Archive for the ‘Sampled’ Category

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Van Go!

September 22, 2014

Van Morrison has the dubious honour of being the most boring, souless, bum-numbing act I’ve ever had the misfortune to endure live in concert. Sometime in the mid 90s (94? 95? I can’t quite remember) we went to see him at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow. It’s a terrific venue, unlike the vastness of the SECC it’s built for purpose, and everytime I’ve been there I’ve left wishing all my favourite arena-sized acts would play there. Van’s show that night was memorable for two reasons.

Firstly, Van was playing two nights in Glasgow on this tour. Our tickets, bought and paid for months in advance had gone missing in transit. By the time admin had caught up with this fact, the night we’d planned to attend was sold out. We were offered tickets for the next night instead, in prime middle of the house seats. Problem was, this night clashed with the football, and as a season ticket holder at Kilmarnock FC, I was torn between the big match with Rangers at home or the Van Morrison concert, an act I’d never yet seen live. I chose Van.

Secondly, and more crucially, Van had a bloody cheek to bill his show as a ‘Van Morrison‘ concert. His co-vocalist (I’d say backing vocalist, but as it transpired as the night unravelled, backing vocalist would have been a label more suited to Van himself) was Brian Kennedy, a Butlins’ Red Coat version of Marti Pellow, a Mr Darcy of a plank with flowing locks ‘n red suede coat ‘n cheshire cat grin ‘n all. To say Brian loved/loves himself would be a massive understatement. He posed and he preened and whenever Van gave him the nod, which was often, he’d let his Irish tenor’s warble loose on the best bits of Van’s back catalogue. It was criminal. Van seemed content to scowl and scat and hang onto his saxophone for comfort. Housewives’ favourite Brian performed his expensive take on karaoke for nigh on two hours and we all went home thoroughly underwhelmed. To put the tin lid on it, I think Killie secured a rare victory over the lavishly bonused tax dodgers from the Southside.  Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated, as someone once quipped.

Anyway, long before Van was singing about brown eyed-girls or reminding us how much he loved us, he was Ivan Morrison, vocalist in Belfast’s Them.

van them

A Northern Irish equivalent to The Animals or The Troggs, Them played thumping caveman rhythm and blues with a snap and a snarl. On their second LP you’ll find I Can Only Give You Everything.

Them I Can Only Give You Everything;

A feral Van welds his vocal to a nagging fuzzed-up garage punk stomper. It‘s crazed, demented and absolutely magic; a glorious Cuban-heeled clattering racket, the sort of record that makes me want to throw Jaggeresque handclapping poses, grow my hair into a bowlcut and squeeze my fat feet into snooker cue-thin Chelsea boots.

Talking of haircuts, Beck sampled the riff for his own Devil’s Haircut tune, but you probably knew that already. Actually, he may have played the riff live, rather than merely sample it. Either way, Beck built his record around the riff.

I Can Only Give You Everything is everything you need in a record – it’s just over two and a half minutes long but you know how it goes after two and a half seconds. The fuzz guitar riff NEVER changes at all. A Farfisa (?) organ appears during the second verse before leading the inevitable instrumental break and key change halfway through. Throughout, Van sings with a soul and passion much missing in action that mid 90s Glasgow night. The whole thing kicks like a mule.

*Bonus tracks!

Here’s Patti Smith doing Them‘s Gloria, no doubt at the insistence of Lenny Kaye, guitarist in the Patti Smith Group and also the compiler of the terrific Nuggets LP, the Bible of garage rock.

lenny kaye

I like to think that Lenny discovered Them as a wide-eyed teenager and it was this that prompted him to learn guitar. Who knows?

Patti Smith Group Gloria

Jimi Hendrix Experience Gloria

Van Morrison and Them Gloria

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Miracle Worker

September 1, 2014

I’m a total sucker for 60s-70s soul. If you visit these pages from time to time you’ll know that already. I’m more of a Stax man than a Motown man. I’ve always considered Stax to be the rough ‘n tumble, snotty nosed version of its more well-known big brother. If Stax and Motown started school on the same day, it’d be Stax who came home with the knees out his new trousers, while brother Motown’s hair would look the same as it did at 9.00am and the creases in his trousers would still be sharp enough to put new life into an old pencil.

