23 hip-hop summers ago back in mid-1992 the song heard everywhere across the nation (including and especially in their native Bay Area where KMEL had it on constant replay) was "Back To The Hotel" by Vallejo rap group N2DEEP. The song, which these days is heard in regular rotation on hip-hop oldies or "throwback" stations like the Bay Area's Q102, became a global hit for the Bay Area group signed to prestigious New York hip-hop label Profile Records. The album of the same name was produced by founding member Johnny Z along with the two official group members/rappers James "Jay Tee" Trujillo and Timothy "TL" Lyon. In fact the "Back To The Hotel" single (one of three from the successful album along with "Toss Up" and "The Weekend") was such a big hit for the prolific North Bay crew, that it overshadowed all their other work and hence would garner them in later years that unfortunate tag of "one-hit-wonder" status by such outlets as Complex magazine and BuzzFeed. That is too bad since N2DEEP recorded so much more equally great music (before and after) as the beloved "Back To The Hotel" song, which the average pundit mistakenly believed was their debut single. That song wasn't meant to be a single, or even initially titled "Back To The Hotel" but rather "Telly" when it was released a year earlier in 1991 on Johnny Z's Vallejo-based indie label Rated Z Recordz. Hence for this Hip-Hop History Tuesdays Amoeblog, I caught up with mastermind behind the song, Johnny "Z" Zunino, to go back in time to the early 1990's and jog his memory about N2DEEP, their recordings before their big hit single, and to find out why they changed the title and their original group name ("3DEEP"). That conversation appears immediately below the video for the 1992 Profile single.
Ireland's economy may not be in quite as dire a state as that of some of its fellow European nations such as Spain or Greece where current unemployment rates are 22% and 25% respectively. Ireland's unemployment rate is still high at 10%. But with constant economic cutbacks, diminishing public programs, and increasing living costs including the controversial proposed water charges that drew huge protests in the nation's capital, Ireland is far removed from its bygone economic boom years. Long gone are those lush years of its economic growth when everyday conversations focused on purchasing second and third homes. Nowadays austerity is the word you're more likely to hear as well as complaints about the Irish government and politicians in general who, along with bankers that got rich off the short-lived boom years, are disliked by so many in the Emerald Isle.
Tapping into and perfectly articulating that national feeling of contempt for the elite powers (government and corporations) is Irish rapper Tommy KD whose latest single "Satan's Government" (video below that was shot in part during the aforementioned water-charge protests) vents the feelings felt that so many in Ireland and across Europe. The powerful single - his follow-up to "Bag Of Gear" (also produced by Hazo) previously featured on the Amoeblog contains the chant-along refrain "The Goverment I hate them. They belong to Satan. Everything the people own; they've gone out and taken. And we are all forsaken at the hands of these greedy statesmen." Mincing no words he also raps "Fuck them in The Dail [Irish government] and "Fuck the Mayor and the President." Elsewhere he offers that, "No political party will bring about change until we change the system" and how, "The government rebuke every promise they make and doctor the truth…and they say fuck the working class, no hopers……..The good old days of the Celtic Tiger are over!"
Most everything it seems about Main Attrakionz, who played an extremely well-received in-store at Amoeba Berkeley this past Tuesday (June 30), is atypical of the image one might have about Oakland rap and what it should sound/look like. For starters the young, longtime North Oakland rap duo comprised of Mondre M.A.N. (Damondre Grice) and Squadda B (Charles Glover) have just released their new album, 808s & Dark Grapes III, on Vapor Records, which is the label owned by none other than Neil Young and whose releases to date feature such distinctly non-rap acts as Jonathan Richman and Pegi Young (Neil Young, an Oakland rap fan! Who would've thunk?). Secondly the Pleasanton-based production duo of Friendzone (James Laurence and Dylan Reznick), who produced the entire new album and joined them onstage at Amoeba this week, may not look like they would have been paired with these two Oakland rappers, but the collaboration totally works! And thirdly I have never before witnessed an Oakland rap show where the act's former middle school mentor acts as their hype-person and gets on the mic to give a rousing introduction. But such was the case with new Vapor Records' act Main Attrakionz who were introduced by Marian Meadows who has known the pair for half of their lives, ever since she mentored them back when they first started seriously rapping at age twelve at North Oakland's Carter Middle School. Her glowing in-depth and informative intro that dated back to day one (literally) of when they started - before they started entering "the middle school talent show circuit" - included her stressing how they put in endless hours of practicing, referencing that old saying about hours of practice needed to master an art, noting that, "You know how they say when you've passed ten thousand hours? Well when you start when you're 12 years old, you've passed that 10,000 hours but are in the hundreds of thousands of hours!" Indeed, as noted in the Amoeblog interview conducted with Main Attrakionz before Tuesday's in-store, the duo have been incredibly prolific. While this new album may only be their second official album they've already released more like 15 albums worth of material. For Tuesday's Amoeba Berkeley concert, that ran about half an hour and got the loudly appreciative in-store crowd hyped, they focused on new album material. 808s & Dark Grapes III is available from Amoeba in CD format with LP vinyl version to follow in the near future. See the full Amoeblog profile/interview on Main Attrakionz here.
