Thursday, January 29, 2015

Goods Songs X and XI

Good Songs X

The Power – Snap
Crumbs on the Table – D-Nice
Call Me D-Nice – D-Nice
Poison – Bell Biv DeVoe
Do Me! – Bell Biv DeVoe
The Gas Face – 3rd Bass
It Takes 2 – Rob Base and DJ Easy Rock
Joy and Pain – Rob Base and DJ Easy Rock
U Can’t Touch This – MC Hammer
Express Yourself – NWA
The Humpty Dance – Digital Underground
I Left My Wallet in El Segundo – A Tribe Called Quest
Ride the Wind – Poison
Unskinny Bop – Poison
Deeper Shade of Soul – Urban Dance Squad
Love Song – Tesla
Scared – Dangerous Toys
Jackin’ For Beats – Ice Cube
We’re All in the Same Gang – West Coast Rap All-Stars

Good Songs XI

Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana
Over the Hills and Far Away – Led Zeppelin
D’Yer Mak’er – Led Zeppelin
Heroin – Velvet Underground

Sorry for not posting this on Tuesday, but we got a bit of a storm up here in the Northeast. It dumped more than two feet of the white stuff at our house and that meant schools were closed for the day. When the kids are around, it’s difficult to write. Or think.

In fact it’s a lot like this edition of Good Songs, which is completely scattered. In the last entry, I told you that this was part of a troika of Good Songs tapes that I created to keep me occupied to Cooperstown, NY. The first was a rock tape, the second was rap and this one was where all the leftovers went. Two songs are still favorites of mine: “Deeper Shade of Soul” by Urban Dance Squad and A Tribe Called Quest’s “Left My Wallet in El Segundo”. I don’t think that the latter makes any appearances on future Good Songs tapes, but the former is the clubhouse leader for song found on most of these tapes. That means I’ll talk about the UDS a bit later.

I remember borrowing ATCQ’s “People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm” tape from a girl in my chemistry class. We both liked “El Sugundo” and “Bonita Applebaum” but for some dumb reason I never dubbed the whole tape, just “El Sugundo”. And that’s incredibly stupid because this is a really, really good tape. In fact, it’s one of the seminal hip-hop CDs from the era. Being “really into rap”, I should have realized this back then, but I think that we disproved that theory a few weeks ago. At the very least I should get partial street cred for realizing that Bonita and Segundo were both awesome songs, right?

This song is great for all the right reasons, Q-Tip’s flow, the beat, the subject matter, the subtle humor. It’s as good today as it was when it was released in 1991. I know ATCQ was popular, but I feel that they’re often overlooked too. They didn’t fall into the gangsta rap category, nor did they fall into the political rap category or the party rap group. They—along with the rest of the Zulu Nation—were about positivity and being intelligence. But it was all understated, they respected their audience enough not to keep smacking them over the head with their message.

As a whole, we like to think of ourselves as smart and not needing guideposts to lead us to answers. And that might be true, for some. But for the majority, they need their hand held. They need to be told over and over and over again that the guy in the black hat is “the wrong motherfucker to fuck with” or that this person in this movie is doing a very bad thing. While this person in this movie is doing a very good thing. The artist who exercises restraint and subtlety and allows the audience to figure things out often is misunderstood. And when something is misunderstood, it is often ignored.

I’m not saying that ATCQ was ignored – they sold millions of albums – but they deserve better.

A New York contemporary of ATCQ was 3rd Bass. You might know them as the white rap guys after the Beastie Boys, but before Vanilla Ice. 3rd Bass was an interesting group in that they tried hard not to offend black hip hop fans. They got into beefs with MCA (I think 3rd Bass felt that they had to defend Def Jam when the Beasties left the label) and Vanilla Ice (mostly because he sucked). It seemed to me that Prime Minister Pete Nice and MC Serch (especially Serch) were bending over backwards to say, “This isn’t the 1950s, we aren’t going to steal your music.”

And that’s awesome. I don’t see anything wrong with that. At all. In fact, I think it’s pretty cool that they kept it real and paid homage to the pioneers that came before them. I just don’t think that there were any charges that white guys were becoming rappers and then coopting the music. I could be wrong though, I was 16 at the time and thought “Ride the Wind” was a good song.

