Kurtis Blow for Sprite

Kurtis Blow is known for many things. He was one the earliest commercially successful rapper and his song, “The Breaks” broke records and helped veer rap towards the mainstream in 1980. But did you know that Kurtis also made a commercial for Sprite in 1986?

Released around the time of his Kingdom Blow album, the commercial features the styling that made Blow a major star in the early eighties.

Retro Rap: The Human Beat Box by The Fat Boys

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The Human Beat Box by The Fat Boys might be the first rap song that I ever heard. There was this kid named Mike who lived up the way from me and he had a cousin who lived back East. Cousin Whoever was a bit older than us and was totally into hip hop.

Kid was a breaker as I recall but who knows if that’s true. If I sent tapes to a cousin who I hadn’t seen in years and might not see again for years I might tell him that I was nice at break dancing. It’d sound better than telling him that I’d gotten a bit chubby and was into wrestling magazines and Gi Joe figures.

Anyway, dude used to send Mike mix tapes in the mail every once and again and every once and a while Mike’d bust out a Cousin tape when we were playing Uno or whatever..

When I first heard Human Beat Box it was like the funniest and most stupid song I’d ever heard. I totally loved it. It was so weird. Just bananas. I’d never heard of or even imagined Beatboxing. I was barely even aware of rap really. I’d heard of it and kind of had an idea of what went on in rap but Human Beat Boxing was beyond my ability to comprehend. I was gobsmacked.

It was wild too because Cousin Whoever didn’t include a track listing or anything to give an indication as to what we were listening to. We figured out that the dudes were called The D-3 MCs (before taking on the more obvious name: The Fat Boys the group was known as The Disco Three. A cooler name for sure but also less likely to cross over like The Fat Boy name did.) and that kid making the noise was called The Human Beat Box.

Really though having heard only this song it seemed like The Beat Box was the star and that the other two dudes are just backing him up. It was all very mysterious.

The Fat Boys was made up of three guys, MC’s Prince Markie D and Kool Rock-Ski and the star of the group, The Human Beatbox himself Buff Love.

Not to say that the Mcs were bad or anything because they definitely were not but Buff was the thing that made the Fat Boys stand out from the pack.

While not the guy who invented beatboxing Buff Love was an earlier adopter and really cracked some skulls with the depth of his bass drops. Alongside dudes like Dougie Fresh and self-proclaimed inventor of the Beat Box Swifty, Buff brought the art to the mainstream.

The Human Beat Box was released May 29th 1984 on Sutra Records. The album was produced by old school rap legend Kurtis Blow. Initially the record was released on vinyl and cassette. CDs didn’t follow until 2011. It’s currently out of print but there was a recent special edition vinyl release where the album looked like a pizza and it came packed in a pizza box. I would like to have that.

Pretty soon after first appearing on the music scene The Fat Boys briefly crossed over into mainstream culture, scoring multiple TV guest appearances, including an episode of Miami Vice and better yet a bit part in Run DMC’s movie: Krush Groove.

In 1987 the guys starred in the slapstick comedy flick Disorderlies which took advantage of The Fat Boys naturally humorous attitudes and presented them as useless hospital orderlies. It was an alright movie but not something that I’d recommend to anyone that i cared about.

The Human Beat Box Buff Love passed away Dec 10th 1995 of a heart attack. The group soldiers on without him and plans to release a reunion album any day now. Really though as much as I like them without Buff what’s the point?

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Retro Rap: RUN DMC – Sucker MC’s

Sucker MCs by RUN DMC is in a lot of ways the most important song in hip-hop history. With its minimalist style and street aesthetic it helped to usher in the new school era of hip-hop.

There are many rap scholars who will tell you that the day this song was released was the day that old school rap died. Old school being the genre of groups like The Furious Five or The Soulsonic Force.

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Sucker MCs, also known as Krush Groove I was the B-Side to Run DMC’s first single, It’s Like That. The cassette was released March 12th 1983 on Profile Records. Initially the song was only available as a Cassingle but eventually was also pressed to vinyl and released as a 12 inch album.

The song was produced by industry veteran Larry Smith who instead of using live instrumentation like many rap songs of the era instead relied on drum machines exclusively. The sparse sound paved the way for what rap would sound like for the early years of the New School Era.

