Dollar Bill Ya’ll-Spring Records and The First Decade Of Hip Hop.

Label: BGP.

Format: CD.

Release Date 28th April 2023.

Disco was one of the musical success stories of the late-seventies, and provided the soundtrack to dancefloors across the world. That changed in 1979, and disco’s demise was rapid. 

Its critics stated that some disco was formulaic, while others thought the music was mechanical. An article in Time magazine went much further, describing disco as a: “diabolical thump-and-shriek.” Another of disco’s biggest critics was Steve Dahl, a Chicago based DJ. 

Up until Christmas Eve 1978, he had a show on WDAI in Chicago. This changed when WDAI’s owners read about New York’s WKTU-FM, a struggling rock station that decided to change format in 1978 and began to play disco. Suddenly, the ratings were soaring. The owners of WDAI decided to follow in the footsteps of WKTU-FM, and on Christmas Eve 1978, Steve Dahl was fired.

Talented DJs like Steve Dahl were never out of work for long, and soon, he was hired by the album rock station WLUP. Not long after starting at WLUP, he realised that the anti-disco backlash had begun. Soon, he started mocking rival station WDAI’s Disco DAI slogan on air, changing the slogan to Disco Die. This was just the start of Steve Dahl’s carefully orchestrated campaign.

Before long, the DJ had created his own mock organisation the Insane Coho Lips, which was Steve Dahl’s very own anti-disco army complete with a motto. This was that: “Disco Sucks.”

The anti-disco backlash gathered pace and led to the Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park, the home of the Chicago White Sox on the ’12th’ of July 1979. 

Everyone who brought a disco record was admitted for ninety-eight cents. Crowds flocked from far and wide to watch the disco records being blown up at half-time during a double-header between the Chicago White Sox and the Detroit Tigers. 

For many in the crowd that night, seeing the crate of disco records blown up was the highlight of the evening. Pressing the detonator was Steve Dahl. After the explosion, many in the crowd rushed onto the field and the pitch was damaged, which resulted in the Chicago White Sox having to forfeit the game. However, Chicago White Sox weren’t the only losers, because that night, disco died.

After that, record companies lost interest in disco, and DJs and record companies began looking for the “next big thing.” 

This also included Bill Curtis, a former session drummer and thirty year veteran of the music industry,  who during the seventies, had transformed The Fatback Band’s sound and their fortunes. Having signed to Event Records, an imprint of Spring Records, the group enjoyed a string of hit singles as their music evolved. It encompassed everything from disco, funk and jazz to R&B and soul. However, even during the disco era their sound continued to evolve.

On March the ‘25th’ 1979 The Fatback Band released what’s thought to be the first ever commercially released hip hop single, King Tim III (Personality Jock). The track was originally the B-Side of the single You’re My Candy Sweet. However, when the single stalled at number sixty-seven in the US R&B charts it was replaced by the B-Side. It reached number twenty-six in the US R&B charts and was the start of a new chapter for Spring Records.

The label was founded twelve years earlier in New York in 1967.  However, the new independent label’s origins can be traced to an artist and production management company that Bill Spitalsky had setup with Roy and Julie Rifkind. Initially, the label’s releases were distributed by MGM. This changed in 1969.

Polygram, and its successor Polydor, then distributed Spring Records’ releases. They also provided financial support for the label. This was perfect timing as it coincided with the most successful period in the label’s history.

This began in 1970. Initially, the nascent label specialised in soul and funk music and had signed Joe Simon, Millie Jackson and The Fatback Band. They were among the label’s most successful signings. Later, Spring Records was hailed as: “one of the most important soul labels of the 1970s.”

By then, the label had expanded and two new imprints were founded, Event and Posse. They would play their part in the Spring Records story as music evolved during the seventies and disco took centrestage.

Disco played an important part in the success of Spring Records. This began in the mid-seventies as The Fatback Band’s sound evolved and they embraced disco. This resulted in hit singles including Keep On Steppin’, Yum, Yum (Give Me Some), and (Are You Ready) Do the Bus Stop. It was the start of a successful period for the New York-based band.

Soon, other artists signed to Spring Records were embracing disco. This included Millie Jackson. She embraced disco on her 1978 album Get It Out’cha System which reached fifty-five in the US Billboard 100 and fourteen in the US R&B charts. This resulted in a third gold disc for the thirty-four year old diva. However, when A Moment’s Pleasure was released in 1979 it stalled at 144 in the US Billboard 100 and forty-seven in the US R&B charts. It looked like the disco bubble had burst.

It did later in 1979. Suddenly, disco sucked and critics said that the genre that provided the soundtrack to much of the seventies was dead. DJs and record companies started looking for the “next big thing.”

