August 23, 2011

Digital Underground - Underwater Rimes

I don't know about you, but if a few years ago someone had asked me the question "What was Digital Underground's debut single?" I would have responded with 1989's Doowutchyalike.  Well, despite owning most of Digital Underground's early material, and considering myself a fan of their early work, I'd have been completely wrong because it was actually a 12" called Underwater Rimes that was released in 1988.  The b-side is a track called Your life's a cartoon.
This 12" was actually pretty big in Europe and hit the #1 spot in Holland, but here in the UK it seemed to pass us by, which might explain my ignorance to it's existence!

Now with hindsight I should have known better.  If I'd checked the cover of their debut LP Sex Packets I would have noticed that track 5 is shown as Underwater Rimes (Remix).  Well you can't have a remix if you don't have an original to remix, so I should have known that an original mix existed somewhere.  If I'd had the internet in 1990 I would have been digging around to find this, but instead it had to wait until much more recently.  Still, that's the beauty of the internet, nothing is beyond our reach and many old gems can be uncovered if you dig for long enough.

Now, the thing that really stands out with this 12" is the style in which they rap when it's compared to the production.  Production wise it's exactly what you'd expect from early Digital Underground and sits perfectly before their follow up single Doowutchyalike which was released a year later on Tommy Boy once they'd been signed.  But the vocals are a different matter, because despite the fact that this 12" was released only a year before Doowutchyalike, the rhyme styles certainly sound much earlier and similar to what other west coast groups were doing around 1988. 

There was clearly a lot of evolution in those 12 months, but what I find most interesting is how far ahead of the game Shock G's production was at that time, whereas their rhyme style needed to catch up in order to properly compliment it.  Thank god it did, as in 1989 I don't think there wasn't anything else as creative and innovative coming from the west coast.
Keep in mind that in 1988 most people were listening to PE, NWA, Rakim, Kool G Rap, Kane (add on), none of whom had a sound anything like Digital Underground.

Like most of Digital Underground's early material, Shock G illustrated the cover under his graffiti pseudonym 'Rackadelic'.  To this day, Shock's artwork for their early releases is still very distinctive and has stood the test of time, it doesn't look dated and it's instantly recognisable.

Now here's a bit of nerdology for you.  This Underwater Rimes single later spawned a character called MC Blowfish (aka Shock G, aka Humpty Hump).  There is a video for a track by MC Blowfish that was done in a cartoon style identical to the 12" cover (MC Blowfish is the one on the right).  It's not available on PooTube and I only have a 30 second clip of it (which I may upload to our YouTube channel if I ever get time).  But like I said earlier, anything is available if you dig around the net long enough, so its probably out there already just waiting to be found.

Download the full 12" (Hotfile 30mb)

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