white reggae artist Snow in 1995, Hurby vanished from the music scene altogether. Here are what I consider to be his sixteen finest moments behind the boards.
Debonair P sez:
As a major fan of Behind the Iron Curtain, the previously CD/tape-only 1996 album by the 4 man NY/Atlanta crew Sleestack’z, GRR is excited to be releasing the long overdue 2LP vinyl version of this cult classic. Featuring all 18 tracks from the original album PLUS 3 bonus joints recorded around the same time, this is a must-have for any fans of 90s hip hop. The vinyl is limited to 300 copies (100 on clear vinyl, 200 on black vinyl) and comes in a white jacket with oversize sticker, as well as printed liner notes on the history of the group and making of the album.
I’ve never heard of these guys before but you can order this here if you like the sound of it.
Following the death of Joey Robinson Jnr. this week, I take a look at how his family’s legacy of great music and bad business.
Stumbled onto this piece of gold the other night thanks to TR Love – Angus Batey’s interview with Kool Keith and Ced-Gee for the liner notes of the Roadrunner edition of Critical Beatdown! Of particular interest was Ced’s breaking down his involvement with Criminal Minded:
Ced-Gee: Me and Scott [La Rock] grew up together. I knew Scott’s whole family. With BDP’s Criminal Minded, my input was more of showing Scott how to use the sampler. When the SP-12 came out, a lot of engineers just looped. But I would take sounds and chop ’em up – even if it wasn’t a full sound I’d make it sound full. I was the first person to chop samples on the SP-12. Soon everyone was doing it. [KRS-ONE] would bring the record, I would take it, chop it, rearrange it. I did the whole album, apart from four songs. I didn’t do ‘Criminal Minded,’ ‘South Bronx,’ ‘My 9mm’ and ‘Elementary,’ but I did the rest. But I got jerked on the credit. Scott kept telling me to stay on the back of the guy who ran the label. ‘I’m telling you,’ he said, ‘he’s sheisty’. I’m like, ‘Nah, he said he got me’. And when it came out, it didn’t say ‘Produced by Ced-Gee and Boogie Down’, it said ‘Produced by Boogie Down, special thanks to Ced-Gee’. Me and Scott didn’t fall out, but it cost me money.
What the world clearly needs is more poorly-acted dramatizations of great rap groups.
If you don’t enjoy the bombastic nonsense that is Greg Nice combined with the ultra relaxed musings of Smooth B then there isn’t much hope for you in life. I recommend drinking bleach, playing chicken with freight trains or challenging Just-Ice to a fist fight in order to hasten your ascent to the pearly gates/pits of hell/endless grey void that awaits you. For all the rest of you, please enjoy my favorite Nice & Smooth songs – in particular the unreleased ‘Turn It Out,’ which features the best use of Babe Ruth‘s ‘Keep Your Distance’ in some time and was re-recorded with a different beat for the Blazin’ Hot LP.
Here’s a look back at the ill-fated marriage between Kool G Rap and Rawkus Records that I put together for Red Bull Music Academy Daily:
I realized something deeply troubling today. After checking out the latest releases from Ghostface and Statik Selektah I’m convinced that we have now officially entered the Elevator Muzak era of rap music. While The Roots have been churning out tunes seemingly designed for coffee shops and cafes for the better part of the last decade, we’re now at a stage where previously reliable CRC stalwarts such as Lil’ Fame, Sean Price and Ghostface Killah are often rapping over music that lacks any sort of urgency, excitement or abrasiveness. Does this signal a change in the dynamics of the rap game where everyone over the age of thirty is rapping over stuff that Kenny G would consider vanilla and the so-called ‘underground’ fans want a soundtrack to sip pumpkin ales and chai lattes?
Does. Not. Compute.
Stumbled upon this nugget of rap trivia during a follow-up interview with Dr. Butcher earlier this year – the brief story of a New York MC named Lazy who was carving out quite the name for himself on the street level in the late nineties before some he vanished from the music game altogether. These are the only four examples of his work I could find, but apparently he was at his best when freestyling or battling. I’d be interested to hear some of his appearances on The Stretch Armstrong Show if anyone has them.
Robbie: Any good Eric B stories?
Dr. Butcher: I remember me, him and Tito [Fearess Four] linked up and he told us he had a deal with Sony. He said, ‘I wanna sit behind the scenes, I want you and Butcher to be the faces of the label. Let me handle the business and we’ll put in motion.’ In the meantime I rounded up three of the best rappers that I knew about – Joell Marquis, William Millions and Lazy. Fat Joe and everybody was trying to get Lazy at the time, he was the hottest dude in New York. Battle-wise, he was destroying everybody on the streets, no one could touch him. He was like fifteen, sixteen years old. C4, who did [Akinyele’s] ‘Put It In Your Mouth,’ was doing a lot of the tracks and putting stuff together but then Eric wasn’t coming through and he just disappeared. He stayed in contact with Lazy, I guess he felt like he had his next Rakim, he was like, ‘Yo, Eric’s promising to fly to Miami and this and that.’ Things just never manifested into anything.
