I love hip-hop. I have been a fan of hip-hop since the first time I heard Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five in 1982. I had moved into town after my parents divorced. We lived in “the projects” of Owensboro, KY on Pennbrooke. I heard lots of rap blaring from the other apartments around me. I was fascinated with breakdancing, and even gave that a shot too (though rather poorly). But the music stayed with me. In 1986 my family moved to Nashville and I was excited that I found the soul radio station that played one or two hip-hop songs an hour on the radio! I had never heard that before. Eventually I discovered the New Life Records radio show on WRVU (R.I.P.), the college radio station out of Vanderbilt University. All hip-hop for four hours every Saturday night. The first place I heard Ice-T, N.W.A., Mark The 45 King, Eazy E, MC Shan, Public Enemy, Ghetto Boys, Jungle Brothers, A Tribe Called Quest and so many classic hip-hop singles.
One of the more curious jams that I liked quite a bit from that time period was called “Posse’s On Broadway” from Seattle rapper Sir Mix-A-Lot. The track was dead simple: a steady electro drum machine beat, a vocal sample that sounded like it came from my Casio SK-1 (ie. REAL lo-fi), and I dug the weird lilt to Mix’s voice. I eventually got a copy of Mix’s first album Swass and was treated to interesting rhymes mixed with metal from Puget Sound righteous headbangers Metal Church and the seriously weird country rapping of “Buttermilk Biscuits”. Interesting stuff. Eventually Mix became a household name with “Baby Got Back” but I knew Mix as one of the more original voices of old school party hip-hop.
Fast-forward to 1999 when I first moved to Seattle and found myself driving/walking the streets and getting all the references in “Posse’s On Broadway”. The track big-ups Rainier Valley in a major way. I also found myself seriously impressed that one of the part-time radio producers at the radio group I worked for ran with Mix-A-Lot and can be seen on the back of the Swass album cover. Was nearly as cool as meeting Kris Novaselic! But really, you can’t just credit Nirvana, Heart and grunge for introducing the Puget Sound to the national musical melange. Sir Mix-A-Lot had hits a good three years before Nevermind blew up, and if I was hearing him in 1988 in Nashville I’d say others were too. There’s a lot of blogofiling these days about the renaissance of Seattle hip-hop, what with Macklemore, Blue Scholars and Shabazz Palaces blowing up. Mix laid the foundation for those dudes, and should command the respect of the hip-hop community (but doesn’t).
So fast forward even farther to yesternow…and this interesting 12″ single I unearthed at the local used record store. I didn’t know it existed, but I knew immediately it had to be Mix’s first single, and I was right. Half the 12″ single was recorded at home on Mix’s four-track cassette recorder, the other half in a nice studio. It’s 1985 by now, and Seattle is pretty much the farthest you can get from NYC and still be in the lower 48…so it’s no surprise that the production quality is REALLY dated, even by 1985 standards. By that time the hip-hop game was enthralled with the hard, spare drum machine beats and scratching from Run-DMC and LL Cool J. Mix’s 12″ sounds like it was produced by Afrika Bambaataa in 1982. That’s not necessarily a bad thing now, because the production features some dynamite synthesizer work and with nostalgia for all things 1980s and day glo, time is a little kinder to “I Just Love My Beat”. But I bet it was a liability in 1985. One cool thing about Mix is that his style of rapping was very much in place. He messes with his voice a bit, pitching it down, but the trademark almost Southern drawl is already in place, and his rhymes are DEFINITELY a lot dirtier sex-wise than most stuff out at that time, a definite precursor to the Mix that hit it big commercially at the start of the 1990’s. Even the pitched-up redneck hick-hop rapping is already representin’ on her too (“Square Dance Rap” even got its own release as a 12″ single the following year). The lyrics are almost embarrassing, but it’s good party rap and the production is pretty interesting if you dig Mantronix or Arabian Prince. And remember, Ice-T and Dr. Dre started out sucking on the Soulsonic teat too.
This 12″ is fairly rare, a time capsule of the sort of weird self-released regional hip-hop that was going down in the mid ’80s. The kind of thing the MP3 blog was made to unearth and share. So that’s exactly what I’m a do. The 12″ single fetches northward of $15 or more and is unreleased on CD. Try it out here before you commit on the Evilbayz.
SOURCE: The original 1985 Nastymix pressing of the 12″ single -> Sony PS-T22 turntable with the V series cartridge -> Technics SA-EX310 stereo receiver -> Lexicon Lambda USB i/o -> Adobe Audition. No EQ, no cleaning up, no click removal, etc.