Dave ensured that the giving season of Gheorghemas didn't close on December 31. In the same vein, here's a little post-holidays gift in the Zman style with some Clarence aged cheese to it. Some time ago, Zman laid a "bangin' old-school hiphop playlist" on us, and I listened eagerly. And though it was good stuff, the one recurring thought that puzzled and disappointed me was this: Old school? This is way later than my old school shit.
But I shut up, needing not reinforce the painfully obvious fact that Rob and I = Statler and Waldorf.
In December, Zman commented a link to a historical list of hip-hop through the years. Now it's time for me to make the mixtape, wrap it up, and send it to you guys old style USPS.
Here's my older school playlist, and it may not be bangin', but there's some serious scratchin' and cross-fadin' and bass-kickin'. Let me take you back to Norfolk, Virginia, when a very white boy attending private school would tune into the "Top 10 at 10" every night on WOWI 103 to hear the latest rap offerings. Yep, the beats lacked the complexity of what was produced just a handful of years later. The samples, when there are any at all, are straightforward and pedestrian by latter-day standards. Certain songs are ridiculously sparse . . . a man and a beat box (sometimes a buman one) in some cases. I now know what it must be like for Beatlemaniacs or people my dad's age who cling loyally to The Kingsmen as real rock and roll. It's old, almost silly, but it's what I dig.
And this is all from a guy for whom Paul's Boutique will probably forever remain the pinnacle. No matter, here's what I listened to (among other things) during my formative years. Cutting this off arbitrarily at my high school graduation date.
Kick off your shoes . . .
1. UTFO, "Roxanne, Roxanne"
The most-played for a very long time. The Kangol Kid, EMD, and Doctor Ice battle for a cold-hearted girl's affections. Accept no substitutes, meaning the bullshit rip-off comebacks like "Roxanne's Revenge" and "The Real Roxanne." Mix Master Ice's scratching keeps it fresh. Not sure why UTFO (a) was a one-hitter or (b) struck such a chord with me with this number, but it's a classic.
Lyric to listen for: EMD's -ary rhyming fiesta. Enjoyable.
2. Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five, "The Message"
The original fly dressers, lots of leather plus nerdy clothes that somehow looked street. I don't know any rapper of merit who doesn't credit these cats for shaping the sound in some way. Low on braggadocio, high on tales of urban plight. Down by law. Check out "New York New York" for a similar . . . uh, message. Skip over "Scorpio"; the dudes merely learned how to talk like a robot through a keyboard, and 10 seconds in, you've heard it all.
Lyric to listen for: Now you're unemployed, all non-void / Walking 'round like you're Pretty Boy Floyd -- kind of reminds me of Say Anything.
3. Whodini, "Friends"
For one album (Escape), Whodini was incredibly solid. Before and after it, they were oddly worthless. They didn't scratch up the record, and their songs were pretty old school sparse.
Lyric to listen for: Couldn't trust her with cheese let alone your keys.
4. Rock Master Scott and the Dynamic Three, "Request Line"
Love this one. Such 1980's cheese, and one of the only hip-hop songs to feature a DJ -- meaning a radio disc jockey pretending to be on air. Charlie Prince, MBG, and Slick Rick . . . nope, not that Slick Rick. This was the original. And don't forget The Scott with something all scratched up for you. And the phone ringing. Love it.
Lyric to listen for: Late in the tune, The Dynamic Three all delivering a rap . . . at the same time, over each other so you can't decipher any lines. Stupidly brilliant.
5. Kurtis Blow, "A.J. Scratch"
Lyric to listen for: That's right, y'all, his name is A.J. (You know why.)
6. LL Cool J, "Rock the Bells"
The rocking rap exudes Rick Rubin and DefJam. It's got some "Hold It Now, Hit It" and "Time to Get Ill" linkage and it presages My Adidas's backbeat, but it's vintage LL all the way. I heard "I Need a Beat" on the radio first. S'allright. Then "I Can't Live Without My Radio." Way better. Then this. Hell yes. Rock the bells.
Lyric to listen for: 'Cause it ain't the glory days with Bruce Springsteen / I'm not a virgin so I know I'll make Madonna scream / You hated Michael and Prince all the way, ever since / If their beats were made of meat, then they would have to be mince
7. Run-D.M.C., "King of Rock"
This one's for the Teedge. There is no list of this kind without heavy doses of Run, D, and Jay, so here's a start. Played on the Irish Times jukebox most every happy hour of the early 2000's, and every time it makes me happy. Larry "Bud" Melman appears in the video.
