Category Archives: WILD PITCH WEDNESDAY
Each Wednesday we’re taking a couple of minutes to talk about the importance of certain albums that dropped on Wild Pitch Records, a label that dropped a tonne of varied and great rap music from the late 80′s up until the mid 90′s. Most of the labels releases are long out of print and are either highly revered or largely forgotten about in the grand scheme things.
Though it’s a fine line between ’94 and ’93, outside of 1988 hip hop’s finest year may just belong to 1994, lets take a sec to think back. Illmatic, Ready To Die, Sun Rises In The East, Hard To Earn, The Diary, Southerplayalistic, Tical, Stress: The Extinction Agenda, Ill Communication and the list goes on. What tends to bother me though is when truly defining albums of that particular year are glossed over in favor of what most would consider their more worthy counterparts. Omar Credle’s debut Word… Life fits that category, rarely if ever mentioned alongside 94’s more noteworthy solo debuts from Nas and Biggie. Due in large part to the drained financial coffers of Wild Pitch at the time, OC’s debut somehow slipped through the cracks having never been given the financial support that it rightfully deserved.
OC is a Brooklyn native by way of Queens who found himself living across the street from Pharoah Monch, he debuted on Organized Konfusion’s “Fudge Pudge” way back in 1991 which in turn caught the ear of MC Search who was working for Wild pitch Records. His affiliation to Organized Konfusion has continued to this day but it’s his role in New York’s Diggin In The Crates collective that brought him the most shine. According to folklore it wasn’t actually Buckwild (who produced most of Word… Life) but Fat Joe that secured his eventual membership in DITC by giving the final ok to OC’s induction into the all-borough collective. Now back to Word… Life.
Elevated lyricism, jazzy loops and hard drums are the key to Word… Life, a benchmark release for East Coast rap. It’s easy to compare this album to Illmatic in that both were overseen by MC Search, both were solo debut’s dropped only months apart and both were underpinned by phenomenal single’s, It Ain’t Hard To Tell and Time’s Up respectively. Thats where it ends though, Word… Life for my money probably shares more similarities with Gangstarr’s Daily Operation. Check the title track, i used to bump this joint every Friday night way back when.
I mentioned “Time’s Up” before and its hard not to when talking about anything OC related. Times Up is without a doubt one of the greatest and most profound statements any MC has ever made. Strangely enough it was actually the second single, behind the more commercially oriented “Born 2 Live” which see’s O taking a friends we lost along the way kind of approach. Regardless, Times Up is the centerpiece of this album in that almost everything revolves around it. Roc Raida’s (??) perfect use of Slick Rick on the cut, Buckwild’s rolling down tempo bass and stabs and OC declaration against all that is fake and fraudulent within rap, there hasn’t been many better songs made since, not to mention how heavily jacked this track is, almost every second line can be heard sampled or scratched on someone else’s record which is probably the highest compliment this song can be payed.
Here’s the clip. It has to sit alongside Raw and Shook One’s pt2 as one of the most sampled hip hop songs ever not to mention it’s possibly DITC’s greatest single released.
While Word… Life is probably producer Buckwild’s greatest body of work it also comes with a few healthy assists from DITC alum Lord Finesse and OGee, as well as Organized Konfusion. The Lord Finesse produced “Ga Head” deals with subject matter rarely heard outside of an Eminem song, when was the last time you heard an MC of OC’s status and caliber discuss having his wife leave him not for another man (wait for it) … But for a woman?!?! I said it earlier, elevated lyricism, the perfect wordplay be it battle oriented bravado or introspective philosophy. Check it for yourself.
It’s OC’s everyday approach to the sport of rapping that makes him so appealing. While Nas was touted as the second coming of Rakim pre-Illmatic, O gives you that humility Nas lacks, his voice says that even thugs crack a smile. While Nas might tell you how he snuck an uzi on the Island in his army jacket lining OC would probably describe how impossible it would’ve been to get that uzi onto the Island (of Riker’s i’m presuming) so he left it in the car instead. No posturing, no posing, no fake thuggin just a little mean muggin to make sure the point gets across. Point O Viewz follows Time’s Up and is one of my favourite joints on the album. Buckwild takes a splash of Roy Ayres for O to get loose over and drop some of that everyday i was just talkin about.
Thanks to Fatbeats Distribution Word… Life saw a rerelease back in 2004 to mark it’s 10 year anniversary, in the 10 years that’ve passed since then OC’s debut has begun to finally get the props it deserves. Looking at it in the context of 1994 a lot was happening, hip hop was still riding high off of 1993, Doggystyle and Wu-Tang’s reverberations were still being felt and then along comes Illmatic and Ready To Die. Word… Life today is widely regarded as a must have for any rap fan’s collection but it was actually OC’s PayDay released sophmore album, Jewels from ’97 that brought the attention back to his at-the-time overlooked debut. Unfortunately a string of patchy releases followed which also included a stint on the west coast based Hiero-Imperium label but those missteps wound up culminating in 2012’s OC & Apollo Brown collaboration Trophies, easily O’s greatest and most cohesive album since the 90’s.
