June 30, 2011

Silver Anniversary Series - Fresh Gordon (1986)

For those who aren’t familiar with Fresh Gordon, he was usually decked out in Fila wear and you will see from the image above that he even used Fila’s trademark ‘F’ in his name logo.

I love this retro approach to brand association; it’s from a time before corporate law suits, before people got all sensitive about how their logo might be interpreted or what damage might be caused to a company or their reputation by associating with a particular individual. If an artist bought into the brand, they just associated themselves with it and the company was generally very grateful of the additional exposure. 

Fresh Gordon even acknowledges on the back of the 12" a local sportswear shop in Brooklyn for providing his outfit, how crazy is that?  Although I do wonder whether he would make the same decision today. These days I think most people would struggle to find an entire outfit by Fila that they’d be happy to wear in public, unless it’s a retro outfit of course!

Fresh Gordon started off as a DJ, but like many DJ’s at that time he also picked up the mic. It was this combination that enabled him to produce his own music and get a deal with Tommy Boy Records.

His first single was The Fresh Commandments b/w My Fila. The Fresh Commandments is an electro based track and is similar in style to some of Whodini’s early material as well as being exactly what you’d expect from a Tommy Boy artist from this era. My Fila on the b-side is a response track to Run DMC’s My Adidas and is recorded in a similar style to that adopted by Run DMC (note that Run DMC clearly made a much better choice when they associated themselves with a high street brand). The track also features Prince Markie Dee from the Fat Boys, who would continue to be a future collaborator behind the scenes, but more on him and the Whodini connection later.

The Fresh Commandments is an interesting concept single as Gordon attempts to lay down new commandments in the lingo of the day, for example:

Thou shall not perpetrate and fraud,
and if you don’t want to dance you’ll be ignored
Thou shall not wear fake Gazelle’s,
fake Fila suits, or you’ll be sent to hell

His modern day parables are entertaining and enlightening, and they give the listener a clear reminder of what the average rapper was concerned about during that period.
It’s also kind of funny to see that some things haven’t changed too much either. I can still go out and buy a brand new pair of Gazelle’s and I often hear people complain that their eBay purchase was a fake (usually because they bought something from the far east at a price that could never be right, idiots!).

All in all, this is a really nice track and it’s refreshing to hear it again in 2011. Much of the Tommy Boy catalogue has been republished in one form or another and many of the popular tracks appear on numerous compilation albums, but not this one. In fact I don’t recall seeing this on anything other than the original 12”.

Now, despite being signed to Tommy Boy and producing a promising debut single, Fresh Gordon’s career as a recording artist was relatively short lived. This was mainly because his primary role was in production.
In 1985 (the year before the Fresh Commandments) he had featured on, and produced, the Choice M.C.’s single Beat of the Street b/w Gordy’s Groove. Again, this was released on Tommy Boy Records.
He followed up the Fresh Commandments with another single the following year (1987) called Feelin’ James b/w I Believe in Music which was well received, but then that was pretty much it from a solo point of view.

He worked on the production side with a number of artists including the Choice M.C.’s, Master D, Kid Panic, DJ Watkins & Tony T, but more famously he also produced some of Dana Dane’s – Dana Dane 4 Ever LP (1990) and Whodini’s Bag-a-Trix LP (1991).

Coming back to my earlier comment about his collaborations with Prince Markie Dee aka Mark Morales from the Fat Boys, Mark Morales is credited as a 'production assistant' on The Fresh Commandments as well as making an appearance.  Fresh Gordon was also involved in producing a number of Fat Boys records in the late 1980’s, but in the early 1990’s when Prince Markie Dee left the Fat Boys to pursue his solo interests, they teamed up again to produced some of Father MC’s debut album Father’s Day which produced four hit singles and saw them working with the likes of Sean Combs, Howie T, L.A. Reid and Andre Harrell.

