I'm not a great lover of the phrase "random rap", although I do use the term. OK, so I know it's a rap record, and I understand that it's a random one at that (unfamiliar artist, label etc.) but the term doesn't tell me a whole lot. For example, it may be random, but it could also be absolutely shit at the same time! I would much rather refer to quality hip hop records between 87-92 as golden era gems, or "undiscovered gems" if it's one I don't know. Now that tells me much more. I thought we called our genre Hip Hop anway?? After all, rap is something you do, hip hop is something you live.
Nuff of the politics. The GOLDEN ERA did certainly produce a lot of slept-on killer records that didn't register on our hip hop radars back in the day, there's no denying that. And, dare I say it, a lot of it is better than some of the records I DID buy back then. But at the time I, and many others, focused on the big name records like BDP, Public Enemy, Tuff Crew, EPMD, Slick Rick, the Juice Crew and its affiliates, Lord Finesse, 3xD, Ultramags blah blah blah.... My meager budget back then was my pocket money alone, which I spent mostly from GROOVE RECORDS in Greek St in the Soho area of London. Back then I bought music from artists that I was familiar with, or records that were blowing up on radio with Tim Westwood, Mike Allen, Dave Pearce etc etc.. Any Hip Hop collector will tell you that eBay and the Internet in general has helped many of us fiends complete the big names' sections in our collections. I have spoke to many hip hoppers who tell me "yeah I got all the Cold Chillin's, everything on B-Boy Records, most of the Tommy Boy releases..." and so on.
Hence it was only natural that sooner or later the true heads were going to start digging deeper (excuse the pun) to find quality hip hop wax. I had already determined that the GOLDEN ERA was where my heart was, and it always amazed me over the years how many lesser-known, killer records I had from that period. So I always looked for more of that stuff, that maybe wasn't played on radio, wasn't played in the clubs, or played to me by friends/other hip hoppers.
I already had certain records in my racks which I bought on issue, which always got other heads asking. SIR FRESH & DJ CRITICAL "Sir-Vere" was one of them. This track was uptempo raw beats and killer rhymes, yet very few knew or owned it? Another was RAW DOPE POSSE "Listen to My Turbo" ). Both incredible records by anyone's standards, and tracks like these spurred me on to search out more of this dope shit!
Of course having eBay at my disposal has enabled me to buy lots more previously undiscovered gems from this period, particularly between 1988-1990. I ain't gonna front on no-one, I use eBay for what it's worth. I know to some diggers eBay is a dirty word and they say shit like "It ain't real diggin'!". But YO! I get around when it comes to buying wax so trust me I have, and still do, put the digging hours in. And as often as humanly possible. But if I can cop some extra-special-off the-wall-dope-raw-shit on the Bay then I'm gonna do that too! And that is where the floodgates opened.
For several years now I've seen the hype machine around "random" rap work overtime. Now it seems anything on a small record label or from an unknown artist gets the hype treatment in the hope of the seller paying off his/her mortgage! And this isn't confined to the web either - I have seen various record spots now have the obligatory "random" section for all the unheard of stuff. I remember seeing a copy of Almighty Marski - "Leader of the Force" 12" make up to 100 US dollars (approx £50.00) purely because of the Paul C connection. However those that have heard or own the record know it's more like a wack house record than a thumping hip hop tune! More and more now I see hip hop wax making well over 3 figures in price, and sometimes hitting 4 figures. Some I know, some I don't.
So what I aim to do here is to separate some of the wheat from the chaff, the goddamn awful from the simply incredible, and the crap from the classics. And more importantly I want to stress that the price of a record does not always determine how dope it is. I have bought handfulls of records over the years for one or two pounds only that are killer tunes. The less hype the better if you ask me!
So here we go - below are some my fave gems from the 87-92 period. This isn't a definitive list by any means, but more a helping hand to those who love decent hip hop from the GOLDEN ERA but don't want to break the bank owning it. For obvious reasons I will not be listing the classics from that time as we could be here all day, and if you don't know your Eric B & Rakim from your EPMD then there's not much hope already! I will also add a soundclip for each for those who want to sip the dopeness. I hope you see something ya didn't know already.
First out the box is THE POWER OF TWO & THE NO JOKE CREW - "We Got The Jam" 12" single on GERMAT records from 1987.
It's not an expensive record to find whatsoever, but this lesser known track encapsulates the vibe created during the NY borough wars made famous by the Juice Crew/BDP diss records. Funky drum programs here rather than sample based drum loops, but funky as hell - think Marley Marl Scratch and you're on the right lines. With some classic funk stabs laced over the beat and a touch of Bob James' "Nautilus"....what more could you ask for? Some scratching? Check! We got some neat transforming courtesy of DJ Steve Thomas. Repping for Manhattan throughout, MC Zinc (Shawn Jenkins) certainly has skills and an interesting vocal sound. With Tim Dog also named in the crew (could this be?) and Keyboard Money Mike in the credits, this is a surefire winner. Click below for a SOUNDCLIP. Mastered by Dick Charles with signature in the run-out. Matrix no. G-347.
Power of Two - We Got The Jam
My second choice is DR. LUV & KEV-SKI - "I Ain't Goin' Out Like That" 12" on Zakia from 1988.