“With its lack of bass and emphasis on drum claps, ‘Sucker MCs’ provided the template for most [hip hop] records from ’83 until ’86-’87,” according to critic Jesse Serwe

Basically to sum it up, before RUN DMC came along rap was heavy on showmanship and live instrumentation. RUN DMC felt that rap should more mirror the day-to-day life of what they saw on the streets of Hollis Queens. Sucker MCs was their solution to what they felt was the genres overabundance of sucker mcs or dudes who didn’t have the skills to represent hip hop as they felt it should be.

In the history of popular music this song’s importance can’t be rated high enough. It lead to most of the hip hop that we see today and paved the way for raps explosion and some would say domination of popular culture.

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Retro Rap: Public Enemy’s Terminator X To The Edge Of Panic

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Public Enemy is my favorite rap group. I can’t say that they always have been but they are now. There were periods in my life where I preferred other groups like EPMD or 3rd Bass but as an adult with many years of music appreciation behind me I’ve come to the conclusion that P.E is probably the greatest of all the times.Yes I said times because I’m including all possible timelines and alternate hip hop universes in my statement. This includes Earths One and Two, The Marvel 616 Universe and that one weird Earth that DC had where the Nazis won the war and Uncle Sam and The Freedom Fighters battled them in a modern-day setting. I understand that this is just my opinion but I stand by it.

Public Enemy is made up of MC’s Chuck D and Flava Flav along with the group’s DJ, Terminator X. The trio hailed from Long Island New York and they dropped their first record in 1988. The song we’re going to focus on today is the fifth track on the album. It was never released as a single.

Back in the day for the most part DJ’s didn’t rap. Sure there were exceptions but usually they kept to the back and rocked the wheels of steel. That didn’t mean they didn’t deserve to get credit where it was due it just meant that they’d get someone else to do the bragging for them. This is the case with Terminator X To The Edge Of Panic. The whole song is about how awesome Terminator X is and dudes, he must be awesome to have two hall of fame MCs writing rhymes about his skills on the turntable.

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What appeals most to me about the track is the samples from Queen’s classic song Flash’s Theme from The Flash Gordon Soundtrack. Man, I love that song and Public Enemy makes great use of the booming intro.

I was so into that movie and it’s soundtrack that when I first heard PE’s turn with it that I was gobsmacked. I still get gobsmacked almost every time that it comes up on one of my playlists. I hope that you enjoy it as much as I do. Have a good week kids. See you next time.

Beware that there is some coarse language at the start of the video so if you have your kiddies around you might want to use some ear buds.

Retro Rap: Lords Of The Underground: Chief Rocka

Chief Rocka by Lords Of The Underground is one of those hip hop songs that just sounds good. What I mean to say is that Hip Hop often has a sound that is only enjoyable to hip hop fans. That’s cool because that’s who it’s aimed at but it’s always fun when a song sticks to a hip hop format but also has enough traditional musical qualities to appeal to a hip hop layman.

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Lords Of The underground hailed from Newark, New Jersey and consisted of three members, MCs, Mr. Funke ( the one with the higher pitched voice) and DoItAll (Do it all) Dupre’ along with the group’s DJ Lord Jazz. The crew was sometimes joined in the studio by hip hop legend, DJ and producer Marly Marl and DJ K-Def. This was the case with Chief Rocka where the two added K-Def’s scratching and Marly’s mixing skills to the single.

The Lords released the song on June 3rd 1993 for Elektra Record’s subsidiary Pendulum Records.

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Chief Rocka was the third single off of their debut album: Here Comes The Lords. The song peaked at 55 on the Billboard charts and made it to the top of the Billboard Hot Rap Singles list in July of ’93.

The song features samples of Twine Time by Alvin Cash and The Crawlers as well as Spinning Wheel by Blood Sweat And Tears and Drum Pan Sound by Reggie Stepper, an earlier favorite sample song The Champ by The Mohawks also appears again on this tune. If you remember from the other day it was sampled by the song in my last Retro Rap feature, Lord Finesse: The Return Of The Funky Man. It must be an unconscious favorite of mine.

The Lords dropped 4 albums overall but never again released a single as popular as Chief Rocka. I know that every band has to have a high point but it’s too bad that The Lords weren’t able to replicate their earlier success because they had a radio friendly sound and with a little nudge might have made a greater splash on the charts.