Lyric to listen for: It's not a Trick or Treat and it's not a April Fool / It's all brand new, never ever old school . . . whoops.
8. Fat Boys, "Can You Feel It"
The Fat Boys are funny. Fat people are kind of funny to start with. (Class clown right here.) Add some wild clothes and a guy who makes drum beat noises with his throat, and it's comical. By the time the Fat Boys were making bad movies and music with Chubby Checker and (yep) The Beach Boys, they were a joke. But this song was on their first album, when they were just fat guys rapping and making fun of their size. There aren't jokes in this one. It's my favorite of theirs.
Lyric to listen for: Anything the Human Beat Box says/does
9. Divine Sounds, "What People Do For Money"
Another one-off act, another streetwise cautionary tale. Very derivative. Eh, I dig it.
Lyric to listen for: The oft-cut last verse, the one about three-card molly (sic) with the bleeped out F-word.
10. Whodini, "Big Mouth"
"You Talk Too Much," covering much the same ground. Both are worth a spin.
Lyric to listen for: You could say what you want, just spell my name right / ‘Cause all I’m ever guilty of is rockin’ the house / But that’s not what the rumor was all about
11. Doug E. Fresh and The Get Fresh Crew, "The Show"
This is a weird one. Good scratching, some beat boxing, the debut of (the more famous) Slick Rick. Some Inspector Gadget keyboards. Some strange noises and random percussion. Crowd noise. And not a ton of actual rhyme-turning. But it's what we listened to in 1985.
Lyric to listen for: Anything Slick Rick drops. His British-ish accent, much like his eyepatch, is real even though it seems fake. His story is intriguing. His rhymes are mildly dope.
12. LL Cool J, "I'm Bad"
LL's debut was heralded and his follow-up was somewhat dissed, but I always dug this one. It's perfect 80's stereotypical rap -- a dude with a mic boasting about all-world amazing he is with the ladies' love, beating up suckers, savoir-faire around town, and especially putting rhyme to beat. "The baddest rapper in the history of rap itself." From a 19-year-old. Eh, it was pretty damn good.
Lyric to listen for: Forget Oreos, eat Cool J cookies. If this sounded bad-ass when I was in high school, it doesn't now, but LL managed to pull it off.
13. Beastie Boys, "Rhymin and Stealin"
Licensed to Ill was beloved by many a goofy, beer-drinking high schooler. I was one, too. The album is an all-the-way-through listen that probably sounds tame now, but it was nearly counterculture in the lame school scene at the time. Jim Belushi and (RIP) Alex Karras weren't the only white guys that could rap. "Fight For Your Right" had the video and everyone loves it, but there's a reason this song led off the record.
Lyric to listen for: Ali Baba and the forty thieves. By the second and third time uttered, it's dull. By the eighth time, shouted at full tilt, you want to leave your feet.
14. Newcleus, "Jam On It"
Lyric to listen for: Go crazy / Go crazy / Don't let your body be lazy / I say don't stop your body rock / Til your eyesight starts to get hazy. For whatever reason, certain lyrics stick with you. When people speak the phrase "go crazy" in everyday conversation, all too often I break into Chilly B. To almost zero recognition.
15. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, "White Lines (Don't Do It)"
Another bongo and bass-laden GMF/Furious 5/Melle Mel/whoever gem. You have to wonder how many idiots did cocaine in the 1980's while listening to this tune.
Lyric to listen for: Baby. Mentioned more times than in "Baby Love." Get higher, baby.
16. Kurtis Blow, "Basketball"
Yep, this one is Kurtis Blow's cheesiest, goofiest, and most popular rap offering. It's very 1984, and the only thing more dated than its style and mentioning Ralph Sampson is the video. Wow. I think I still have the 45. (Kids, Google it.) I just listened to this song for the first time in many, many years. Love it.
Lyric to listen for: All of them. Dropping rhymes about Bernard King, the pick and roll, and saying "Face" to people. Ah, yes, basketball. It's all there.
