Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Where Ya At: Caron Wheeler

Back to the present time

Soul II Soul: "Back to Life (However Do You Want Me)"
from Club Classics Vol. One, 1989
Caron Wheeler: "Livin' In The Light (The Original Story)"
produced by Afrika Baby Bam, from UK Blak, 1990
Caron Wheeler: "Soul Street (Puffy's Remix)"
produced by Sean "Puffy" Combs and Lord Finesse, from Beach of the War Goddess, 1993
Da Beatminerz: "Open (feat. Caron Wheeler and Pete Rock)"
from Brace 4 Impak, 2001

For many, the sound of Soul II Soul was Caron Wheeler's voice. I've provided the most popular Caron Wheeler single here, and most of us are already familiar with "Keep on Movin'" as well. Leaving the club collective behind, Caron embarked upon a solo career, releasing the Brit-soul album UK Blak. Heavy threads of club sounds and hip-hop beats were woven throughout, and it stands as one of the better early-90s afrocentric r&b records. The Jungle Brothers' own Afrika Baby Bam produced the lead single, "Livin in the Light," which rocks a TR Love sample from "A Chorus Line 2000 (Remix)."

While "UK Blak" made some noise on Video Vibrations, her follow-up from 1993, Beach of the War Goddess didn't do so well...a better title probably would have helped. "Soul Street" was the opening shot from that album, and we were blessed with a great Lord Finesse remix, replete with bells, jazz flute, heavy bassline, and tight drums typical of the brother with a fade and a half moon. Puffy gets a co-production credit, and likely made significant contributions on the pop appeal factor.

Caron linked back up with Jazzy B and friends to provide vocals for Vol. III: Just Right. She also contributed to the Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis-helmed Mo' Money soundtrack with the single "I Adore You."

The last I heard from Caron was on Da Beatminerz Brace 4 Impak, that 2001 Rawkus compilation that featured the usual Boot Camp suspects along with the best of NY hardcore hip-hop. 8 years after her last full-length album, Caron Wheeler's thick r&b delivery was paired with Pete Rock on the rap vocal for the mid-tempo jam "Open." The result felt like it stretched too hard for that radio airplay, sandwiched between all those east coast hard knocks. Caron's talent is too great to have fallen lapse over these past four years, so I can only assume that she's been productive, but I've not heard a thing.

Extrablogicular reading
Deep Groove Encyclopedia Entry
All Music Guide: Caron Wheeler

Monday, May 16, 2005

Early Wu: Hush Hush Tip

I won't tell if you won't tell

N-Tyce: "Hush Hush Tip (feat Method Man)"
N-Tyce: "Hush Hush Tip (Instrumental)"
N-Tyce: "Root Beer Float"
from Hush Hush Tip 12", 1994

N-Tyce's "Hush Hush Tip" was the rap equivalent to the veritable onslaught of the R. Kelly-instigated "keep it on the down-low"-themed R&B songs of the mid-90s ("Creep," "Down Low", and on and on). This, along with SWV's "Anything" remix, bears evidence of RZA's effort to start the expansion of the Wu to pop radio. That's not to discredit the song whatsoever; it is the epitome of early Wu productions (Killarmy's 4th Disciple, to be specific). The reverberating chorus in the background, off-tune guitar twang, and a jazz piano adds up to a real head-nodder. N-Tyce's silly metaphors haven't aged well ("Gettin' more whistles than a whirlwind," "When it comes to runnin' me Chicago," "You tried to play me like a Genesis") but her personality is contagious and you can't front on the overall vibe. Method Man on the chorus increases the single's charisma.

As others have noted, N-Tyce later appeared in the short-lived female Wu-affiliate The Deadly Venoms, and is not to be confused with the other N-Tyce (what are the chances?). And of course, being on Wild Pitch, she received nothing but the best graphic treatment on her debut single. Word to Stu Fine!

Also included for the listeners is the instrumental, and the enigmatically titled flipside, "Root Beer Float."

Extrablogicular reading
Davey D's writes about the The Deadly Venoms
Stylus Magazine's Top 10 Underappreciated Early-90s Hip-Hop Summer Jams

Friday, May 13, 2005

Very Superstitious: Funk Doc Friday

Coming to you live

Redman: "Cosmic Slop (feat. E-Double and Keith Murray)"
from Dare Iz a Darkside, 1994
"I'm like an eclipse on a Friday, the 13th
With black cats and Haley's Comet, blazin blunts in my driveway
Nostradamus predicted, for you funk fiends
That Def Squad will get the fuckin' cream like Noxeme"

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Ordinary No, Legendary Maybe: King Sun

It's a heat up

King Sun: "Hummm Deez Nutz"
from Strictly Ghetto EP, 1994

Always reveling in the obscure, this track is no exception. King Sun helped usher in the afrocentric era with his first two albums, beats courtesy of Tony D, in 1989 and 1990. By 1994, however, he was trying to catch up to the rap game, which no longer appreciated the pro-black message, and probably more importantly, the full-length leather and gold chains he was known to sport in 90 degree weather a la his Bronx brethren Kool Moe Dee. When Ice Cube dropped the single "Wicked," King Sun resurfaced, crying foul play over Cube's usage of the Don Jaguar-fueled "Wicked" chorus, which King Sun claimed was his own. The alt.rap board back in 1995 breaks it down in better detail than my memory can serve up.

