OLDSCHOOL HIP HOP – PART ONE
Not even the most gifted of fortune tellers or prophets could have predicted just how popular Hip Hop would become at the time of its birth way back in 1973 at block parties and jams in old New York.
So universally respected and accepted it now is that the music itself has taken on a life and culture of its own and can be heard on radios, malls, TV and movie soundtracks; in fact pretty much everywhere on each corner of the globe.
Most musical genres evolve over a period of time, none more so than Hip Hop itself, travelling through numerous periods, creativity’s one constant being change. Thoughts are divided between music lovers the world over as to which particular period is the greatest, most important or innovative; a testament in itself to the music’s strength and longevity.
Here we have selected the timeless age known as Oldschool, covering its recorded birth from 1979 up to the early nineties. Most collections of this period feature legends such as Run DMC, Grandmaster Flash, Public Enemy, Eric B & Rakim, Kurtis Blow, T La Rock, LL Cool J, etc, etc – all worthy additions in their own right, but we here strive to introduce the reader to the lesser known releases that were and continue to be overlooked and invite you to enjoy another in Tuck Magazine’s series of alternative best of compilations.
1. Bobby Deemo – Party Rap (1981 US Amherst 12″)
For a musical movement that originated in the States we actually start our introduction with a track from a Canadian rapper, arguably the first from that country.
Rarely will you find anything so fun and funky as this relatively obscure record from 1981, released as a single and found also on Deemo’s sole album ‘Rap The Night Away’.
Reportedly based on Stargard’s 1978 theme from ‘Which Way Is Up’, this delivers in both music and lyrics as Deemo’s own band funks it up in line with the lead’s increasing light heartedness. If you don’t move to this, then give up now.
2. Ligit – Let’s Get Busy (1989 US 8 Ball Records 12″)
One of the beauties of Hip Hop is the number of independent releases, often one-off recordings that are distributed locally and in limited numbers, but actually turn out to be gold.
This record was the sole release from the Richmond, California based Ligit in the late eighties and is another that makes you wonder what could have been had they recorded more.
Starting off with a scratch of BDP’s ‘Criminal Minded’ the JB beats soon kick in for a rhythm all of their own, the vocals upbeat and fast paced, never at any point letting up.
3. Joeski Love – Say Joe (1986 US Vintertainment 12″)
This is Joe’s second and considerably lesser known single of the eighties and is an absolute stonker. Utilising the well worn horn riff from Juice’s ‘Catch a Groove’ to great effect throughout, hard hitting beats, combined with Love’s lyrical bravado combine to make this an instant lost classic.
I first heard this on the radio in 1986 and very nearly wore my cassette tape of the show out having played this particular track over and over.
Released on Vincent Davis’ respected Vintertainment label, this deserves to be heard more.
4. MC Jewel – I Am A Poet (1990 US Hype Records 12″)
Little is known about the fifteen year old that produced this incredible piece of wax but, as is the case with so many single releases, had he continued making records, who knows to what heights could have been climbed.
So confident and striking is the lyrical approach, one cannot fail to be entranced by this amazing record. Kicking off with Funky Drummer beats, Jewel utilises the bassline from Jorge Ben’s ‘Ponta De Lança Africano’ throughout, creating a rare menace and strength to a track that lays down a challenge to the very best of them.
As he predicted, Jewel’s words did indeed live on for a long time after he was gone.
5. Nastee Boyz – Killer Bz (1986 US Krossover Records 12″)
This one-off release by Newark’s Carroll brothers buzzes along deliriously leaving the listener in a spin. Featuring the vocals of the B-52’s own Fred Schneider this is fun from beginning to end as clichés are respectfully adopted for a riotous flight in hyper rap mode.
Unfairly dismissed by many on its release as a cash in on hip hop’s increased popularity this deserves to break free from the novelty tag and enjoyed as the quality record it is.
Climb aboard for the ride and you will never be the same again.
6. Seville & Jazzy Jay – Envious (1986 US N.V / Cutting records 12″)
Not in any way obscure to the true blooded B-Boy but a mystery to the mainstream, this record rocks the spot from the outset and refuses to let up.
Featuring the vocals of original (Zulu Nation outfit) Dynamic Force member (Kid) Seville, this bounces along to legendary DJ Jazzy Jay and Omar Santana’s tight and hard hitting production.
A lost classic and one that, in an ideal hip hopping world, would be a standard in its genre. Any biters should indeed be envious.