It’s amazing to think that at Stax, it was a relatively small band of musicians who played on much of the stuff. And it was the same at Motown. The Funk Brothers were the go-to band if you needed a recording in a hurry. Between 1959 and 1972 they added their signature breaks, beats and bouncing rhythms to many a radio standard – Baby Love, My Girl, Please Mr Postman, You Keep Me Hangin’ On, Let’s Get It On….the list is practically endless. They were in many ways Detroit’s answer to LA’s Wrecking Crew; seasoned studio pros who went about their business with the minimum of fuss and the maximum of funk.

marv tarplin

Marvin “Marv” Tarplin was never considered one of the Funk Brothers. You might never have heard of him, but you’ll certainly be familiar with his music.

Marv was Smokey Robinson‘s guitar player of choice, discovered when he accompanied a brand-new girl group called The Primettes at an audition for Smokey, then working in his capacity as in-house Motown producer. Smokey encouraged the girls to change their name to The Supremes and helped them on their way to stardom, but at a price – he nicked their guitar player for his own group.

It’s Marv’s clean, chiming picking that opens The Tracks Of My Tears and carries it to the heartbroken crescendo;

(Michael Caine voice) Not a lot of people know this, but Marv’s inspiration for The Tracks Of My Tears came from playing along to Harry Belafonte’s Banana Boat Song at 33rpm. That wee drop in the middle, when it’s just Marv playing a couple of chords? Until I’d heard Steely Dan’s Peg, I was convinced De La Soul had nicked it for Eye Know. (I know, I know…I can practically hear the ‘tut tut tuts‘ from a gazillion sample-spotting soul boys ‘n girls). Someone else should probably nick Marv’s bit. Thinking about it, somebody else probably has.

Back in my days of music retail, I had a loooong conversation with a regular customer over Charlie Parker’s playing style. The customer swore that Parker added little fluttering riffs at the end of the phrases he was playing and that, once he’d pointed it out I’d be able to spot a Charlie Parker solo a mile off. D’you know what? He was right.

As a guitar player, Marv was the polar opposite of Charlie Parker, with seemingly no distinctive style of his own. Clean and clipped, equally at home chopping out barred riffs or picking little runs, Marv’s style could best be described as The Ubiquitous Sound of Motown, which is not a bad playing style to have at all.

His playing graced a gazillion Motown hits – Going To a Go-Go, I Second That Emotion (above), but mainly Motown misses - I’ll be Doggone, Cruisin’, Still Water and many other minor tracks I’d need to Google. He loved a hammer-on with the pinky, he loved a simple-yet-effective running riff up and across the bass strings, and he was part of the reason Smokey Robinson and The Miracles made heartbreak sound so life-affirmingly uplifting. A real Miracle worker, if you will.

It wasn’t only Smokey who benefited from Marv’s guitar…

Marvin GAYE

Marvin Gaye‘s finger poppin’, hand clappin’ Ain’t That Peculiar features Marv’s ringing riffs and clipped guitar. A belter of mid 60s pop/soul, all pistol crack snare, stabbing brass and coo-cooing, doo-be-doo female backing vocals, Ain’t That Peculiar was a favourite of Phil Spector, who heard something in the piano breakdown midway through and went on to model the main riff for River Deep, Mountain High around it. S’true!

 

 

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Massive Attack

January 31, 2014

Baby Huey is one of the forgotten stars of 70’s soul, mainly because he died in October 1970 and it wasn’t until much later on, when his music was discovered by the hip-hop community that he gained any sort of acknowledgment.

baby huey lp

Named after a 1950s cartoon duck, the ironically-monikered Huey was massive in every way – he was massively overweight (between 25 and 28 stones (or 350-400 lbs if you’re that way inclined), he wore his hair in a massive afro,  he had a massive voice and used it to create massive tunes. He was a massive drinker. He even had a massive heroin addiction to go with it all.

baby huey

He came to the attention of Curtis Mayfield and signed to his Curtom label. Mayfield became something of a mentor to him and gave him the songs that would make up the A and B sides of his first single. Mayfield also suggested he get rid of his band The Babysitters, forever stuck in a mid 60s Motown rut. Curtis wanted Huey to expand (no pun intended) his sound towards the more politicised, psychedelicised sound of the times, which, sacked band or otherwise, he achieved. Huey’s tunes are packed full of riffs, refrains and drum breaks galore. Huey liked his music to ebb and flow, bringing the band down so he could throw in a social commentary or two, before letting the band soar in a riot of bass and brass. His songs regularly stretch out beyond the 6 minute mark and (I’d wager) are a sampler’s delight.

baby huey 7

First single Mighty Mighty Children is a one-chord groover, held together by stabbing Blaxploitation brass, wah-wah ripples and pseudo live vocals. Mighty indeed.

