RAPID ME RAPID

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I found this record the other day at a digging spot in North Beach (for those who know The Bay). I was excited to find some dancehall on the old Pow Wow Label and had heard Papa San shouted out in many recordings including Raheem’s “The Invincible”, which includes some heavy disses of its own. Here is a bio on Papa San that I found at Westbury Music Ltd. of the UK:

Tyrone Andrew Thompson (Papa San) was born in Spanish Town in 1966. It was (and is) one of the most deprived and lawless towns in Jamaica (both his brothers were shot to death) and the daily grind was only relieved by the weekend street-corner entertainment, the Sound System.

He was reared by his grandmother with Rastafarian beliefs. His father worked on the Black Universe Sound System and Papa San was performing there from the age of 12 onwards.

The early 80s in Jamaica witnessed the beginning of the first golden age of Jamaican Dancehall: music made by MCs (and singers) whose fame arose from soundclashes, where sound systems vied against each other with their MCs.

Even as a young man, Papa San was hugely influential, standing alongside older artistes like Lieutenant Stitchie, Josey Wales, Tenor Saw, Admiral Bailey, General Trees, Shinehead etc. In soundclashes, his lightning (often rude) chat and sharp (often improvised) lyrics allowed him to diss other DJs without risk of personal injury! He was MC with Black Scorpio, Stereosonic, Creation Sound and, later, occasionally with Downbeat (US).

One of his early hits was “Legal Rights” with his protégé Lady G, a tune he did for Winston Riley (Techniques) in 1983. From then, he would record prolifically, often having multiple top 10 entries in the Jamaican charts at the same time. Other hits included “I Will Survive”, “Legal Rights”, “Strange” and “Maddy Maddy Cry”.

By 1988 he had done an album with Tippa Irie on Fashion (UK) called “JA to UK MC”. He recorded most notably with Black Scorpio, King Jammy and Fatis Burrell. The 1990 Scorpio album, “Style And Fashion” is among the best of his early work.

In 1994, with David Morales, he recorded “The Program” which went to the top of the Billboard Dance Chart and made him a world ragga/hip hop name during the 90s, and many emerging hip hop and reggae artistes (Capleton especially) cite him as an important musical influence.

In 1997, having had what he describes as a supernatural visitation, Papa San became a Christian. The content of his songs changed but the original style remained, though (since the album “Pray Fi Dem” in 1993) the sound was becoming more hip hop/R&B than purely dancehall.

His main Gospel albums are “Victory” (1999), “God & I” (2003) and “Real And Personal” (2005).

All gospel and disses aside, here are 2 cuts from Style and Fashion:

Papa San– Just A Tease Me (Pow Wow Records, 1989)

Papa San– Rapid Me Rapid (Pow Wow Records, 1989)

SKINNY RASCALS

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Skinny Boys– Get Pepped (Zomba, 1988)

THIZZEE RASCAL

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New Dizzee Rascal has leaked. An interesting track for a number of reasons. First off, the beat is a loop of Lyn Collin’s “Think”, most famously used in hip hop for “It Takes Two” by Rob Base and EZ Rock. This recalls Dizzee’s breakthrough single in the U.S., “Fix Up, Look Sharp” which used Billy Squire’s “The Big Beat” as it’s beat. Engage the Americans with the least amount of effort, use their breakbeats!

The song itself is pretty nice, a heavy bass drop and wheezing synthes punctuate the drum loop as Dizzee barks about doublecrosses and useless friends. It’s strange to hear most of the whine has left his voice and been replaced by a more authoritarian command. Secondly, there’s no more double time in his flow, which is a real shame. Has he stopped listening to UGK or what? One of the things that made Dizzee so engaging to US hip hop fans was his flow was like a perversion of double time US flow; Jay Z and Bun B put thru the wringer of jungle and garage. Now, he just sounds less unique. There’s certainly no mistaking him for anyone else, but the jar dropping shock of the new of “Fix Up, Look Sharp”, “I Luv U” or “Stop Dat” is simply not here.

The other songs I’ve heard leaked from the new LP “Maths and English” were at slower tempos at well, more compatible with hip hop than current grime. It’s will be interesting to see if people throw these songs into hip hop sets. It’s a shame this song, with its particular drum loop isn’t faster, as then it would mix well with Baltimore breaks, which has beat the “Think” drum loop into the ground at around 130 bpm.