I also mentioned a Whodini connection, well apart from producing some of their Bag-a-Trix LP, Gordon also shouts out Jalil of Whodini on the back of this 12" and says "X-Rated funky thankx to Jalil of Whodini for the concept of The Fresh Commandments.  This record wouldn't have been possible without you!"  So Whodini were clearly friends as well as a significant influence on Gordon.

(Click image for large readable version)

He also shouts out Run DMC and clarifies that My Fila was not meant to disrespect their hit single.  He acknowledges that without them doing My Adidas he could never have done My Fila.
Clicking on the image above will open a full size image for anyone wanting to read the full list of credits.
So, if you haven’t heard Fresh Gordon before now (or you hadn’t realised that he’d produced what you’re listening to), or you missed the Fresh Commandments then hit the play button and see what you missed.   Or better still, download a copy of the full 12" including scans of the covers and labels.

June 22, 2011

R.A. The Rugged Man - Rare Promo DVD

This is a nice little rarity to share with you.  In fact it's so rare I can't tell you that much about it!  As it's a promo DVD it's not going to be listed or reviewed on any credible music related website or online store, and I can't seem to find any further info in any forums either.  So it's left to me to give you the low down on what to expect from it.
From what I can tell it was produced in early 2004 to promote his Die Rugged Man Die LP.  The first music video on this promo is for the hidden track at the end of his album called I Should'a Never.  Although this video can be seen on YouTube it has been censored due to the explicit content.  This DVD has the fully uncensored version which besides the female nudity, it also has scenes of R.A. removing his brain with a fork and various other provocative and suggestive imagery.

In many respects this is just what you'd expect from an R.A. video, his style and comedic approach are as prominent here as they ever have been.  However, this is from a time that isn't too far after his Crustified Dibbs era and so his rhyming style is the old, and less impressive, technique.  Whereas his latest reinvention with his verb flipping, tongue tieing, machine gun lyrics (as displayed here in one of my earlier posts) is definitively unique to R.A. and puts him firmly at the top of his game.

We're then blessed with a great little interview with Bobbito (of Stretch & Bobbito fame) where he talks about their history on the radio and his early beginings etc.  But this is followed by a series of bizarre film reviews with his girlfriend (he was writting movie reviews at that time).  R.A. showcases numerous retro B movies from his collection which all seems a bit pointless until he explains the title of his unreleased 1994 debut LP when he went under the Crustified Dibbs persona. 

There is also a trailer for what he describes as his own (soon to be released) movie called The Landlord Stretcher, but its actually a video for the rare track American Lowlife.

For a promo DVD it's very nice.  Promo's DVD's usually consist of one (two if you're lucky) full length music videos to promote a single or album.  But this is much better as it's running time is 42 minutes long! 
This isn't the kind of video that you'll watch time and time again, but if you're a collector of music videos, particularly the rarer stuff, then this is worth having purely for the uncencorsed version of I Should'a Never which I've not seen anywhere else (until now!).

Download (Hotfile 2x 350mb)

June 14, 2011

Cronite feat. Masta Ace - Sick of it all

Masta Ace double bill - Part 2.

I'm not familiar with Cronite, all I know is that he's a German based Croation emcee who's been in the game for nearly two decades.  He's got several albums under his belt but it's his latest offering 'Magnum Opus', that is reaching far beyond his native Germany (it's available on Amazon.com if you're interested in previewing/purchasing it).

This particular tune dates back to late 2006, but for the most part it seems that it's gone completely under people's radar.  Which is a shame, because the beats are nice, Ace completely kills his verse, and although Cronite maybe isn't the most distinguish emcee he can certainly spit and he has something to say.

