Artist: Toddy Tee
Title: Batterram - 12"
Label: Eve-Jim - 1985
Producer: Leon Haywood
Here's one from the West Coast old school. Todd Howard, aka Toddy Tee, dropped this classic back in late 1985. "Batterram" is all about a brutal and sometimes deadly vehicle used by the L.A. to break up suspected drug dens. The message, along with the simple but funky production by Leon Haywood (of "I Want to Do Something Freaky to You" fame), was enough to make this record a big hit on the West Coast. Big enough, in fact, to attract the attention of Epic Records, who re-released the single on their label in early 1986. Toddy Tee released a few more singles and an album around that time, but none made the impact of this classic jam.
Artist: Beastie Boys
Title: Rock Hard - 12"
Label: Def Jam - 1985
Producer: Rick Rubin & The Beasties
Boom! Here it is. Single release DJ 12" on the then fledgling Def Jam label and the cut that would pave the way for "Licensed to Ill" a year later. On "Rock Hard" the Beasties borrow the riff from AC/DC's "Back In Black" and features DJ Double R (aka Rick Rubin) on the wheels. If you're looking for this or the single's other two cuts "Party's Gettin' Rough" or "Beastie Groove" you won't find them on any of their albums, so good luck.
Artist: MCA & Burzootie
Title: Drum Machine - 12"
Label: Def Jam - 1985
Producer: Jay Burnett
This cut is a rare solo project for MCA of the Beastie Boys - you know, when Def Jam record sleeves were purple. Anyway, whereas most rappers were speaking on their fresh rides, their duckets, their fly girls, or their DJ, MCA was bragging about his funky drum machine. For any producer out there trying to recreate that old-school sound, this song spits science on all the technical equipment needed to do so. The structure is ill, with no sign of a chorus anywhere. It's obvious that Rick and "Rush" allowed full creative control to their artists at the time. And what about the drum machine? Burzootie's programming was so complex that he must have a degree in computer science.
Peanut Butter Wolf
Artist: The Organisation
Title: Big Beats - 12"
Label: Techno Hop - 1985
A lotta people were hella surprised when WC came off so dope on "My Skin Is My Sin" (a bonus cut on the B-side of Cube's "Really Doe), virtually stealing the show from Cube. The fact is that on the DL, Dub's been paying much dues for years even before Low Profile, and this cut demonstrates that. This is a beat heavy syncopated stomper with one classic element that only a true hip-hop fan can appreciate: the art of beatboxing. Throw in some fat keyboards, 808 drums, and dope rhymes, and you have all the ingredients for an OG style gourmet Hip-Hop feast. Also on the set with WC are Cli-n-tel (who was in the World Class Wreckin' Cru's original lineup), Unknown DJ (of "808 Beats" fame and Compton's Most Wanted), Lyrrad, and Tony G (worked with Kid Frost).
What I really like about this cut is the combo beatbox, scratching, and dope rap styles, taking out sucker MCs Bronx style. If you weren't aware of its origins, this record would definitely seem straight outta NYC cause it's straight up Hip-Hop without the dreaded breathing that afflicted virtually all LA records about that time.
Title: D.J. Cuttin' - 12"
Label: Pop Art - 1985
You know how famous writers sometimes publish a book under a pseudonym? Well, peep it-here's an example of a famous DJ/producer who did the same thing on wax. Who? Well, it's strictly on the DL, but check the writer's credit and you see the name Marion Williams, who is none other than Marley Marl. Don't ask me why he wanted to keep it so quiet, cause if I had a record as good as this out, I woulda let everyone know it was me.
If you know what hip-hop is about and where it originated, you'll love this record. It's purely instrumental, with an 808-ish drum track throughout. Over that, Marley rips like a madman, showcasing his skills at hip-hop's forgotten art-that of the cutter. He throws in crazy cuts all across the board and smokes the crossfade till it begs for mercy. Damm, I bet Flash felt like a proud father when this came out.
Unfortunately, it appears Marley succeeded in wanting to go strictly underground with this record since there are very few copies about, and most people weren't even aware of it at the time. Throw this on for your crew and watch the jaws drop to the floor.
Artist: Marley Marl featuring MC
Title: Marley Marl Scratch - 12"
Label: NIA - 1985
Producer: Marley Marl
With all the fat production around in 96 using the latest (and most expensive) equipment, it's very easy to forget where it all came from in the beginning: one DJ, two decks, and mad scratching skills. This record takes an old scratch fiend like me back to those days. While he catches much wreck for his fat productions today, Marley proves on this track that he could get live on the cross fade and Technics when he was starting out. It also highlights the fact that to have a proper understanding of and feel for producing, knowledge of cutting is essential as the link is tight.
Not only are the cuts fat, but Shan comes off dope with his "Sucker MC's" style and delivery. Unlike many old school tunes which can sound kinda wack today, this record stands up to the acid test of hip-hop longevity. Can you bump it loud in the jeep in '96? Of course, if you've heard this tune, I don't even need to tell you the answer. This is one of those timeless hip-hop jams which will probably still rock us when we're old and wrinkly. To quote Shan: "The man Marley Marl could bring you to tears/Ain't a new jack, he been down for years." Believe that.
Artist: Death City Boyz
Title: Bopsey Twins -12"
Producer: Tony Torres & Stephen Korlus
Label: Snowflake Records - 1985
This crew of gifted rhymers emerged from obscurity in '85 with this slamming slab of hip-hop wax, then promptly disappeared without trace, why does that always happen? This is a hilarious story of two identical twins called Kim and Katy. You know the deal, one's a freak and one's a square, the only difference between them that one has a mole. The record is basically documenting how the Death City's are played out amidst the confusion. The rhymes are delivered with real energy over a pretty good old school beat. You already know that from the fired up Coldcrush style intro.
It all comes together on this record and I find it very hard to identify any area where the track doesn't sound great - wickedly funny rhymes, dope lyrical styles, harmonizing (key), a nice beat and some scratching on the bridge. Only for the real heads who know what it's all about.
Artist: L.L. Cool J
Title: You'll Rock (remix) - 12"
Label: Def Jam - 1985
Producer: Rick Rubin
This has easily got to be one of my favorite singles from Cool J. Remixed from the original album version by Jazzy Jay, Jay re-programmed the beats and added scratching and drop-ins from other records to the sparse 808 beats. If the remix of this cut isn't reason enough for you to go looking for this, the B-side features the original, un-remixed version of "I Need A Beat," for those who missed out on the maroon label pressing.