Raggamuffin Hip-Hop Mega Mix

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

I don’t think I have ever been more excited to share a mix. This one is truly epic and was nearly a decade in the making. Here’s how my co-curator and fellow raggamuffin hip-hop archaeologist Wayne Marshall put it.

Pace and I have been geeking out over these records since we met a decade ago, and we were scheming on a raggamuffin hip-hop megamix well before we even had an outlet for it. Pace’s collection goes deeeeep, especially when it comes to Boston rap rarities and party-break white labels, and of course my “dissertation archive” (as I like to call my CD and MP3 collection) helped to flesh things out.

Other than being far too modest about his side of the collaboration (“helped flesh things out”…indeed), I could not have said it better.

The combination of breakbeats and dancehall-inspired toasting that we capture here (as opposed to the related — and as yet unnamed — sub genre of rap vocals over dancehall inspired riddims) has always been a favorite of mine. I think I first became aware of this style while listening to “Rockers” on 88.9 WERS in the late 1980s. Or maybe it was actually Magnus who turned me on to it on Lecco’s Lemma, come to think of it. Perhaps the first track that really made it clear to me was The Jam (the Shabba Ranks / KRS-One collabo that we ironically do not include in this mix). I know I had registered the “reggae” sound in earlier BDP tracks like “The Bridge is Over” and “The P is Free”, but I don’t think those were the ones that really nailed it for me. Heck, perhaps it was the locally produced hit, Sorry Part 2, by Boston’s own Jr. Rodigan, that caught my attention with its mashup of Tracy Chapman, Soul-to-Soul and that disticntive ragamuffin vocal style that I would only later come to know as Jr. Rodigan’s signature sound.

But I digress. Whenever I first registered the power of this cross cultural concoction of gritty breaks and ragga vocals, it quickly became a passion and I began actively seeking out additional examples, especially local ones, and the earlier the better.

The quest for reggae influences in rap got really crazy when I met Wayne about a decade ago and realized he was panning the same musical streams with a much smaller mesh than I (and watched in amazement as he carefully traced the tributaries of the ubiquitous Zunga Zeng riddim). I was soon sending him micro titrations of reggae influences wherever I heard (and often imagined) them.

As I added this sub-genre to my regular record missions, I found that in the 1990s and early 2000s, these tracks were being overlooked even at even at digger temples like A1 Records in NY, let alone more regional record backwaters. I soon realized that there were both deals to be had in the reggae 12″ bins, and that versions of dancehall tunes sometimes contained precious accapellas and even, once and a while, the holy grail — a previously unknown gritty hip-hop remix. Once I discovered treasure troves like Massive B / Bobby Kondors and started realizing how well mid 90s raggamufin rap tracks held up on the dance floor over the years, I became completely hooked. Indeed, I am still finding golden era raggamuffin gems that have not seen nearly enough light and have included many of my favorites in this mix.

The craziest part of this mix for me is that despite clocking in at a hefty 94 minutes and 48 tracks, we basically only deal with the first decade of this sub genre (from roughly 1986-1994). As we say in the writeup (which is being hosted at the IASPM-US), we didn’t let cut off dates prevent us from developing themes or including some important outliers. And perhaps owing to the almost unfathomable depths of our combined crates, we still had to cut lots of great tracks (from the aforementioned Shabba/KRS collabo The Jam, to Tiger’s rugged Who Planned It which features Q-Tip, and many, many more).

In addition to being happy to finally get this mix out, I am especially excited that we have managed to release it along with two written pieces that provide some important context and may reach some new audiences. The first is a piece by Wayne for Cluster Mag’s special issue on parties that provides “a theorization and historicization of hip-hop and reggae as quintessential party musics.”

>> Wayne Marshall, “When Reggae Roamed the Earth.” Cluster Mag, Issue 4, Oct 2013.

The second co-authored (but definitely Wayne-led) piece has been published at the blog of IASPM-US, which as Wayne puts it: “issued an admirable “call for mixtapes” earlier this year” We could not resist the synergy and opportunity to share this mix — and the idea of “mix-as-scholarship” — with a more academic audience.

