By late 1987, and throughout 1988, Hip Hop records began to take on a sound closer to that originally created in the park jams. I still love that "Stupid Fresh" era of 85/86 with crazy cartoon samples and heavy drum programming etc.. but for me the three years from 1987 onwards defined the music in it's truest form - funky break beats laced with classic samples taken from the breakin' days earlier in that same decade!
One of my favourite years in Hip Hop music has to be 1989. It seems in this year many aspiring Hip Hop producers had begun to master the sampling technology available at the time. The days of DMX & TR808 beats had been replaced by the more creative SP12/ SP1200 unit laced up with an AKAI S-950 digital sampler. These amazing pieces of kit, especially the SP1200 (released in late 1987) were set to become the "industry standard" for creating dope beats from audio samples. The crunchy 12-bit sound of the SP gave it a "raw" feeling unmatched elsewhere.
E-mu Systems made a number of important upgrades on creating the SP-1200. The SP1200 kept with the 12-bit crunch of the SP-12, as 16-bits was neither necessary nor cost effective in 1987 (the 16-bit EIII had just been launched at $10,000 upwards). The SP1200 did away with ROM based sounds, and relied totally on a floppy disk based sample library which could be loaded into RAM. Now producers could sample their own individual favourite drum noises from records for use in their beats. side note: PETE ROCK obviously loved "Long Red" by MOUNTAIN as he used the drum noises from this break, particularly the snare, almost constantly throughout his "Mecca & The Soul Brother" LP in '92.
If you listen closely to your favourite tracks from this era, no doubt it's the SP 1200 keeping it raw! Though this machine was limited in its functionality compared to later drum-machine/samplers.....it is still often quoted as the weapon of choice.
Here's some ball-busting records from 1989...
TWIN HYPE - "Lyrical Rundown" (Profile 1989)
Now if like me, you breezed past this record after hearing "Do It To The Crowd" played relentlessly on the radio and in the clubs, then may we suggest you go back to your local record store and buy that battered and torn copy that has sat in their dusty racks since its release? Appearing on the flipside of "For Those Who Like To Groove", it is understandable why one of TWIN HYPE's best tracks is pretty much unheard and under-rated.
With superb drum programming throughout, and classic horn samples sounding very much like a Bomb Squad production (actually produced by Hollywood Impact). But the highlight for me is DJ King Shameek's cuts about 4 minutes into the track. DOPE! Now that's funky!
And this record is cheap to pick up...just check out the prices here.
SOUL PURPOSE - "Soul Purpose" (Wide Angle 1989)
This record seems to be missing from most people's radar...but a definite hype record for it's time. Appearing on Jerry Sylver's WIDE ANGLE label on a 12" in 1989 leads me to believe these guys are from Minnesota, but I'm happy to be corrected on that. Credited to Derek Stevens and Daniel Young, who eventually became MC Skat Kat (see photo below) & Dan Speak (who still DJs in Minnesota). WIDE ANGLE had already discovered one great talent in signing INFORMATION SOCIETY who later went on to sign with TOMMY BOY. ...anyway, the beats are dope on this track, and I especially dig later in the mix where the beat breaks down into a Dennis Coffey sample. Nice use of a STETSASONIC hook at the start too. But it's the funky ass horns and bass groove that get me headnodding throughout this track. And the rhymes are very competent indeed. On listening to this track, you could easily mistake it for a much later release, so good is the production. ENJOY!
ANTOINETTE - "Girl is Off On Her Own (REMIX)" (Next Plateau 1989)
Another dope ANTOINETTE 12" release, this time with beats courtesy of I.G. OFF & JAY ELLIS. From the introduction the cuts are super-tight on this track (performed by Mix Master Ice), and it's an obvious banger simply for the fact that it uses some killer JB loops. However I had slept on this twelve until my man A Brother With Soul from Germany schooled me (thanks B!). Hell, he knows how much I love Antoinette, and despite owning the "Who's the Boss" LP I didn't realise a twelve release was out there.
Antoinette shows of her mic skills once again...
"...I know they know he know we know you know,
Antoinette remains numero uno,
you can't front cuz you're on stand-by,
I wash a rapper then leave 'em to hang dry,
cuz with def rhymes and def tones,
this girl is off on her own!!"
BOOGIE-BO GEE - "Skip To My Rhythm" (Jabree 1989)
Imagine a mish-mash of "Funky President" and Steve Miller Band's "Fly Like An Eagle" and that about sums up the dope beat on this one. I agree the production is very basic on this joint but with a great effect. The 2 emcees drop their raw rhymes and urge you to "skip to their rhythm" while their DJ cuts up P.E. and Trouble Funk's "Pump Me Up" amongst other classic noises.
The label says 1989 COPY but I'm guessing from the catalogue number on the label that this was actually an '88 record....but hey it came from the 89 crates so here it stays. And I'm loving the hand-drawn JABREE logo!
Take a peep at the soundclip. I'm sure a few of you will like this but maybe not for all tastes. Thanks to Ed Catto for supplying the Daily Diggers with a crispy copy.
CRUSH NATION - "It's All About Money" (Select 1989)
A real easy piece to find on the well distributed SELECT record label, produced by Craig Bevan before he crossed over to House music production. This joint has a raw feel to it, and is a real good example of how crunchy the SP1200 drums can sound. Nothing amazing production-wise admittedly, but this is a solid beat and samples nevertheless. But what makes this track doper than the average record, are the hardcore rhymes the emcees drop over the top (why didn't these guys record more material??), and the adept cuts and scratches in the chorus and throughout the track. Overall a cool record leaving you feeling like you're back in '89, as the emcees school us on the importance of earning COLD CASH MONEY back in the 80's projects!
FREAK L - "When The Pen Hits the Paper" (Urban Rock 1989)
Once again Vandy C showing his skills production skills with the late great Paul C McKasty on the mixing desk. Despite the dodgy intro using "It's Just an Illusion" by IMAGINATION???,it's still an incredible record purely for its heavy use of turntables (how Hip Hop should be). Relegated to the b-side of "Line for Line", the beats are still pretty damn tight use of the SP1200, with some real quiet drum noises keeping the tempo. Based around Marvin Gaye's "T Plays It Cool", Vandy C still manages to cram in as many other classic break records as he can, including the Handclapping Song by the Meters, Before I Let Go by Maze and others. But FREAK L rhymes clever and real tight too on this track, as he does on his "Slammin'" release, making this another worthy purchase on the URBAN ROCK label.