1979 was year zero for hip hop. It was in 1979, that some of the earliest, and most influential, hip hop singles were released. This includes Paulette and Tanya Winley’s Rhymin’ and Rappin.’ It’s become one of the most influential of the early hip hop singles. The same year, the Fatback Band released one of hip hop’s earliest success stories.

Having heard DJ Hollywood rapping, the Fatback Band decided to have him rap on top of Catch The Beat, a track from their next album Fatback XII. It was DJ Hollywood’s first time in the studio. Unfazed, and believing he was about to become a star, he laid down his rap. Catch The Beat became King Tim III (Personality Jock), and was scheduled to be the Fatback Band’s next single. However, there was a problem. 

Spring Records weren’t sure about releasing King Tim III (Personality Jock) as a single. They were somewhat conservative and decided upon You’re My Candy Sweet. King Tim III (Personality Jock) founds itself relegated to the B-Side. Despite this radio DJs discovered King Tim III (Personality Jock). Among them were Frankie Crocker, a friend of Jules Rifkind, who was one of the owners of Spring Records. Soon, King Tim III (Personality Jock) was being played by radio stations. Then, disaster struck for The Fatback Band. Another similar single was released.

This was The Sugar Hill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight. It was “inspired” by Chic’s Good Times, one of the biggest singles of the summer of 1979. Rapper’s Delight became a huge hit and helped launch what became known as hip hop. That was thirty-five years ago. However, many early hip hop singles didn’t prove as successful as Rapper’s Delight. There’s many a hidden hip hop gem awaiting discovery by discerning crate-diggers. That’s if Sean P hasn’t got there before you for his new compilation Rock It…Don’t Stop It.

Sean P has compiled Rock It…Don’t Stop It which will be released by BBE Music on 24th March 2014. Rock It…Don’t Stop It features ten long-lost, forgotten or obscure slices of hip hop. This includes tracks from Hardkore, Jazzy 4 MCs ,Mr. Sweety G, Sinister Two and Jackson II. These tracks were released between 1979 and 1983. Back then, whether it was Boston or Brooklyn, funk and disco was influencing hip hop’s evolution.

That’s been the case from the early days. Hip hoppers dug into their parent’s record collections when they sought inspiration. First up was Chic’s Good Times, which inspired Rapper’s Delight. Soon, hip hoppers discovered tracks that old funk and disco tracks were perfect for sampling purposes. 

Favorite sources for samples were Zapp and Roger’s More Bounce To The Ounce, Chuck Brown and The Soul Searchers’ Ashley’s Roach Trip, James Brown’s Funky President and Kool and The Gang’s NT. These tracks are among the most sampled songs. So are The Winstons’ Amen Corner, The Honeydrippers’  Impeach The President and The Incredible Bongo Band’s Bongo Rock. Samples from these tracks feature on some of the most successful hip hop singles and albums.  Sample spotting became like a pastime. Some artists dug deeper.

Some artists were determined to dig deeper in their pursuit of musical inspiration. Dusty warehouses, record shops, thrift stores and garage sales became favorite haunts of the sample hungry hip hopper. Obscure funk, soul and disco tracks yielded gold in the form of samples that found their way onto singles and albums. Sometimes, though, this proved controversial.

In the early days of hip hop, it was like a musical wild west. Artists had their work sampled, but never received recompense. The problem was, many samples weren’t cleared. Soon, when artists and record companies realised how big hip hop was becoming, artists and record companies started suing sample hungry hip hoppers. 

Still, the myth persisted that if a sample was less than three seconds, it didn’t have to be cleared. Bridgeport Music, Inc. et. al. vs. Dimension Films et. al put paid to this. Despite this judgment, to this day, producers still try to sneak uncleared samples into songs. Having said that, it’s nothing like it was back in the early days of hip hop. 

Back in 1979, hip hop had just been born. So many things were yet to be decided. This included the situation with short samples. The problem was, nobody knew if hip hop was going to be anything more than a passing musical fashion? Who knows, hip might have lasted just a couple of years. Instead, thirty-five years after some of the songs on Rock It…Don’t Stop It were released, hip hop is bigger than ever. That’s why compilations of hidden hip hop gems, like those on Rock It…Don’t Stop It which I’ll tell you about, are essential listening for hip hoppers old and new. 

Hardkore’s Boom opens Rock It…Don’t Stop It. Released in 1982, on the Swing Back label, Boom was the only release from Hardcore. It’s a fusion of funk and hip hop with an early eighties sound. The arrangement is understated and funky, accompanied by a swaggering rap. The result is a real hidden gem, which is also incredibly rare. Copies when they become available, change hands for ever increasing sums of money. 