Ace's verse is of particular interest on this track for several reasons.  He partially flips his usual distinctive style and as a result he sounds a little like a hybrid version of himself and Royce 5' 9", but it works well. 
His lyrical style and content bears close resemblance to that of his partner Strick on the EMC track Git Sum featuring Sean Price.  On that track Strick spits:

I don't give a fuck about the guns that you're not blasting
and I don't really care about the cheques that you're not cashing
or the chicks, you know, the one's that you're not smashing
I fuck around and punk all you cats but I'm not Ashton

Compare that to Ace's lyrics on Cronite's track:

I'm sick of rappers claiming their hot when they're really not
I'm sick of rappers bragging about shit they ain't really got
These cats stay rapping about cars they don't own
I'm sick of rappers bragging about models they don't bone

However, keep in mind that Cronite's track was laid in 2006, so it pre dates EMC's Git Sum by 2 years as EMC didn't release their collaboration album The Show until 2008.  I'm not suggesting that Strick was biting from Ace and it's only a few lines rather than a whole verse or style, but it really stands out and it's possibly a good example of the close similarities between the members of EMC and why they gel together so well.

The rhyme highlight on this track has to come from Masta Ace who perfectly sums up commercial radio in one line:
I'm sick of radio playing the same 23 songs
by artists with careers shorter than Mini Me's arms!

Digest and enjoy.

June 11, 2011

Marco Polo & Masta Ace - Nostalgia (HD)

This is Part 1 of a Masta Ace double bill - you lucky peeps :0)

Ok, I acknowledge that this tune isn't new, and neither is the video, but for me it is one of the dopest productions in recent years that I've never got tired of hearing.  And now it's available in glorious high definition, yipee!

Marco Polo's production is outstanding and really shows that the appeal of old skool hip hop isn't lost forever and that good quality 'new skool' music can still be produced which has that retro feel but appeals to all skools.  Ace is unquestionably a legend in the game that will always bless any mic, but on this track his style and delivery are complimented perfectly by Marco's production.  In fact I'm surprised these two haven't been inspired to do a lot more work together, a collaborative LP would be the icing on the cake.

So, kick back, hit the full screen button and enjoy a high-def modern classic...........

June 3, 2011

Blogwatch - May 2011

Like most hip hop bloggers, I keep an eye on a number of other blogs to feed my own interests and to ensure that our standards are up there with the very best of ‘em. Every now and then I stumble across something that is so good I feel the need to share it with you, but the reality is I never actually get round to it. But all that is about to change, as I bring to you a monthly update showcasing the best that other blogs have to offer.

The month of May has been pretty good to me with plenty of interesting finds. Here is the cream of the crop:

Lord Finesse Interview
The Funky Man reflects on the historic battle between him and Percee P in 1989, but what makes this great interview even more amazing is that the battle was filmed and the footage is at the end of the interview. Enjoy some rare and classic history. Thanks to Thun for finding this little gem.

Mike Allen interview
If you grew up listening to hip hop in the UK in the 1980’s then the name Mike Allen should be familiar to you. Mike was like an John Peel of hip hop and kind of like the complete opposite of Tim Westwood! He did so much to bring the music to the masses at a time when nobody was playing it. You simply must read this interview he did with The Essex Rockerz, he’s a legend.

Also, check out http://old-school-hiphop-tapes.blogspot.com where you can find many old tapes of Mike Allen from the mid 1980’s along with a 3 hour recording from Fresh ‘86. Plus there’s plenty of other good stuff on this blog if old tapes is your kind of thing.

DJ JS1 Guru Tribute
One year on from Guru’s death and JS1 (Rock Steady DJ) has done a tribute mix. Also check out the links to JS1’s blog where you can get free downloads of his mix tapes.

Kool G Rap Interview
I’ve already pointed you to this interview in one of my earlier posts, but if you haven’t read it yet then here is a gentle reminder to do so!

New Blog
For those who are still mourning the end of the brilliant Underground Strikes Back blog, fear not, a replacement has arisen from the ashes. Check out http://pieandears.blogspot.com for your fix of B-boy and graffiti related content, but this time it comes with an injection of comical additives too!

Hopefully that little lot should keep you busy for a while (it did me!).  If you spot any great interviews, rare mixtapes, or anything else that is interesting then shout up and we'll add it to next months update.