A really strong release from Doug E Fresh's affiliates, which did get some airplay back on it's release, but often missed by the record buying public. The A-side title track is a James Brown influenced stormer, using a "There It Is pt.1" loop to great effect. Plus some famous JB whoops and oowws to hype the track. Trust me this is KILLER! And that's before we've mentioned the bonus cut "Overdose" on the B-side. Kev-Ski rips some seriously dope rhymes while Dr. Luv cuts up 2 copies of Miami's "Chicken yellow"....pure hip hop magic! Cop it or miss out on a great record! Peep the SOUNDCLIP of "Overdose" below, and read more about the duo on www.myspace.com/drluvandkevski. F/W etched in the run-out. Matrix no. PAL-7221
Dr. Luv & Kev-Ski - Overdose
Now for one of my personal favourites - WITCHDOCTOR - "Takin' No Shorts" 12" on Timberwolfe records outta NY from '88. Now this is raw! The follow-up single to "Kickin' It Live " from 1987, this record leaps out ya speakers and cold fucks you up! Much harder than their earlier release, this 3-track 12" kicks off with the title track and has you hooked from the word go. As one MC says...."The element of suprise - the main attraction, Rock Master J is in effect & it's time for action"". Firstly the sounds of footsteps, then a doorbell, leading to a scratched beat intro to die for. When it drops we are talking heavy! Using Sly Stone's "Sing a Simple Song" break, MCs Count Coolout, Rock Master J and the Mellow Nate Dee drop jaw-dropping lyrics while Witchdoctor keeps the beat and rips the cuts.
Track 2 entitled "R.A.P." is also a stormer in its own right, and featured on a DJ Koco Mix (probably the track that made you shout "holy snap!". And the final bonus joint "Bust the Beat Olori" feat Olori Rock puts most human beatbox records to shame. Dope stuff and no slack whatsoever. And personally signed by the WITCHDOCTOR himself, what more could you want, other than maybe a soundclip?.....well it's a pleasure! Just click on the links below. Herbie Jr signature and smily face in the run-out. Matrix No. TW2002.
Witchdoctor - Takin' No Shorts
Witchdoctor - R.A.P.
Unsuprisingly the next record has been much slept-on. Maybe it was the lousy cover art, or the fact that GM Flash, Melle Mel and the Furious had "fallen off" somewhat following their early 80's success? I personally passed up the record for years and years in favour of better looking records. Surely I had heard the best from Melle Mel already? The GRANDMASTER MELLE MEL & THE FURIOUS 5 - Piano 1989 LP on Sylvia Robinson's Sugarhill offshoot NEW DAY RECORDS, not only looks wack, but it sounds wack. But here applies the phrase "never judge a book by it's cover". The beats on most of this 10 track LP were spot-on for the late 80's era. Classic uptempo breaks are looped tight and left for Melle Mel et al to run their shit. Using Babe Ruth, KC & The Sunshine Band, James Brown, ESG and EW&F samples to name just a few. The label doesn't offer many clues to who the production was really down to, but Kid Capri gets a credit for his scratches. If you never really liked Melle Mel and F5 from the old school days then I suggest you do try & check for this LP - it may be a nice change to hear sample-based beats behind the Furious. Kinda refreshing even! MASTERED BY TRUTONE stamp in the run-out. Matrix no. ND-222.
Melle Mel & Furious 5 - Freestyle
Melle Mel & Furious 5 - Drug Wars
Melle Mel & Furious 5 - Revenge
Another easy to find and relatively inexpensive twelve is GET LARGE POSSE - "Large is How We Livin'" 12" on Egyptian Empire Records from 1988. A 3-tracker featuring MC Capone on the mic with MC JH, and co-produced by the duo along with General Jeff. As happens regularly with Hip Hop releases, the B-Side wins again. This record for me is all about "No Slippin' Allowed" on the flip using the same O'Jays "Give the People..." break that Gangstarr later used on "Step in the Arena", and EPMD used on "Gice the People...". A lazy horn intro, a quick countdown, followed by some dope drums, a Maceo stab and the instruction is to GET FUNKY! Plus there is some very nice cutting towards the end (check soundclip). This track stands head and shoulders above the others namely "Large Is How We Livin'" and "Dope Stuff". Also check out MC Capone's later release "Smoove Style" which appeared on DJ Ivory's Hear No Evil series. Certainly no slippin' here! S-22567 & 8 etched in the run-outs. Matrix no. DMSR-00886.
Get Large Posse - No Slippin' Allowed
I have a particular fondness for this next record. The scenario was as follows - 5 or 6 years ago I'm digging deep in a local wax spot (Rhythm Records in Walthamstow, East London - now closed unfortunately) and have had little joy despite a good 2 hours searching. Then this records pop up into my peripheral vision in the next stack along. I have a few pieces on POSSE Records already so I know to check for this label, & then I notice in the production credits "engineered by CJ at 1212". For any golden era rap nerd these are the words you wanna read!
The record was THE RANGERS - "I'm Hot" 12" on POSSE RECORDS from 1988, and priced at a mere 2 pounds. But was it any good? I was unfamiliar with the group, although "I'm Hot" sounded familiar. And what an apt title it turned out to be, cuz this track is HOT!
Originally released on Woo-Jon Records (sought after record) and picked up later by POSSE, and despite not having "Jack's On Crack" on the flip, the title track is off-the-hook. From the "I know you gonna dig this" intro onwards, Jazzy G's confident rhymes explode over the sample-laden beats (James Brown - The Payback amongst many others) and in typical studio 1212 style the beats are so well crafted and recorded that this track holds your attention from beginning to end. At the time of writing this I can see 2 sensibly priced copies listed on eBay. My advice is to BUY ONE!
THE RANGERS - I'm Hot
...more golden era niceness to come, please check back with us real soon.