7. Tall, Dark & Handsome – Tall, Dark & Handsome (1988 US B-Boy Records LP track)
This short lived trio live on in Hip Hop history as having had an LP released on the legendary B-Boy label. It is perhaps ironic therefore that it received greater promotion from its UK Streetsounds subsidiary Westside release than it did in the States.
Nonetheless it is a solid album full of true to the core Bronx hip hop, its self titled track featured here being particularly special.
The unique use of The Jackson 5’s ‘Darling Dear’ throughout places this track way ahead of its eighty eight release, as the group rap on and down the boogie down in this stormer of a cut.
8. Dion D – Yard Beat Is Fine (1986 UK Craze Fraze Records 12″)
A relative obscurity in early UK hip hop, this one off release from rapper Dion D could so easily have broken into the mainstream with the right amount of luck and promotion. It certainly had its admirers at the time though, being played on London hip hop radio shows, even featuring a PA set from the man himself on Radio London’s famous Fresh Start to the Week ’87 show from Camden broadcast live to the capital.
The vinyl was numbered from memory so never progressed beyond the initial limited pressing, despite the weight of its production by renowned dub master, Mad Professor.
Based very much on Slick Rick’s ‘The Ruler’s Back’, D’s lyrics and refreshing London accent make this his own and you can’t help but think what could have been.
9. The Invasions – Time To Make The Donuts (1987 US New Foundation Records 12″)
This is a supreme and largely unheard track by the same group that were responsible for one of the Roxanne spin off records a few years earlier. Why it took so long to get to this, actually one of three tracks on this twelve inch, is a mystery, but is another that had crossover appeal given the chorus.
Whether this is the same crew who went on to be Class A Felony is another mystery, but only adds to the appeal of this already strong beat kicking stroll through hip hop’s lyrical streets.
Starting off with beatbox the drums soon kick in for a Doug E Fresh party on wax, the title’s hook staying with you long after. I was lucky enough to have heard this on the radio on its release and have played it to death on cassette ever since.
10. LA Dream Team – Calling On The Dream Team (1985 US Dream Team Records 12″)
One of the coolest records you will ever hear, the famed West Coast outfit ooze class as they float through space and time on this early electro rocker.
Opening with Kraftwerk beats, the meanest of TB303 synth basslines kicks in for the duo to hand us their lyrical calling card.
More widely known for their ‘Rockberry Jam’ and ‘Nursery Rhymes’, this deserves to be up there with the early mentioned classics.
11. Cookie Crew – Pick Up On This (1989 UK ffrr Records 12″)
Hailing from this writer’s own South London, the Cookie Crew take control of the mic effortlessly with this hard hitting number. Released as a B side to their ‘Got to Keep On’ single and featured also as a cut on their debut LP, this is one that should have gained a release in its own right.
Featuring the production duties of Stetsasonic’s Daddy O and DBC, this dances along to the beat of The New Jersey Queens and Friends’ ‘Party and don’t worry about it’, giving bursts of JB’s ‘I’m a greedy man’ for good measure also.
Rhyming at that time on the London ffrr label, following the Cookies’ earlier Rhythm King releases, the lyrics and production gel perfectly, everything falling into place as near perfection is achieved by this pairing. Attitude, funk and sheer fun float through the speakers when this is played, much as it should be.
12. Fresh To Rock – Get On Down (1988 US Bass Force Records 12″)
Featuring the vocal talents of Baby K this obscure release is yet another that needs to be more widely heard and appreciated.
Tucked away as the third track on a twelve inch release this is a fine example of early hardcore Miami bass, the stereotypical lyrics working perfectly alongside pulsating 808 beats and bouncing bass. Get on down.
13. DJ MATE and the Latin MCs – Let’s Jam (1988 US B-Boy Records 12″)
Here we have another release from the legendary B-Boy label, this being the only one from producer DJ MATE alongside the Latin MCs, and what an absolute stormer it is.
Starting off by transforming the whirl of CD III’s ‘Get Tough’, Pleasure’s ‘Bouncy Lady’ is stabbed to ‘Rocket in the pocket’ and ‘Giving up food for funk’ for a riot of a track. Confident lyrics, very much of their era are delivered with passion. Now why couldn’t there have been more from them?!
14. Rasheed Miller – All You Imulators (1987 US RM Productions 12″ EP)
A rare slice of wax now features as our next selection containing the most beautifully raw and natural production; pretty much what hip hop should be.
With just a drum machine in the background kicking, Rasheed Miller lets the lyrics rip in true homage to his local legend Schoolly D. The hand designed label of this obscure release is also true to the Philly icon, this being a track from Miller’s one-off EP recorded in ’86 and released the next year.
