Amoeblog

Cash Money Records - The Independent Years (1991-1998)

Posted by Eric Brightwell, July 31, 2009 11:25pm | Post a Comment

Check out our selection of Cash Money Records titles on Amoeba.com!

By now, anyone that reads this blog and is a fan of the many, great New Orleans labels that sprouted in the fertile hip-hop delta back in the '90s may've wondered why no Cash Money thusfar. Well, I've been working on it but the greatest of labels required a lot of work.
Hope you enjoy... wodie.

Back in the 1980s, the New Orleans Rap scene began to take root with early rappers like Tim Smooth, Warren Mayes, Ninja Crew and New York Incorporated all making noise. The latter act featured Mia X, Denny D, DJ Wop and Mannie Fresh and was probably the first rap group in the city. After their dissolution, Fresh hooked up with former Ninja Crew member Gregory D and they released a handful of influential, if not very widely promoted records.

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Fragging with the Tombstone neighbor! -- a history of New Orleans's Tombstone Records

Posted by Eric Brightwell, July 25, 2009 01:44pm | Post a Comment


This blog entry is a look back at one of New Orleans's more obscure hip-hip labels, Tombstone. Tombstone Records was a notable New Orleans Rap label in the 1990s that released a handful of high caliber releases that sold over 100,000 albums around the South in three years before abruptly ceasing operations after a series of cataclysmic misfortunes.

It was founded by Elton “June” Wicker Jr. Most of the production was done by Merrill “Real Roc” Robinson, who also worked for Mobo. Other production was done by Ice Mike and the one-and-only Mannie Fresh. The label's biggest commercial success was the uncontested "Queen of Bounce," Cheeky Blakk, whose 1996 album Let Me Get That Outcha was a massive local hit for Tombstone before she jumped ship for Total Respect. Tombstone apparently operated on a shoestring budget with pleasingly dinky synths, cheap album covers and no music videos -- but unlike many local New Orleans labels of the 1990s, Tombstone seems to have been more fully committed to the compact disc format than most of their peers, forsaking the cassette for almost every artist.



 
The scene at Joseph S. Cark (left), the scene at a New Orleans Popeye's (right)

Wicker attended Joseph S. Clark High School and Americo Technical Institute and he started dating his future wife Kim when she was thirteen. They ultimately had two children, Elton III and Kerrionne. Wicker wasn't necessarily a saint in the eyes of the law at first. There was an aggravated assault charge in 1990 and a charge of possession and distribution of llello in 1991. But he seemed to turn a leaf, working at Southern Scrap and Popeye's Chicken and Biscuits with the dream of starting his own record label. That label was Tombstone, named after the George P. Cosmatos film starring Val Kilmer and some other people. After that, not only did Wicker run Tombstone Records, he also founded the Tombstone Basketball League and Cool Spot Baseball League for neighborhood kids, volunteered for the Goretti Saints and bought Christmas toys for the kids on the block.

1994

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Parkway Pumpin - Be Pumpin' Hits Like its Motown

Posted by Eric Brightwell, June 27, 2009 04:34pm | Post a Comment
Although many independent labels appeared in the wake of New Orleans's 1991 bounce explosion, Parkway Pumpin' was one of the first. It was also one of the most influential stables of talent, although the limited finances of KLC (the man behind the boards) resulted in precious few recordings. When Master P relocated No Limit from Richmond, California to New Orleans, most of the original roster (aside from his siblings) was taken directly from the legendary Parkway label.

Most of Parkway Pumpin's associates never got around to recording with the label. Artists like Fiend, Mac (as Lil Mac The Lyrical Midget), Mystikal Mike (as Mystikal), Mr. Serv-On and Da Hound (Da Gert Town Hounds/Full Blooded) all went on to record popular records at No Limit without having anything released in their time at Parkway Pumpin'. Only one future No Limit Soldier did, Soulja Slim.

39 Posse

The first act to record on Parkway Pumpin' was 39 Posse, a trio comprised of Shack, DJ KLC and MC Dart. Shack was born Derrick Mushatt in 1970. He grew up in a large family with nine siblings. When he wasn't working, he often rapped at parties. MC Dart's real name is Dartanian Stovall.

