Like claps of thunder from the cumulus clouds
Double amp up the beats, and make it real LOUD!
You can’t beat the combo of Hip-hop braggadocio, hard rock beats and meteorology, I always say*. Now in the mid to late 80’s there was only one dealer in town for us homies to buy our gear from, Def Jam. I fell hard for the rock/rap combo of Run DMC, Beastie Boys and LL Cool J**, it was just so fucking exciting! Still is. Obviously after mopping up all the bigger releases I needed to get hold of ‘Rock Hard’ The Beastie Boys, semi-legal rap over a certain band’s ‘Back In Black’ on vinyl, so I plumped for Kick It! The Def Jam Sampler, Volume One^. Here it is in all it’s excitement and glory, still one of the deffest jams ever^^. It makes me air-rock-the-mic every single time I hear it.
(not the most scintillating video, I grant you)
Weighing in at equal second best tracks on Kick It! are LL Cool J ‘I’m Bad’, which again just gives me the thrills and Public Enemy ‘You’re Gonna Get Yours’, which freaks my comestibles even more. Both are just perfect examples of what Def Jam did better than anyone else back then, welding that hip-hop freshness to rock beats and structures and then just giving the tunes a twist to the left, so they stood on their own merits. Anyway, you just HAVE to love LL’s hat in the video; which I’d never seen before, it’s like the anti-drug moral at the end of a late period Hanna Barbera cartoon, meets Shaft, except with a WAY smaller budget:
More of their time, but transcending it less, are tracks like ‘Pump That Bass/Live’ by Original Concept, a great sound in places but real primitive sounding now, maybe just of historical interest and ‘The Word/Sardines’ by The Junkyard band, ditto. At least they’re listenable whereas ‘Can You Feel It’ by Original Concept is just one dry beatbox too far in my opinion. As a fully paid up krautrocker these days, I know that the likes of Afrika Bambaata flipped over Kraftwerk, appropriating chunks of ‘Trans-Europe Express’ for their mixes and there’s an interesting example of it here on Jazzy Jay ‘Def Jam’, which doesn’t sample the Germans but with the exception of a couple rap-esque bells and whistles could almost have been an off-cut from one of their tracks. That intersection between those Germanic beats and the Bronx has always fascinated me, but I’ll bore you about it at a later date.
Someone mention dates? On the interesting liner notes there’s an explanation as to why Def Jam moved a bit towards soul at the time too:
Now the Tashan track was a pleasant enough, if inconsequential, summer sounding record, nothing that made me want to shout ‘Kick it!’ though. I was fully prepared to get my hate-on for Chuck Stanley, if there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s super-squelchy-lovey-dovey soul^* but I have to report, from the nation of Wordswallowdonia, that ‘The Finer Things In Life’ is a great track, it sounds rather more like a number of dance acts circa 1992 like Felix, rather than anything more soulified. I have to say in my considerable experience you lay this, umm, jam on any def female and I guarantee ‘the wildest thing’ would only be minutes away. Word.
If there are any of you out there planning on locating a copy of Kick It! for seduction purposes then I think it is only right and fair to warn you to stop the record before you get to the last track ‘Here I Go Again’ by Oran ‘Juice’ Jones, which is, sadly, NOT a Whitesnake cover but insipid super-squelchy-lovey-dovey soul that would make any right-thinking potential sexual partner blow chunks all over you within the first 4 bars. Suitable for the seduction of deaf females only*^.
Kick It! was an interesting album to listen to again, I like it when you occasionally get record labels that sum up a time, a place, a genre, it’s a cool place to be. Kick It! is nowhere near a comprehensive survey, its missing any Run DMC for example, but it’s a good overview of the great, the good, the blow-chunksy and the dated. But I did buy this LP for one tune and one tune only, so we’ll let them have the last words of wisdom:
Got real rock shit, you must admit
Not fake, not false, not counterfeit
I can play the drums, I can play guitar
Not just b-boys, we’re REAL rock stars!
And they were. I miss them.
* I do, I always say it. Even if you just come up to me in the street and say ‘Good morning!’, I’ll respond with, ‘You can’t beat the combo of Hip-hop braggadocio, hard rock beats and meteorology. Good Morning!’. True story.
**Public Enemy came later, they scared me when I was a teenager.
^Henceforth to be known as Kick It!, I hath decreed it, my will be done.
^^are there two ‘F’s in ‘deffest’, or is it ‘defest’, I need to know.
^*along with racism, poverty, injustice, inequality and black coffee.
*^that line also works unisexily as ‘Suitable for the seduction of deaf males only’.