In any event, “The Gas Face” is an awesome song. The beat is made up of Aretha Franklin’s “Think” and “Respect” and it’s just a catchy groove. Both of those samples were made to be rapped over – Prince Paul (who produced this album) did a masterful job with all the samples, but man, this one was especially great. When I bought the tape, I was really bummed that it didn’t include the video version (Flavor Flav makes an appearance and says something about the Gas Face) but that’s life in the big city. It does include Zev Love X’s (later known as MF Doom) verse. X has a much stronger presence on the mic than Serch or Pete Nice, as great as that verse is, I think that 3rd Bass should have opted not to include it. They were served on their first single.

If I was really trying to be clever, I would have put MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This” before or after this song. That would have been a nice touch.

The interesting thing about Pete Nice is that under his real name, Pete Nash, he’s one of the leading baseball memorabilia dealers in the country. He has a blog where he writes about the industry and he seems to know his stuff. The last I saw of MC Serch, he was hosting an American Idolesque show on VH1 about hip hop.

Some quick hits:

Poison and Do Me! – Bell Biv DeVoe and that whole new jack swing style of music was really coming along in the early 90s, wasn’t it? “Do Me!” is a ridiculous song. I was listening to it in my house, all alone and I was embarrassed. It was an obvious attempt to change their squeaky clean New Edition image by talking about s-e-x and maybe it worked, but it’s still really dumb. While “Do Me!” might be as fresh as a garbage fire, there’s nothing wrong with “Poison”. That song is still awesome. . There are two things I can’t forget about that song:

1. It was the last week of school and for some reason the halls were clogged with kids, I think that we were being herded somewhere. This dude Andy looks at me and says, “I don’t care what anyone says, I love that song ‘Poison’!” and just kept on walking. Andy and I weren’t what you’d call even remotely close and I never spoke to him a whole lot, so I’m not sure why he decided to share this information with me. But he did and it intrigued me enough into buying the BBD tape. So thank you, Andy. Where ever you are.

2. After college, I lived with a guy named Jamie. He was a great roommate and just a terrific person to be around. I know that he liked to screw around with our other roommate, so it’s no surprise that he liked to screw around with me too. We were watching a football game when former Syracuse wide receiver showed up on our screen (at the time he was playing for the Arizona Cardinals).

Jamie said, “BBD hates this guy. They talk about killing him on ‘Poison’.”
“They do not,” I said.
“They do. There’s a line that says, ‘Rob Moore you’re dead.’”
“No. It’s ‘One move, you’re dead’. Why would anyone want Rob Moore dead?”
“He screwed Biv’s girlfriend. They were telling him they know. And he’s dead.”

When it comes to popular culture, I am hopelessly naïve. My seventh-grade music teacher spent an entire semester (literally an entire semester) telling us that Paul McCartney was dead and that the person we think we know is Paul McCartney is Canadian Paul McCartney lookalike Billy Shears. And it took me years to listen to a Beatles album, I was so freaked out. So when Jamie explained this to me I believed him; hook, line and sinker.

And to be honest, I still kinda do believe it. Though I’m pretty sure that he was kidding. I wish I knew Rob Moore. Or Bell Biv DeVoe. I need to get to the bottom of this mystery.

“We’re All in the Same Gang” – You know what I like the most? Team-ups and cross overs. When I was into comics as a kid, if the X-Men guest starred in the Avengers, I was buying that comic. I love when TV characters leave their show and appear in another. So when I found out that all of the biggest West Coast rappers (except Ice Cube) teamed up to create this song, I thought it was the best thing ever. I know that the East Coast rappers did something similar a few months prior, but the WCRAS was so much better. But when you have people like Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, Ice-T, Above the Law telling everyone not to kill people, respect the community, don’t do drugs; it comes across as a bit hypocritical.

I wrote about this in 2005 (2005! What the hell?) 

Finally, I think that Good Songs XI is a tape my brother made. I have zero recollection of this tape and it’s only four songs long. I don’t think that I made it, but I’m keeping it here for posterity.

No comments: