Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Rough House Survivers' Long Lost Second Album

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(Man, if you don't know, the Rough House Survivers [sic] were dope.  So how come they only made one album?  Or... didn't they?  Youtube version is here.)

Monday, June 12, 2017

Schoolly D's Secret Girl Group

How many records did Schoolly D and Luke Skyywalker collaborate on?  Um, I'm pretty sure just this one: Peters Posse, the compilation album of Steve Peters' Peters Records label from 1990.  It features an entire roster of unknowns except for one: Captain Sky.  And yes, Schoolly and Luke worked on it.  This is a real head scratcher of a record, so let's just dive right in.

Let's start with Captain Sky.  Captain Sky was a funk/ disco guy most famous for "Super Sporm."  He wasn't a rapper, though he did rap once on a song called "Station Brake" in 1982, and maybe one other time.  But he was a singer, and known for wearing crazy disco outfits.  However, this right here is his last record after a hiatus of several years, and his return to rapping.  It's called "Thank You," and it's a rap remake of Sly and the Family Stone's classic "Thank You."  It really liberally uses the music from Sly's version and he kicks lyrics like, "I got the beat, to move your feet."  How or why they dragged him out of retirement to be a rapper for this project is anybody's guess.


But here's what we do know.  The liner notes brag about assembling their posse "from the four corners of the land, from NY, LA, Chicago, Miami, Philadelphia, Phoenix and Jacksonville, FL."  Peters Records itself is straight out of Miami, and at least a portion of this album was recorded in Skyywalker Studios with Luther Campbell.

The album starts off with a pretty decent song by Queen D.  I'm pretty sure she's the Jacksonville one, and she's not bad.  I mean, her song "Queen D's World" is definitely on a poppy dance tip, closer to The Real Roxanne than MC Lyte.  It's got a DJ cutting up a bunch of records like "Don't Want To Lose Your Love," James Brown, UTFO's "Bite It" and a liberal dose of "Tell Me Something Good" on the hook.  It's one of the stand out tracks, and it even came out on 12" single with an extended mix and a disappointing B-side called "Rock It To Me Faster."

In fact, a bunch of these songs got 12" singles.  News 4 You's "Good Times," which is actually a crappy R&B song, b/w "She's a Lady," which is more of a catchy new jack swing song at least, but still pretty weak.  Then there was a corny rap duo named 2 La Jit.  Their 12" said it was from the album Having Fun, but that never happened.  Kenny B Devine is the only one to go on to a couple more records on other labels, as well as another Peters Records 12".  He was from Miami, but all his stuff was pretty weak. There's a song by Money D and Wayne, which is a big improvement, although I can't decide if it's actually good, or just feels good by comparison.  Finally a group called GQ Tab that combined R&B and rap had a corny anti-drug song on this album called "Stop the Pusher," and came out with a love song called "Teen Emotion" on a Peters Records 12".

So yeah, most of this album's pretty bad.  A group called Satin does a Hip-Hop version of "The Name Game," which hits a terrible low, with all of the lyrics literally from the children's song.  But there are some interesting moments.  A song by 2-Real is rather listenable, with a couple interesting samples and a harder edge.

And Schoolly D's contribution?  Yeah, he produced a song by a Philly girl group called Northside Alliance.  Actually, it's just one MC, but I guess she had a DJ or someone to justify the "Alliance" name.  Anyway, the song's called "Give My Regards To Broadstreet" and is unquestionably the jewel of the album.  The title's kind of a pun, because Give My Regards To Broadstreet was a famous Paul McCartney film, but Broad Street is also a major urban boulevard in Philly.  It's a hot track with a killer break, sick horn samples and a cut up Krs-One vocal sample for the hook.  It's too bad this never got a 12", because I would definitely recommend it and it's the only song to really deserve it (although I'm actually pretty happy with my Queen D single).

So this album is still kind of a weird mystery.  Someone (I guess Peters) sunk a lot of money into this lost cause.  Not just this album but the whole label.  They put out six 12" singles, five from this album plus another News 4 You single.  But I recommend the compilation just for the Northside Alliance song.  I've searched and have never been able to find out more about this group, which is a shame because an album of this would be fantastic.  But take what you can get; this is hot.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Thoughts On Kool G Rap's Latest Album... Is It Too Late To Return Return Of the Don?

Well, this is disappointing.  I mean, I know a lot of naysayers have been down on Kool G Rap since he left Cold Chillin', talking about how he's only spitting gangsta raps now.  Does it count for nothing that his gangsta raps are incredible?  But tonight, hearing Return Of the Don... Oh jeez.  And it's not that G Rap can't rap anymore or is spitting weak verses.  He still sounds great.  But I knew we were in trouble when they announced his track-listing, and nine out of eleven songs had guest rappers on them.  And one of those two remaining solo songs is an introduction where he just drops one quick verse.  So this is unfortunately one of those guest-on-his-own-album deals like Thy Kingdom Come, only even more so.  He only strings two verses together once on the entire album!

So if you don't know, the vinyl doesn't drop until August 25th, because these NY guys always release the vinyl months later for some reason, but that's another gripe.  The CD's out now, and they've officially put the album up for streaming.  And you guys know, I would blind-buy any G Rap album; but this stream might've just saved me some money.  ...But honestly, I'm still on the fence.  It's not terrible, and I'm not sure I can go through life missing a G Rap album.  Maybe I'll just wait for a sale.