Mighty Mighty Children (Part 1)

Here’s Listen To Me, Baby Huey’s 2nd (and final) single release. A stone cold lost classic, it‘s terrific! Beginning with a taught guitar riff and Huey’s big voice careering between balls-out soul belter and Is It Real Or Is It Memorex glass-shattering falsetto, it fairly gets carried along on a tidal wave of trumpets and electric keys, clattering cowbell and ‘Have Mercy Brother!’ soulful paraphrasing. I think you’ll like it;

Listen To Me

On the other hand, Huey’s version of Sam Cooke’s A Change Is Gonna Come is downbeat, treacle-thick and just shy of 10 long minutes. By the end you’ll be praying that a change is indeed gonna come. His wee spoken word part reminds me of James Brown or Isaac Hayes – all social conscience dressed up in occasionally trippy echoed sound effects. Settle in for the ride…

A Change Is Gonna Come

Most of these recording didn’t come out until after Huey was dead. An album, The Baby Huey Story was released to general indifference in 1971 and quickly forgotten about. My tracks come from the 1999 CD reissue that’s probably since been quickly forgotten about. You could do worse than track it down.

baby huey 2

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Nick Wire

July 31, 2013

With their jagged, juddering, short, sharp, post-punk riffs, Wire were always ripe for rip-off. And so, along came Elastica

Three girls, one guy and a couple of borrowed Wire tunes:

  • Justine Frischmann. Brash, floppy-fringed, posh-parented and on/off squeeze of both Damon Albarn and Brett Anderson simultaneously. Charmingly, one would leave love bites on her backside for the other to find. But you knew that already.
  • Donna Matthews. Pouting, doe-eyed indie-boy poster girl who’s guitar always looked a bit too big for her.  Partook in way too much heroin.
  • Annie Holland. Razor-cheekboned bass player. The quiet one.
  • Justin Welch. Clem Burke-esque drummer who belched his way through Top 20 hit Line Up. Also partook in too many pills ‘n powders.

elastica signed

With their classic 2 guitars, bass and drums set-up and songs pilfered from post-punk’s recent past, Elastica were no different at all from any other provincial rehearsal room band. They were formed by Frischmann after she advertised for musicians ‘influenced by The Fall, The Stranglers, and Wire’, (something that would come back to haunt them) and when they came on the scene, the London-centric media held them up as the next big thing, helped in no small way through an endorsement by King Steve of Lamacq, Radio 1 DJ, label boss and indie uberlord. Elastica received far more column inches in the music press than any new band really had the right to. Rave review followed rave review. Cover followed cover. The public bought it and before you knew it, Elastica were the next big thing.

elastica

They couldn’t handle it though.  The simple ratio of too many drugs and not enough songs caused the band to implode. For Elastica, it would be a long stretch (aye!) before their second, long-since forgotten about LP.  5 years it took them to release it (a lifetime in the fickle, fad-dominated world of pop music), hot on the heels of a gap-filling mini LP of sorts. Then nothing.

elastica connection

Back to the debut album though. It fizzes with gay punk-pop abandon. Choc-full of those jagged, juddering, short, sharp post-punk riffs. Connection was the biggy. Number 17 with a bullet and proof, if any were needed, that Elastica were a bona fide chart success.

Proof, too, that Wire‘s Pink Flag LP was a regular rotator on the Elastica turntable. Here’s Three Girl Rhumba. The thieving mapgpies.

elastica line up

The belching drummer-enhanced opener Line Up was another.

Ever heard I Am the Fly by Wire? (Wait for the chorus…)

Elastica certainly had. The thieving magpies.

stranglers

Another crime was committed in the name of biggest hit single Waking Up, it’s twanging see-saw riff and chord structure totally ripping off The StranglersNo More Heroes.

