Less Obvious: An Alternative Best Of

May 5, 2015 Music , MUSIC/FILM/TV





If a poll was taken in any country of the best records from a certain musical genre then more often than not it would contain roughly the same selections. Don’t get me wrong, this is by no means a bad thing as it is always worthwhile to highlight good music, but this often means that other equally worthy tracks are neglected and shunned to time’s fading wayside.

In an ongoing attempt to right that particular wrong however we have produced another in our series of articles on alternative ‘Best Of’ compilations, this being the third part in our feature on Oldschool Hip Hop.

No list can ever be definitive in this respect, nor is it meant to be, so please all enjoy the following and savour the incredible music contained in the following twenty selections:




1. Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five – Flash It To The Beat (Live) (1981 US Bozo Meko Records 12″)




We start this Part’s essential twenty with an unreleased jam that should be at the top of every B-Boy’s all time lists. Recorded live in 1981 at The Bronx River Community Centre, reportedly by none other than the great Afrika Bambaataa himself, Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five are here captured live in all their glory.

Flash, generally renowned for being one of the early innovators of released turntablism, here stands behind a 70s Vox Percussion King drum machine and punches the beats live as the Five, Melle Mel, Cowboy, Scorpio, Kidd Creole and Rahiem, rap in unison to every electronic kick.

The performance was released as a bootleg in New York on the Bozo Meko label which prompted Sugar Hill Records (who the crew were then signed to) owner Sylvia Robinson to rush release a recorded version of the same number a few months later. This had nowhere near the raw power of the original live version which, aside from introducing numerous hip hop artists to the wonders of the drum machine, still sounds as strong as anything to this day. One, two, one, two, three and: listen to this, just listen to this.







2. Mahogany – Mahogany Rap (1986 US Style Records and Tapes 12″)



For our next selection we have the sole recording by Angie ‘Mahogany’ Williams. Said to be the first release by a female rapper from Richmond, Virginia, following her earlier partnership with MC Rockwale, this stands tall with the best of them and deserves to be more widely heard.

A drum machine first introduces us to the infectious synth bassline that flows throughout this obscure number, as the click and boom of a human beatbox and whisper of scratches breathe beneath, well timed samples adding to the already heady mix.

Add to this the lyrically sound and free flowing rhymes from Mahogany that fly by in over six minutes and you have a cut that cries out to crossover to that near yet ever so far mainstream. Another case of why couldn’t there have been more, so pay due respect to this lost classic.







3. Techni Crew – Action Packed (1990 US Mixed Image Records 12″)

Techni Crew - Danger Island (Tape Only - Front)



Hailing from Sacramento, California, the three piece Techni Crew sought to change things in an emerging gangsta rap scene by their own thought provoking lyrics. John ‘DJ I-Knight’ Paige, Speedball ‘MC Crush’ Jordan and Eric ‘Cowboy’ Bonds here rock the mic with true bravado to first gain the crowd via a maxi single/LP sampler of ten early tracks.

From the outset, samples delight as beats are combined to form a rocking backbone for the rhymes to dance to. DJ I-Knight’s sophisticated scratches and production make this an increasingly enjoyable ride as beats and rhymes combine to live up to the cut’s title.

The Crew’s vision of socially conscious rhymes came to fruition via an obscure cassette only release of their album ‘Danger Island’ two years later, featuring a remix of ‘Action Packed’, but nothing sadly appears to have been heard further. Savour the moment as Hip Hop moves the soul.






4. J.D.T.R. – Human Cold (1986 US G.A.S. Records 12″)



Next we have a blast of a record that does not fail to entertain. True to the fun that flowed throughout a number of releases from 1986, the J.D.T.R. (Just Down To Rap) crew let loose on a riot of a cut both lyrically and production wise.

A drum machine opens only to spar with stabs of Uncle Louie as it kicks and hops beneath the mystery of a truly menacing bassline. “There is one sound that is pure as gold, but nothing better than the human cold.” The crew’s lyrics make light of a dark world and drift from cold to hot as they bounce from the flu to the Fat Boys, an infectious and effective human beatbox buzzing in and around the catchy choruses.

