Hip-Hop Records From 1984 Reviewed
Artist: Kurtis Blow
Title: 8 Million Stories/A.J. Scratch - 12"
Label: Mercury - 1984
Producer: J.B. Moore and Robert Ford
Kurtis Blow, the man responsible for the classics "Christmas Rappin'"
and "The Breaks," came back hard with this double-sided hit from the
summer of 1984. "8 Million Stories" is all about the Naked City known
as New York and features a cameo appearance from Run-DMC. The flip-side, however,
is the one that really makes me splat. "A.J. Scratch" is probably one
of the great DJ scratch records of all time, thanks to Jam Master Jay who used
its "1, 2, 3, 4, hit it!" count-in on "You Be Illin'." Underrated
but definitely deserves to be called a classic.
Artist: The World Famous Supreme Team
Title: Hey DJ - 12"
Label: Island 1984
Producer: Stephen Hague
Probably best known for providing the cutting and scratching on Malcolm McLaren's
classic "Buffalo Gals", The World Famous Supreme Team made their biggest
impact on wax with this cut, a big street and club hit in the spring of 1984.
The Supreme Team flows correctly on this record, however the scratching is pretty
wack by todays standards. You might also recognize the line"Hey DJ,
get funky!" as a sample on The Beastie Boys " Hey Ladies" . Definitely
a welcome addition to any hip-hop fanatic's collection.
Artist: LL Cool J
Title: I Need A Beat
Label: Def Jam - 1984
Producer: Rick Rubin
Before he could become the future of the funk, LL needed a beat. At the age of
16, James Todd Smith hooked up with A. Horowitz (the King Adrock) and Rick Rubin
to create this cut for the maroon-label Def Jam recordings. As Cut Creator did
his thing, LL rhymes about the art of creating beats, "Lacking a melody,
but still complete / providing musical energy for the street / lyrics are smooth
for massive effects / jump track patterns are reset / tom-tom, snare, hat, bass,
and cymbal / like that of a cat on the mic I'm nimble / basic patterns, groups,
and chains / sequence frequency, and gains." An impressive professional debut
from one of the most dominate personalities in hip-hop. A few years ago, I found
out how hard a copy of this is to find. I had to trade an Ozzie Smith rookie card
to replace the two copies of mine that got crooked at a party.
Artist: The Art of Noise
Title: Beat Box - 12"
Label: Island - 1984
Producer: The Art of Noise
As the E's liner notes say "It took the most advanced electronic equipment
imaginable for the group to execute this, their finest collection of noise. And
a strange way of breathing." While working with Yes on their "90125"
album, producer Trevor Horn (ABC, Malcolm McLaren) came up with the idea of making
an EP of original sounds in a faceless, almost groupless guise. The sounds on
"Beat Box" consisted of slamming doors, screeching tires and horns lifted
off of a James Brown record. Breakers made this record an anthem in the first
half of 1984. They followed it up with the similar "Close (To The Edit)"
but nothing they've done since has been as original or just plain dope as this.
Title: Why Is It Fresh - 12"
Label: Celluloid - 1984
This record stood out vividly in my mind from the first time I heard it. It came
on the radio, and for like a minute, I was just captivated. Then came the mad
rush to slam in a tape and press record. In the end, I got about a minute. Anyway,
since I got the whole jammy, this is one of the few records I never tire of hearing,
no matter how many times.
Basically, its a pure scratch track, and not just that, but one limited
to only the Celluloid catalog at the time (8 records). Considering what little
he had to work with, it's a miracle that D.S.T. comes up with such a diverse collage
of slamming beats. In my book, this kid's right up there with Jazzy Jay and Red
Alert in terms of the way he can take a fairly well known record and cut it up
in such a way that you think he's come up with something totally different. After
five minutes of funk, about the same time most records are winding down, in comes
"Wild Style" and the shit cranks up again! Frantic - and the rappers
are O.K. too, in particular a guy called Shahiem. Definitely one for the Rock
Steady Crew. And ya don't stop...