Quote courtesy of (sic), 3/22/1995:
1. back when CUBE was fueding with what was left of NWA , he got jumped by ABOVE THE LAW at the New Music Seminar (1991?). KING SUN slanged his dogs and helped Cube out the jam and they was tight ever since.

2. KING SUN got let out of his contract with Profile records (early 1992 I think). SUN is contractless but him a Cube are still tight and they keep in contact.

3. Supposedly SUN BORN keeps CUBE up to date on his musical creations with the hopes that Cube can help him get a deal thru LenchMob or Priority... One of Sun's songs supposedly bears a GREAT resemblance to 'Wicked' from The Predator lp.

4. After the release of Wicked KING SUN is mildly perturbed (actually he was pissed but I have to justify my purchase of this Thesaurus) and confronted Cube during a show this past spring. No blows were exchanged but KING SUN has declared war on Cube.

While it's not covered in this particular thread, I do recall the Sun-Dulah bumrushing the stage at an Ice Cube show (those were the days...). Shortly after King Sun's accusations of plagiarism, Cypress Hill jumped in the fray with "Ice Cube Killa," claiming blatant beat jacking. Not sure what ultimately transpired, but safe to say that Ice Cube got the last laugh on this one.

"Hummm Deez Nuts" appeared on the Strictly Ghetto EP from 1994, and is a great example of King Sun's commanding baritone on the mic with some of that ol boom-bap. It includes probably the best series of testicular punch-lines that have ever been uttered in hip-hop. The overblown R&B chorus adds to the hilarity.
"I make only cream with the God Supreme
Life is real, reality is not a dream
Those who chose to sleep, I wake em up
Cause you're sleepin with ya mouth open, hummin deez nutz."

"I never let the worst things in life get the best of me
So take the testes and, um, open sesame."

Update: Anecdote from Mizzensch
I just remember it was an Ice Cube show with Flex on the wheels spinning beforehand. We were up in the balcony seats - and Cube was only maybe 15 minutes or so into his show - when you heard King Sun's voice booming from the DJ booth - threatening to come down to the stage and kick Cube's ass. Cube responded by welcoming him down. Confusion ensued, and moments later the lights came on and security kicked everyone out...

The story goes, I think - that security wouldn't let Sun get anywhere near Cube so no fisticuffs ever took place. But was definitely one for the record books...

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Respect Due: The SD50s

Leave your brain stimulated

Shazzy: "Keep it Flowin'"
from Attitude: A Hip-Hop RAPsody, 1990
Leaders of the New School: "The International Zone Coaster"
from Future Without a Past, 1991
Grand Puba: "Honey Don't Front"
from Reel to Reel, 1992
Del the Funky Homosapien: "Treats for the Kiddies"
from No Need For Alarm, 1994
Kurious: "Baby Bust It (feat MF Grimm)"
from A Constipated Monkey, 1994

With Hard 2 Obtain's "Ism & Blues" in steady rotation this week, I've been reflecting on the major contributions to hip-hop that the Stimulated Dummies production crew has made--seems that their impact on the music has been greater than the length of their discography may suggest. Like the great Prince Paul, the SD50s introduced new sounds into the sampling repertoire of hip-hop: twangy guitars, blues, psychedelic rock, and extended jazz loops to name a few. The production trio consisted of Dante Ross, Geeby Dajani, and John Gamble, and the majority of their work appeared on early- to mid-90s releases. While the team is best known for the work with Brand Nubian, KMD, 3rd Bass, and mainstream Everlast success, their other beatsmithing work should not go unnoticed.

The current incarnation of the Stimulated Dummies is less one member (Geebe Dajani has since parted ways), but arguably stronger than ever. Their record imprint "Stimulated Records," is currently the home to Sadat X, The Dwellas, and more. For a more complete history of the SD50s, check out the Stimulated Records website, click on "Artists", and then click "Stimulated Dummies." It includes a detailed timeline that tracks Dante's rise through record label bureaucracy, the legendary signing of De La Soul, Brand Nubian, LONS, Ol' Dirty Bastard, and more...definitely worth reading, and far more detailed than anything I could write.