Because this is definitely a wait for a sale record: weak, but still has its moments.  The whole album's produced by Moss, and you could do a lot worse; but man, he just plays it so safe.  Like, he's got that Premier Jr. formula down and he's not gonna stray from it.  Think of all the classic G Rap songs that got you hyped, from "Road To the Riches" to "Letters."  Well, nothing on this album comes close to giving you that feel.  For the most part, it's pretty low energy.  "Mack Lean" almost turns into a spoken word piece.

And yeah, there's far too many guest spots.  On the other hand, that doesn't mean somebody like Raekwon wasn't a worthy inclusion.  I was excited to hear their joint together (though ultimately, it was a little boring).  But yeah, guys like Crooked I sound good.  Or take "Wise Guys;" that's one of the album's highlights with an energetic beat and Kool G Rap and M.O.P. sounding strong together, but they should've just gone: G Rap verse, M.O.P. verse and hook, second G Rap verse.  But instead they also throw Freeway on at the end of the song, and he definitely doesn't live up to everyone that preceded him, with lines that would've been junk even in the 90s like, "you must be a dyke because you've been abroad."  Who let him take up space?  And the same with "Popped Off."  Having G Rap duet with Sean Price (R.I.P.)?  Great!  But why is there also some guy named Ransom on there?

Who decided we needed verses from virtual unknowns like Manolo Rose, Willie the Kid, Pearl Gates (who delivers what is possibly rap's very worst hook to date), Westside Gun, or Conway the Machine?  I mean, to be fair, having those last two dudes on "Rest In Peace" actually kind of worked.  It reminded me of G Rap bringing out Papoose and Jinx da Juvy on a trio track back in the day.  I mean, none of these guys kill it like Jinx used to kill it, but they tread water well enough, and it's one of the few moments where Moss takes a chance production wise.  But yeah, if they really want to put the next generation on, maybe cram them all into one posse cut; but don't give them more collective mic time than G Rap himself.

Not that most of the veterans impress much more.  Saigon attempts to revive the phrase "ba-dunka-dunk," Termanology gets overly dramatic rapping about sluts and Satan and Sheek Louch just adds some filler.  Only Cormega, N.O.R.E., Raekwon, M.O.P. and Sean Price really belong on here.  They're the only ones genuinely enhancing the album with their contributions.  And five artists?  That's enough guests for an album.  Especially when it's not one of those 23-song packed mix CDs.  Everyone else is dead weight.  Again, Kool G Rap only has one full solo song on here.  It's pretty good, though.  And yeah, he does have some nice verses on the other songs.  But there's so much filler, it's like a surprise whenever he gets on the mic again, like oh yeah, this is a G Rap album!

And here's a question.  In several songs (including "Wise Guys" and "Criminal Outfit") he references being part of The Five Family Click.  What?  Are these just fifteen year-old acappellas that Moss patched together to mock up an album?  Is this another Half a Klip situation??  I'll tell you this much, Half a Klip might actually be a more satisfying album.  He wasn't sidelined this much on the Click Of Respect, and he was supposed to be just one guy in a group there.  Again, it's not all bad.  Like listening to him start rapping on "Capitol Hill," I'm getting excited to have the new Kool G Rap album I've been waiting for.  But then this annoying hook comes on and the rest of the song belongs to a bunch of other guys.  Listening to Return Of the Don all the way through is a drag.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Top 13 Horror Movie Closing Credit Raps

There's nothing more entertaining, or perhaps cringe-worthy, then when a scary film ends and suddenly somebody starts rapping over the closing credits.  You actually don't see it very often, because metal is the traditional music genre of horror movies, at least in the 80s and 90s, when great horror films and great horror songs mostly came together.  So, when you did come across it, it really stood out.  Rapping during closing credits is a little tradition that started more in comedies, including such classic moments as Goldie Hawn and LL Cool J passing the mic back and forth in Wildcats, Tom Hanks and Dan Aykroyd exchanging verses in character at the end of Dragnet, John Leguizamo living up to his title in The Pest, or the starts of Richard Linklater's entire cast making goofy rap video at the end of Everybody Wants Some.

But that's comedy; you've seen it a million times in sitcoms, novelty records, commercials, etc.  The joke, inevitably, is: look, these milquetoast nerds have no natural rhythm, but they're rapping anyway!  Ha ha.  Thirty years of the same joke.  But in horror movies, expectations are different.  The mood is dark and serious.  The raps... should be good, right?  At least sometimes.  So here's my criteria of what I'm looking for in my Top 13.

Legit horror movies: Ideally these should be horror movies with some credibility, that horror fans would actually watch and respect.  Da Hip-Hop Witch doesn't count, and neither do horror parodies (I see you, Scary Movie, but you're not making this list).

Legit rappers: It's not essential, because there are some rap amateurs that just need to be included, but they definitely at least get bonus points if they rope genuine, known Hip-Hop recording artists with careers and albums into participating.

Relating to the movie: We want horror movie raps, not just rap songs that somehow got plastered onto a horror movie soundtrack.  Kool Moe Dee wrapping up Nightmare On Elm St. 5 was exciting for a minute, until you realize he's just talking about LL Cool J, not Freddy Kreuger.  The closer the lyrics of the song tie into the film, the better!

...Or at least horror-themed: Short of relating to the movie, I at least want some horrorcore, spitting lyrics about ghosts and decapitations.  We want spookiness, in tone with the movie we just watched, not just some teenager bragging about his car, or some old Steady B love song because the film company had a blanket deal with the record label (I see you, Ghost In the Machine).

Placement: I'm looking for a real theme, here, not just a song tucked deep in the film's soundtrack.  Hearing two notes as a character drives up in his car like Trespass is lame.  I want songs that play in the film's credits, preferably on their own, because they're the final element to the film's telling of the story, not some afterthought.