DJ KLC was born Craig S. Lawson. He grew up in the Melpomene projects. His father played saxophone and Lawson, nicknamed "The Drum Major," followed in his musical footsteps, playing in the Green Middle School marching band. 

The three met around 1985 when they competed in breakdancing contests.Lawson later moved to a house in Uptown on Parkway. Lawson's production genius can scarcely be exaggerated and he deserves to be as widely recognized as the justly lauded Mannie Fresh, who was a childhood friend. They both began producing around the same time. A year after Fresh's production debut with Gregory D, DJ KLC  and DJ Treble appeared on MC J Ro J's "Ain't Nuthin Nice" in 1988.

39 Posse released their debut EP in 1989 but caught legal flack over some lyrics and it was quickly withdrawn. They returned to the studio with the intention of remixing the offending songs and ended up recording all new material. They released a single, "Clockin' / Pumped in Power," in 1991. In 1992 they released their second EP, which included “Got What It Takes to Make It,” “Ask Them Hoes” and “Pass the Snake.” Around the same time, Parkway also included Lil’ Elt, Corey C., EXD, Silky Slim.

39 Automatic
In 1993, 39 Posse dropped their debut full-length, 39 Automatic. Songs like "Ask Them Hoes," show KLC's nascent sound to already be immediately distinguishable from other triggerman-employing producers with his use of deep, sustained bass and martial snares. "Stuntin' Stars," "Bitch I'm Dart" and "Pass the Snake" are like a low budget, gutter versions of later Beats By the Pound produced tracks, with their hard beats and bluesy piano. For fans of No Limit's production, it's well worth seeking out.

 
Lil Elt & DJ Tee's "Get the Gat" and "Get The Gat Gemix" from the same year showed KLC easily capable of knocking out enjoyable but standard bounce.






On Parkway Pumpin' there were obviously no contracts, and artists including KLC himself often simultaneously worked at other labels. In 1994, KLC played keyboards and 39 Posse produced EXD's No Elevation for In the House Records. Mystikal (now minus the "Mike") recorded his debut at Big Boy, where KLC also produced a track for veteran New Orleans rapper Sporty T.


Magnolia Slim recorded Parkway Pumpin's sole release in '94, his debut, Soulja fa Lyfe. To fans of Soulja Slim's later stuff, it's immediately clear that this too is the work of someone most commonly described as being "the realest." Here is the New Orleans susperstar who, though having a slightly higher voice, is already mixing crudeness, scariness and humor on highlights like "Kickin it for them Hoes" and "Powda Bag" in a captivating combination that made him so enjoyed by so many.

In 1995, Magnolia Slim recorded The Dark Side EP (produced by KLC and featuring 6 Shot) at Hype Enough. Fiend followed Mystikal to Big Boy and recorded his debut. That same year, Master P moved to his grandmother’s in New Orleans from his mother’s in Richmond, California. Back in California he'd established No Limit records with an inheritance from his grandfather in 1990. Though in California his solo records and West Coast Bad Boyz compilations were viewed by some as underground classics, he had little traction in the south. Once he arrived in New Orleans, he quickly signed Mia-X and Tre-8 to his label. In addition to them, P blew up into the household name he is today by signing most of the Parkway Pumpin' talent, including, most notably, KLC, who as the leading figure in Beats By The Pound transformed No Limit from a little-heard west coast label into a southern powerhouse that sold over 50 million units. In 1998, alleging across the board unfair business practices, nearly everyone left No Limit and most of Beats By the Pound, including KLC, who continued as leader of The Medicine Men

Tragically, the previous year 39 Posse's 28-year-old Derrick Mushatt was shot nineteen times at the intersection of Philip and Clara. In 2003, 27-year-old Soulja Slim was shot four times on the way to a performance in front of his mother's home. MC Dart is still making music in New Orleans, as Poison Dart. KLC also lives on; a few years back he released this amazing song with former Parkway Pumpin' figure Fiend.