There was a brilliant period in hip-hop and electro records where the engineers seemed determined to warp and distort the original track to near unrecognizable forms, splattering echo and gated snares on the walls of some long-forgotten underground cavern. Let’s call it the Spelunker Period. The labels often provided not so subtle clues about what we could expect, announcing ‘Zootie,’ ‘Stubb,’ ‘Burnt’ and ‘Psycho Dust’ versions of their vocal counterparts. The following are selection of abrasive, dusted drum machine and scratch experiences that demonstrate the beauty of that thing sometimes referred to as The Dope Noise.
If in need of mild amusement, please proceed with caution as we look back at this selection of ten dollar videos and hooky live performances.
The process of recording a rap album for a record label has often been fraught with artistic compromise, clueless A&R’s and misguided promotional campaigns. While what goes on behind the scenes has often remained a mystery, the arrival of the ‘Advance Promotional Cassettes’ in the early nineties offered a glimpse into ‘what might have been’ for a number of albums. I can recall reading reviews of several albums, only for some of the tracks mentioned to have mysteriously vanished by the time the album was released. A prime example of this was Show & AG‘s Goodfellas album, which had six of the tracks from the advance copy either replaced or remixed before it hit the shelves, while the sampler tape for Mobb Deep‘s Hell On Earth was largley comprised of songs destined for other peoples releases (‘Recognize and Realize,’ ‘Live Nigga Rap’) or soundtracks.
Here’s the full version of my Breakbeat Lou interview, some of which was used in my Ultimate Breaks and Beats: An Oral History feature.
Robbie: How did you meet Lenny Roberts?
Breakbeat Lou: Lenny I’d met at Saul’s Record Pool, back in the early 80’s. There was a feedback committee meeting that we had and everyone was talking about regular rap records and regular music. That wasn’t what he was really into, he was more or a less a ‘in the house’ kinda DJ. There was a comment about a particular record and I said, ‘Yeah, I know that record.’ He said, ‘How do you know that record? You don’t seem like you’re into that particular thing.’ I was already DJing regular stuff. I’ve been in the game a long time – a DJ since ’74, hardcore digger since ’78, producer since ’80. That’s where the connection with breakbeats came in between him and I. He was already involved in going to the jams, ‘cos Lenny used to hang out at Bronx River. First it was bootleg 12’s that were being released – we released ‘Big Beat’, before that was ‘Funky President’ and ‘Long Red’ on Sure Shot Records. We also released the guava ‘Apache’ copies, ‘Chinese Chicken,’ ‘Impeach The President,’ the [Magic Disco Machine’s] ‘Scratchin” one sided 12′, the ‘Rocket In The Pocket.’
The Wu-Tang Clan have been through more than share of ups and downs over the years, but there’s no denying that they brought back a much needed grit to rap music when they hit the scene in in 1992 with their self-released ‘Protect Ya Neck’/’After The Laughter Comes Tears’ single. RZA’s master plan to get everyone separate solo deals on different record labels was inspired, although it clearly worked out a lot for better for some. Fast forward to 2015, and all of the original squad (with the exception of the late, great Ol’ Dirty Bastard) are still releasing music in some shape or form. What I’m interested to gauge is who you consider to have done the best job at keeping themselves lyrically sharp? Who are you still hyped to hear a guest verse or a new track from? Are you tired of hearing Ghostface rapping with bands? Has Raekwon become over-exposed? Has GZA become a an angry old wino who’s best days are behind him? Will Method Man ever make an album worthy of his talents?
For a jam-packed four year stretch, The Sugar Hill Band was the most powerful force in recorded rap, providing the beats for The Furious Five, Funky 4+1, Treacherous Three, Crash Crew, Spoonie Gee, The Sequence and more. With it’s core membership consisting of guitarist Skip McDonald, bassist Doug Wimbish, drummer Keith LeBlanc, percussionist Ed ‘Duke Bootee’ Fletcher and arranger Clifton ‘Jiggs’ Chase, the Sugar Hill Band were assigned to replay and re-arrange the hot breaks of the day, as advised by the likes of Grandmaster Flash based on what the crowd responded to when he deejayed. Unfortunately, some of their finest work such as ‘Funk You Up’ and ‘It’s Nasty (Genius of Love)’ was never issued in instrumental versions, but I’ve done my bets to cobble together what I could from the vaults.
Rejected titles for this piece include ‘My Mind’s Playing Tricks On Me,’ ‘Mentalists Making Magnificent Music’ and ‘Insane In The Membrane: Great Rappers With Poor Mental Health.’