17. Fat Boys, "Stick 'Em"
I definitely had this one on 45. It's sick. There seems to be just a single note of instrumentation in this song, albeit repeated and scratched up a bit. Every other bit of it is Prince Markie Dee, Kool Rock-Ski, and tons and tons of the Human Beat Box. Probably his finest hour. This was the B-side to "Jailhouse Rap," another fine entree from the Boys.
Lyric to listen for: The first 30 seconds worth of HBB crushing it. You guessed it, the Fat Boys are back.
18. Run-D.M.C., "Rock Box"
Unbelievably good. I always feel like whether a song "holds up" is in the ear of the beholder, but to me, this number is still rolled tight as shit. The other guitar-playing Eddie (Martinez) wails away for five minutes of rap turned rock, Run is sharp as a nail, and Darryl Mac is a wizard of a word.
Lyric to listen for: Calvin Klein's no friend of mine / Don't want nobody's name on my behind / Lee on my legs, sneakers on my feet / D by my side and Jay with the beat. Isn't Lee somebody's name? This has puzzled me for nearly 30 years.
19. Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock, "It Takes Two"
By 1988, hip-hop was pretty poppy. Run-DMC gets the crossover credit/blame because of "Walk This Way," but from straight rap to R&B/dance pop went The Fresh Prince, Tone Loc, Young MC, and many more. (And somewhere in there funk-meister Cameo's hip-hoppy "Word Up" had a whole lot of honkies paying attention to the R&B charts for the first time since disco, if not Motown.) Short-lived act MC Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock, however, hit the pop charts with some fairly old school sounding rap.
Lyric to listen for: I'm not internationally known / But I'm known to rock the microphone.
20. Kool Moe Dee, "How Ya Like Me Now"
|NOT VERY MUCH|
Lyric to listen for: Brothers are riding me / Like a pony / I'm no phony / I'm the only / real micaroni. Ugh.
21. LL Cool J, "Going Back to Cali"
I guess this was why the "feud" was mostly on Kool Moe Dee's mind. LL was too busy taking 'em to spots they never before hung. Hey Moe . . . hmmm, I don't think so.
Lyric to listen for: I asked her to the barn, so we could hit the hay / I wanna do this, Brutus, but I don't wanna pay.
22. Public Enemy, "Don't Believe the Hype"
Holy crap. This was a horse of a different . . . uh . . I didn't say color. PE came along and scared me out of my pleated khakis. Despite Flav's court jester rendition, Chuck D was spouting some serious street Gospel. That was about the time this white boy realized that there was a bit of irony to my urban musical dabblings. Soon after this, with N.W.A. taking it even further, I fairly well retreated to the cozy company of the three bad brothers you know so well. But Public Enemy is still fantastic.
Lyric to listen for: Show these people what time it is, boyyyyy. Flavor Flav at his least ridiculous, ridiculously.
23. Run-D.M.C., "Raising Hell"
Make no mistake, these dudes were/are my favorite of the era, and I could have played "Hard Times," "Jam-Master Jay," "It's Like That," "Can You Rock It Like This," "Peter Piper," or "Son of Byford" without missing a beat. (Not to mention "Christmas in Hollis.") But this selection is an unappreciated rocker of a hip-hop ass-kicker by the Kings from Queens, and it's one of their best.
Lyric to listen for: So what's your name? DMC, the king is me / Your Highness or His Majesty / Now you can debate, c-c-c-concentrate / But you can't imitate / DMC The Great. It's true. Even DMC can't imitate himself these days, since his voice is shot . . . listen and it's no wonder why.
24. Eric B. and Rakim, "I Know You Got Soul"
Okay, this one is totally bogus. I never listened to them in the 80's. I listened to and loved "Pump Up the Volume" by M|A|R|R|S, whose predominant lyric was lifted from "I Know You Got Soul." So lame, but it was fun. And years later, I got Paid in Full and really dig it now. Ahead of its time for sure. Wish I had been.
Lyric to listen for: So you sit by the radio, hand on the dial soon / As you hear it, pump up the volume. Of course.
25. The Sugar Hill Gang, "Rapper's Delight"
Lyric to listen for: Hotel, motel Holiday Inn / If your girl starts acting up, then you take her friend.
Okay then. There's your Older School jam, as remembered fondly by Clarence. Have fun with it, homeboys and homegirls.