Word… Life mighn’t be a masterpiece but it’s pretty close, it’s as solid as any release in DITC’s lengthy catalogue and the fact that OC has managed to stay putting out music for the past 20 years is worthy of accolade in it’s own right. OC has continued to showcase his diversity and lyricism in the many years that’ve followed but Word… Life is a declaration and definitely one of the top 5 releases of 1994 irregardless of where it sits in most of those (ahem) ‘wanky’ blog lists.
I want to first and foremost send massive props out to Robbie at Unkut.com who’s interviewed and shone extensive light on this album and the career of Chill Rob G. A lot of my own knowledge on this album comes directly from the work Robbie has done, that and my pal Lenny who put me on to this back in the early 2000’s. Since then i’ve done my own knowledge on Ride The Rhythm. I’ve hunted it down on Vinyl, CD and even stumbled upon a couple 12″s from it, needless to say it’s become one of my favorite late 80’s rap records.
At this point in 2014 i think its a shame that albums like Chill Rob G’s 1989 debut Ride The Rhythm have gone largely by the wayside. You should consider for a minute the year this album dropped and all that means to rap music, the culture was still young. Paul’s Boutique, 3 Feet High And Rising, No One Can Do It Better, Unfinished Business, The Cactus Album, Ghetto Music, Its A Big Daddy Thing, Iceberg… Get it? Originality was paramount with every single release deserving of its own accolade and merit. Whether you were down with The Daisy Age or As Nasty As 2 Live Crew wanted you to be the music of Hip Hop was a burgeoning cultural movement that was still breaking new ground and defining itself as it had throughout the monolithic years of ’87 and ’88.
Enter in to all this Ride The Rhythm. Expertly produced and crafted by Mark The 45 King, this album is a 101 lesson in breaks and rhymes and should be considered for any list on defining rap albums of the period. Chill Rob is a New Jersey native and was also a member of Mark the 45 King’s original Flavor Unit alongside Queen Latifah, Lakim Shabazz, Apachee, Latee and Lord Alibaski. Mark The 45 King would produce and see the release of this and the debut albums from Lakim Shabazz (who had killed 45 King’s “900 Number” a year or two prior) and Queen Latifah all in a two year period, impressive for even those highly productive days. Chill Rob G’s vocals are as commanding as Chuck D but maintain an almost Rakim like flow and preciseness.
Check the title track. I love this joint and you might recognise the break which was later used on “Buck 50” from Ghostface’s Supreme Clientele.
I think that the whole Snap jacking Chill Rob for their Euro trash pop hit “Power” has been covered elsewhere ad nauseam, to the point that almost all the info about this album pertains to those happenings. It would probably be remiss not to mention it here seeing that it is such a huge part of this album’s history, for those that don’t know here it is very briefly. Snap – a late 80’s / early 90’s European pop dance duo – sampled vocals from Rob’s song “Let The Words Flow” and neither Chill Rob nor Wild Pitch were too happy about it. A deal was struck between the beefing parties that would see Chill Rob G record his own version of “The Power” over Snap’s music – with the blessing of Wild Pitch who clearly had dollar signs in their eyes. The results weren’t great, Snap had a worldwide hit when they replaced Rob’s vocals with another rapper (Turbo B??!) and Chill Rob didn’t… Have a worldwide hit that is. Here’s the video for it.
I was actually aware of of one song off this album before i knew that i knew it. “Court Is Now In Session” was instantly recognisable to me when i first heard it, though i could never pinpoint where i’d heard it. The 45 King’s use of layered sampling is incredible particularly how he uses multiple records to construct a production that still seems to allow so much room to breathe. His use of Graham Central Station’s drum break from “The Jam” and what appears to be a little pitched up flute is crazy! On top of that, i own the 12″ of this and it contains accapellas of both Court Is Now In Session and Let The Words Flow which is the B-side… I like that kinda thing.
Here’s the official video for Court Is Now In Session.
