The sad truth is that there are legions of unpaid interns working for ‘culture’ websites whose prime objective is to scour the lyrics of Drake/Kanye/Jay-Z for anything even vaguely resembling a subliminal diss. While a lot of late eighties rap could be relied on for rival MCs to straight-up call out the competition by name, there were times when politics and/or the possibility of series violence between crews and neighborhoods meant that these shots had to be a little more subtle.
The unfortunate side-effect of this development meant that over-zealous fans now had the opportunity to concoct intricate fantasy scenarios about lyrical beefs that never actually existed. I remember a friend of mine attempting to convince me that MF Doom and Ghostface were waging a serious campaign of subliminal warfare against each other on the grounds of who owned the right to model themselves after a comic strip identity. While the theory was obviously shot to shit when they later began working together, it goes to show that a conspiracy can be constructed about anything if you want to find it badly enough. (more…)
All of these clips are equal parts bizarre and amazing. The first features interviews with Schoolly-D and Mantronix while they were on tour in the UK, while overlaying ‘witty’ comments and alleged statistics about violence at rap shows in a manner which suggests that the producers of the segment were either taking the piss or genuinely concerned that hip-hop was going to corrupt the youf. Next up we have the always lovely Real Roxanne performing ‘Bang Zoom (Let’s Go)’ in front of a crowd of slightly confused children, before some of the braver kids are shoved onstage to ‘bust’ some moves of their own. Finally, we get to see the spikey-haired host declare that Full Fiorce is her favourite group during an episode of Music Box in 1986. Some fine work from the Beat of the Street You-Toob channel for bringing us these ‘special’ moments. (more…)
When I first went to high school, I remember I’d memorized the entire intro to Rhyme Pays and would recite it to pretty girls for reasons which now escape me. Let’s just say it was a simpler time. Ice-T‘s first four albums combined humor, slick talk and social commentary in a way which set him apart from the competition and allowed fans to overlook that fucked-up ponytail. Here’s a collection of remixes, b-sides and essential album cuts from everyone’s favorite Law & Order: SVU detective.
You Toober Umberto -Fab- Lampasona loves himself some test pressings, and this one is a doozy – a vaulted 1988 remix of Lord Shafiq’s debut single from the year before. We only get the first three and a half minutes, but it’s an interesting revision of the classic ‘Nautilus’ loop of the original regardless.
Rising up through the ranks from the ‘Son of Bambattaa’ to the DJ at The Roxy and launching the Zulu Beat radio show on WHBI, Afrika Islam went on to release the very fist cut and paste record, help found the Rhyme Syndicate and produce the majority of Ice-T’s first four albums after moving to LA in what has certainly been an action-packed career. He took a little time out to reminisce before he headed over to Ice’s house to watch the latest episode of SVU.
Robbie: How did you first get exposed to the culture?
Afrika Islam: I was a member of the Zulu King b-boys, under Afrika Bambaataa. That’s how I came into the culture, from the floor up. Being a member of the Zulu Kings I went out to battle other b-boy crews across the city, representing the Zulu Nation. From there, my second step was becoming a Zulu Nation DJ – the first line – which would have been myself and Jazzy Jay and Red Alert and DXT. I was under Afrika Bambaataa – we all were – but I was very close to Afrika Bambaataa. Then I got named ‘The Son of Bambaataa’ because I was always under him and his teachings and what was going on in the Zulu Nation at the same time in hip-hop. That’s my roots of hip-hop – I was there as a DJ.
There must have been a lot of competition to make it into that first line of Zulu DJs?
My technique I took from those that were creating the techniques – Grandmaster Flash and Grand Wizard Theodore. That’s primarily where the technique we used came from, but being that I was with Afrika Bambaataa the main thing was learning all those records, because he was definitely the ‘Master of Records.’ Learning all those records was honestly what everything was about. Having all those records, the repertoire, most of these other DJs only had the ability to….even though they were technically incredible and the pioneers of what modern-day DJing is – Flash and Theodore – the repertoire of the records was the soundtrack to New York City. That was the soundtrack to hip-hop. (more…)
Microphone King Donald D has had a long and varied career, spanning back to the park jam era, onto the downtown club scene, radio and then records, both as a member of The B-Boys and as a soloist with the Rhyme Syndicate. Now residing in Italy, Donald took some time out to detail some of his experiences during the formative days of the culture.