This was the first of only two twelve inches from the Philadelphia based J.D.T.R. and is yet another in our ongoing series of alternative compilations that tiptoes the line between mainstream and obscurity as, be it through bad luck or bad timing, failed to cross over to that elusive other side.






5. Icey J – Icey J Is On Wax (1988 US JBM Records 12″)

Icey J



“Sucker MCs beware that Icey J is on wax”, so speaks our artist as another stormer of a cut is unleashed. Hailing from Jacksonville, Florida, Renita (Icey J) Johnson displays her lyrical skills in blistering fashion as rhymes race at breakneck speed through this burning slab of wax.

Keeping with the urgency of an out of control beat, J commands authority on the mic, her confidence and ability shining brightly through each booming speaker. This was the B-Side to Icey J’s first single, ‘It takes a real man’ an answer record to Rob Base’s worldwide hit, but didn’t itself break through. Two further singles followed, each displaying J’s own vocal talents, but nothing could quite match the raw charm and fury that she here put on wax.






6. The Maniac – Rock Dis Land (1991 US Flip Side Records 12″)



Here we have a real obscurity, one that absolutely reeks of raw beauty. Not to be confused with The Maniacs (of ‘Bum MCs’ fame) mentioned in our earlier article, this is a release on the Flip Side label out of Detroit, ‘Rock Dis Land’ forming one quarter of a twelve inch EP that begs to be played loud.

Featuring the famed production duties of Mike Moore, this cut rocks with true and long lasting authority. Staple samples are deliciously employed throughout to form a solid and worthy side, Rob Black’s rhymes in time to a beat the listener never wants to end.

This appears sadly to be the only release from this crew, little information available on them or the label itself. As is so often the case with many regional one-off releases, the listener is found forever wanting more, a sign itself to the genius within each spinning groove.






7. Hot Day – The Super Kids Live At Hip Hop USA (1987 US Hot Day Records 12″)



‘Hot Day’ Dante Franklin and Percy ‘Tragedy’ Chapman formed the Super Kids and, while only releasing five tracks together, made their mark in Hip Hop history. Following the seminal ‘The Tragedy (Don’t Do It)’ single produced by Marley Marl, the duo cut a three track twelve inch that featured ‘..Live at Hip Hop USA’ (also known as ‘Jam Off Take It Off’).

Essentially a live in the studio jam with Tragedy showing his supreme lyrical talents over a hard hitting beat as DJ Hot Day scratches bursts of Spoonie Gee and ‘Masters of the Scratch’, this is gripping and is Hip Hop at its finest. After this the duo went their separate ways, Hot Day cutting a solo album on the Tuff City label before joining forces with The Poet to form PHD to great acclaim, Tragedy joining Marley’s Juice Crew before becoming Intelligent Hoodlum and Tragedy Khadafi.

An earlier ‘Kids track ‘Stunt of the Block’ was unearthed in recent years and released, proving very much that those raw jams from Queens, New York where two young kids got together and did their own thing, still stand the test of time.






8. EMF – Rough Potential (1989 UK Greedy Beat Records 12″)

EMF electro motive force



Hailing from South London, the crew of EMF (Electro Motive Force) cut this hard hitting slice of wax in late ’88, releasing it early the next year. MC Cardi and Chris ‘DJ 357’ Andes, using true entrepreneurial spirit, sold each copy to record shops under the cheeky guise it was an import, though there was no need to for as soon as the needle hit the record it was impossible not to be in awe of its quality.

Opening with the beat from PE’s ‘Don’t Believe the Hype’, samples are set expertly in place for Cardi’s confident rhymes to explode through four minutes of Hip Hop heaven.

Despite receiving a great deal of UK airplay and press coverage at the time, the duo only released this one track on the London Greedy Beat Records label before going their separate ways. More recordings were reportedly made but remain unreleased and if anywhere near as hot as this, cannot surely stay under time’s lock and key much longer.