You feel me, right?  I think these are reasonable expectations.  So without further ado, let's jump into
Top 13 Horror Movies With Closing Credit Raps:

13. Dr. Hackenstein's "The Hackenstein Rap" (1989. Available on wax? Yes!) - This one's at the bottom of the list because it's loose with some of the criteria.  Dr. Hackenstein is clearly sort of a horror parody, and there's no real rappers on here (just composer Claude Lehenaff with female vocalist Karen Clark).  But how could I leave it off?  The song was released on 12" with a glorious picture cover, which is better known now than the original film that spawned it.  "The Hackenstein Rap" itself is fairly disco-y, and there's at least as much singing as there is rapping; but it's pretty dang fun, and definitely works as a theme for the film with a chorus that goes, "he wants your body for his wife; he wants to bring her back to life, yeah!"  There's even an exclusive remix on the 12".

12. Scream 2's "Scream" (1997. Available on wax? Sort of! The soundtrack was released on CD and cassette, and there's a bootleg white label pressing of this particular song.) - Points deducted for not making it on the original Scream's soundtrack, and even more points deducted for lyrics that have nothing to do with film-obsessed serial killers.  But they got Master P (and Silkk the Shocker) to release a "Scream" song when they were at the peaks of their careers, so that's pretty impressive.  They just rap about how hard they had it growing up, but there is a scream sound effect in the hook, and in the music video (yes, there was a music video for this), they rap in front of the iconic Scream mask and mix in some cool Mardi Gras death mask imagery.  It's just too bad the song sucks, particularly the way P lays his "uggh" sound into the screaming hook, killing the energy of it.

11. Seed of Chucky's "Cut It Up" (2005. Available on wax? No, but the soundtrack album's available on CD with this song on it.) - This song would be higher on the list if this were anywhere close to the original Child's Play, but I'm letting my prejudice against the later Chucky films hold it down.  There was actually a sort of rap song planned for the original film's soundtrack, but they decided not to use it at the last minute.  But we got this!  Fredwreck (yes, the guy who used to produce The B.U.M.s) gets busy over the film's closing credits, and yes, his song is all about Chucky.  Of course, we all know they should've gotten Bushwick Bill and Gangksta N.I.P. for this; but hey, these guys really seem to understand the appeal of a horror movie rap theme and go for the gold.  So they earned their place on this list.


10. Popcorn's "Scary, Scary Movies" (1991. Available on wax? Nope.) - This film reaches #10 primarily for being such a fan favorite horror film with the peculiar sensibilities to end in a rap.  So it's a beloved moment for fans, and they pay homage to horror films with a lot of enthusiasm, but they're hardly great MCs.  Like a couple other songs on the soundtrack, it's performed by Ossie D & Stevie G, a reggae duo who were certainly good sports and rapped "American" for this one, using rough, grimy voices to include some amusing, specific references to the film like, "blood sucking insects hanging from a rope, get electrocuted by the Shock-O-Scope!"

9. Phantasm RaVager's "Reggie Rap" (2016. Available on wax? No.) - Yes, Phantasm recently came back with a new sequel, and this time they ended with a rap song.  It's performed by somebody named Elvis Brown who has a Soundcloud with more of his songs here, and the "Reggie" of the title refers to the series' hero Reggie, who travels the country, pursuing The Tall Man with his four-barrel shotgun.  It scores some big points for being an enthusiastic horror rap and crafting lyrics that stick tight to the films, but loses some for autotune and Doug E. Fresh having beaten them to the punch of turning the Phantasm theme into a rap song by about 30 years.

8. The Fear's "Morty's Theme" (1994. Available on wax? Hell yes!) - The only reason this entry isn't even higher on the list is that it's such a crap, disappointing film.  The premise is cool: a bunch of characters gather together to face their fears in a weird therapy session, but their fears all come to life and take them out, ultimately personified by a wooden man they call MortyWes Craven cameo'd in it, and I know I wasn't the only one who thought this was going to be good; but it wound up being cheap and dumb.  Mostly dumb, with really bad acting.  Admittedly, the even worse sequel made this film look a little better by comparison, but nope.  Not nearly enough.  Anyway, the soundtrack album is an essential who's who of horrorcore, including tracks by everybody from The Gravediggaz to The Headless Horsemen.  And the ultimate honor of crafting the film's titular theme song fell to horrorcore legend himself, Esham.  And it kind of rocks, managing to bring Morty and the film's story into the verses without making it seem like a gimmicky novelty rap.

7. Lunatics: A Love Story's "The Reynolds Rap" (Available on wax? No.) - It was hard to decide where to put this one on the list, but ultimately I felt it belonged pretty squarely in the middle.  The main thing holding it back is that this is just barely a horror movie, if it qualifies at all.  But it's definitely a cult film by horror veterans with some strong horror elements.  Essentially Ted Raimi is a lunatic, who meets a beautiful woman and falls in love when he realizes she's crazy, too.  But to be with her, he has to venture outside of his apartment and battle all of his delusions he encounters along the way, including a giant killer spider and Bruce Campbell as an evil doctor.  Helping this song immensely is the fact that director Josh Becker hired the legit, underground rap group Detroit's Most Wanted ("City of Boom" was probably their best known record) to perform his lyrics.  Better still, this film doesn't just play uninterrupted in the film's closing credits (though it does), DMW also appear in the film as themselves, assaulting Raimi with their rhymes in his crazy fever dreams.