Robbie: How were you first introduced to hip-hop?
Donald D: Going to the parties, watching Kool Herc in the parks and Afrika Bambaataa in the parks. That was my first experience seeing these DJs out in the park.
You were living in the Bronx at the time?
Kool Herc used to play at a park called 129, which is not far from where I lived. Then I would go to Bronx River Center and watch Afrika Bambaataa throw down outside. All of this took place in the South Bronx, where it all started.
How old were you at that time?
You’re talking about junior high school when I was seeing these guys play. At the time we was going to a local place all the kids would call The Boy’s Club. We would go there basically to play basketball, swim. I had other friends who would become hip-hop legends and superstars, so you’re talking about at that time Easy AD, who became a member of the Cold Crush Brothers; you had Lil’ Rodney Cee and Jazzy Jeff who were part of the Funky Four; you had Master Rob and Waterbed Kev who became part of the Fantastic Five. There were a lot of these guys who were at the time unknown who became legends in hip-hop. We all would be playing basketball together as kids [chuckles]. (more…)
There’s nothing like pretending to rap like it’s 1985 (or better yet, 1977) well after the fact, or recruiting some veteran MC’s to kick some old styles. While some of these attempts have fallen flat (Ugly Duckling and People Under The Stairs being two examples that spring to mind), others have made an entire career out of it (J-5). So break out your Lee jeans, mockneck sweater and Puma suedes for this faux trip down memory lane. Special shout out to Dr. Butcher‘s old school style freestyle at the end of Kool G Rap and DJ Polo‘s ‘Jive Talk‘ and the first verse of The Arsonists’ ‘Rhyme Time Travel.’
Before mastering engineer Jay Burnett named himself Burzootie and got dusted in the studio with MCA for the Def Jam maroon label sure shot, ‘Drum Machine,’ he released an early version in 1982 on his own Jayco imprint. I assume that’s him rapping on this as well.
I always wondered why Detroit’s Awesome Dre had a song going at Kool Moe Dee on his highly enjoyable 1989 album, You Can’t Hold Me Back. Now that I’ve heard his second single, it makes a little more sense. It appears that Dre took it upon himself to fire shots at both LL Cool J and Moe Dee on separate songs. This mystery was finally solved when Werner interviewed Dre in 2009: (more…)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.’ (more…)
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.
I didn’t get hip to Stetsasonic‘s brand of BK brilliance until I heard KRS-One shout them out and tracked down their In Full Gear album, but On Fire is worth your time for the classic ‘Go Stetsa’ and ‘My Rhyme.’ Here’s the stripped down demo version of their debut single, ‘Just Say Stet,’ which eagle-eyed Unkut reader P_gotsachill just put me up on. Now with added Human Mix Machine Wise!
The Def IVNice & Hard album was always something I went back to when it was released in 1988. As the fourth album released on the Rap-A-Lot label, this group of New York transplants, which consisted of two brothers – Vicious Lee and Jon B – beat maker and DJ Lonnie Mac and vocalist Prince E-Z-Cee (DJ Ready Red was apparently an early member before being recruited by the Ghetto Boys). Given that three quarters of the group were DJ’s, it’s no surprise that there is a lot going on musically, with many tracks delivering a layered, sophisticated sampling style, constant scratches and extra breaks thrown in all over the place to keep shit moving. (more…)
What with Brad Jordan releasing his biography, Diary of a Madman recently (which he discusses with ego trip’s Gabriel Alvarez here), it seemed like a good time to take another listen his first single, released on Lil’ Troy‘s Short Stop Records back when he was still calling himself DJ Akshun. The a-side would later be slightly reworked for the Grip It! On That Other Level album when Scarface became a Ghetto Boy, while ‘Put Another Head To rest’ was relegated to the crates of Houston locals and ebay borks until Lil’ Troy pissed off ‘Face by including the song on his Sittin’ Fat Down South CD and things degenerated from there. (more…)