The song has caused some controversy as it seems to be about Dizzee’s former mentor Wiley. The relationship between these two has been cold for the last few years (for reasons too varied and unsubstantiated to get into here), with Wiley tossing both barbs and pleas Rascal’s way with no response until now. Currently, Wiley’s myspace page says “DIZZEE IM SAYING LETS CLASH IM WAITING,” and it will be interesting to see if Dizzee will bothered to say anything more on the subject besides this song.

Dizzee Rascal– Pussy Hole (XL/Dirty Stank , 1987)

CREEZY HYPE

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Bobby Able passed along this “Crazy” remix by Punchline. It’s available here as a 7″ on Punchline Records.

Punchline- Creezy Hype (Punchline Records, 2006)

STUTTER STEPPIN’ TO THE AM

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Two of the illest shuffle beats ever from a woman who can’t seem to go away and a group that barely was. Production-wise, Chubb Rock and Howie Tee & the 45 King are timeless on these two:

Seeborn and Puma- They Call Me Puma (Select Records, 1987)

Queen Latifah- Princess of the Posse (Tommy Boy, 1988)

I’M INTERCONTINENTAL WHEN I EAT FRENCH TOAST

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Rap, like all music, knows no bounds. The Sugarhill Gang scored a world-wide success in 1979 with “Rapper’s Delight” (climbing into the Billboard Top 10 in the UK) and soon after that electro-funk became an underground phenomena at choice clubs in Europe. From the beginning, as quickly as new sounds were created they were to be heard overseas, remixed, returned, and again recycled by their native tongues. French-Algerian Bernard Zekri (below left) who would throw a succession of transcontinental boomerangs with pioneering rap legends Afrika Bambaataa (below right) and Fab 5 Freddy to further spread the seed of hip hop.

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Zekri was an aspiring epicurean journalist who while moonlighting as a waiter in midtown Manhattan came to know Bam and some of his Bronx based B-Boys. As a result of their meeting, he organized the first European hip hop tour, “New York City Rap Tour”, which was sponsored by the French radio station Europe1 and featured a gang of old school legends. Teddy Esposito, Artistic Director for French American Celluloid Records at that time, caught the event:

“I was watching the television and there was an announcer who said, “Here it is, from the U.S.A., a new style, it’s super!” “Here are guys who are making music with their records, who rhyme on top of music, and others who spin on their heads.” There was DST on the turntables, Bambaataa doing the beatbox. The Rock Steady Crew (Crazy Legs, Ken Swift, Take 1, Mr. Freeze, Frosty Freeze) break-dancing. There was Fab 5 Freddy and Phase 2 on the microphone and Futura 2000, Phase 2, and Dondi who were painting on panels at the scene. … That concert completely transformed me. I was already passionate because I had been collecting records for two years. But, when I saw the enormous energy of that whole group of guys, I said “That’s me.”

Hmmm, Foreboding…

The collaboration of these 3 disparate forces (Celluloid, Zekri, and The Pioneers) would go on to create many important rap records of that era. Here are 2 of them:

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TIME ZONE- “The Wildstyle” (Celluloid, 1983)

BEESIDE- “Change the Beat [Female Version]” (Celluloid, 1982)

The music on “Wildstyle”, is credited to a German band called Wunderverke. Here is a picture of them in the studio.

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Based on a poorly translated anecdote on the bands site (see above) of the songs recording, it seems as though the track was recorded at the band’s studio in Germany and received a luke warm reception that night from Afrika Bambaataa who took the tapes back to NYC where they were then overdubbed with a vocal track that features Beeside, Zekri’s girlfriend at the time, among others. The track credits Bam and Zekri with the production. It’s interesting to note that the track seems to have featured some sort of an electronic instrument of the band’s own invention. Check it out:

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Here is a historical excerpt from the band’s google-translated website that refers to the devices inception:

“…. the Mr. Franz Knüttel would have been continuously frustrated. As hobby Drummer it always came after one hour of continuous whirling because of lack of concentration from the clock. Thus the question emerged, why there is actually still no machine, to which solch´menschiche weaknesses do not wear anything and which swots precisely nonstop. Answer: Because it is not yet invented!

Ergo had Tüftler Knüttel only unity in the head:

The construction of a all-electronic, pre-programmable Schlagzeugs.” [OH WORD!!!]