9. Hardrock Soul Movement – The Beat Is Mine (1986 UK Elite Records 12″)

hardrock soul movement



For our next offering we return to London and the almighty Hardrock Soul Movement. Originally members of the famed Mastermind DJ Roadshow, Max LX and Dave ‘VJ’ Morrissey, formed their own Movement and started to cut records. This, the second of their five singles, bites hard and remains fresh to this day.

Starting off with 808 beats a truly wicked synth bassline kicks in which immediately places the duo up there with the best of them. Add to this some authoritative rhyming, coupled with a catchy female chorus and you have perhaps a UK version of early West Coast electro hip hop.

Max and Dave recorded other classics together, notably ‘Double Def Fresh’, ‘Elaweser’ and ‘Funky Groove’ but, worthy as they are, this for me just edges ahead. Widely respected within the music industry, the duo also had a successful radio show on Kiss FM for a number of years from the 1980s, but in my opinion, nothing can match ‘The Beat is Mine’.






10. Masters Of Ceremony – The Master Move (1988 US 4th & Broadway 12″)




A familiar crew to most Hip Hop heads yet one that was relatively shortlived, the Masters of Ceremony made a huge impact and still sound fresh to this day.

Forming in the mid eighties in New Rochelle, New York, they recorded three hard hitting singles on M-Low and Jazzy Jay’s Strong City label before signing to Island’s dance subsidiary 4th & Broadway. Here they recorded a very strong album ‘Dynamite’ from which this and two other singles were subsequently released.

The Master Move kicks straight into action as Mandrill’s ‘Fencewalk’ is used as a basis for the crew to provide lyrical delights throughout, rhyming to instant classic status. Don Baron, Grand Puba Maxwell, Dr Who and DJ Shabazz make up the MoCs and, given the overall strength of the album, we can only wonder what could have collectively come next had they stayed together.

However, Puba went on to join Brand Nubian and Don Baron cut a solid solo LP afterwards, so the crew’s individual talents were spread across the hip hop spectrum. For this writer though, none can top the very cream of Hip Hop as, to quote the crew themselves, “You got the rhythm of the beat that’s most unique, Masters of the Ceremonies won’t geek.”






11. MC Fosty & Lovin C – Radio Activity Rapp (Let’s Jam) (1984 US Rappers Rapp Disco Co. Records 12″)

mc fosty and lovin c



Next we have an early West Coast electro popper that can rock with the best of them. Originally part of the six man Rappers Rapp Group out of LA, Foster ‘MC Fosty’ Mayes and Carlton ‘Lovin C’ Burrell split to cut two important singles as a duo on the Group’s famed label.

Produced by the late great Rich Cason, this piece of wax bounces from the outset as a vocoder introduces the beats before a mean bassline kicks in and undulates through the MC’s rhymes. “Blood, Cuz, gangbangers, And there’s thugs and pimps and dope slingers” sets the mood as Fosty tells the tale of street life over nine hard hitting funky minutes, eventually ending with one of the gang members being shot by an old lady he mugged, realistic lyrics over menacing beats making this a true early classic.

Although based musically on Royal Cash’s ‘Radio Activity’ on Sutra a year earlier, this for me stands way above that record and remains powerful to this day; “Let’s jam, radio active”.






12. Pookey Blow – Get Up (And Go To School) (1981 US Tri State Records 12″)




We travel back to 1981 for our next slab of smoldering wax and the unique sounds of Jerry ‘Pookey Blow’ Pearson. Being no relation to Kurtis Blow, but instead nephew of Mr Magic (Tony Pearson as opposed to New York’s own WBLS king), twelve year old Blow here cuts through time as he raps and rhymes on school.

Some would say the vocal delivery is prosaic given the relative lack of enthusiasm and soul within, but I prefer to think of it as laid back and oh so cool for it. Using riffs and beats from Herman Kelly’s classic ‘Dance to the drummer’s beat’, New Haven, Connecticut producer Mr Magic also employs a spookily exotic synth to create a mood unmatched at the time, instantly cementing its classic, and for me timeless, status. Magic, in addition to producing others, recorded a number of singles himself, including his later version of this record, entitled ‘Dance to the Drummer’s Beat’ on the Tri State label.