As with most Wild Pitch Wednesday’s, the releases we focus on are definitely of their era and by that i mean that they sound and look distinctly of the point in time that they were released. While the cover art to Ride The Rhythm leaves a little to be desired – lets be honest, it’s kinda wack – the music this album contains is magnificent. This is the foundation to how Mark The 45 King would wind up producing mega-hits for Jay-Z and Eminem (“Hard Knock Life” and “Stan” respectively) among numerous others. This is also one of the pioneering Jersey records pre-Naughty By Nature and is regarded highly by the handful that know of it’s existence. Chill Rob G’s flow is an effortless barritone of rhythmic and quotable phrasing. Years after this album was released in ’99 Latin funksters Ozomatli teamed up with Cut Chemist and Chali 2na from Jurassic 5 for what was a moderately popular song at the time called “Cut Chemist Suite”, the reason i mention this is because Chali 2na’s chorus is a lyric lifted directly from The Chill One’s song Motivation, “I’m an aristocrat, ghetto diplomat and i’m blessed with the gift of rap”… Check it for yourself.
Unfortunately Chill Rob didn’t make much more music following this album. He did show up on a European 12″ for a couple of verses in the mid 90’s from what i’ve read and may’ve even dropped something as late as 2008 but i haven’t heard it if he did, and to be honest i’m not sure i would’ve been checking for it if he had. I do love this album though and would recommend it to any fan with more than a passing interest in late 80’s hip hop, trust me on this one.
“I might be chill but i’m not frozen…” Once again, that production combined with the flow and voice! The Future Shock.
Just in case you missed it: Each Wednesday we’re taking a couple of minutes to talk about the importance of certain albums that dropped on Wild Pitch Records, a label that dropped a tonne of varied and great rap music from the late 80’s up until the mid 90’s. Most of the labels releases are long out of print and are either highly revered or largely forgotten about in the grand scheme things.
Look at that cover art (above), it’s incredible as well as timeless and indicative of early 90’s regional rap. Unfortunately the wax is a generic black sleeve with the logo and track listing stickered to the right hand corner – it is on mine anyway, and the few i saw on Discogs when looking to see if the picture cover existed on vinyl. Regardless, that silhouette logo is nuts!
True story. I went into a record store on Manhattan’s lower east side a little over a year ago and found a copy of this on vinyl, same as the one above, i was stoked, i took it to the counter eager to fork out the fifteen buck price tag. I get to chatting to the dude behind the counter about music and he tells me he’s ODB’s older brother and that him and his cousin the GZA are currently working on something. I bugged out and started asking questions but i was polite enough to give the dude my condolences for the loss of his younger brother Ol’ Dirt, to which he replied “yo i appreciate that my dude but that was one wild ass nigga, no one could tell that motherfucker what to do”. He said that shit in a real animated way and then continued with, “oh you an Ossie?! great selection homie” referring to my purchase of this very album.
I digress. Street Military were a five man crew from Houston Texas that put out a seven track ep in 1993 on New York based Wild Pitch Records. According to something i read on lead MC KB Da Kidnappa this was by and large the reason the album failed commercially and almost faded into obscurity, a New York label didn’t know how to market and promote a rap act from Texas. Eazy-E was reportedly interested in Street Military at a point in time also, while one MC, Pharoah is doing 200 years for murder or some such offense. Another dude in the crew Nut was killed in some gang shit while the afore mentioned KB Da Kidnappa is the only member that’s appeared to have stayed in the rap game, i saw a 12″ a while back where he’s draped in an anaconda on the cover. He’s still breathing apparently.
All of the above is secondary to the music which is that classic early 90’s Houston funk, though comparing Street Military to the Geto Boys would be like comparing Above The Law to NWA, two completely different entities. SM are melodious similar to how Above The Law were melodious but not quite as melodious as Bone Thugs were melodious, get it? Not as abrasive as their peers. Check the title track.
I’m not aware how Street Military wound up as what would appear to have been Wild Pitch’s down south experiment and why they weren’t signed to Rap-A-Lot, but the undeniable thump of that early 90’s down south bass with over riding keys, strings and layer upon layer, too much is never enough. Producer Icy Hott does his thing and is also a member of the Houston collective, South Park Coalition. The last track on the album is the gleefully titled “Dead In A Year”, the lyrics are bleak but the beat is all that shit i was just talking about before, layers.
There existed a time in hip hop when releases from outside of either New York or Los Angeles were considered regional. The Convicts, 5th Ward Boys, UGK, 8-Ball & MJG, Gangsta NIP even Outkast before they blew in the late 90’s were all relatively unknown outside of Texas, Atlanta, Memphis and anywhere else not called NYC or LA. This neglect from the major markets led to a thriving down south scene largely harbored and nurtured throughout the late 80’s and into the 90’s by Rap-A-Lot Records. Of course as the 2000’s rolled around regional rap’s influence would come to infiltrate the New York market and even begin to dominate it’s airwaves, but that’s a story for another day.