Elastica just about stopped short of adding a bouncing Farfisa, but they were fooling no-one.

elastica waking up

And there are others. The album’s S.O.F.T. somehow manages to sound like most of The PixiesDoolittle LP in less than 4 minutes.  Vaseline‘s chorus could be Debbie Harry’s finest moment. Pop pilferers who got lucky. That just about sums Elastica up. Both The Stranglers and Wire secured out-of-court settlements for all of Elastica’s sticky-fingered troubles. Quite rightly too. it just goes to show, recycle any old tosh from the past and if it’s presented as the best thing ever since the last best thing ever, the gullible will buy it. You should seek out Wire’s Pink Flag if you haven’t heard it, though. You’d like it. S’a cracker.

Wire-1977-Pink-Flag

*Elastica Trivia!

Countdown fans may be able to work this out quicker than others, but who d’you think played keyboards on half the tracks on the first album? T’was none other than Dan Abnormal. Think about it…

 

 

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James Brown Samples

January 13, 2013

So, the most surprising, genuinely uplifting and fist-pumping pop moment of this week was, of course, the sneaking-out of the new David Bowie single with all the silence and stealth of a top-secret Radiohead campaign. And with an album to follow too! I like Where Are We Now?, it kinda reminds me of Wild Is The Wind or Loving The Alien or Always Crashing In The Same Car or any other of those other slow-burning beauties of his that appear fully-formed and worm their way into your head forever.

image

By sheer coincidence, about 10 minutes after hearing the Bowie single on 6 Music, the iPod threw up an old James Brown tune as I drove grudgingly to face the day. Not a tune that I had played very often (never?), I had to check as I drove what it was actually called. Turns out it was called Hot (I Need To Be Loved, Loved, Loved) and by the sounds of it was a classic example of mid 70s funk-period Brown. Y’know, not the pop-soul James Brown of Sex Machine or Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag, rather the big girl’s blousey James Brown of velvet flared suits and Rumble In The Jungle moustache. Less than a minute into it and I was asking myself where I’d heard it before. A classic stabbing Blaxploitation brass intro replete with Brown grunts before breaking down into the instantly recognisable groove – all super-slinky rinky-dink riffing and fluid, four-to-the-floor bass, conga breakdown and electric piano. Had I been trying to sleep, this would have caused me a sleepless night. Where had I heard it before? Where?

image

It came to me in the middle of the afternoon. Bowie! Fame! Fay-yame! Fay-yame, makes a man think things over. Fame fame fame fame fame fame fame fame fame! Bully for me! Bowie had nicked the riff to Hot (I Need To Be Loved, Loved, Loved), added some bitchy lyrics with the help of John Lennon (who sang the backing vocals and may or may not have played additional guitar, depending on what and where you read), changed the melody and passed it off as one of his own. Even the wee high chord that punctuated the verses was there. Bowie, in his mid 70s plastic soulboy incarnation had appropriated every tiny bit of it from James Brown! He even had the nerve to go on Soul Train and sell coals back to Newcastle.

Or so I thought…..

Checking the credits later on that night, I notice that Bowie’s Fame is credited to Bowie, Alomar and Lennon, and following some detective work on that last outpost in truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, Wikipedia, I discovered the track was built around a Carlos Alomar riff. Aye right, I thought. James Brown is the most sampled man in music. You’ve just gone one further, Bowie and ripped the whole thing off. Then I dug deeper. Turns out Carlos Alomar was in James Brown’s band for a bit in the mid 60s. Not only that, but that last outpost in truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth claims that James Brown based Hot (I Need To Be Loved, Loved, Loved) on David Bowie’s Fame. He ripped off Bowie! There’s no mention of a Bowie credit on the James Brown version (not on my Star Time, Disc 4 info at any rate), so if Wiki is to be believed, James Brown turned from funky gamekeeper to funkier poacher. And got away with it.

brown bowie

Both tracks, it turns out, were recorded sometime in 1975 at Electric Lady Studios in New York, Bowie’s in January and Brown’s later on in the year. Carlos Alomar, having played with many of the band still backing James Brown at this time was, by all accounts, absolutely livid by the steal. Bowie was a bit cooler, agreeing to sue if the track became a hit, which it never did. It’s interesting to note that in the fully comprehensive booklet that accompanies the James Brown Star Time Box set, where recording personnel are meticulously listed, under Hot (I Need To Be Loved, Loved, Loved) it just says ‘backing by unknown personnel’, which, for me, is just about as good an admittance you’ll get that James Brown took the original Bowie track, dubbed out his voice and sang his own melody across the top. Just my theory, at any rate.

