Category Archives: YOUR LIFE ON TAPE
Tape releases that changed our lives. Whether they old or new, these are some classics that are worthy to be a part of any Hip Hop collector’s stash.
It’d be almost impossible to explain to someone under the age of 25 the impact NWA had on not just hip hop but on popular culture as a whole. There’s an analogy i heard long ago that says in regards to Gangsta Rap, “Schooly D started it, Ice T took it and NWA perfected it”, I see this as largely true. You could split hairs between Schooly’s P.S.K. and possibly Boogie Down Production’s 9mm Goes Bang as to where it all began but for the most part what we’ve come to know as Gangsta Rap can be traced back to Eazy E’s drug money and foresight, Ice Cube’s penmanship and Dr. Dre’s production. That combination of characters and talents altered the course of popular music and in turn culture, the left coast’s dominance of rap started here. Raiders caps, Menace 2 Society, The Chronic, Death Row Records, Friday were all born out of NWA’s initial energy. They were the ripple that created the cultural wave of “gangsta” be it music, movie, magazine or fashion.
My mum hated NWA and i mean HATED, which made me want to listen to them all the more! First you have to understand the era. It was the begining of the 90’s and i was discovering the plethora of hip hop music that was available to me, but not THAT available to me. I was 9 or 10 and blessed with older cousins that i spent a lot of time around, these cousins of mine were into graffiti, crime and rap music – not in that order. Flicking through their records, cassettes and handful of cd’s (which were still quite expensive at the time in comparison to cassettes), I’d discover EPMD, BDP, Public Enemy, Run DMC, 2 Live Crew, Jungle Brothers, Beastie Boys, LL Cool J… You get where i’m going here.
Every other week when it was time to go to Aunty Catherine’s i’d sticky tape over my mum’s Air Supply or Billy Joel tapes – dad’s Gerry & The Pacemakers tape too from memory – so i could fill them with this crazy noise that was just beginning to catch a lot of fire in the media and popular press. This was a time when my very working class parents’ entire understanding of African American culture was drawn from a few Motown tracks and The Cosby Show, they knew not of this burgeoning phenomena that was entering their home. A year or two later when i cut pictures of the LA Riots out of the newspaper and stuck them on my walls they were mortified. The same year i was almost kicked out of my primary school for reciting the chorus to Fuck The Police in front of the police. Well, maybe not exactly in front of them but it was loud enough and within the earshot of my principle who was standing next to the blokes in blue who were there for an assembly.
Ma dukes wasn’t happy with me that day and her first course of disciplinary action was to take all my tapes off me, she hit me where it hurt. Of course i found out where she’d stashed them pretty quickly and in no time i was grabbing them out one at a time, exiting the house and bumping them in my walkman. I was a fiend before i became a teen. There was an inexplicable danger to rap music at the time, i can’t explain or pinpoint what it was but it was exciting and every release seemed different and dynamic to my young mind. It was a rare day you’d find me in the school library doing school work but you could find me trying to look up whatever it was Chuck D was talking about in that song i’d been listening to earlier. This was before internet, this was the dewie decimal system so you know i never found those answers and all that did was make me so much hungrier to find them.
I credit NWA and Public Enemy as being more than music, they were a cultural phenomena that became a movement for young impressionable urban males of the period. They gave kids my age from all social advantages and backgrounds an aggressive and welcome alternative to Guns N Roses and whatever else was clogging up the pop charts. The message wasn’t anti-white but it was definitely pro-black and against the white power structure, which still very much exists today. They were a glimpse into the inherent state of urban decay existing in their respective communities, they were strong and commanding voices speaking out against “the man” and biased oppressor be it law, government or school… Thats probably why i laugh when i see teenagers wearing PE shirts these days and not on some arrogant older dude shit either, i understand that it’s fashion, it’s chic or kitchy to be a teen in a Public Enemy or Run DMC shirt purchased from Kmart, which is fine i suppose, kinda.
Still, when i see them, i wanna run up on them and quiz them about Rebel Without A Pause or Bring The Noise or what they thought of the Bomb Squad’s production on Cube’s first album, did they go peep a Spike Lee joint after hearing Burn Hollywood Burn?!?! I want them to know that the logos emblazoned across thier young frames were once synonymous with danger and were an outright FUCK YOU to mainstream society. I’m sure that if quizzed the answer would inevitably be, “meh, whatever.. lol”.
Maybe this is just what getting old is. That’s word to John Connor, he knew what was up.