I’m definitely not the foremost expert on Houston rap but i do like to dig a little deeper than just Scarface and the Geto Boys. My comrades Heata and Bigfoot hipped me to this album in the mid 2thowz, i borrowed Bigfoot’s copy of it on CD and didn’t give it back for three years. Street Military’s debut is now, 20 plus years later, considered a benchmark release for the Houston scene. If you fuck with Rap-A-Lot or even Wild Pitch (funnily enough) then you’re probably up on this already but if you aren’t i’d consider it well worth your time.
A regional rap classic that’s very much of it’s period in sound and flavor but one that is well worth your time if you enjoy early 90’s gangsta rap.
Welcome to Wild Pitch Wednesday here at Run Royal where each Wednesday we’ll take a brief look back at one release from Stu Fine’s storied imprint, Wild Pitch Records. Most of Wild Pitch’s catalogue has long been out of print relegating many of the label’s releases to mere footnotes in the annals of rap music, so why not shed a little light and take the time to have a look back at some of the labels classic releases.
The Coup hail from Oakland California and released their second album, Genocide & Juice on Wild Pitch in 1994. There was a radio show that broadcast around my ways back in ’94 called Phat Tape, at the time hosted by DJ’s Katch and Frenzie. Phat Tape introduced me to numerous acts of the era when each sunday night i’d set my cassette to record and then spend the next day at school listening to everything i’d recorded the night before. It was on one of those same tapes i was introduced to The Coup, the track “Pimps” to be exact, which was sandwiched between Keith Murray’s “The Most Beautiful Thing” and Channel Live’s “Down Goes The Devil” (i rewound that tape so many time i still remember the order of tracks around it).
The Coup in 94 consisted of Boots Riley, E-Roc and Pam The Funkstress, E-Roc would leave the group following this album. The album’s title was a play on Snoop Dogg’s popular song “Gin and Juice” (taken from his 1993 debut Doggystyle) and was a pointed commentary on the state decay within the black community at the time, a time when gangsta rap’s largely negative message was dominating not just hip hop but popular culture also. The album’s production – handled by Boots – was definitely “west coastcentric” and indicative of the era, g-funkish with live instrumentation and featuring appearances by fellow Bay Area natives Spice-1 and E-40. I want to highlight tracks 2 and 3 in particular keeping in mind that there’s a whole album of dope lyrics and beats following these two songs. Fat Cats, Bigger Fish plays directly into Pimps and could possibly be the greatest saga hip hop has seen since EPMD introduced us to “Jane”.
Fat Cats kicks off with down on his luck hustler Boots Riley off to pursue another day of hustling, scamming and partaking in just about any scheme that’ll see his pockets grow and those around his lessen. He’ll pick pockets, scam bus tickets, sweet talk a butt-ugly chick for free fast food until he happens upon his cousin, who as luck would have it is throwing in his job waiting on a bunch of wealthy white industrialists. Knowing these well to do devils won’t pick him from his cousin (“they be thinkin all black folks is resemblin”) he swaps outfits and goes in for some “pocket swindling”. Once inside the magnitude of what he stumbles upon is unfathomable, thinking himself the greatest “sneaky motherfucker” he comes to understand the magnitude of the scam these white folk CEO’s are pulling daily on his own people, “i’m gettin hustled only knowin half the game…”
“Fuck naw i aint got no grey poupon” Boots says as he passes another wealthy socialite. Funnily enough this socialite broad is attempting to coax David Rockerfeller into telling her more about this new venture of his called rapping. In his pompous anglophile tone Rockerfeller replies “we have this thing we do with our voices, we sing like authentic rappers” and then agrees to display his new venture providing the orchestra in the background can make the music more funky. After one of the richest men on earth proceeds to break down how they’re actually pimping the entire system and that the common man is the trick, the mic gets passed to Jon Paul Getty, another immensely wealthy industrialist who’s trying his hand at this rapping thing. After a little bit of coaxing and asking the accompanying lady to hold his glass “i have to do those hand gestures”, Getty proceeds to break the systematic corruption down in much the same way David Rockerfeller had done before him… And then Donald Trump shows up, embarrassing both Getty and Rockerfeller by dropping “something i picked up at a property i’ve got down in the carribean”, the group attempts to disperse so they’re not seen in the company of outcast Donald Trump.
Genocide & Juice celebrated 20 years just recently and it hasn’t aged a day in my books. Its actually ahead of its time in the sense that it speaks on many issues that are only beginning to come to light today in 2014. Boots Riley’s storytelling is masterful, he can paint the most vivid and detailed art with his words. I still give it up to Slick Rick and Ice Cube as great story tellers (even Nas) but Boots’ eye for detail is something else, i’m listening to a video clip when he kicks it. Audio video rap! Press play on Fat Cats and then go into Pimps, its one of the greatest and most original narratives in rap music!