6. Monster Squad's "Monster Squad Rap" (1987. Available on wax? You bet.) - Look, Monster Squad is a silly but high quality, quite enjoyable movie.  So the fact that the "Monster Squad Rap" is super corny is appropriate.  Anyway, that's my excuse for having such a bad rap this high on the list.  I mean, say what you want, but fans treasure it, as evidenced by the fact that this soundtrack has been repressed on wax several times in the last couple of years.  The rock-ish hook and clunky rapping is super cheesy but catchy in a way that's perfect for a movie where a bunch of kids team up with Frankenstein's monster to save the world from Dracula and The Creature From the Black Lagoon.  Put alongside serious Hip-Hop, sure it's tripe; but it's an essential component of a great horror flick for young adults.

5. Maniac Cop 2's "Maniac Cop Rap" (1989. Available on wax? Yes!) - I once got to ask William Lustig about who the actual rappers were on the "Maniac Cop Rap," but unfortunately he didn't remember.  Just some guys that composer Jay Chattaway brought in for the day.  According to the credits themselves, they're Yeshua (Josh) Barnes and Brian (B. Dub) Woods.  Anyway, everyone deserves credit for making a rip roaring rap theme for this rare sequel that's even better than its predecessor, with Josh and B kicking fun raps about the killer cop ("when he shows up, he's supposed to protect ya, but Maniac Cop is out to get ya. He's an anti-vigilante and they can't convict him, so watch out, Jack, 'cause you're the next victim!") over a beat that makes excellent use of Chattaway's classic theme from the original.  This blew my mind when I first heard it pop up in the credits back in the 80s, and I'm still not completely over it.

4. Deep Blue Sea's "Deepest Bluest" (1999. Available on wax? Of course, and you already own it.) - No surprise to see this on the list!  This song's pretty bit infamous, though it helps a lot if you recognize the line, "my hat is like a shark's fin" from his 1988 classic "I'm Bad."  Anyway, this whole movie is famous for being enjoyably dumb.  It's about super genius sharks fighting underwater scientists, and LL Cool J plays a ridiculous cook with a parrot as his only friend.  Samuel Jackson has one of the most famous deaths in film history, and this clearly inspired the whole Sharknado and rip-offs craze that swept the nation.  But still, LL's theme song managed to outshine it all.  There's a 12", a music video and everything.  LL's mostly just rapping about being a vicious rapper, and doing a genuinely good job of it, and incorporating the film's violent shark imagery to do it.  Unfortunately, that hat line struck everyone as so silly, it went down in history as a joke song.  But that also secured its place in history - it's certainly the most famous song on this list - so I guess he can't complain.

3. Waxwork II's "Lost In Time" (1992. Available on wax? No, but the music video's included on the latest blu-ray release.) - I'm tempted to list this even higher, but I realize the world may not appreciate this quite as much as I do.  Director Anthony Hickox brought in The LA Posse, the group that spawned Breeze and The Lady of Rage, to perform the theme song.  Does it follow the film's plot?  Oh yes, and they deserve extra credit for that, given how eccentric this film's plot is.  Better still, Hickox directed a complete music video for the song that plays over the credits, so The LA Posse are rapping in the film's many exotic locations, and the movie's stars, including Gremlin's Zach Galligan, are dancing with the posse.  The beat's pretty dope, too; though the ridiculous lyrics prevent it from being taken seriously at all.  But as part of Waxwork II, which is itself quite tongue-in-cheek, it works!


2. Hood of Horror's "Welcome To the Hood of Horror" (2006. Available on wax? No.) - Look, I was pretty disappointed that Snoop Dogg's Nightmare On Elm St knock-off Bones couldn't make this list.  It does have a a good rap theme song ("The Legend of Jimmy Bones" by Snoop, Ren & RBX, and produced by Seed of Chucky's Fredwreck), but they don't play it over the credits or anything.  Instead, Snoop closes the show with a generic song called "Dogg Named Snoop," which has nothing to do with the film or anything horror-themed at all.  But fortunately he fixes that with his second horror film, Hood Of Horror, where he pulls a Waxwork II, making a whole video for the song to play under the credits.  Unfortunately, the movie's not the best; and it's not exactly one of Snoop's greatest hits, but he comes off pretty well over a slow, dark beat.  It would fit in nicely on any horror mixtape.

1. Nightmare On Elm St 4's "Are You Ready for Freddy" (1988. Available on wax? For sure!) - I know The Fat Boys were too crossover and kid-friendly to please some heads, but they were genuinely talented.  Granted, this was past the time they started working with credible producers like Kurtis Blow and Marley Marl and were drifting into major label rock guys' hands, but they still knocked it out the park with this one.  I mean, they actually got Robert Englund to rap in character as Freddy on this one.  And I love the detailed lyrics that really show they're intimately familiar with the films ("even in part three, the dream warriors failed, and Mr. Big Time Freddy Krueger prevailed. It was just about that time, I know you'll never forget what he did to the girl with the TV set!"), which is more than you can say for most soundtrack songs, horror or otherwise.  You've got Buff beatboxing, a music video with the real Freddy in it, and they work the film's original soundtrack expertly into their instrumental - what's not to love?