In 1990 my Dad took his mother to the USA. It was the first time she had ever been out of Australia. They travelled around L.A, San Francisco & Memphis seeing all the sites and generally enjoying time away from the farming life in Shepparton. My Dad also runs his own mobile disco, which he has done so since 1983. So it’s fair to say that he has played a major hand in my musical development since an early age. The disco mainly catered to the pop music of the time, but that is not to say that his tastes were limited by any stretch of the imagination. A massive fan of Australian Rock music, I learnt so much over the years and have been lucky enough to still have the majority of his vinyl collection. The reason for this backstory on my Dad is that it was him who introduced me to the world of Hip-Hop by bringing home a new release VHS rental of a then unknown film from New York entitled “Beat Street” in 1984. I remember him saying to me “I reckon you might like this. It’s a new film about music in New York.” And the rest is history……
Fast forward 6 years later and Dad brings another amazing game changer to the table. “I’m taking Granny over to The States for a few weeks on a holiday to get her away from the farm for a bit. Make a list of some albums you want me to get for you”. You fuckin’ serious! I went straight to my Source Magazines and trowled through the album charts & ads and began penning anything I could see in the mag.
So the list was made and Dad & Granny left for The States. Everyday he was away I couldn’t help but think what was going to come back with them in their suitcases. Time passed and they returned. First question I asked was the obvious, “have a good trip?”. Yes, I’m a good son. Hahah. We picked them up with my Mum at Melbourne Airport and then drove 2 1/2 hours back to Shepparton. This almost killed me. Curiosity outta control.
Once settled back in at home, he reached in to a suitcase and pulled out a couple of yellow Tower Records bags. My God..are you for real! I won’t go into everything that was in there, but the powerhouse selection was this group I’d seen in the Source called Low Profile. This is that album and that is the magazine I still have to this day. A 1989 release not yet in Australia to my understanding, but if it was, it was certainly not within my reach. Central Station Records may have had it at some point but I never saw it there.
What he brought back was a sealed Longbox and cassette. Bang! Straight into the boomy and off I went. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. This is why this album is so special to me.
Low Profile consists of DJ Aladdin & rapper W.C. A two man team outta L.A. The tape & CD contain 11 tracks and the vinyl 10. “No Mercy” is the bonus cut. Dope to say the least. This album is pure Hip-Hop from start to finish. Amongst many, it contains the seminal DJ cut “Aladdin’s On A Rampage”. An incredible display of techniques (and no bloody Serato) on the 1’s & 2’s, with W.C destroying the rhyme bigging up his DJ cut by cut. He sounds proud as he tells us how dope Aladdin is while cuts fly left, right and centre over scaled booming 808’s and next level samples. Too powerful. Flawless in my opinion. The ultimate Hip Hop album…precise cuts, tight as fuck raps and bangin’ production on a heavy funk tip. Essential.
Low Profile first appeared to the masses on Ice-T’s Rhyme Syndicate compilation “Rhyme Syndicate Comin’ Through” in 1988 with the track “Think You Can Hang?”. This cut can only be found on the compilation to my knowledge. There is also a 12″ called “Hip Hop I Crave” released in 1987 by Low Profile that also appears on a 2010 CD-R release called “DJ Aladdin Presents Low Profile’s Greatest Hits”.
Years later I discovered there was a promo tape released. The tape is a DJ mix of the songs from “We’re In This Together” from the man himself. Side A and B are the same and believe me, it’s worth chasing down. It’s tight as fuck and took me years to find.
The only downfall of this release was that it was to be Low Profile’s only album. Aladdin went on to work with Ice-T with his Ammo Dump steez as well as many solo/side projects and W.C went on to form W.C & Tha Maad Circle. But I am thankful they continued and their future projects were outstanding as well. When it’s in the blood, the funk will flow.
I had the privilege of meeting W.C at an Ice Cube gig backstage a few years ago in Melbourne and he was a true legend. I’m not one for meeting artists I respect and listen to, as it can generally tarnish your opinion of them, and really, what would a guy like W.C really care about what I have to say. That’s just how it is. But we got talking about this album and I mentioned I still had the OG Longbox and he flipped out. He actually seemed genuinely surprised and interested I knew the LP and knew what Longboxes were. I left it at that and thanked him for the music and started to leave. He stood up and walked forward to me and shook my hand with mutual respect. What a King!
Finally, check the 12″ of “Pay Ya Dues” the second single from the album. The B-Side contains an unreleased tracks entitled “The Dub B.U. Just Begun (Bonus Beats)”. The track is mad uptempo with furious cuts and W.C turning up the heat over a raw drum break and neck snapping bassline. Simple yet so hype!
So in conclusion, I highly suggest that any fan of dope Hip-Hop add this to the top of their ‘want’ list. A brilliant album and one that holds many memories.
This is the classic Rap-A-Lot Records release from 1989, which will forever remain a defining moment in the labels seminal history. The picture above from my collection is the original release that would later be re-released with the revised name for the group – “The Geto Boys”. Although this is album number 2 from the Houston, TX crew, it is not the original line up.