Artist: Arthur Baker
Title: Breaker's Revenge - 12"
Label: Atlantic - 1984
Producer: Arthur Baker
With the exception of "Rockit," this is the one tune that is guaranteed
to make you wanna break out the fat lace Pumas and start searching for a shiny,
polished floor to bust some moves. Although Arthur Baker looked like a punk rocker,
he was a hip-hop producer par extraordinaire, and this is one of his fattest joints.
What Baker does is take a thick wall of sound and build on it with everything:
keyboards, live percussion, and, of course that killer scratch. In fact, there
are a lot more instruments. This really bugged me out the first time I read the
credits, but somewhere in the mix are violins and cellos too. Whatever he uses
it thumps much funkier than any Beethoven ever could. Listening to it now, it's
as rough as ever, and if I wasn't so big now, I'd practice my flips right here.
A bonus for you shorties coming up who never caught this record the first time:
this is an incredibly easy record to find. Just ask any breaker. There are plenty
around, and believe me, no true breaker was ever without his copy.
Artist: Rock Master Scott & the Dynamic Three
Title: Request Line b/w The Roof Is On Fire - 12"
Label: Reality Records - 1984
Producer: Bloodrock, Willoughby, & Jay
Before "La-Di-Da-Di," Reality Records released this 12" from DJ
Rock Master Scott. On "Request Line," Scott and his crew take phone
requests from listeners across the country. Each of the Dynamic Three rocks his
own individual verse, and the fourth verse is just the first three verses played
at the same time! The B-side starts, "Now throw your hands in the air/and
wave Îem like you just don't care/and if you're not a square from Delaware/and
you got on clean underwear/and your mama aint on welfare/somebody say, "Oh
yeah!" A definite old-school party jam that should be a requirement for any
party. For all of you with suede Filas, a "Break Dancers" version is
also included. Burn, motherfucker, burn!
Artist: Dougy Fresh
Title: The Original Human Beat Box - 12"
Label: Vintertainment - 1984
Producer: Vincent Davis
Once again, before "La-Di-Da-Di" and before he was Doug E. Fresh, Dougy
Fresh (Douglas Davis) staked his claim as the original human beat-box. Displaying
both rhymes skills and beat-box talents, he rocks this jam with the help of a
haunting guitar similar to another cut released in 1984, "Rock Box."
Dougy explains how he became the original, even though the Fat Boys beat-boxed
on wax first: "I'm a tell you how it happened not long ago/Me and a Chill
Will had to do a show/Had to think of something different, something kind of new/something
that will get attention, no one else can do." With his collection of boinks,
rings, bops, and binks, Dougy Fresh paved the way for many a beat-box performer
like Biz Markie, Craig G, and D-Nice.
Artist: Doug E. Fresh
Title: Just Having Fun (Do the Beat Box) - 12"
Label: Enjoy Records - 1984
Producer: Bobby Robinson
With the opening chants of "get fresh Doug, do the beat box, get fresh Doug,
do the beat box," you know what this track is all about. Doug E. Fresh adds
his own oral manipulation skills to the up-tempo, tinny beat that Bobby Robinson
put down, with Chill Will and Barry Bee cuttin' up various old school breaks.
Also included for the Star Wars-type effects (you've got to remember this was
years ago) are the background vocals through a voice box, similar to the effects
Bambaataa used to get on the Soulsonic Force cuts. Even though he wasn't the first
on wax Doug again declares that he is the originator and the best at the beat
box: "I am the human beat box defender/Any other beat box is just a pretender."
Artist: Cold Crush Brothers
Title: Heartbreakers - 12"
Label: Tuff City - 1984
Producer: Aaron Fuchs
This holds true for many crews in Hip-Hop, old and new, but never more so than
for the mighty Cold Crush four in their original lineup. If you judged them on
their appearance when this record came out, you probably wouldn't even peep it
twice (post "Wildstyle" Caz was sporting a jheri curl afro that would
put Max Julien to shame while Easy AD was growing his nails and painting them
bright red). But thankfully, all the skills that made these guys Hip-Hop legends
are here in abundance.