Given the scarcity of Pookey Blow’s record on its original release, copies were highly sought after, appearing even on one of the limited runs of the classic early Octopus Breaks albums, but this was finally able to reach a larger audience in recent years when included on the compilation of early Connecticut Hip Hop ‘The Third Unheard’ on the Stones Throw label.






13. Noel Rockwell and The Poet – Beat You Down (1987 US 11-A Records 12″)



While not being the only musical genre to have them, Hip Hop has had its fair share of answer records over the years, this in particular playing an early important role.

The mid eighties saw the birth on wax of the Bronx-Queens wars when MC Shan and Marley Marl dropped ‘The Bridge’, not exactly claiming Hip Hop started there but was interpreted as such at the time. BDP stated the case for the Bronx in its history by then releasing ‘South Bronx’ and ‘The Bridge Is Over’ before The Poet responded with this hard hitting record.

Although not officially affiliated with Mr Magic’s Juice Crew, Wilbur ‘Poet’ Bass and DJ Noel ‘Rockwell’ Orlando stood up for Queensbridge with some biting lyrics, directly attacking KRS-One and attempting to set the record straight. “Yes Bronx started Hip Hop, but didn’t maintain it / Now they’re getting jealous cause Queens has made it” being one of the many classic and direct rhymes contained within. The record is a classic in its own right using the guitar riff from Billy Idol’s ‘Flesh for Fantasy’ throughout as block rocking beats and transformer scratches punctuate the groundbreaking lyrics.

A further answer record from the duo, ‘Taking U Out’, followed as releases went back and forth between KRS and anyone who was interested in battling, but nothing can top this bold offering from the golden age itself.






14. Point Blank MCs – Hard To The Body (1987 US Beauty And The Beat 12″)




Our next cut should be familiar to all true oldschool fanatics and is one that still hits the spot today. Hailing from Elizabeth, New Jersey, the teenage rap crew of the Point Blank MCs, after wowing local crowds with their live shows, hooked up with the legendary Ed ‘Duke Bootee’ Fletcher to cut records on his new independent ‘Beauty and the Beat’ label.

Renowned for rocking the DMX drum machine throughout this period, Bootee made a new sound from something old, his unique hard beats instantly recognisable as his own. ‘Hard to the Body’ is no exception as beats bounce along to tight edits, echoes and deft scratches allowing the party like atmosphere of the MCs’ own rhymes to glide effortlessly along. One particular highlight for me comes towards the end of the track when various DJs are namechecked, a certain Mike Allen of UK Capital Radio fame, who championed the record at the time, being mentioned, still making me as a Londoner proud!

This was the second single from the crew following their ‘What the Party Needs’ a year earlier on the same label, but sadly was their last, Shimrock, Short Man, Mr Bee, Everlast and DJ Finesse going their separate ways, never to reform or record another rhyme together. I for one am forever grateful though that this number was recorded in the first place as will always be in my list of greatest ever hip hop records. Work that body.






15. Radiance (feat. DJ RC) – The Micstro (1980 US Ware Records 12″)

RC La Rock



Classics come in many forms, none more so than those from the original school where creativity and talent mattered. It has been well documented that Hip Hop effectively started in 1973, its first recordings on wax six years later. This record can rightly claim to be in that esteemed class therefore as it was recorded in late ’79 and released early the next year.

Hidden away as the B-side to Radiance’s funk jam ‘This is a Party’, RC La Rock lets rip over the same beat with some classic freestyle lyrics, famous for being the longest rhyme flow recorded as there aren’t too many breaks over the nine minutes of free rolling wax. “I got rhymes aligned from wall to wall / I won’t hesitate or even stall / See, I rock with the spring, summer and fall.” These are just a small sample of the lyrics, true to any genuine rhymer, back in the day and beyond. Reminiscent of how the MC rocked the mic at parties, this is a revelation, the rhymes flowing effortlessly above the funk, bass and beats of the band’s own number.