Contrast and compare:

David Bowie Fame

James Brown  Hot (I Need To Be Loved, Loved, Loved)

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Victoria Wood. Morrissey Did.

January 6, 2013

Rusholme Ruffians is The Smiths at their sticky-fingered peak. From the alliteratively-alluring Ealing comedyesque title down, it’s a masterclass in Morrissey’s stolen kitchen sink observations backed by a Johnny Marr riff flat-out filched from Scotty Moore via Elvis Presley’s (Marie’s The Name) His Latest Flame 1961 single.

smiths bw tumblr

By the time they came to record Rusholme Ruffians for second album Meat Is Murder, The Smiths were at the top of their game. As was usually the way, Johnny would present the band with a cassette demo. The musicians would go off and shape Marr’s ideas into a band performance while Morrissey would twist and turn what lyrics he had into the new tune, writing and re-writing as he went along until, between band and bard, they had the genesis of a song.  “Let’s do a song about the fair,” suggested Morrissey. “For some reason my association was to pull out that Elvis riff,” explained Marr.

His appropriation of the riff as a frantically scrubbed rockabilly knee-trembler alongside Mike Joyce’s rattlin’ and rollin’ percussion is in stark contrast to Andy Rourke’s slap happy elastic band of a bassline. Played at half the speed, it wouldn’t have sounded out of place on any mid-period Sly and the Family Stone record. Played as it was, it gives the tune that certain je ne sais quoi; the essential ingredient that turned an average Elvis pastiche into an undeniable Smiths’ tune. To use what is surely by now a cliche, Andy Rourke really was the unsung musical hero in The Smiths. And by the time the vocal went on top, well, an undeniable Smiths’ tune had become an undeniable Smiths’ classic.

As a child I was literally educated at fairgrounds. It was a place of tremendous violence and hate and stress and high romance and all the true vital things in life. It was really the patch of ground where you learned about everything simultaneously whether you wanted to or not.”

waltzers

The lyrics that poured out of Morrissey for Rusholme Ruffians are pure 24 carat gold. Every line features classic Morrisseyism after classic Morrisseyism; perfectly executed observations on what happens when the fair comes to town;

The last night of the fair, by the big wheel generator…a boy is stabbed and his money is grabbed and the air hangs heavy like a dulling wine…she is famous, she is funny…..an engagement ring doesn’t mean a thing to a mind consumed by brass (money)….and though I walk home alone…..I might walk home alone ….but my faith in love is still devout…..From a seat on a whirling waltzer …her skirt ascends for a watching eye …it’s a hideous trait on her mother’s side…someone falls in love, someone’s beaten up…..the grease in the hair of the speedway operator is all a tremulous heart requires…how quickly would I die if I jumped from the top of the parachutes….scratch my name on your arm with a fountain pen, this means you really love me….

Classic Morrisseyism after classic Morrisseyism.

Or are they?

victoria-wood

Morrissey was, and remains, a fan of slightly posh, slightly batty northern comedienne Victoria Wood. Her dry ruminations and reflections clearly struck a  chord with him, mirroring as they did his own skewed and melodramatic views on life and living. Sonically, she’s about as far removed from The Smiths as Take That are from the MC5, but her skits and sketches have proven a rich seam for mining lyrics and snippets that pop up across many Smiths recordings – ‘ten ton truck‘, ‘singing to the mentally ill‘, ‘not natural, normal or kind‘, the list goes on….

Wood’s 1983 concert album Lucky Bag was a big favourite of Morrissey’s. On the LP was a track called Fourteen Again. A track featuring a spoken-word intro, including a line proclaiming “they didn’t even know what drugs were” that the eagle-eared amongst you will recognise from the title track of The Queen Is Dead, Fourteen Again includes such lyrics as;

I want to be fourteen again, tattoo my self with a fountain pen….free rides on the waltzer off the fairground men for a promise of a snog….. the last night of the fair…..French kissing as the kiosks shut…..behind the generators with your coconut…..the coloured lights reflected in the Brylcream on his hair…..when I was funny, I was famous

OK, so he didn’t steal them all, and he came up with some genuine crackers of his own  – tremulous hearts and minds consumed by brass (money) and jumping from the tops of parachutes (the ‘skirt ascends‘ line is my favourite) but old Morrissey certainly utilised his love of Victoria Wood to full extent, that much is clear. And just in case you still aren’t convinced, the ‘my faith in love is still devout‘ line was taken from another Wood song, Funny How Things Turn Out, where she proclaims ‘my faith in myself is still devout’.