Whatever Grandmaster Caz looks like, however big his ego, however much shit he
talks, no one can deny that alongside Melle Mel, he was one of the most skillful
of all the pioneers who shaped Hip-Hop in the early 80's. His rhyme style and
flow are a lyric fiend's wet dream, and he'll make you bug out with his ill catchphrases
which sneak up on you like an unmarked police car - always in full effect.
His contribution is enough to make this track on its own, but there's still three
more to come (four if you count Tony Tone), not quite up to the level of Caz but
each with fat styles. I still think JDL sounds like Mutley the dog from those
old cartoons, but he kicks a cool verse. Easy AD and Almighty KG both kick fly,
intricately worded rhymes, each flipping verses most MCs would die for. This is
pure mic rocking taken to scientific levels of coming off. Even DJ Tony Tone gets
on the mic for a verse, but in such exalted company, he doesn't come off. His
place is behind the boards.
After all these verbal gymnastics, the backing track is pretty much nonexistent,
consisting mainly of Oriental sounding, mid-80's electronic synth sounds and a
break which sounds like a large chunk of Jeckle & Hyde's "Fast Life."
Also, the girls and the John Wayne sounding sucka on the intro are not very convincing.
Title: Escape - LP
Label: Jive/RCA - 1984
Producer: Artist, Larry Smith
Whodini became extremely popular in the mid-80's making ultra-smooth, accessible,
yet street-wise raps about concepts many of us could relate to. This LP covered
everything from gossipy shit-talkers ("Big Mouth") to the day-to-day
grind (the title track) to the value of having friends that are truly down for
ya ("Friends"). Not that they wanted everything message-oriented; sometimes
they just brought the funk destined to pack dancefloors ("Freaks Come Out
At Night", "Five Minutes of Funk"). This joint stands the test
of time (just throw one of these jams on at a party for instant proof).
Artist: Dynamic Force
Title: It's Not Right - 12" Single
Label: Ebony Coast - 1984
Producer: Eric Matthew
The Dynamic Force is (or was) a member of the Universal Zulu Nation funk family
which is of course overseen by Afrika Bambaataa. The group consisted of: Kid Seville,
CYB, Master E and FG. According to Kid Seville, Scott La Rock was once one of
their original djs but I haven't had a way to confirm that. The record was
produced by Eric Matthew who hasn't produced a record that I know of since, but
as far as what was going on at the time, the music was definitely in there. The
most creative thing involved in the production was a sound called a "wobble"
which actually sounded like a piece of sheet metal when you wobble it back and
fourth. Credit on the record goes to Rusty Yardum as creator of the wobble, but
if the sound is created how I think, he probably doesn't own any copyright to
it. The lyrics were on point discussing problems in the world, like many other
records of the time. Seville flowed with lines like,"...So don't lie to yourself
and say you got friends/cuz your mothers the one who sticks with you to the end/and
if she don't/well then it ain't no hope/and I'm tellin' ya this cuz it ain't no
joke...Its not right!" I don't think the Dynamic Force has any other
records out under the same name except various appearances on Zulu Nation projects
like Afrika Bambaataa's "Funk You". Kid Seville however went on to a
solo career with Cutting Records where he released "Envious", and "Take
A Walk" which were produced by Jazzy Jay, and lastly "Make It Funky"
which was King Shameek's first production on wax (I actually hooked them up together).
Seville later had a single out on 4th & B'way called "Keep Em Movin"
which was produced by Hollywood, but I guess he got dropped from the label after
some disappointing sales. Believe it or not Seville did a song with Lord Finesse
which of course never came out, I was lucky enough to hear it, and of course you
know the cut was all thattt. Anyway if you do stumble across a copy of "It's
Not Right" it's definitely a part of hip-hop history.