Not many outside of the hardcore B Boy circle are likely to have heard this gem, a common theme among such limited releases, so word definitely needs to spread. Very much the real hip hop, my man.
15. MC Martay & DJ DBM – Beyond Control (1989 UK GTI Records 12″)
This is another release from the UK that rocks with the best of them. The first of two singles released by the Manchester duo, this is more hardcore and true to the spirit of hip hop.
Opening with Kool and the Gang, transformed to lip smacking perfection, raging beats soon kick in for Martay’s passion fuelled lyrics to ride on, never for a moment letting up as staple samples seem as fresh as ever inbetween.
There are numerous outstanding records from the UK in the eighties, this being a fine example of how things were, before the era of Britcore made its presence felt.
16. DJ Elliot Ness & The Untouchables – Little Cezar (1986 US Atlantis Records 12″)
What is about Philadelphia that produces such hard hitting and raw records from the eighties? Here we have another that screams to be played loudly as beats rock with intent to the MC’s smarts.
Well known samples are cleverly schooled to create a rare dose of uniqueness in an often over saturated field, this sounding as fresh as anything. I get the feeling that a crossover may perhaps have originally been intended on its recording, but fun is clearly had and dues paid accordingly.
I first heard ‘Little Cezar’ on Mike Allen’s UK Capital Radio show on its release and is another that I had relied on my well worn cassette copy of the show to hear prior to its rebirth in the modern internet age.
17. SL Troopers – Movement (1989 UK Music Of Life 12″)
Any respectable collection of oldschool hip hop could not be complete without an offering from Simon Harris’ Music of Life label. Here we have a late eighties release from the UK outfit SL Troopers, their only outing on the label following an independent debut a year earlier.
The Meters’ own ‘Live Wire’ here opens for frantic beats to kick in and provide a perfect backdrop for MC Sweet Pea’s (Travis Blaque aka Fabian Stephenson) confident proclamation.
Flitting between the whirr and whistle of well placed samples this races at a furious pace that can only cause one thing to the true music lover: Movement.
18. The Showboys – Drag Rap (1986 US Profile Records 12″)
Here is a relatively well known track from 1986 that is more famous now due it being a major influence on New Orleans Bounce music, though it could also be a lighthearted alternative to gangster rap given the lyrics.
Sirens and screeches first greet us as the Dragnet theme sounds and 808 beats kick in for a glorious tale to begin. “In order to survive you had to be mean/ Our story starts in notorious Queens.”
Famously unaware of its later impact, the duo made little or no money from the record and its continued sampling, another business deal gone wrong in the history of hip hop. Pay homage and play loud.
19. Divine Force – Ain’t We Funky Now (1988 US Yamak-Ka 12″)
This record, despite being a B-side, received a lot of radio play back in the day. The crew, consisting of Sir Ibu, Supreme and his Sister, Ice T (aka Lady Nefertiti – not the West Coast rhymer), featured both individually and collectively on the three 12 inches they recorded under this name. This is the last of the releases and features the vocals of said female MC.
Upfront and direct this comes across live and jumping, T’s rhymes bouncing upon a Rhythm Heritage break as staple samples join in for the ride. A cut that still sounds as fresh as it did on its release, much as any true hip record should.
20. The Mighty Key Gang – Crisis (1984 US Rap West Records 12″)
For the final entry in part one of our oldschool compilations we travel back over thirty years to San Diego for this obscure one-off release. Little appears to be known of the crew in question, aside from the fact that they certainly should have recorded more.
Here we have a fine example of early West Coast Hip Hop as upbeat synths brighten the socially conscious lyrics of reality and doom, the Gang spelling it out with authority.
A sound and funky jam in its own right, this deserves to be up there among the dustiest of lost classics.
Parts 2 and 3 coming soon in Tuck Magazine………………………………
Less Obvious: An Alternative Best Of – Breakbeats http://tuckmagazine.com/2015/03/18/less-obvious-an-alternative-best-of/
The links above are purely for entertainment purposes only and you are urged to seek out the original releases, if of course you can find them…………..
Do you have an Alternative Best Of selection? Readers are invited to submit their own thoughts and selections via the Comments section or email: [email protected]
One half of Tuck Magazine. A music lover whose first record was a seven inch of Hank Mizell’s ‘Jungle Rock’ (or it could have been Pinky and Perky, the memory is a little hazy) and is passionate about all things music, in particular Oldschool Hip Hop, Rock and Roll, Dylan, Jazz, Led Zep and Blues; in fact anything and everything good.