Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Krs-One's First Word

(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

(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!

(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.