Saturday, June 09, 2007

House Music All Night Long

As a bit of a purist when it came to hip hop, I observed the coming of hip-house in the late 1980s with the sort of disdain I usually reserved for Tory politicians (right kids?). It seemed like an incongruence to me; a bit like an ear grown on a mouse’s back. Why would anybody want to fuse these two things together? Keep it pure, yeah? Keep it real. Don’t fuck with the formula. Of course, I was just being a miserable sod, and if you can excuse the fact that the hip-house movement was probably responsible for the inexplicable rise of Snap! and Technotronic, then it did actually turn out a few decent songs here and there. It also got my reluctant ass back onto the dance floor for the first time since a slow dance to Foreigner’s ‘I Want to Know What Love Is’ at a school disco in 1984.

It wasn’t all about the supa dupa producer Tyree Cooper. Oh no. In fact, despite his claims to the contrary, the UK outfit Beatmasters beat Tyree to it in 1987, with ‘Rok Da House’, featuring the Cookie Crew on vocal duties. After these early skirmishes, hip-house finally achieved crossover success with the release of two tracks – Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock’s ‘It Takes Two’ (which was described by Hip Hop Connection as, “…the first palatable form of hip-house for hardcore hip hop fans”); and the Jungle Brother’s ‘I’ll House You’, which was essentially a reworking of Todd Terry’s ‘Can You Party’ (under the Royal House alias). I was an enormous fan of both these tracks, but started to lose interest when all the mysterious continental types like the aforementioned Snap! and Technotronic bastardised the format in search of chart success.

While never really establishing itself as a genre, hip-house has swung in and out of vogue a few times after its initial successes in late 1980s. Missy Elliot had a crack with her tribute to ecstasy, ‘4 My People’ back in 2001, and P. Diddy collaborated with Felix Da Housecat on 2006’s ‘Jack U’. It even appears to be making a bit of a comeback in 2007, with the latest Simian Mobile Disco track, ‘It’s the Beat’, featuring vocals by the Go! Team’s Ninja, and bearing a passing resemblance to tracks of old. So to celebrate this, I’m posting up a few of my favourite tracks from the original era of hip-house; some obvious classics, and others that are just too damn funky to be ignored despite being rather tenuous examples of the genre.

Twin Hype - Do It To The Crowd

We kick things off with ‘Do It To The Crowd’ by Twin Hype. I actually thought the rapping twins (Sly and Slick) were a bit rubbish, and were probably chosen for the gimmick factor, but the track itself is a stone cold classic. Even Jeff Mills used to drop this one in his sets back in ‘89. It’s a dance floor destroyer, with exemplary production from Rick ‘The Hollywood Impact’ Pagan and the engineer Brian Stroh, and brilliant scratches of all manner of dope rap samples from the DJ King Shameek. Check the comedy Monkee’s intro. Blinding.

Roxanne Shanté - Go On Girl

Next up is the Queen of Rap herself, Roxanne Shanté, with ‘Go On Girl’. I’m sure you all must be sick to death of ‘It Takes Two’, so I’ve put up this banger from Shanté, as it utilises the same “Whoo! Yeah!” break as ‘It Takes Two’ (‘Think (About It)’ by Lyn Collins), but has some super fresh raps from Roxanne and awesome production from Marley Marl. I guess it’s not strictly hip-house, but still rocks the house.

J.V.C. F.O.R.C.E - We Got Our Own Thing

‘We Got Our Own Thing’ turned up as a bonus track on the reissue of J.V.C. F.O.R.C.E’s debut album ‘Doin’ Damage’. I guess it was their take on the hip-house sound, but deemed superfluous to the original release, which was a real shame as it’s a beauty, with that bumpin’ Chicago 4/4 beat, and a live funky bassline, plus the inimitable lyrical skills of AJ Rock and B-Luv.

Twin Hype - For Those Who Like To Groove

Back to Twin Hype and their second sure-fire dancefloor smash (do I sound like Radio 1’s ‘Ooooh’ Gary Davies or wot?) in the shape of ‘For Those Who Like To Groove’. This pretty much does exactly the same as ‘Do It To The Crowd’, but has live drums from a man called C-7 (no relation to K-9). More rhyming fluff from the Twins, made up for by the drums, bass and Shameek’s sterling deck work. “89’s the year, House music’s in your ear” - Yeaaaaaaaah booooyyyyeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jungle Brothers - I'll House You

Boom!!! It’s the Jungle Brothers and ‘I’ll House You’. It’s probably about as pure a hip-house track as you’re ever going to hear. As mentioned before, it was a reworking of Royal House’s ‘Can You Party’ - raw house beats and string stabs, and rabble rousing raps from the boys. I love the fact that the JBeez’s were always going on about taking the ladies back to their ‘huts’, rather than pads or houses. They were the original junglists. Phrases from their raps ended up being sampled by everybody, most memorably by 2 Bad Mice on the rave monster ‘Hold It Down’, which lifted the “Jump, jump, a little higher, Jump, Jump until you get tired” part to great effect. I actually posted that one a while back.

EPMD - I'm Housin'

To close matters, I’ve put up EPMD’s ‘I’m Housin’’ from their superb debut LP 'Strictly Business'. Again, this isn’t strictly a hip-house track, despite what the title suggests. Having said that, it’s about as excitable and uptempo as the notoriously horizontal duo ever got, so I’ll take it. 'I'm Housin'' is a prime slice of their funk-fuelled, sample-heavy hip hop, with slurred lyrical flows. You can definitely dance to it, and I reckon it rounds things off quite nicely.

Search eBay for hip-house
Buy Twin Hype 'Do It To The Crowd' 12" from Boomkat
Roxanne Shanté at My Space
Buy the reissue of J.V.C. F.O.R.C.E’s ‘Doin’ Damage’ from Boomkat
Jungle Brothers website
Buy EPMD 'Strictly Business' from Amazon