(Note: After his fast start – posts on Hangar 18 and Too Short – my man J.J. checks back in with a post. I’ve threatened to remove his right hand if he doesn’t post more.)
I’m not usually a huge fan of re-releases.
The last time I got into big a set was when MCA re-issued Fela Kuti’s catalog, which tapped into an unbeknownst Afrobeat gene for a couple years and ruined a couple of relationships.
These Vee-Jay recordings digitally re-released by the Orchard late last year are about to do the same with my inner soul junkie.
The Vee-Jay Records story itself has the makings of a blues classic: love, family infighting and corporate tyranny were scattered throughout the label’s history before it finally closed its doors in 1966.
In the four decades since, fans have made several efforts to resurrect the label’s catalog – most notably on the 1990s Vee-Jay Box Set: The Definitive Collection.
But technology, and music, has come a long way since then.
That box set attempted to sum up Vee-Jay’s 13-year history with three easy-to-absorb discs; the recent reissues open an entire 17-disc catalog to a new generation of fans … specifically, those born in the last 40 years.
Whether this generation has the patience to look past some of the hits available here to see the light in an Original Blind Boys gospel track; feel the pathos in Lightin’ Hopkins guttural blues guitar; enjoy the innocent funk of a nearly pre-pubescent Curtis Mayfield doo-wopping with The Impressions; or marvel at Little Richard’s earnest soul before he got all weird … well, people seek it out in record stores, and this stuff sounds better and is easier to find.
The re-releases – 17 albums deep – are available on eMusic.
They had me hooked with the album title, a nod to the crucial line in Karate Kid that seems to attract musicians like free liquor and prog rock (it was bastardized by the Chicago-based rockers “Sweep the Leg, Johnny!” in the 90s).
Like a Brooklyn-born Daniel-san kickin’ it in California, the rappers in Hangar 18 might seem a little out of place on stage with luminaries like Big Daddy Kane, Talib Kweli and Mos Def, not to mention KRS One.
But the boys – Tim “Alaska” Baker, Ian “Windnbreeze” McMullin and DJ paWL – after having rapped with those first three icons over the last few years, found themselves on a dais with the godfather of rap in NYC on a recent afternoon, discussing the state of hip-hop for some industry types.
The question is do they belong?
The answer: If you’re looking for an intimidating ghetto anthem, then no. But if you appreciate old-school rap, where the rhyme was as important as the ripped-off hooks, definitely.
It’s the kind of music you can imagine a young Outkast cranking out on a Casio and boom box, circa 1983; there’s a driving rhythm back there – syncopated with actual drum fills! – and not much else, which leaves plenty of room for the smart lyrics from Alaska and Windnbreeze to drip out your speakerbox.
They might not ever win a Grammy with this approach, but, to borrow another Karate Kid line (this one from the all-important third installment), “If rap used defend plastic metal trophy, rap no mean nothing.”
Pick up Sweep the Leg at eMusic.
Hangar 18 | Feet to Feet
Hangar 18 | Bakin Soda
(EDIT: This post belongs to friend/co-worker J.J., whom I have asked to contribute as his time permits. J.J., who has written music for the New Times chain, owns a vast music/pop culture knowledge so I’m pumped for regular – or even semi-regular – posts from him. That said, I’ve added code so you can see who has written what post. OK. Cool.)
The historic road through the hip hop game is littered with one-hit wonders (Tag Team!) and two-trick Pony fans who dwell in the discount bin after their sophomore efforts.
Then there’s Too $hort, who, can claim rap’s longevity title with a career that spans more than 20 years with just as many albums. He’s the George Foreman of heavyweight rappers, complete with tomato can challengers (see: Yukmouth) and plenty o’ grillz.
$hort Dog’s recipe for success is deceptively easy: his laid-back Oaktown drawl sprawled over simple beats with rhymes about the ins and outs of pimpin’.
He’s also remarkably consistent, but rarely spectacular. $hort’s latest single, “This My One,” would fit as perfectly on 1988s “Life Is..” as it would on 2006s “Blow the Whistle”. It doesn’t stray far from $hort’s standard game plan, save for a couple cameos (including E-40), which is what makes it a fitting holiday jam.
It’s comfortable, like a Christmas sweater, but, with lines like, “Ask your mother and your aunties/ smile in my face/ I’ll burn rubber in your panties” not quite cozy enough to share with the entire family.
When $hort Dog’s in the house, you’ve still gotta lock up your daughters.