Meanwhile, DJs in the Big Apple began spinning an eclectic selection of music. This included Afro-funk, boogie, Chicago House, Latin rock, mid-tempo Miami productions and extended mixes of Norman Whitfield productions. Some DJs even sprinkled their sets with classic funk, soul and even a few disco tracks. Others were looking for something different and new.

Soon they would find it, as the hip hop era started to take shape as the seventies gave way to eighties. However, the story began in March the ‘25th’ 1979 at the height of the disco era. This was when The Fatback Band released You’re My Candy Sweet as a single. It stalled at a lowly sixty-seven in the US R&B charts. This was disappointing and a decision was made to release the B-Side as a single.

Tucked away on the B-Side was King Tim III (Personality Jock). Nowadays, it’s thought to be the first ever commercially released hip hop single. However, by then The Sugarhill Gang had already enjoyed their breakthrough rap hit with Rapper’s Delight. Soon, The Fatback Band were enjoying a hit with their first ever hip single. It reached number twenty-six in the US R&B charts and was the start of a new chapter for Spring Records

It’s celebrated on a new compilation Dollar Bill Ya’ll-Spring Records and The First Decade Of Hip Hop. It will be released by BGP on the ‘28th’ April 2023 and features eleven of the earliest hip hop singles the Spring and Posse labels released. They’re also some of the most important and influential hip hop singles of singles released between 1979 and 1989. This includes The Fatback Band rap single that started it all off, King Tim III (Personality Jock).

However, opening the compilation is the long version of Jimmy Spicer’s Money (Dollar Bill Y’All). It was released on Spring in 1983 and was produced by Russell Simmons and Larry Smith with John “Jellybean” Benitez mixing the track. While the single wasn’t a hit, it’s regarded as a hugely influential hip hop track that inspired future generations of artists and producers.

When King Tim III released Charley Says! (Roller Boogie Baby) on Spring in 1980, rap and The Fatback Band’s unmistakable unique boogie funk sound. Adding backing vocals were Wild Sugar on what’s an irresistibly catchy and truly memorable track from a rap pioneer.

Radio DJ turned rapper Mr Magic released Magic’s Message (There Has To Be A Better Way) on Posse Records in 1984. The DJ’s only single was produced by Spyder D and mixed by Patrick Adams. It features an arrangement that combines elements of mid-eighties hip hop with electronica and boogie. This provide the backdrop for a rap that delivers lyrics with a social message.

Nowadays, the Bally Boys’ single Go For What You Know is a rarity that changes hands for seemingly ever-increasing sums of money. The single was released on Spring in 1987, and shows how hip hop was evolving. This hidden gem is one of the highlights of Dollar Bill Ya’ll-Spring Records and The First Decade Of Hip Hop.

Afrika and The Zulu Kings feature twice on the compilation. The group’s lineup included Bronx DJ Afrika Islam and Ice T.  Their first contribution is the Zulu Club Mix of Cars. It was released on Posse Records in 1987 and showcased a truly talented group. Sadly, their debut single wasn’t a commercial success. It was a case of what might have been for one of hip hop’s lost groups who could’ve and should’ve enjoyed a long and successful career.

Rockin’ It was released by Miami-based breakdancing group MC Flex and The FBI Crew, on Posse Records, in 1985. The track was meant to feature in the 1986 film Knights Of The City. However, neither this memorable track nor the footage of the Crew breakdancing made the final cut of the film. 

Closing the compilation is the Long Vocal Version of The Beach by Afrika and The Zulu Kings. It was released on Posse Records in 1987. Just like their debut single Cars, this prime slice of hip hop oozes quality. Sadly, it failed to make an impact and was the last single the group released. It’s another of the highlights of Dollar Bill Ya’ll-Spring Records and The First Decade Of Hip Hop.

For anyone with even a passing interest in early rap and hip hop, this eleven track compilation is a must-have. Familiar tracks rub shoulders with cult classics, hidden gems, rarities and groundbreaking singles on Dollar Bill Ya’ll-Spring Records and The First Decade Of Hip Hop.

This lovingly curated compilation also documents the evolution of Spring Records during the first decade of what turned out to be a musical revolution. Eleven reminders of what was a hugely important and influential peiood can be found on Dollar Bill Ya’ll-Spring Records and The First Decade Of Hip Hop.

Dollar Bill Ya’ll-Spring Records and The First Decade Of Hip Hop.


  1. Disco has a place in music history, it was part of the evolution of black music. “Disco sucked” because a few disgruntled mostly white dj’s and radio presenters didn’t like it.

    • I totally agree with your comments about disco. I grew up listening to disco and loved the music. Still do. Disco definitely played an important part of musical history and saw black music evolve. When I wrote liner notes for a compilation I wrote about the origins and history of disco as well as its demise. This was caused by a small cabal of white DJs who had an axe to grind. Among them were Steve Dahl and his followers. Disco had the last laugh, and over forty years later, is still popular.

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