Honorable Mentions:

Bad Biology's "So You Wanna Make a Movie" (2008. Available on wax? No.) - Frank Henonletter, the man who made Basket Case, made his comeback with a film co-written by RA the Rugged Man.  RA's been referencing Henenlotter's work for decades, and appeared on some of his DVD special features, so it was only a matter of time until they made a movie together, I guess.  Unfortunately, the film's weird mix of exploitative horror and trashy Hip-Hop sensibilities just added up to something juvenile and disappointing.  I mean, Vinnie Paz's acting is just like you'd think it would be.  But given his participation, it was a given RA would also have a rap song for the credits, but it's not really about Bad Biology's story.  Maybe that's just as well in this case.  Instead it's about the hardships of making an independent film, in essence a theme song about the making of this film.  That's an original slant, props for that, but by the time you hear it in its context, it just feels like more of everything that went wrong with this picture.

13 Ghosts' "Mirror Mirror" (2001. Available on wax? Nah.) - Neither a great movie nor a great rap theme song, but at least they tried.  Rah Digga, who played a sizeable supporting role in the film, naturally comes back to rap up the closing credits.  Unfortunately, it's not about the film's plot or horror at all; it's just about overcoming life's challenges.  She does make a reference to seeing her grandmother again, like a ghost, and there's a little theremin-like sound in the track, so it feels like she's throwing in little token semi-references to the movie, but that's even worse, because it just makes it feel like a lazy, half-assed song.  Like, be about ghosts or don't, but don't try to play both sides of the fence.  Nice try, but nobody wants to hear club raps like "I can live like a baller" on a bloody horror movie.

Leprechaun In the Hood's "Ride Or Die" (2000. Available on wax?  No.) - Obviously this movie had to get at least a mention.  It's a campy mash0-up of horror and "hood" movies with a rapper named Postermaster P for a main character and Ice-T in a leading role.  Leprechaun himself even raps at the end of the movie... but before the closing credits and the film's underwhelming outro song by some dudes called The Boom Brothers.  It's not great, but they do at least include the leprechaun in their lyrics.  Interestingly, Leprechaun: Back 2 tha Hood (the sixth actual Leprechaun movie) just plays traditional score over its closing credits, although of course it does have some rap on its soundtrack, including a song by Zion I.

Other films that didn't make the list but rate a mention include Psycho 3, which has a very strange little rap song tucked away on its soundtrack called "Dirty Street."  Shark Night ends with a music video that starts after the closing credits where the film's lead actors make a terrible rap video (though fitting with the film's campy, junk TV nature).  And Japanese pop rock band Sekai no Owari pretty much rapped (in English, no less) through the closing credits rap Attack On the Titan with their song called "Anti Hero," guest produced by Dan the Automator.  But it's more iffy if the film counts as horror (it's more of a dystopian YA fantasy actioner), then if the song counts as Hip-Hop.

Also there was a 2000 film called The Convent, which I naively saw at a screening when I was young enough to believe that when the producers said their film was just like Evil Dead to expect something comparable.  Anyway, Coolio had a small role in it as a cop, and the film ends with an original closing credits rap by him called "Show Me Love."  But it wasn't a horror-related song at all, and a couple years later, he wound up sticking it on one of his albums called El Cool Magnifico.

Besides Scary Movie, there are other horror-related comedies with rap themes, including Ghostbusters II, which had songs by both Run DMC and Doug E Fresh. And there's the Addams Family movies, which made music videos and everything for their theme songs by Hammer and Tag Team. The screenshot at the top of this article is from M. Night Shymalan's The Visit (an unacknowledged knock-off of the 80's movie Grandmother's House), where the lead kid raps us out during the closing credits.

And finally, no I didn't forget.  Tales From the Hood.  What a disappointment.  It should've had a soundtrack like The Fear, only with even bigger artists, which it sort of did.  But instead of horrorcore/ scary songs, it's just dark hardcore and gangsta rap.  The closing credits play Scarface/ Face Mob, and the title track is by Domino, who doesn't wind up rapping about anything scary at all, let alone something having to do with the actual film.  Admittedly, it's a solid soundtrack album just taken as a collection of original songs by the day's biggest rap artists; but I just can't shake how let down I felt that it copped out since the day I first bought it.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Krs-One's First Word

video
(Before Boogie Down Productions was a thing, Krs-One and Mantronix created a happy little record together, to the tune of Gilligan's Island.  Youtube version is here.)

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Original Co-Defendants

Here's a nice, little indie 90s record by a group called the Co-Defendants.  And who were they?  Well, actually, there's been a couple "Co-Defendants" in Hip-Hop, and sites like discogs have them all mixed up; so first let's clarify who they're not.

There's a Boston duo called the Co-Defendants, consisting of Carlito Cream & Don P who had an album out called Book ov Life and were part of a larger clique called the Messiah Fam.  Those are different guys.

Killarmy did an entire album with a French group called The Co-Defendants (possibly named after that Killer Bees Swarm song?), who also did some other overseas stuff I never kept track of.  But those are also different guys.

There's a duo from San Francisco who I never heard of until I googled them just now, comprised of two solo artists: Beneficial and S. Kush, who came together as The Co-Defendants to record a couple singles in the late 2000s, called "Big Boy Shit" and "Just Like Me."  Those are different guys, too.

Similarly, when California gangsta rappers 12 Gauge Shotie and Lil B-Stone teamed up to record an album together, they called themselves The Co-Defendants, and they're very different guys.

Tragedy's mix-tape/ album Thug Matrix had a track featuring some guests called The Co-Defendants, but that was just his regular guys Killa Sha and Napoleon; and I think that's the only time they went by that name.  They definitely didn't make this record.

There's a group called The Co-Defendants from Lansing, Michigan, consisting of J-Holla and 3rd Deggree[sic.] who released an album called The Patdown in 2009 or thereabouts.  Not the same guys.