>> Wayne Marshall & Pacey Foster, “Hearing Raggamuffin Hip-hop: Musical Records as Historical Record.” IASPM-US / Ethnomusicology Review, Oct 2013.

Here’s the tracklist and the permanent download link for those who want to follow along. I hope you enjoy it, and as Fred would say, yabba dabba doo.

Raggamuffin_Hip-Hop_Megamix_Cover


Pace and Wayne’s Raggamuffin Hip-Hop Megamix Vol 1.

Tracklist

Pace’s 1st mini-set:

Asher D and Daddy Freddy, “Ragamuffin Rub-A-Dub-Apella” (1987)

UTFO, “Pick up the Pace” (1985)

Asher D and Daddy Freddy, “Ragamuffin Hip-Hop” (1987)

Soul Dimension, “Trash and Ready” (1987)

Asher D, “Asher’s Revenge” (1988)

Asher D and Daddy Freddy, “Brutality” (1988)

Boogie Down Productions (BDP), “The Bridge Is Over” (1987)

Wayne’s 1st mini-set:

BDP, “The Bridge Is Over” (1987)

Shinehead, “Know How Fe Chant” (1988)

Just-Ice ft. KRS-One, “Moshitup” (1988)

JVC Force, “Puppy Love” (1988)

Masters of Ceremony, “Sexy” (1988)

Just-Ice, “Lyric Licking” (1988)

Masters of Ceremony, “Master Move” (1988)

Shinehead, “Gimme No Crack” (1988)

BDP, “The Bridge Is Over” (1987)

Pace’s 2nd mini-set:

BDP, “The Bridge Is Over” (1987)

Don Baron, “Young Gifted and Black” (1988)

Longsy D & Cut Master M.C. “Hip-Hop Reggae” (1987)

Sonya Alleye ft. Junior Rodigan, “Sorry Part 2″ (1989)

Prento Kid, “Killer” (1997)

Motion w/ Ruffa “Gangsta” (1995)

Waynie Ranks, “Send Me” (1992?)

Wayne’s 2nd mini-set:

Poor Righteous Teachers, “I’m Comin Again” (1991)

Poor Righteous Teachers, “Easy Star” (1991)

Poor Righteous Teachers, “Shakiyla” (1991)

Fu-Schnickens, “Ring the Alarm” (1991)

Fu-Schnickens, “Generals” (1991)

Poor Righteous Teachers, “Strictly Mashion” (1991)

Fu-Schnickens, “Bebo” (1991)

Daddy Freddy, “Raggamuffin Soldier” (1992)

Pace’s 3rd mini-set:

Unknown, “Sound Bwoys Revenge” (199?)

Cutty Ranks, “Armed and Deadly” (1996)

Lady Saw, “No Long Talking” (1996)

DJ Excel, “Off the Hook” (199?)

Kenny Dope, “Axxis” (1992)

The Filler, “Rockin Mix” (199?)

Kenny Dope, “Supa” (1991)

Jamalski, “Let’s Do It In The Dancehall (TNT Hip Hop Mix)” (1990)

Roxanne Shanté, “Dance To This (Dance To Cee’s Zunga Zunga Mix)” (1992)

Jamalski, “A Piece Of Reality (Your Name Here Mix)” (1992)

Wayne’s 3rd mini-set:

Raw Fusion, “Hip Hip/Stylee Expression” (1991)

Dr. Dre, “Let Me Ride” (1992)

Dr. Dre, “Lil Ghetto Boy” (1992)

Dr. Dre, “The Day the Niggaz Took Over” (1992)

Daddy Freddy, “Jah Jah Gives Me Vibes” (1992)

Jamal-Ski, “Jah Jah Vibes” (1993)

Jamal-Ski, “Texas Rumpus” (1993)

Born Jamericans, “Instant Death Interlude” (1994)

Jamal-Ski, “African Border (Skeffington Mix)” (1993)

Slick Rick, “A Love That’s True, Part 2″ (1994)

The Story of Think Tree

Simply put, Think Tree was one of the most important and incredible bands ever. They also happened to hail from Boston, MA. The story goes something like this. In 1986, all but one member had been in a short lived punk/keyboard outfit called Psychotech. According to this description from their last interview “It was kind of a hard-core techno band. It was sort of like a hard-core band with keyboards instead of guitars and we used to smash up keyboards and stuff.” In other words a punk/funk/keyboard outfit before the chili peppers OR nine inch nails or any of the bands that later blended hardcore and funk and/or keyboards and samples.