RC La Rock was from Manhattan but this record was reportedly huge in Philadelphia upon its original release, much sought after ever since. Re-releases followed but this was brought to music lovers’ conscious in recent years when included in a mix by DJ Cash Money. Truly one of the all time greats. Pay your respects now.






16. Tha Swami – To Be #1 (1984 US On The Spot Records 12″)



Each genre of musical history is rife with recordings where the B-side either becomes more famous or is in fact stronger than the originally intended main release. Hip Hop is of course no exception, numerous such examples having already been featured in the three parts of this particular feature.

‘To Be #1’ certainly falls into that category in this writer’s opinion, a short track that epitomises the raw basics of true Hip Hop. Tha Swami is LA DJ/producer Juan Gibson who teamed up with his former Funk Army and Two Freesh partner DJ Antron to produce this amazing cut. MC K Rock G of The Brothers Supreme handles the rhymes as oldschool lyrics rock to automated beats with a synth directing. “To be an MC on the microphone, you have to have a def style you can call your own.” The lyrics are very much of their time and fit perfectly with the tightness of this track.

The A-side of this single, ‘The Swami Scratch’ is an electro instrumental from Gibson but cool as it may be, cannot live up to the rap found on its reverse. This was the first release for the On The Spot label from Norwalk, California but proved to be the last collaboration between either of the three involved in this rare jam. Savour to the very end.






17. Poetry – Everything I Do (1989 US Pow Wow Records 12″)



“Poetry is the language of imagination / Poetry is a form of positive creation” so rapped KRS One on Boogie Down Productions’ seminal ‘Poetry’ from their debut LP. More importantly though and with reference to the track we feature here, who is Poetry?

Little appears to be known of the persona behind this one-off obscurity, the label indicating it is one H Anthony Williams, but still no further information has come to light since the release of ‘Everything I Do’ in 1989. Famously produced by the legendary Jazzy Jay, this is one stormer of a cut that sank without trace soon after being issued, only to resurface as a sought after must-have record in later years.

Reportedly from Brooklyn our MC here has the boldest of rhymes, a year or so ahead of their time, in which he confidently states the case of what should and shouldn’t be, indirectly dissing and taking down other prominent names along the way. Spun over a rolling beat the rhymes hit hard and are complemented by deft scratches and samples, Bobby Byrd, Lee Dorsey for the title and a Billy Joel piano riff making this one rough but smooth ride. Given the talent involved you would think an album, further singles or legendary status would follow, but instead this appears to be the only release from the mystery that is Poetry.






18. Numarx – Rhymes So Def (1987 US Studio Records 12″)




Hailing from Baltimore, the former all DJ crew of Numarx made some serious waves locally in jams and radio mixes in the mid eighties. Formed by Sean ‘DJ Spen’ Spencer and Rod ‘Kool Rod’ Holloman the crew added Kevin ‘KG’ Liles, Darryl ‘Junie Jam’ Mims and Beatmaster Big Moses to their ranks before recording a debut single ‘Buss It’ on the independent KMA label.

It would be another three years before any recordings were made, this time on the Maryland Studio label, ‘Rhymes So Def’ being their first for them. The ‘Extended Dub’, confusingly the A-side, is definitely stronger than the ‘Radio’ and ‘Regular’ release versions on the flip and is unique in its format. Starting off with some pounding beats, sampled stabs of synth punch their way through as KG and Kool Rod’s vocals kick in. Interspersed with the creatively programmed beats are mystic synths and those all too familiar but fresh as ever Funky Drummer beats. “Chronological words, a geographical phrase / I proceed to put your mind in a baffled stage…” The lyrics through echoes and a true dub template work perfectly together to create an unforgettable jam.

 After this another single was released, the original version of ‘Girl You Know Its True’, infamously covered by Milli Vanilli a year later and an LP, ‘Our Time Has Come’, both on the Studio label. Sadly, no further Hip Hop records were cut by the crew, leaving members to go their own way, DJ Spen achieving fame as a producer and Kevin ‘KG’ Liles as President of Def Jam. Nothing however can match the beats the old school can scratch, “Have you ever heard rhymes so def?”






