Continuing from last week's hip-hop history installment, in which I went back to the formative years of the early to mid and latter 1980's in LA rap/hip-hop, I pick up with more listings of 1980's rap releases - all of which were 12" singles since the full length rap album was not yet so common. Hence why when, in the early 90's, West Coast rap pioneer DJ Flash went back and compiled and licensed many of these singles he did the world a favor. That was for his West Coast Rap history CD compilation series that I was involved in at a research and writing of liner notes capacity. This month I caught up with DJ Flash, who recently re-teamed up with another old school West Coast rap pioneer pal of his Captain Rapp, to executive produce a new album with Ronnie Hudson - maker of the 1982 funk classic "West Coast Poplock" that got repopularized in 1995 when it was sampled for the rap hit "California Love" by 2Pacfeat. Dr. Dre and Roger Troutman. Entitled WestCoastin' that brand new album, that is available on CD at Amoeba Hollywood, is essentially an update of that influential hit of Hudson's (three different mixes included) with lots more on the new album that features a slew of old school guest producers and rappers adding their talents including Snoop Dogg, Too $hort, E-40, Rappin' 4 Tay, Celly Cel, Zapp Troutman, Battlecat, and Richie Rich. Check for the in-depth interview with Flash on this new project later this week here on the Amoeblog. Meantime back to the old school 80's LA rap records that Flash compiled for his West Coast Rap compilation series for Excello/Rhino.
Before it was labeled "turntablism" there were DJ artists manipulating their wheels of steel and recording records from their craft - usually in the electro style. LA's Knights of the Turntables was such a crew who way back in 1984 recorded and released "Techno Scratch" - a 12" single that didn't have any rapping but it did feature a funky ass baseline and lots of great scratching and cutting. Speaking of DJs from LA who recorded as artists back in the 1980's there was also The Unknown DJ. Despite his mysterious name it was really no mystery as to who The Unknown DJ was. He was Andre Manual who was associated with The Wreckin' Cru, and, who through his company Grandmas Hands Publishing, was responsible for numerous rap hits of the day. As an artist he was a master of the 808 drum machine; something he ably proved on the record "808 Beats" that was on the Techno Hop label that also released Ice T's early work.
"Beverly Hills Cop" by The Future MCs, which was not on the soundtrack to the popular Eddie Murphy movie of that decade but it did utilize the famous Axel-F theme, was a very unique record in that it showcased the first multi-lingual rapper, Z-Boi, who rapped in four languages; English, Spanish, Italian, and French. "Terminator" by Kid Frost (1985) is a true collectors item. When you compare it to his later 1990's style, when he returned to his Hispanic roots, it is barely recognizable in comparison. On the topic of returning to his heritage with his music Frost said that, "I was seeing a lot of Mexican kids wearing African medallions and I was saying 'Look man our roots are not from Africa'.....Rap is an urban art form from the streets of New York City with the Puerto Ricans and the Blacks in the Bronx".
Hurt 'Em Bad, a popular Las Vegas DJ-come-rapper who got his big break when he met up with General Kane of Groove Time Records. The story goes that Hurt 'Em Bad, a diehard basketball fan, cornered Kane in a parking lot and rapped his "NBA Rap" to him. So impressed with the rap, which mentioned all the basketball greats, was Kane that he vowed to change his "no rap" policy by inviting Hurt 'Em Bad into the studio where he originally recorded the "NBA Rap" over the Tom Tom Club's "Genius of Love". Later the backing music was changed to utilize Al Hudson and One Way's "Cutie Pie." Another funky song to surface in a West Coast Rap record at that time was Zapp's "So Ruff So Tuff" which was rerecorded as the music for Ronnie Hudson's "West Coast Poplock", a song so popular that it became the West Coast Anthem that year. So for Zapp to join Dr Dre a decade later on the rap reworking of the hit seemed only fitting - as is the re-reworking of it on the 2013 WestCoastin' release from Hudson mentioned above. Just about anywhere you'd go in 1982 and throughout the 80's you'd hear the singalong chorus of "California Knows How to Party" blasting out of clubs, boomboxes, and of course cars. In fact it became such a staple for lowriders that it got included on a lowrider magazine compilation. Hoping to repeat his success with an East Coast equivalent, Hudson released "East Coast Poplock". Unfortunately, the formula didn't translate.
The Triple Threat Three, who released the heartfelt 1985 single "M.P.G. Rap ("A Tribute to Marvin Gaye")" were a Sacramento crew by way of LA who came to prominence thanks to Cletus Anderson and the rest of the World Class Wreckin' Cru collective including The Unknown DJ who supplied the music and Dr. Dre who co-produced the track with Anderson. It was around this same time that Fresno's DJ Matrix made his splash on the West Coast Rap world with "Feel My Bass", a song that employed a vocoder and heavy bass effects that you can check out below.