Hear for yourself:

Elvis Presley (Marie’s The Name) His Latest Flame

Victoria WoodFourteen Again

Victoria WoodFunny How Things Turn Out

The SmithsRusholme Ruffians (demo, first take recorded with John Porter July 1984)

The SmithsRusholme Ruffians (Peel Session 9th August, 1984)

The SmithsRusholme Ruffians (Meat Is Murder LP version, February 1985)

…and, acknowledging their debt to The King….The SmithsHis Latest Flame/Rusholme Ruffians (Rank LP version, recorded October 1986)

morrissey marr face 1985

Like This? Try these…

The Smiths How Soon Is Now explained

The Smiths A Rush And a Push explained

The Smiths There Is A Light That Never Goes Out explained

Johnny Marr’s Dansette Delights

 

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Rapped. Rapt.

November 21, 2012

A fuggy haze hangs low over the East River between Manhattan’s Financial District and the brownstones of Brooklyn. Clattering like one of those wooden toy snakes across the Williamsburg Bridge weaves a long, low train, lazily rolling its way along the J line. Sprayed in a dulling array of  pinks, greens and primary colours, tagged to within an inch of illegibility to those over 35, its contents sit in silence, oblivious to the multi-coloured carnage in which they are cocooned. Inside is not much different. It looks violent. It feels violent. Doors, windows, seat coverings; every available surface space is thick with the same chunkily inked shout-outs to whoever is reading. Every passenger finds a point in front of themselves and focuses, daring not to lift their head and avert their gaze lest they happen to catch the eye of someone close by. Women clutch their bags and count the stops until they can get off. Men, the good ones, the ones who’d like to think of themselves as the have-a-go hero when something bad kicks off in here, try to look both non-threatening  yet tough. The bad ones just look threatening. And tough.

One of the good guys

If this was the start of a movie, it’d be soundtracked by this, Shambala from The Beastie BoysIll Communication LP. Purveyors of the finest gravel-throated shouty hip hop since 1981, Beastie Boys also did a mean line in often-overlooked instrumentals. Shambala is spacey, droney and built upon a bed of Buddhist chants and brooding wah-wah. Kinda vegetarian funk, I suppose. There’s a nice drop out where the hi-hat does its best Theme From Shaft impersonation before the clipped wah-wah brings us back to the incidental music in a 1976 episode of Starsky And Hutch. That wee scratchy noise you can hear in the background isn’t authentic vinyl hiss – it’s the sound of the Stone Roses taking notes in preparation for their next set of ker-ching! comeback dates.

Also on Ill Communication is Bobo On The Corner, another fantastic slice of Beastie funk. More clipped wah-wah and droney bass, this time the sampled Stubblefield-aping shuffle beat comes from, presumably, one of those New York street musicians who can make 3 oil drums and an empty can of vegetable oil from Chinatown sound like a particularly funky octopus playing Give It Up, Turn It Loose. A bit like this guy…(maybe he’s the real Bobo on the corner. Or maybe not)….

“Gimmefidollahs!”

If you prefer yer Ad Rocks ‘n MCAs ‘n Mike Ds rrrrrrappin ‘n rrrrrrhymin’, ch-check this out- Ch-Check It Out from 1997’s Hello Nasty, devoid of loops, samples and other assorted musical flim-flam. Just the 3 voices a-riffin’ and a-goofin’ off one another, like Benny and the Top Cat gang recast as super-bratty teenagers. And, bringing us back to where we came from, a vocal-only Stop That Train. Hot cuppa cwawfee and the do’nuts are dunkin’, Friday night and Jamica Queen’s funkin’. Essential!

Ach. Y’know you’re gettin on a bit when Beastie Boys start dying round about you. Rap on, MCA!

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