Consider the following historical factoids:

Meat Beat Manifesto formed in 1987 – a year after Psychotech had been tearing up stages at Boston clubs like Chet’s and the Rat and the same year Think Tree had its first show.

Nine Inch Nails started in 1988 – a year after Psychotech disbanded to start Think Tree. Think Tree had already been playing around Boston for a year by the time Nine Inch Nails was formed.

The seminal Chicago based industrial band Ministry was out around that time on Wax Trax, but they never had the groove and punk/funk angle that always found its way into Think Tree sets.

Think Tree included Peter Moore (keyboards), Will Ragano (guitar), Paul Lanctot (keyboards), Krishna Venkatesh (keyboards) and Jeff Biegert (drums). Their music and live performances blended punk/industrial aesthetics with progressive prog rock compositions played live with plenty of electronics. The video above is sadly one of the only ones on the web, but it gives you a good sense of the band at their prime. Just before the grunge tsunami hit and obliterated many lesser keyboard oriented bands, Think Tree represented the ultimate synthesis of keyboards and live punk/prog performance. In their reign as one of Boston’s most progressive and influential bands, they released Hire a Bird in 1989 as a 12″ single, a full length record “Eight / Thirteen” (which included “Hire a Bird”) in 1990, and the full length record “Like the Idea” in 1991. “Hire a Bird” was included in the Boston Phoenix’s Top 500 records of all time in 1999. They were also hilarious and irreverent to the end.

Here is a super funny interview with them on WMWM (Tufts University’s station) in 1991. It gives a good sense of their aesthetic and sonic palette as they keep interrupting the talk with goofy and ghastly electronic punctuations.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Think Tree Interview on WMWM 1991

To say Think Tree was influential is to put it mildly. Rumor has it that they had a strong influence on early Nine Inch Nails (though they never did perform the Devo/Zepplin live mashup “Uncontrollable Hop” that Think Tree had planned for a special gust appearance with Reznor). Brian Eno was a fan as were many other forward thinking punk/progressive/industrial/electronic tweakers. They literally helped invent the genre “synthesizer oriented industrial prog funk”.

In the classic indy rock band story, their label Caroline Records never really gave them the support they deserved and so they never toured or got the distribution they needed to break out nationally. Once the grunge wave hit, lots of keyboard bands were kicked to the curb in favor of small guitar rock outfits with big narcotic habits. Although Think Tree paved the way for the genre, brainy synth punk was definitely out in the mid 1990s and their distinctly non-commercial aesthetic certainly didn’t help them convince the bean counters of their mass market potential. In 1993, Think Tree played their last show.

Krishna went on to form the even harder sounding El Dopa with his brother, Bassist Alex Smoller and drummer Danny Lee from Cxema. Will and Peter went on to form Count Zero, who continue the Think Tree tradition to this day. The Count Zero story is rich enough for its own long post (they have released 3 full length records, appeared in Guitar Hero, etc etc). More importantly, they are having a CD release party this Friday, May 13 up at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge, MA.

Go see them Friday and be sure to scream out the titles of old Think Tree songs. If you are lucky, they might even play one!