Third time around, label owner James Smith (J. Prince) had finally created his ultimate street group. Consisting of members DJ Ready Red “The Musical Enforcer” & dancer Little Billy (a.k.a. Bushwick Bill) from the 1st official album release as “The Ghetto Boys”, the group now boasted label mate Willie Dee, who had already dropped “Controversy” & newcomer DJ Akshen a.k.a. Scarface, replacing Sire Juke Box & Prince Johnny C. K-9 & Raheem before that, along with Sire Juke Box formed the “original” Ghetto Boys for the groups first 12″ single release “Car Freak” in 1986.
“Grip It!” consists of 12 solid, raw and uncompromising tracks of pure Texas funk & tough Roland drum machines smashed thru ya speakers with uncut dope such as “Gangster Of Love”, “Scarface”, “Mind Of A Lunatic” & “Size Ain’t Shit”. This version contains the original “Gangster Of Love” track that sampled “The Joker” by The Steve Miller Band. A later version using “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd would be used for a re-release of the 1990 album below. However, the “The Joker” OG version does appear on the original press of “The Geto Boys” 1990 release. It was the re-release of that which switched up the tracks and contained the “Sweet Home Alabama” version. Confused? Many are but that’s the deal. I have ’em all. On CD, “Grip It!” has up to 4 or 5 re-presses. All different in artwork, track listing and labels/distro to some extent. It was Rick Rubin who chose to remix the track, yet some say there were sample right issues with “The Joker”. This is very much true. The original was released without sample clearance at a time when this wasn’t really a big deal or a concern for many Hip-Hop artists. Later that year it certainly became one for many artists. Steve Miller never gave the sample clearance, but it had already been released. Next stop…remix the song with a new sample…enter Rick Rubin & Def American.
“Grip It!” a year or so after it’s release would be re-incarnated as “THE GETO BOYS – The Geto Boys”. Essentially, this album is a collection of the song “Assassins” from the “Making Trouble” 1988 album, 8 tracks from the “Grip It!” 1989 album and 2 new tracks. “The Geto Boys” is basically a remake of the “Grip It!” album. Rick Rubin re-vamped and re-amped the existing tracks and along with some new and changed lyrics, helped create a massive album that many regard as The Geto Boys masterpiece. I’ll attack this album in a future post. So much to say on this, but let’s get back to “Grip It!” for the moment…..
Man, the first time I heard “Grip It!” in ’89 shit changed for me. I had heard Willie Dee’s “Controversy” that same year and was familiar with the 1st GB tape “Making Trouble” from ‘88, but this was something else. J. Prince had done it. He had created an unstoppable monster, a monster that boasted the power of uncompromising MC’s over top notch “in house” production that represented the hard hitting sound of the underground, yet was unlike any other area’s style at the time. The mood and samples were unlike anything I was hearing coming outta the West or East of America or even the Midwest. King Kurtis’ “Memphis Soul Stew” flipped to perfection and fattened up for the killing? Are you serious? Unbelievable!!
Heavy southern funk, blues and rock were just some of the styles being smashed together by producers Ready Red, Doug King, Bido 1, J. Smith and Prince Johnny C to create a soundtrack to the MC’s stories of the street life in the H, TX. I can go on and on about the history of this crew (and one day probably will), but hearing this at the age of 15, my life in Hip-Hop had changed.
I had been listening to Hip-Hop since the age of 10 (1984), and like many my age, those that know will rate this album as one the greatest from the 80’s and beyond. Run DMC, Cold Crush, Schoolly D, Just-Ice, Ice-T, N.W.A., Ultra Mag, EPMD, P.E. …the list goes on…were heavy in my Walkman at the time, but this group, with this album, really affected me in a way unlike any other before it. A real eye opener, from rappers that you truly believed every word they said, and stories in music I had never experienced before as opposed to these “studio gangstas” or “reality rappers” of yesteryear and today. The Ghetto Boys were one of the first to lay tha G-Code down and the music had never sounded better in my humble opinion. Pre synthed-out plug-ins and internet, the R-A-L Family’s crates were deep & heavy! From what I have read over the years, not so much as extensive in quantities at the time, more extensive in knowledge and the true meaning of funk.
I began to source out as much Texas rap as I could after this, trying to get my hands on anything with the Rap-A-Lot Records logo on it. And when I did, shit just got bigger and better. Growing up in Shepparton, VIC, I felt like I was the only person in the world who knew who the Ghetto Boys were, and this was kinda special. It was like I had discovered them from obscurity and brought them to the masses in my hometown. I felt like J. Smith putting the group together, by passing the GB tapes from friend to friend. An indirect label rep of sorts in my area. Many fell off, and very few stayed, but I am glad this memory has followed me throughout my life and ultimately led to amazing follow up albums from the group that have constantly inspired and entertained me for many years. My only burning question about the group is ”why haven’t they toured Australia yet?” and I won’t take passport issues as a valid answer/excuse. GB & Rap-A-Lot Records fo Life!
TAPE SPECS : RAP-A-LOT RECORDS 1989 (RAP 103-4) BC 034744010346