And Big Noyd released a compilation album of his crew a few years ago, called Co-Defendants Vol. 1.  No relation there either.

Nah, these Co-Defendants predate all those other Co-Defendants, forming in 1993 to release a tight record called "Get Cha Weight Up" on Bon Ami Records, which is one of those Sugarhill spawn labels.  It got a lot of underground play on Stretch & Bobbito, The Wake Up Show, and mixtapes by DJ Red Alert, DJ Enuff, etc.  It was basically just one guy, Bain D. Robinson, who did all the vocals and the production, though his DJ/ hypeman Craig Brown rounded out the group.  They even had a guest verse by Rob Base, giving him a much needed injection of underground credibility again.  It was hot, but pretty much their only record.

Except trust Echo International to dig out one more obscure 12" out of an artist's discography you thought was finished.  That's their specialty, and sure enough, they did it again.  In 1994, they put out "Just When You Thought" by Co-Defendants featuring Omar Chandler and C.E.O.  Who are they?  Well, I think C.E.O. is just an alias for Bain.  Because nobody's rapping here except for him, and C.E.O. also gets production credit on the liner notes for a song that Bain had credit for on their last 12".  So I'm pretty sure they're one and the same.  And Omar Chandler?  Well, he's an R&B singer who had an album out on MCA Records, and previously worked with Teddy Riley.  But he's probably best known as the guy who sung the hook on "Joy and Pain."

So yes, that means an R&B hook.  Chandler has a great voice, but it definitely drags the proceedings down.  The beat, produced by D. Moet (presumably the D. Moet, who used to be with King Sun), is decent but feels slow and feels cheap.  Like, it's got some simple drums and a piano loop, mixed with some more g-funk style bass and whistle.  It's well crafted, just a little under-cooked.  Maybe it just needed a better engineer.  And the chorus detracts from the rapping, which is a shame, because lyrically, it's actually a serious, compelling song.  C.E.O. has a definite Grand Puba style and sound to his voice, but he's a little less playful as he talks about the grind of life wearing you down, "just when you thought you had it all figured out, each and every day something new pops out.  Inside the city, everybody's gettin' high; white people knock every thing that you try.  But when you succeed, they suck 'till you bleed, each and every drop 'till they get what they need.  If they're so smart, why's the world so sick?"  Heavy shit.  I wish there was a remix of this.

Flip this record over, though, and happily we're back to Bain's more rugged production.  Actually, the first song on the B-side is "Get Your Weight Up" again, with the instrumental.  If you're a completist, you'll still want the original Bon Ami Record, because that had some exclusive remixes, but the classic version with the ultra-smooth sample that got all the play in the 90s is conveniently on both.  This is the essential cut.

But then there's one more B-side, another new song called "Who Are We," where Robinson shares production credit with Brown.  It's not as great as "Get Your Weight Up," and the hook's a little limp; but it's another cool, raw indie NY record with a chunky beat.  The whole thing feels inspired by early Just-Ice records, but with Bain still flowing in his distinct style.  With the exception of Killa Sha (can't front on him), this guy clearly has way more talent than all those guys who took up the Co-Defendants mantle over the years after him.  It's a shame he didn't have more of a career, because sure, he never would've blown up to be the next Jay-Z; but I'm sure this Co-Defendant had some more slick indie 12"s in him.

Friday, May 12, 2017

3rd Bass: Pieces of Ichabod's Cranium

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(3rd Bass's third album was supposed to be entitled Ichabod's Cranium.  It never got completed.  But what bits and pieces are out there?  Youtube version is here.)

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Destruction From the Exterminator

Never heard of MC Destruction before?  That's okay, neither had I until Dope Folks put up sound-clips for their latest preorder.  But one listen and I immediately had to find out everything I could.  Unfortunately, though, that's not much.  Destruction's from the Bronx, and he only released this one, super rare 12" single on Black Wax Records, all four songs of which are being repressed now by Dope Folks.  He was produced by Marc Niles, who later went on to produce some Crustified Dibbs stuff for Jive Records; but you'd never imagine the two acts were connected listening to this.

There's a strong Big Daddy Kane influence in Destruction's work, and some serious pre-Wu Tang Genius mixed in with a bit of a Supreme Nyborn vibe at times.  The single was originally recorded in '89 and released in '90, which may explain a bit about why it didn't blow up Destruction's career to a major label level.  It sounds more like it's from '87-'88, so anyone looking for the next big thing would've moved immediately past this.  But now in the era of looking back for lost gems, '88 is perfect.

One thing that really works for this record is that, like Kane, he's very consistent as an MC even while his songs are very different from one another.  This Blow Of Death EP captures that, but without any of Kane's later "Groove With It"-like misfires.  We start out with the title track (changing the sequencing from the original record), a slick burner where Destruction slips into some hardcore fast rap, "those who try to beat or defeat me; they can't because my rhymes are overlooked by Nefertiti."  My only criticism is that Blow Of Death uses so many samples you've heard before on other rap songs, to the point where, for all intents and purposes, you've heard the instrumental for "Goin' Off" at least a dozen times before.  This EP is fantastic, but originality is not its strong suit.  In fact the most original song might otherwise be its weakest track, "Maria."  Yeah, it's about a girl like the title suggests, but thematically it's much more in tune with "Jane" or "Mary Go Round" than a love song.  "Murderin' MCs" is like a smoother take on "Blow Of Death," by his DJ Absolute.  And finally "Comin' Off" is a duet with an unnamed second MC (though by the writing credits, we can guess his government name is Howard Dodd), where there's a real cool, almost gangsta rap influence as they represent their Black Wax Posse over James Brown's "The Payback."