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Untouchable Records - down wid it cuz we bound to get it

Posted by Eric Brightwell, June 27, 2009 01:15pm | Post a Comment

Untouchable Records was one of the many New Orleans rap lables that sprang up in the early nineties after the advent of bounce. A small label with a roster of musicians that, for the most part, came and went as they pleased, they nonetheless featured some of New Orleans' biggest, most notable talents. It was
started by Al "Rock" Capone; he also handled some of the production of the mostly downtown roster.
Most of their production was handled by Gary "Ozone" McKee, as well as the Tombstone-associated Merrill "Real Roc" Robinson, and even Cash Money's prolific genius, Mannie Fresh.

 

1994
The first release on the label was Raw II Survive's West Syde Gz, produced by Merrill "Real Roc" Robinson, L.O.G. and Swift. With titles like "Crippin' in da Darkness" and "West Syde Gz," you might assume that it has a west coast sound. Rest assured, it's unmistakably New Orleans. It's also solid but not especially memorable, perhaps hampered by its very low budget sound. 

Also released in 1994, 9th ward rapper Pimp Dogg's Forever Loaded (produced by Double O, San Quin and L.O.G.) is the winner of the two. I'm not sure who influenced who, but it's got a gangsta bounce sound at times very similar to Fila Phil with the dynamics of Mr. Ivan and 6-shot.

1996


211's
Hustlin' Pays the Bills was produced by Ozone with several tracks by Mannie Fresh and T-Bone.
It's mostly gangsta bounce with some straight up West Coast sounding tracks. Meanwhile, Pimp Dogg already took off, releasing his next record (Who's That Aggin) on Hollygrove Records.

1997


In 1997, one of the greatest rappers, 9th Ward's Fila Phil followed up his classic debut at Slaughterhouse with Da Hustla Returns on Untouchable. The result, produced by Ozone, Real Roc, Carlos Stephens (of Beats By the Pound fame), Mannie Fresh and Sean "Solo" Jemison and the result is another classic. Another 9th ward (CTC) rapper (and former member of The Bally Boyz with Fila Phil), L.O.G. released Camoflaged Down. It's another good record, mostly produced by Ozone and Real Roc with contributions from Al "Rock" Capone, XL, T-Bone and Mista Sinista. Ms. Tee was formerly responsible for singing a lot of the hooks at Cash Money, where she also released solo albums. After coming to Untouchable, she released Hot Girl.

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Lil Slim

Posted by Eric Brightwell, December 1, 2008 03:15pm | Post a Comment

Lil Slim was one of the first artists to be signed to Cash Money Records. After a series of underground classics, he parted ways with the label. A couple of years later, CMR signed a multi-million dollar deal with Universal and the label's star, Juvenile, carried the new roster to success whilst Lil Slim receded into the shadows.


Lil Slim lived way out in the 17th Ward on New Orleans's western edge in Hollygrove, a small, lower middle class neighborhood that also was home to Big Boy (and later, No Limit) artist, Fiend. Representing the Apple and Eagle intersection, he brought his raps to audiences at Club 49, where he performed alongside UNLV and Soulja Slim. One day, Ziggler the Wiggler introduced them to Mannie Fresh, a young DJ from the 7th Ward who'd gained a measurable degree of local fame with rapper Gregory D. Shortly after, Lil Slim was introduced to Baby and Slim, brothers and co-owners of the fledgling Cash Money Records label. They signed Lil Slim and recorded his first album in Baby's kitchen.

The album was The Game is Cold (1993). One highlight is "Hoes I U's 2 Sweat." Another is "Bounce Slide Ride," a Bounce classic in the vein of DJ Jimi and Juvenile's "Bounce for the Juvenile" which name-checked Juvie and echoed his taste for Reeboks and Girbaud. Lil Slim's style was sing-songy, reggae-informed, repetitive and heavy on chants -- somewhat similar to Pimp Daddy, UNLV and early Juvenile. One thing that set him apart was his exaggerated Yat accent, in which the familiar interjection "Ya heard me?" sounded like "Ya hoidz me?" Cash Money was then primarily a Bounce label and a good deal of the lyrics amounted to little more than calling out wards and projects. Expecting lyrical complexity out of Bounce is missing the point, however, and the album is emphatically danceable. Its Intro and Outro tracks allowed Mannie Fresh to cut snippets of Slim's already sparse prose and make them almost completely abstract.