Meanwhile, here is a little live mashup I made a while back with DJ Flack’s “The Story of O” and Think Tree’s classic “Hire A Bird”. Enjoy.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


The story of think tree – DJ Pace

From Discoland to Liquorland

From Discoland to Liquorland

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


From Discoland to Liquorland

Hey innernets. Here’s a new mix I did for you. It’s the story of a club dancer who grows up in the discos of New York in the late 1970s. Considering herself a genius of love she leaves New York in search of a mystical paradise filled with creole music and coconuts. Along the way she has a run in with some nasty Spanish kids in a rollerskating rink but is saved by the godfather of rap. He introduces her to some nice & smooth Spanish kids who take her in and remind her that she was once a genius of love. About that time she becomes enamored with Chicago’s lights and takes a job at a club where she is paid to move her bottom to the music. Things are ok for a little bit (at least she is dancing again) but every night after work, its bottoms up at the bar. The story gets really funked up when she starts doing it anyway she wants to and falls in love with a freakman who promises her an acting career in Hollywood but leaves her broken down in Liquorland. At least that’s what I was thinking about when I made it.

If this doesn’t make any sense, you can think of it as a postmodern allegory about the death of rollerskating jams. That’s another way to look at it, I guess.

Unfortunately, the title of the mix is somewhat misleading because there is really no disco in there. Its mostly late 1970s and early 1980s funk, boogie and other dance tunes I love to rock. There are certainly plenty of “disco” references though. And it starts with a song called discoland and ends with one called liquorland. That’s the main idea: A trip from discoland to liquorland. Understand?

Anyway, I hope you enjoy listening to it half as much as I enjoyed drinking while I made it. Like Casey said, “liquorland is a real nice place/you might want to visit but you don’t want to stay/cause if you stay you’ll never get away/and you might wind up like me someday”. Thanks for the warning Casey. See you all at the disco.

CONTENTS:
Lonnie Jordan – Discoland
Gap Band – Shake
Kid Creole and the Coconuts – Going Places
Tom Tom Club – Genius of Love (12″ dub)
Grandmaster Flash – Its Nasty
Nice and Smooth – Hip Hop Junkies (Spanish mix)
Spoonie Gee – Godfather of Rap
LV – Throw Your Hands Up
Trickernation – Rap Bounce Rockskate
Vaughn Mason – Bounce Rock Skate Roll
LV – Throw Your Hands Up
Chi-Lites – Bottoms Up
Bunny Sigler – I’m Funkin You Tonight (With my Music)
Empire – Freakman
Kool and the Gang – Hollywood Swinging
Crave – Bounce
Mighty Casey – Liquorland Pt. 2

Mastermind Monstamix: Boston’s Ragamuffin Hip-Hop History

Hey all. Last week I got a short notice request to join flack and wayne at Beat Research tonight. I decided I’d use the night to showcase some of my favorite local ragamuffin hip hop. And when you are doing that, you are basically playing stuff from Jr. Rodigan’s Mastermind Records. Everyone knows the classic ragamuffin hip hop sounds popularized by Bobby Kondors via Massive B Records. Lots of folks also know the collection of stuff on Profile (including the seminal Daddy Freddy and Asher D track) not to mention all the stuff on Nervous. What most people don’t know is that in the mid-90’s, Boston was putting out raggamuffin hip-hop as good as anyplace!!!! Believe it. Like all things hip-hop, Boston’s contribs have gone less recognized than some other places. Until now.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Mastermind Monstamix

I offer this Mastermind Monstamix to prove that the Bean was rocking the ragga sound as hard as anyplace in the mid 1990s. As usual, its pretty much unedited and done live with two decks and included here warts and all. Its also clearly not ALL mastermind stuff and veers into a little paid in full mini-mashup by the end complete with Wayne flowin’ over a PM dawn IM (which always makes me smile).

Respect to Rodigan and his collaborators including the prolific Bingy Twins who co-produced many of his hottest raggamuffin hip-hop dancefloor burners! I’ll be rocking Boston Raggamuffin Hip Hop Classix tonight at Beat Research for anyone in town.

Bigup to the beantown massive. Stay tuned for the Monstamind Master Mix that will be highlighting some lesser known scientifikal rappers from MA.

peace

P.S.

Last night, I had the honor of meeting Jr. Rodigan and playing a set of his classic 90s track while he sat and listened. Talk about pressure. He shook my hand at the end of the night though, so I guess I did it proper. Listening to his verse on One in the Chamba while he sang along next to me has to be one of my all time best musical moments! More on that track in a minute but for now, keep those Boston beats bumpin’.