Now the original 12" was actually a split EP, with MC Destruction's four tracks on side A, and four cuts by another guy named Corey Pee (clearly not the other guy from "Comin' Off" unless he really switched up his voice) on the B-side.  For both of them, this seems to have been their only record.  So, for serious collectors, there's still a reason to hang onto your original 12", but there's no question MC Destruction's is the side that needs to be preserved.  Corey Pee was okay, his song "Come Get Some" is pretty good; but he was definitely going for more of a mainstream-friendly, crossover tip, with some corny R&B hooks and junk.  His song "Step To This" in particular is like a budget C&C Music Factory joint.  So MC Destruction's stuff doesn't just edge out Corey's side as the superior material, it's on a whole other level.

This is limited to Dope Folks usual 300 copy run, the first 50 of which are on yellow vinyl, and the rest are on traditional black.  By the way, am I alone in thinking that black wax is particularly appropriate in this instance?  And by the way, how awesome is it that Dope Folks now have custom label sleeves?  It's tempting to say that I was more excited by the surprise of seeing that sleeve when I opened the package than the actual record, but I can't because the record's too hot.  I was having a discussion with someone recently trying to tell them how much I was feeling this record, and they were kind of dismissive, like "yeah, everything on Dope Folks' stuff is great."  And yeah, that's true; but I would put this over even most of the other Dope Folks Records in my collection.  This is a real must-have.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Stickers Must Die!

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(Just a little mini-video for you today.  I wanted to try something I'd been reading about: removing old, crackly stickers from record covers.  Usually you wind up tearing up the covers if you attempt it, but some online sources recommended using a hair dryer to heat it up, and as you can see... it works!  An amazing modern miracle of super-technology!  And we'll return to my regular-style programming next vid.  😉  Youtube version is here.)

Monday, May 1, 2017

Dirty Jersey Week, Bonus Day 8: Razzle Dazzle, Old To the New

Okay, I had a whole other post lined up to round out Dirty Jersey Week, but I actually got put on to today's release as I was writing this series, and I had to include it.  I won't mention who got bumped because I don't want to break any hearts.  😄  But this is somebody I've been meaning to cover on this blog for a while, and he's just come out with a brand new reissue of his classic album with all new bonus tracks... of course I couldn't resist!  I'm talking about the limited edition CD release of Scott Lark's underground Jersey classic Razzle Dazzle.  If you missed it, check out this video interview I posted with Scott a couple years ago.

You're going to see some recurring themes here if you've been following Dirty Jersey Week: Tony D, Contract Recordings, and these cats like B-Fyne again.  Scott Lark is another one of those underground Hip-Hop acts Tony D was working with for Contract Recordings, just like Blaque Spurm, Wise Intelligent and his own breakbeat compilations.  But Scott Lark didn't fit in with those cats or any of the other typical, "random rap" NJ hardcore 90s groups.

Scott Lark has a very west coast influenced, laid back stoner vibe going on, with a smooth but very fried voice.  It's the kind of style that requires some very strong production to work, and so it's lucky for everyone that Tony D handled his entire catalog in this period.  So it doesn't sound like a west coast album, and Lark's lyrical enough that it doesn't sound like mainstream fare.  It's kinda unique.  It's got a great cool-out vibe, with Tony giving it a lush, robust sound-bed.  You'll recognize some samples here and there, but they've been given a very new context here.

And some of Scott's lyrics feel like they're written freestyles conceived while completely under the influence.  Songs like "I Killed a Hoe" and "The Movie," will definitely have you pausing like, wait, is he saying he smoked a bomb with Saddam Hussein on his plane and "he had a jacuzzi with five groupies holdin' uzies?"  Yup, and the story proceeds, "that chick Suzy, she said, hey ain't you that rapper? She slapped me in the face and called me a chick basher.  She stuck her gone in my nose; I froze.  Made me lick her toes and her asshole!  I couldn't do it.  I had to do it."  He always lives up to the backpacker standards of "lyrical" in his construction, but content-wise, he could get very stream of consciousness.

Now, Scott had two 12"s on Contract in '95 and '96, "Insight" and "Razzle Dazzle."  Both of those, including all the B-sides and everything, then wound up on his '96 full-length, Razzle Dazzle.  In fact, it's almost more of an EP than an LP.  The original cassette version, which is what I've always had, is eight tracks deep.  The two 12"s had seven songs between them, so it really only added one new song ("Stomped" featuring B-Fyne).  Apparently there was a CD version, too; but I'd never heard of it until it got listed on discogs many years later.  Anyway, the CD doesn't add anymore songs, but fills up the disc with the instrumentals and radio versions from the 12"s.

This new CD dumps the old CD's filler, returning to just the core eight songs... and adding three unreleased tracks!  One of them is a brand new remix of his debut single, "Insight."  It's produced by The Custodian of Records, and it's really good.  It almost rivals the original, although the vocals do feel like they're mixed a little low and get lost behind the instrumental.  But that's no reason to kick it out of bed; it's got fantastic horn samples and a killer bassline; you'll definitely be impressed.  Then the other two songs are vintage unreleased cuts from Lark's crew before Razzle Dazzle called Unfound with three other MCs named Drunk, Draz and Gee Cope.  And one of these two songs is a posse cut with The Funk Family.  So that tells us these were probably recorded around '92.  Lark does sound younger.  They're rawer, higher energy songs and yes, Tony D produced these, too.

