Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Buck! Buck! Buck! part 1

Somebody recently tweeted me a question about one of the many, varying versions of Josh Martinez's Buck Up Princess album, which made me realize what an ideal blog post this album makes, what with all its obscure, different versions. There's a couple listed on discogs, and a couple others will turn up if you google around enough... Well, I think I have them all.  It's really hard to confirm that, though, considering how rare and unknown some versions are. See, for years before the main, commercial version of the album was released, Josh used to put out "rough versions" on the indie tip.* These were made to sell at his shows on the road and online, where the rest of us could snag them if we were quick and on the ball enough.

Buck Up Princess is, to my mind, Josh's best album; and one of the time period's best (and most under-valued) hip-hop albums all around. It had better be pretty f'ing good, after all, for me to have kept buying it over the years. But thanks to the fact that I did, I'm now in a position to break down every single version, compare them, and see what's special and unique about each one. Ready? By my count, there are... four and a half.

We begin in 2001, with this very homemade edition on Low Pressure Records, the precursor to Camobear. It's a hand-written CDR that comes in a slimline jewel case, and the artwork is a simple, black and white print out, folded in half to give cover and interior artwork, wherein the old Charles Atlas comic book ad meets airplane safety instructions.  All of these are strictly CD releases. by the way, except the final LP, which came out on both CD and wax. This version is fifteen tracks long, and you can see the complete track-listing for this and all the iterations on my Maxwell page. But as a short summation, this is the most removed from the final retail album of any version, not just chronologically, but content-wise.

This Buck includes some songs that had been previously released by Josh and Low Pressure, on sampler compilations and such, and a bunch of songs I suspect weren't ever intended to actually be on the official Buck Up Princess album. "Theories," for example, is credited both here and on its earlier sampler appearance as being by InkOps featuring Josh Martinez. I'd bet you two dollars that it was initially planned to be on InkOps' Low Pressure album that never wound up coming out. So it was stuck on here along with some other random tracks - a couple of these don't even feature Josh! - but slowly became an integral Princess element, lasting through every tour CD and eventually landing on the real album.

The track-listing is a bit screwy. "Rainy Day" and "Energy Crisis" (a duet with mcenroe that's didn't make it to the final version of Buck) have their titles swapped. One entry is left blank - they don't give a title for it - but we know from later versions that it's "Walk In the Park." And did I mention songs on here that aren't even by Josh? Yeah, there's a couple Governor Bolts songs on here that were never otherwise released, a Kaboom (of InkOps) song from his first album, and a DJ Moves-produced instrumental called "Boy Sex With Knowself."  I'll guess that it's maybe an instrumental version of a track off one of Knowself's albums; but I don't have those, so I'm not sure. There's also a song by Stubs, Seriph and B-Side... whoever those guys are, and a weird, instrumental/ skit called "Nova Scotia Baby."

It's important to note, too, that some of these songs are essentially early "demo" versions of the better known versions on the final Buck Up. At first glance "Sushi" sounds like an exclusive; but it's actually an early version of "Rip Rap" under an alternate title. The instrumental and lyrics are the same, but they seem to have been re-recorded a little cleaner for the later version. Josh's adlibs before he starts rapping are completely different, and this early version doesn't have the scratching at the end. "Rainy Day" is also missing the scratches from the later version, but instead has an exclusive outro with Pip Skid talking about healthcare. "Nightmare" is missing the scratch breakdown (sensing a trend here?) and the opening vocal sample. And "Walk In the Park" is missing, yes, the scratches... but it also doesn't have the distinct echo effect on Josh's vocals, making it sound decidedly more ordinary.

Finally, there's "End Of the World," a Josh solo song (produced by Moves) that never made it to the final version of Buck Up Princess. Josh raps a literal narration about the end of the world over a dramatic, low-key instrumental (with some cool cuts, presumably by Moves). "I nearly died that day when I was carried underground; thinkin' fightin' why can't I follow all these people I've seen fallin' down?" Although I wouldn't rank among my favorites, it's a good song. I suspect it may've been removed from later versions simply because of the darker tone.

So ultimately, only seven songs from the final version (which has 17 total) are on this early disc. That means there are eight "exclusive" songs, though many of those appeared on other releases, and again, several don't even feature Josh. This feels like half a Buck Up Princess album and half a Low Pressure sampler. A pretty neat collectors' item for the serous fan, for sure.

And golly, that was long... and we only covered the first disc. Looks like this is gonna have to be a two-parter.

*This isn't the first time he'd done this. There are at least three incarnations of his previous album as well.

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