19. High Power – Queens Is Fresh (1986 US Power Track Records 12″)




Hip Hop throughout history is renowned for battles and braggadocio, rhymes centering on feuds and standing up for where the artist is from. A common theme in the 80s, one’s district, city or even coastline was the basis for some serious music and lyrics. As was the case in our earlier feature on Noel Rockwell and Poet’s ‘Beat You Down’ release to some extent, the rivalries between New York’s five boroughs are often the foundation for sparks of creative genius. Our selection here relates to Queens, New York and the High Power crew of MC Cooley C and DJ Brother Bee’s homage to all that is musically fine about the Borough.

Bold drum beats kick loud and proud as the MC waxes lyrical on his home town of Hollis, staple samples stabbed respectfully with a taste of ‘Was Dog A Doughnut’ as an occasional bassline. “Some people say it sucks, but we know it’s def”, Cooley C proudly lays claim for the home where his heart is, namechecking and referencing Queens’ other famous Hip Hop residents throughout also, Run DMC, LL Cool J, Whodini, Roxanne Shante, Marley Marl, Biz Markie, MC Shan and Davy D gaining mentions to make this a true family affair.

This gained a lot of airplay back in the day from memory but, despite its accessible lyrics and catchy chorus, was another to sink without trace, ‘Queens Is Fresh’ being the second and final release from the crew following their equally fly ‘Ok I’m Loosin Up’ single on the Posse Records label a year earlier.






20. Wrecks n Effect – Peanut Butter (1989 US Motown LP track)

wrecks n effect



The majority of tracks in the three parts of our oldschool alternative selections have been either the A or B side of singles released. This however is one of the precious few hidden away on an LP.

Following three early singles on the famed Atlantic label, a deal was struck whereby the Wrecks n Effect crew signed to Motown, making it a rare excursion for Hip Hop to such a label at the time. An album was then cut under the respected production of David ‘Redhead Kingpin’ Guppy and mixed by Teddy Riley which went on to make waves worldwide with its foray into the New Jack Swing movement, a single by that name being released from it also.

The cut we feature here is to be found deep in side two of the LP and stands head and shoulders above anything else on it in this writer’s opinion. Beginning with a spoken word intro that sets the scene both musically and lyrically, ‘Peanut Butter’ kicks into action with ‘Synthetic Substitution’ beats, blasts of ESG and the addictive bassline from Bo Diddley’s ‘Hit or Miss’. “I wake up and nothing is real so I chill”: the lyrics are confident and striking, powerful for their vocal abilities and delivery, tough rhymes licking to a beat that is forever kicking. Add to this some JB scratches over the chorus break and this is lip smackingly addictive, just as the title is in itself.

This didn’t gain a single release in its own right, due in part perhaps to the management’s plan to jump aboard the swingbeat wagon and reach more of a mainstream audience, as they did on this and subsequent recordings, but it certainly got a lot of airplay back in the day, and the respect of the hip hop crowd accordingly. Tragedy was sadly to follow however when band member Brandon ‘B-Doggs’ Mitchell died in a shooting a year following the LP’s release, Aqil ‘A-Plus’ Davidson and Markell Riley (Teddy’s Brother) changing the crew’s name to Wrecx-n-Effect in memory of Mitchell. Respect the rhymes.






Oldschool Hip Hop – Part One  https://tuckmagazine.com/2015/04/08/less-obvious-an-alternative-best-of-3/

Oldschool Hip Hop – Part Two https://tuckmagazine.com/2015/04/15/less-obvious-an-alternative-best-of-4/

Breakbeats  https://tuckmagazine.com/2015/03/18/less-obvious-an-alternative-best-of/






Michael Organ

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.

1 Comment

  1. THE MICSTRO RC November 19, at 14:46

    THANK YOU..for post my info and picture appreciate you spreading the word and gracious comment THE MICSTRO RC LaROCK aka Jamal sadly the video was deleted ....there is another up you can use... plz do so 646 387 8129 [email protected]


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