|thrift store finds and alternate history
||[Jul. 25th, 2006|01:51 am]
I'm listening to a recent thrift store purchase, the Fat Boys 1987 LP "Crushin'" .
Its amazing how stylistically similar it is to the Beastie Boys "Licensed to ill" LP (released late 1986). Besides the obvious connection of both being old school hip-hop, both were trios from Brooklyn, both had a novelty angle (fat rappers, white rappers), and there was a Markie D in the Fat Boys and a Mike D in the Beasties.
They were both commercially successful records: Licensed to Ill made it to #1 on the Billboard Pop chart and #2 on the Hip Hop/R&B Albums chart. "Crushin'" reached #8 on Billboard’s Pop chart and #4 on the Hip-Hop/R&B. Yet I'll bet no one reading this owns the Fat Boys LP, and at least 10 of you probably own "Licensed to ill". All of the Fat Boys CDs, even the mid-90's Rhino Best of, are out of print, though shockingly, their lame movie "Disorderlies" was released on DVD and is in print today.
Listen to both and it's hard to judge which is the "better" record. "Wipeout" is at least as catchy and anthemic as "You gotta fight for your right to party", AND it guest stars the Beach Boys. "Hell No" and "No Sleep til Brooklyn" have a similar repeated guitar riff. And the juvenilia of "My Nuts" is really no stupider than "Girls".
Why did the Beasties last, and the Fat Boys vanish into obscurity? Is it because the Beasties evolved into a band that also played instruments, and the Fat Boys did not? Was there no love for old skool lighthearted beatboxing when Gangsta happened? Would the Fat Boys be urging us to Free Tibet today had they been invited on Madonna's "Like a Virgin" tour instead of making "Disorderlies"? I eagerly await Harry Turtledove's attempt to tackle a plot in which this alternate history has occurred.
Note the stylistic leap between Ill and Paul's Boutique;, meanwhile, the Fat Boys coasted on the same shtick for four albums, even trying to duplicate the success of Wipeout twice with ill-advised (no pun intended) versions of "The Twist" (featuring Chubby Checker) and "Louie Louie" (which no one heard). White rap had ceased to be a novelty, while the Fat Boys ultimately proved that novelty was all they had to offer.
I'll also pedantically point out that the Beasties played instruments in their original incarnation.
What the lemur said, plus:
The Beasties received much critical acclaim; the Fat Boys received much derision. (I have "Wipe Out" and it's perhaps the worst of 10 versions I have, "so bad it's good.")
Heavy D and the Boyz were way better at the "fat rappers" game, both in their novelty and in their actual skills. (The Fat Boys did have their "human beat box" who was less famous than Doug E Fresh, but quite good.)
Rhino already re-released their stuff in 1997. Like most Rhino re-releases, they don't keep things in print for long.
Last, and perhaps not as important as it should be, I direct you to the Beasties' masterpiece, Cookie Puss.
I keep thinking the Fat Boys did a song about doing the Pee Wee Herman Dance, but I might be mixing up novelty acts.
I haven't heard this, but supposedly there's a remix of "Wipeout" where Mike Love disses Van Dyke Parks.
Something like, "We're gonna sing a song that everybody KNOWS! Not some acid shit 'bout column ruin domi-NOES!"
Was there no love for old skool lighthearted beatboxing when Gangsta happened?
...I think you're on to something here. The years 1986-7, as I remember, were the last hurrah for beat-box and old skool. I was fairly into "rap" back then and remember the purer sounds, as well as technique, morphing into a more high-tech, sample-driven "hip-hop" (note: these are my idiosyncratic distinctions between rap and hip-hop of the day). I sort of fell away from rap because of this change and it seems that Fat Boys fell away from relevance because they didn't change either.
Also, the Fat Boys were simply never as popular as other rap acts. Most notable, of course, was Run D.M.C., whose 1986 seminal awesomeness Raising Hell eclipsed much of what was being released that year. (And, no, you cannot convince me that Run D.M.C. released anything after their holy trinity of Run D.M.C., King of Rock, and Raising Hell... don't trifle me with facts.) I think that it was difficult to get around the spotlight that Run D.M.C. were rightfully enjoying... unless, of course, you were something completely different like a bunch of white boys. I do believe that that novelty, initially, helped propel the Beasties. Additionally, I feel that the Beasties really were doing something different than the general direction the rap-hip-hop evolution was headed. Certainly, what they did with Licensed to Ill was somehow more exploratory than the cookie-cutter sound of much of the remainder of hip-hop as it pushed toward the emergence of gangsta.
Finally, I do believe that the harsh, angry reality of gangsta rap emerging in the late 80s killed the lighter tone of beatbox and old skool. After the vapid 80s, people just wanted to be angry and uncomfortable...