They say when you cut down an old tree, that you can tell how many years old it is by the number of "growth" rings it has in its cut diameter. Same is kinda true of when you do construction or clearing of an older house and find relics from the past whose timeline can be traced back. I had this experience this morning while helping a neighbor remove an old metal sheet tightly nailed to her garage window. We figured it had been covering the older building's window for maybe 25 or 30 years. Turns out it was an even longer period than that as confirmed by the half-rotted remains (see pic left) of the 43-year-old Jackson 5 flexi disc that had been jammed behind the metal sheet since, most likely, its 1972 release when it came free in, or rather on, a 13-ounce box of Alpha Bits breakfast cereal. That was when the Post Cereals company, who manufactured such other popular breakfast cereals as Super Sugar Crisp and Frosted Rice Krinkles, released The Jackson 5 flexi record in conjunction with Motown Records .
The one-sided, five track Jackson 5 disc (that had to be cut out of the back of the cereal box) included the then hugely popular family group's hits "ABC," "I'll Be There," and "Never Can Say Goodbye," as well as the slightly lesser known but still excellent tracks "Darling Dear" and "Maybe Tomorrow." Those Jackson 5 flexis, which you can find on eBay (in good to VG condition - not rotted like the one I found today) for about $5 these days, were the most popular for the cereal maker. And while, compared to a regular record, the sound quality and durability (they tended to easily warp and scratch) wasn't so great to the young fans getting them at the time (often the first record they would own) it was all good. Besides it was a free record with a box of cereal that cost approximately 38 cents in 1972. In addition to featuring Michael Jackson's family group as a cut-out flexi record, the cereal maker also hired the group to make a series of 30 second TV commercials for their Alpha Bits cereal. Below is one of those TV spots featuring the young members of The Jackson 5 in 1972 that note is wrongly ID'ed on the YouTube video as 1974.
Back in 1993 and 1994 Mercury Records put out promotional-only, cassette compilations featuring most of the hip-hop artists on their label at the time. These various artist tape collections assisted the label in their quest to try and get heard by as wide an audience as possible. Entitled Mercury: Jeep Tape '93 featuring [mixtape master] Ron G and Mercury: Jeep Tape '94 these various artists collections were given out at national music conventions like the Gavin Convention in San Francisco and the New Music Seminar in New York City where they would be included in registrants "swag bags." They'd also be handed out to industry folk, as well as mailed to record stores, radio DJs, and journalists.
The Jeep Tape cassette collections got their name because jeeps, where people would typically bump mixes like this, were popular with hip-hop fans to ride round in at the time. If you listen to hip-hop from that ere you often will hear references to jeeps such as in the popular 1994 single "Boomin' In Your Jeep" by Kenny Dope feat Screechy Dan that featured A Tribe Called Quest sample that gave the song its refrain, culled from the ATCQ song "Jazz." These Jeep Tape cassette compilations featured artists on their Mercury Records or smaller labels being distributed by them that included Diamond and The Psychotic Neurotics, Ed OG & The Bulldogs, Lighter Shade of Brown, Proper Dos, Ill Featuring Al Skratch, Dougie Dee, and Threat. In addition to regular versions of songs by these artists there were also some remixes included too such as the remix version of Yaggfu Front's "Slappin' Suckas Silly (Remix)." Above and below are the front and back covers of these two-decade old tape compilations that show up at Amoeba from time to time. Also below is the video for one of the tracks included on the 93 Jeep Tape, Diamond and The Psychotic Neurotics' "!! What U Heard" off the classic, five star album Stunts, Blunts, And Hip Hop.