Monday, June 22, 2009

The Fresh 3's Fresh 2

The Fresh 3 M.C.'s were a cool but short-lived crew signed to Profile in the early 80's. Comprised of Unique aka Supreme GQ, Mr. Bee and Jay Cool, they were featured on as a part of Pumpkin's Profile All-Stars line-up for his well-known hit, "Here Comes That Beat!" in 1984.

But they're easily best known for their debut single, "Fresh," from 1983. It's been featured on, oh, only about half a million or so old school compilation albums throughout the decades, and one listen makes it obvious why. It's got everything. It has a classic, true school-style harmonized hook, which is instantly memorable: "F-R-E-S-H; fresh, fresh, yo, that's fresh!" And it's got some catchy, hardcore keyboards (can keyboards be hardcore? Apparently so!), and a funky beat full of hard drums and hand claps. The rhymes are fun:

"A girl walked up;
She gave a wink;

She said, 'I bet that your girl
Could use a new mink.'
I agreed with her;
She said, 'what size?'
I said, 'you'll do just fine.'
I had her hypnotized.
I then took her to the crib,
And with one last yell,
I had her and the coat
That she tried to sell.
'Cause I'm (F-R-E-S-H)!"

...But the delivery is tough. Remember, this is before Run DMC's first album made the hip-hop scene do a 180 (though their first singles were just coming out around the same time), so these guys were giving you the hardcore, pure rap style that the heads were fiending for. It also has some (not terribly impressive) scratching and it also gets at least a novelty mention in the Rap Hall of Fame for an amusing First: it's the first rap record to feature backwards rapping. This would be a lot more impressive if they actually worked out some backwards rhymes; but instead, after announcing, "we're so fresh, we don't have to rehearse. We can even rap to you, in reverse!" they just play the regular vocal tracks backwards. Still, despite being a cheap cop-out, I promise you, there's no one who was listening to hip-hop back in those days who doesn't remember that moment.

Not nearly as well remembered, but still kinda neat, is their follow-up single, "Have Your Heart" b/w "A Few Minutes More." It's produced by the same guys - oh, did I not mention them? Dave Ogrin, who did a lot of big-time production throughout the 80's and on into the 90's, co-produced both Fresh 3 M.C.'s records with Bill Moore, who did a few other things... but "Fresh" was pretty much his pinnacle. So, the production team is back, the 3 MCs are all back, still on Profile, ready to make another hit. What went wrong?

Well, probably that they went in the completely wrong direction, and made the A-side a love song. Now, this pre-dates LL Cool J's "I Need Love," so it's not that ultra-sappy whispered-word delivery kinda love song. Actually, the beat is pretty funky. But for a crew that boldly displayed a proto-typical boom-bap style the previous year, this just sent the wrong message. If they'd held out long enough to get an album, and then stuck this on there, I think it could've found its audience, but as it is; it's a pretty obscure follow-up from a veritable 1-hit wonder group.

But, really, it's pretty (dare I say) fresh. They come with multiple, short upbeat verses over another a very head-bodding beat. Again, it's full of funky synths, handclaps and tough drums; and the hook is harmonized again "We're gonna have your heart, have your heart, have your heart, girrrrl... we're gonna tear the place apart!" In fact, except for really veering off on the subject matter, they're sticking pretty doggedly to the formula, but it still sounds different enough to be more than just a sequel.

Still, someone must've known a love song was going to alienate some fans, 'cause the B-side features a simpler, more rugged beat: no synths and the hand-claps are tweaked to almost sound like additional drums. And they just spit freestyle rhymes, passing the mic back and forth without even a hook. And it probably would work, to some extent, to appease fans they annoyed with the A-side. But considering the A-side went in the wrong the direction, and the B-side is too raw to really have gotten much radio play, most "Fresh" fans just didn't hear it.

Fortunately for us, though, both records are cheap and plentiful. So hindsight being what it is, it's easy for us to go back and:
A) enjoy a true classic
B) appreciate a funky little sleeper that's really a lot better than it's given credit for.

Yo, that's fresh!

1 comment:

  1. Great post. Funny, just yesterday I overheard my sister reprimanding my niece for being "fresh", and in my head, I heard "F-R-E-S-H. Fresh, fresh, yo that's fresh!"