Cat Claw and The Better Love Crew’s The Golden Rule, reminds me of some of the music being released on Sugar Hill Raps.  There’s a real feel-good vibe to this track. It’s funky and full of slick hooks. Released on Belway Records in 1982, it was written by Cat Claw and produced by Charles Matthews. Hook-laden and funky it’s one of the highlights of Rock It…Don’t Stop It.

Jazzy 4 MCs were there when hip hip was born. They released MC Rock in 1979, on Razziberri Rainbow Records. They’ve been inspired by vintage funk. The arrangement is a bit of a slow burner. Gradually it unfolds. When the rap enters, he’s  a slick, soulful jive talker. Sometimes, there are similarities with The Sugar Hill Gang. They both have one other thing in common, quality.

Terry Lewis and Wild Flower released The People’s Message, Take Two in 1983 on New York’s White Diamond Records. It’s hip hop with a social message. Jazz-tinged,  funky, soulful and full of slick hooks. That’s thanks to Rance Wilson’s arrangement and Terry Lewis’ production. Along with lyrics that are still relevant over thirty years later, this results in what’s a real find and without doubt the highlight of Rock It…Don’t Stop It.

During the early eighties, William Glenn Toby released two singles as Mr. Sweety G. The first was At The Place To Be. It was released on New Star Record Co, in 1981. That was Mr. Sweety G’s finest moment. It’s a slice of good time funky, soulful music. Oozing confidence and bravado, Mr. Sweety G delivers a soulful, sassy rap. Sadly, he only released one more single, We Want To Get Down. Later, Mr. Sweety G reinvented himself as Eviction and Nu Civilization.

In 1980, Rappers Rapp Group recorded their only single Rappers Rapp Theme in KSR Recording Studio, Hollywood, Los Angeles. It was released on the Rappers Rapp Disco Company in 1980. Sadly, it wasn’t a commercial success. However, tucked away on the B-Side was Rappin’ Partee Groove. Straight away, the track samples the bass line to Queen’s Another One Bites The Dust. After that eighties drums crack, a meandering Fender Rhodes joins the bass. Taking centre-stage is a swaggering rap full of bravado and machismo. It plays its part in what’s a hidden hip hop gem. 

Just like a number of artists on Rock It…Don’t Stop It. Ricky G and The Everloving Five only released one single. This was To The Max. Released on Capo Records, it was written by Rozell Brown with Cliff Branch and Gregory Carr, who produced To The Max. It’s a fusion of funk, soul and sass that’s melodic and memorable.

Sinister Two released Rock It, Don’t Stop It on the New York label Bee Pee Records. It’s produced by Bernard Thomas and Preston Lassic. Peek Skill Express provide the music, while the vocal is sung in a call and response style. Released in 1981, this proved the Sinister Two’s only single. Mind you, if you’re only going to release one single, make it one this good.

Oh, Yeah was a single from The Jackson Two. Released in 1980, on J.C. Records, it was produced by Bill Moore and Mel Jackson. They’re responsible for a slick, soulful slice of hip hop. Bubbling synths set the scene for the Jackson II’s feisty, soulful rap. The result is a track that’s inspired by The Sugar Hill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight. Having said that, it’s one of the highlights of Rock It…Don’t Stop It.

Closing Rock It…Don’t Stop It is Kevin Fleetwood and The Cadillacs Of Sound’s Sweat. This was the B-Side to Sweat It Off, a single released in 1983, on Solid Platinum Records. For anyone playing sample spotting, this time it’s Yazoo’s Only You that’s sampled and provides the hook. It’s buried amidst a myriad of percussion, whistles, crashing cymbals and chiming guitars. Then there’s vocals full of frustration and anger. They’re deliver the lyrics full of social comment in a call and response style. This results in hip hop with a social conscience.

So that’s the story of Rock It…Don’t Stop It, Sean P’s new compilation, which will be released on BBE Music on 24th March 2014. For anyone whose interested in hip hop, it’s a must have. Rock It…Don’t Stop It is crammed full of hidden hip hop gems. So much so, that by the time you’ve finished listening to Rock It…Don’t Stop It, you’ll wonder where these ten tracks have been all your life? They’re funky, soulful, dance-floor friendly and full of hooks and social comment. Each of the ten tracks oozes quality and are a reminder of hip hop’s early years.

The ten tracks on Rock It…Don’t Stop It will also show that there’s much more to hip hop’s early years than Rapper’s Delight. It’s just the tip of a musical iceberg. Rapper’s Delight may have been hip hop’s first hit single, but there’s so much more to the music. For anyone tipping their toe into the hip hop waters, Dan Charnas’ book The Big Payback is the perfect starting place.  Before long, you’ll be able to differentiate between West Coast and East Coast hip hop and won’t mix up Def Jam from Death Row. While reading about all things hip hop, the perfect soundtrack is Sean P’s must have compilation Rock It…Don’t Stop. It’s da dope.


1 Comment

  1. Derek, go Behind the Groove with Radio Basim here:

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