This CD is limited to just 100 copies.  I know Scott Lark's not exactly MC Hammer famous, but I think they're underestimating heads' interest in this one.  It's being released through Cha-Ching Records; Tony D's old label, but now shipping out of Germany?  (shrug)  Anyway, it comes with some new liner notes and the bonus stickers you see in the photo above.  Not the cassette, though; that's just my old tape.  Here's their BigCartel.  I hope we'll see a lot more of Tony's unreleased catalog coming soon.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Dirty Jersey Week, Day 7: Tony D's Eminem

I've covered the most recent Shawn Lov projects before, but this is the perfect Week to go back and look at his most recognized record.  If you go through his catalog now, it's not his first release, but basically any of the earlier stuff is online-only material that most fans have been discovering in retrospect.  This was his vinyl debut, produced by Tony D in 1999 on his own Cha-Ching Records label.  And this is really when he started appearing on diggers' radars, in no small part because it had a real Eminem vibe just as the Eminem craze was blowing up.

I don't mean to say that Shawn was like an Eminem clone; this is no Dasit situation.  Even in his super early stuff, Shawn was very much his own artist.  And I know there was a bit of a kerfuffle for a while about every white MC getting compared to Eminem and accusing them all of sounding alike, a la Asher Roth's "As I Em."  But first of all, Asher did come out with Em's sound, and secondly, that complaint is kinda B.S.  Nobody ever said Vanilla Ice sounded like The Beastie Boys or the Insane Clown Posse sounded like 3rd Bass.  In fact, at the time, Eminem was getting a lot of his signature style from The Outsidaz.  But ever since I first heard this single, you're going to have a hard time convincing Tony D didn't put Shawn on thinking he was catching a little bit of the Eminem wave with this kid.

And to be clear, that's not a bad thing.  When people were saying The Wizard of Rap sounded like Rakim in '89, that wasn't their way of saying, "waiter, take this back to the kitchen."  It was more of a reason why "you gotta get this record!"  Eminem is still one of the most respected rappers around, but there was no better time to sound like Em than '97-2000.  That was his peak.  Think about it: Tony D producing an indie 12" for Eminem back then, wouldn't you want to hear that?  Well, you almost kinda sorta can.

So let's finally talk about this record for a minute.  The first song "That's What's Up," is just a fun, punchline heavy battle freestyle rhymes over a bouncy beat.  And yeah he sounds like Eminem sounding like The Outsidaz... his voice with the higher pitch, the way he races from line to line, changing voices to respond to himself.  But then the B-side, "Respect This," is less so.  He sounds more like himself here, more natural.  The beat is heavier, too, and the rhymes are less jokey.  He's free of the influence, and actually I think this song has aged much better for it.  In 2017, this is really the song I mostly revisit the vinyl for.

But there's one more song, called "Pathetic," and I think this is actually his most Em influenced sounding of all.  Instrumentally, it's not.  Tony D lays down a cool and jazzy but very familiar track.  But then Shawn comes actually sounding like he's doing a deliberate Emzy impression on this song.  The way he packs syllables into punchlines, pitches up on the hook and again changes voices is all so much like "Just Don't Give a Fuck."  It's almost like Tony made a smoothed out remix with Em's Acapella.

Now, let's head over to Shawn's bandcamp page, because he wrote out some cool descriptions for all his back catalog, and I'm curious what he says about this.  The songs here were only physically released on this 12", but he has a whole mp3-only album (or maybe there was a rare CD?) of these sessions he recorded with Tony D called The G.O.D. LP, and all three songs are on it.  One quote from there kind of confirms my theory, at least partially: "Recorded in 1998... The G.O.D. was the album that was intended to introduce Shawn Lov to the Hip-Hop world at a time when there were no other 'White' Emcees with comparable talents."  Pay particular attention to the "recorded in 1998" part, because he also writes, "I'm Pathetic,' a self-deprecating song created a year before Eminem came along, who enjoyed global success using the same humorous shtick."  I'm glad to see this because it shows I'm not the only one drawing the Eminem connection.  But more to the point, the 12" was released in '99, but these songs were recorded in 1998.  Okay.  And what year did The Slim Shady EP come out and make the underground scene go crazy?  1997.  So my timeline holds up.

But "Pathetic" has a unique premise which is not out of the Slim Shady playbook.  It's basically a diss record directed at... himself.  Non-stop vicious and comic lines putting himself on blast, "I feel frightened and alone even when my crew's around, 'cause they don't even give me pounds," "I ain't got no rhythm, no soul, no breath control.  What I need to do is grab a control and start playin' rock & roll, 'cause I ain't nothin' but a wack-dressed crash test dummy.  I only lost my virginity 'cause this big bitch took it from me!"  It's a genuinely clever, original concept.  The only song I can think of that came close to that idea is Esau the Anti-Emcee's "Boo."  And since I've just been breaking Shawn's balls about timelines, I have to give him full credit and say this handily pre-dates Esau's record by 2-3 years.

All told, this is a cool slice of wax that belongs in the crates of any underground late 90s heads.  Of course, it's a must for Tony D collectors.  And ironically, most of us were checking for this back in the days because of the Eminem sound; but now the song that holds up the most is the one where Shawn steps out of his shadow.  The 12" comes in a sticker cover and features instrumentals, dirty and clean versions of the first two tracks.  Unfortunately though, "I'm Pathetic" only has a clean version, and it does include a few curse words which get silenced.  But it's not too distracting.

Oh, and by the way, Day 7 was naturally going to be the last day of Dirty Jersey Week; but tomorrow I'll be adding one more last minute bonus day.  And yes, I'll actually post it tomorrow-tomorrow.  😛