His sophomore release, Powder Shop (1994) moved a bit more into a more narrative, Gangsta territory, creating a Gangsta/Bounce hybrid made popular by his labelmates, UNLV. Some of the highlights include "Eagle St. Bounce," "True to the Game" and "Powder Shop," the latter about a heroin operation. Like a lot of early-'90s New Orleans rap, heroin is the drug most often referenced -- which is a bit unsettling, especially when the rest of the rap world was melloThug'n & Pluggin' lil slimwing with Indo, Chronic and gin 'n' juice. I guess all that dope in the Grunge scene had to come from somewhere. Listening to it now, it's shocking how much Lil Wayne and, even more so, (Young) Turk owe to his sound.

Lil Slim's final album for Cash Money was Thug'n & Pluggin (1995) which saw him (and especially Mannie Fresh's production) making more concessions to West Coast styles on G-Funk flavored tracks like "Bitches Ain't Shit," "Gangsta Day," "Shakem Up Shakem," "Time to Murder" and the excellent "Hands on My Gun." "Live in Club Rolex (Real High)" with its heavy use of the triggerman beat from the Showboys' "Drag Rap" was a throwback to Lil Slim's straight Bounce beginnings. "Neighborhood Terror" is another highlight.


Like all Cash Money productions, other artists from the roster make frequent guest appearances. In the pre-Hot Boys era that means B-32 (Birdman), PxMxWx, Kilo G (Cash Money's first signing) and Mr. Ivan. Of course, Lil Slim appeared on albums by other Cash Money artists such as Mr. Ivan, PxMxWx, Pimp Daddy and UNLV. He also brought an artist to Cash Money's attention that today is the CEO of the label. In 1994, Lil Slim heard his eleven-year-old neighbor rapping at a block party. Born D'Wayne Turner, the Eleanor McMain Magnet Secondary School student was calling himself "Shrimp Daddy" and owed a considerable stylistic debt to Lil Slim and Pimp Daddy, whose "You Gotta Be Real" he re-did as "You Gotta Be Lil." Lil Slim was suitably impressed and promised to introduce the child to Baby and Slim. Then, at one of his autograph signings in a record store, the little kid performed a rap where he spelled out Hollygrove. Paired with the twelve-year-old rapper Doogie (aka Gangsta D) and rechristend "Baby D" in a duo called The B.G.z, they ultimately went on to find more fame under their subsequent handles, B.G. and Lil Wayne, respectively.


In 1995, Lil Slim parted ways with CMR. According to Lil Slim, it was over contractual problems, including unfair payment of royalties; Baby being a student of the Suge Knight school of label-running makes that charge pretty likely. In addition, almost everyone that's left the label since has made the same allegation, sometimes suing and winning. On the other hand, Slim and Baby maintain that they dropped the original line-up of artists for not being disciplined or hungry enough, spending any money they got on dope... which, given their brown-centric lyrics, may have a grain of truth to it too. Whatever the reasons, the members of CMR's original line-up fared poorly after their departure. Kilo-G, Pimp Daddy and UNLV's Yella Boy were all murdered. Mr. Ivan died recently. I suppose PxMxWx, Miss Tee, Magnolia Shorty and Lil Slim can at least count their blessings that they're still alive, gone from the spotlight but not forgotten. Cash Money, on the other hand, went on to sign a multi-million dollar deal with its new signings, all (save Lil Wayne) of which left echoing Lil Slim's claims of unfair payment.


Lil Slim's final release was Lil Slim's Back (1998-Franchise Player), a six-track mini-album that I've never heard. About five years later, Lil Slim relocated to Northern California, where he currently lives. His current obscurity is shocking given his importance as a rapper both artistically and historically. For better or worse, without him we probably never would've heard from Lil Wayne or Turk. I contacted him with the hopes of an interview and he never got back to me.

(Update: Slim did attempt to get back to me and I to him but it didn't happen. Now he's got a proper website on which he tells his story in his own words so check that out here).



*****

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