I posted the B-Side of “Change The Beat” (Sans Fab 5 Freddy). It again features vocals by Beeside and coming in at under 3:30 it maintains its cute nature without me wondering: “What is she F@$%in’ saying anyway?” Material, a Bill Laswell production, provides the music. Like “The Wildstyle”, it also credits Zekri as a producer.

Stay tuned for more toast…


PUT YO HOOD UP

I was in London recently for a very warm two weeks of Indian summer type weather in October. Yet, every school kid I saw was wearing a sweatshirt with his hood up… like constantly… 75 degrees and sunny (which, in England, is about as rare as a straight set of pearly whites) and these kids are putting their hoods up like artic explorers.

In England, apparently criminals have just gotten hip to the idea of wearing a sweatshirt to obscure their identity. It’s gotten to the point that the term “hoodie” is a synonym for “young criminal” and there is talk of banning the hooded sweatshirt entirely. Now, this amused me and puzzled me to no end. Firstly, stick up kids in the England JUST discovered hoodies now? Secondly, they are going to BAN hooded sweatshirts? That’s like making pantyhose illegal because bank robbers wear ‘em…

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I was pretty confused about this whole thing until I stepped back and gave it some thought. See, England doesn’t have the wonderful heritage of casual wear that we do in America. Children there still wear fucking sport coats (ok, blazers) to school. The country as a whole has a big tradition of tweed and wool. If it’s a cool fall day, people wear a sport coat or a nice sweater (yes, a “jumper”), not a sweatshirt. That is, until hip hop fashions brought the whole velour sweatpants leisure/sport wear aesthetic world wide. So, in England, hooded sweatshirt = urban fashion. Compare this to America, where every average kid in the whole country as worn the things for the last 30-40 years. I mean, think of Elliot in E.T. , what could be more unthreatening, wholesome, and All American than that?

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To see the whole scope of threatening urban Englishness, check out the video for Roll Deep’s “When I’m Ere”, ere, I mean HERE, where all 7 (8? 9?) members of Roll Deep are rocking the same black Nike sweatshirt (rumor has it they were sponsored). Roll Deep are (were?) the premier crew in grime music (a mutant offspring of UK Garage heavily influenced by US hip hop and Jamaican dancehall) and this track is from their “In at the Deep End” album from 2005. There newest single/video is an antigun song called “Badman”, with a short film for a video that was paid for by the UK government in an effort to combat the rising tide of gun crime there…

My solution? While I was there, I also read the N.M.E. and other rock music magazines and I noticed that Emo music is a new phenomenon there… Been going on 20 years here, brand new there… To the point that there are people writing letters to the editor feverishly debating the whole thing and every interviewee is asked to voice his opinion. Naturally the main imports are doodoo like My Chemical Romance and Jimmy Eat World. But, herein lies the solution: if Emo can catch on big there, the hooded sweatshirts worn by moping nancyboys with funny haircuts here in the states can perhaps be imported as well and people will immediately lose all fear of hooded sweatshirts…

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SOFT RAP CLASSIC? GUILTY AS CHARGED

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“Crazy” is on the fast track for heavy rotation on soft rock radio for the adult contemporary audience. If somehow you’ve missed the phenomena on David Letterman, SNL or Regis and Kelly, I’m sure the track is coming soon to a cubicle near you. Having been to art school, I suffered through the fact that rap was more a cool commodity than anything that my Neutral Milk Hotel loving peers would call music. Its for this very reason I get so frustrated when eventually an artist or group does crossover and I get stuck having conversations about hip-hop and its finer points with rockers and bike geeks while we hang out at a potluck listening to Belle and Sebastian. All the hating aside, its not that the product isn’t quality or the artists aren’t talented but there’s only so much I can take. At this point “Crazy” has sold more than a million digital copies and its not because its either band member’s most interesting endeavor in the Wide World of Music.

DANGER MOUSE- “It Ain’t Hard To Tell [Nas vs. Portishead]” (Unreleased, 2001)

DANGER MOUSE- “Top Billin’ [ Audio 2 vs. Air]” (Unreleased, 2001)

TRICK DADDY feat. CEE-LO- “In Da Wind” (Slip-N-Slide Records, 2002)

COOL BREEZE- “Watch For The Hook (Dungeon Family Mix)” (Interscope, 1998)