Rap Trax! (Stylus Music, 1988)

Rap Trax

Rap Trax r

Review
On Rap Trax!, another compilation from Stylus Music, the artwork is credited to Offbeat Design. Sadly the identity of the person who wrote the sleeve notes is unclear. They’re headed up “Respect is due to Rap” and there’s a brief reference to the then growing Balearic scene. Here you go: “A spin-off from the acid scene is London’s current buzzword ‘Balearic Beats’ – the brainchild of a small possee of DJs who worked at Ibiza in the Balearic islands of Spain last year, playing a mixture of uptempo beats.” The next bit is totally bizarre: “Although the Balearic variation is nothing new it is easy to see that its commercial orientation could lead to the charts being saturated with disco as it was in the late 70s. In fact one of Rap’s greatest attributes is that it was partly responsible for pushing back the disco boom and has singlehandedly challenged the acceptable face of verse/chorus formulated songwriting – and is totally opposed to prevailing sex, drugs and drink values.” Never an untrue word spoken.

“20 Mega Rap & House Trax” get going with the sound of summer 1988, The Only Way Is Up followed by S-Express’ ghetto rhythms banger Superfly Guy. Joining the Wee Papa Girl Rappers on the funky house samplefest Heat It Up are Two Men & A Drum Machine. It’s like that etc. No sign of the trumpet. Must be tired. Brace yourself for war: it’s Kool Moe Dee vs LL Cool J. The ex-Treacherous Three MC recorded his second LP, How Ya Like Me Now in London, England at Battery Studios. Alongside Kool Moe Dee, audio production was shared with and handled by Teddy Riley, Bryan “Chuck” New, LaVaba Mallison and Pete Q Harris. The title track reached #86 in the UK and is a quality jam. Meanwhile LL Cool J pops up with the smooth ‘n’ smoochy sound of I Need Love, a far greater success. “In fact – Rap Music is the Rock ‘n’ Roll of today.”

Rap Trax! introduced me to the joys of Run DMC whom I’d initially read about in the NME during 1987. My Adidas is simply awesome and was two years old at that point. It was produced by Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons and led to the first endorsement deal between a musical act and an athletic company. This deal was organised by the band’s co-manager, Lyor Cohen, who invited Adidas executive Angelo Anastasio to the band’s concert at Madison Square Garden on July 19, 1986. There Run DMC instructed the audience to hold up their Adidas apparel during the song. The music video shows them addressing the corporation with a verse requesting “Give us a million dollars!” This deal is credited with influencing future endorsement deals between brands and musicians, particularly in hip hop culture. “It was a song that was about our sneakers, but it was bigger than just talking about how many pairs of sneakers we had.” (Darryl McDaniels)

Looking back now, some people would say that rap was more positive then and focused on storytelling and fun. DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince’s Parents Just Don’t Understand backs this up but is sadly butchered – only running to 2:21. Thankfully the compilers have not messed with Public Enemy’s peerless Don’t Believe The Hype – it’s fully intact and still a highpoint of the genre. It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back had a massive impact on me and many others then. An utterly compelling listen from start to finish. No fat, no waste, just killer tunes with biting social commentary for one solid hour. The hip hop equivalent to Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On. It turns 30 on 28 June. Next come EPMD and their debut 45 Strictly Business; its primary sample is Eric Clapton’s cover of Bob Marley’s I Shot the Sheriff. I can also make out Kool & The Gang’s Jungle Boogie.

A key influencer: Mr James Brown gets a call with Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine. It sounds like the 1970 Part 1 version and runs for 2:48. Epic. Kid ‘N’ Play are back with the slick programmed beats of Do This My Way. Cool Lyn Collins’ sample. Back to more serious matters with the seminal My Philosophy by Boogie Down Productions:
“The way some act in rap is kind of wack
And it lacks creativity and intelligence
But they don’t care cause their company’s selling it”

Hit it! Einstein drops the laidback Friday Night & Saturday Morning – just 1:20 in length – which is followed by Top Billin’ and the one minute long Naturally. They became Definition Of Sound. Still hanging in there are Whodini whose hard-edged and metallic Rock You Again still remains an acquired taste. Last tune goes to Bomb The Bass’ follow-up to Beat Dis. Megablast: the one that samples John Carpenter’s Assault On Precinct 13 theme. Total dynamite and rarely heard at the time because the AA-side Don’t Make Me Wait was much more radio friendly. None can outrun or equal – don’t touch that dial!

Favourite tracks
Run DMC – My Adidas

EPMD – Strictly Business

Bomb The Bass – Megablast

Lest we forget
Wee Papa Girl Rappers featuring Two Men & A Drum Machine – Heat It Up

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2 Responses to Rap Trax! (Stylus Music, 1988)

  1. andynoax says:

    This is one that I do have!
    It’s a pretty good selection I think, with the tracks that are severely chopped being the much less essential ones. Good to get ‘Heat It Up’ (did that appear elsewhere at all?) though that is slightly edited, and ‘Megablast’ still sounds awesome.

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