Wednesday, March 04, 2015

garage rap # 20

File Under Important But Kinda Wack:

This record cover - 70 or so of the top players on the UK Garage scene - is far and away the best thing about "Good Rhymes" by Da Click.

"Click" was a US hip hop buzzword at the time (remember Queen Pen's "we beez the baddest click up on this planet"? I thought not) and Da Click was inspired in a major way by Puff Daddy and the whole Bad Boy era of rap clans and collective swagger. One of the instigators of the project, Unknown MC, used to be in Hijack, a Brit-rap group signed to Ice T's Rhyme Syndicate label.  For a 2step piece I was doing for Vibe in 2000, Unknown told me "in London right now, there's a thing happening where true MCing is coming back to the floor. You have these clubs with two thousand people where the MC really is interfaced between the DJ and the crowd. And he's whipping the crowds up into mad frenzies, getting them involved in the party. Which I imagine is what it must have been like in the Bronx in the '70s, you know what I'm saying?”

That's the sonic conceit behind "Good Rhymes"  - it's a reworking of "Good Times" designed to echo Sugarhill Gang's  Chic-riding "Rapper's Delight" and thereby capture an equivalent moment in the rise of UK MCs. Unfortunately the rabbit-punch strength-level contributions from the roll-call of top UKG MCs (Creed, et al) sit rather unhappily on top of the stilted groove.  By the time the track gets to the interminable "you got the vibe!" shout-outs to various scene luminaries (Dreem Teem, Tuff Jam, Rhythm Division, Bubblin' Cru, Spreadlove Crew, Deja Vu, ad tedium) the net result is cringeworthy.  

It made the Top 20 and is therefore historically notable as an early sortie in the garage rap invasion of the UK pop charts.

"Do You Really Like It" by DJ Pied Piper and The MC's. That's Unknown MC again - alongside DT, Melody, and Sharky P - bouncing their flows over the groovecraft of  Piper. This got to Number One in 2001. Listening to  "Do You Really Like It" again for the first time since the time, it didn't seem nearly as bad as I remembered it. But it does have that sort of foreign-language hip hop, Euro-rap type vibe about it, and falls a good ways short of the charm of, say, K2 Family or Genius Cru.

I was going to say that all these naff garage rap records have collectivity in common, but then the same applies to the great G-rap tunes by Pay As U Go, K2, et al....   So Solid Crew's "21 Seconds" takes the mic-sharing to the limit, though: the concept is that each MC -- Megaman, Asher D, Mc, Kaish, G-Man, Harvey, Romeo, Lisa Maffia, Face and Skatt D (that's the album version sequence; the single is jigged around a tiny bit) --  has approximately 21 seconds / 12 bars in which to say their piece.  This constraint is interesting as a track-structural device and on the socio-political-allegory level (less than half a minute  = very narrow aperture through which each would-be star can attempt to "blow" his or her way to hood-transcending fame). But the overall effect is to make each performance feel, well, rushed and the rapid-fire procession of MCs emphasises the cookie-cutter vibe of the flows, which become hard to distinguish from each other.

Still, it got to Number One in August 2001 and represented a Moment - almost like  the premature coming of grime-before-grime.

So Solid Crew did some much better stuff than "21 Seconds", their biggest hit.