Def Jam Week: 10 Slept-On Singles

Slick Rick – Hey Young World

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Where as Children’s Story often takes the prize as Ricky’s best release ‘Hey Young…’ always holds a place close to our hearts. It was later immortalised when Omar Credle sampled it on his seminal ‘Time’s Up’, bringing one of Rick’s slept on into the nineties and beyond. It was always more of a radio and video track, far from a club tempo so never set the dance floors alight but it’s the uplifting lyrics, melody and and simply great song writing and arrangement that makes this so perfect.

Davy D – Clap Your Hands (1987)

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The ‘Davy’s Ride’ LP might have been one of the most tedious of the early Def Jam LP’s – despite the presence on it of the inestimable ‘Keep Your Distance’ and the pretty decent ‘Bustin’ Loose’, but the key record from Davy’s post electro-era is actually the ‘Ohh Girl’ single and it’s non-LP B-side, ‘Clap Your Hands’. Over a pitch-perfect straddling of ’87 and ’88, MC Diamond T, Hurricane and Nikki D go at it as if there was the prize of a Def Jam deal hanging on it. In which case, Nikki won.

EPMD – Cross Over b/w Brothers From Brentwood L.I.

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There are so many slept on Def Jam singles and we struggled to decide whether we include RAL releases or keep it strictly black and maroon Def Jam covers but this one was so hard we had to put it in there. The cover is one of the all time classics, white hoodies, white jeans, black Timbs. This shit was hip-hop with a capital Huh. While Erick and Parrish never compromised and regularly had a pop at the direction rap was going (see ‘Rap Is Outta Control’), they still made records that worked at radio. If you read the promo blurb above the marketing strategy is there for all to see. But it was the B side on this one that got our necks snapping. With a vocal sample that on first listen didn’t quite sit right but soon became engrained in your melon and the Greg Nice vocal from ‘How To Flow’, this shit just banged and put a small Long Island suburb on the rap map.

Nikki D – Lettin’ Off Steam (1990)

Perhaps it was her appearance on Davy D’s Clap Your Hands that persuaded Def Jam to offer Nikki D a deal, and they hyped her as the only female rapper on Def Jam, as if that was something to be proud of. Although they plucked endless singles from ‘Daddy’s Little Girl’, it was to be the only album of her career, despite the promise of the blazing ‘Lettin’ off Steam’. Sam Sever concocts a heater from the Def Jam template, Flavor Flav turns up to yell at one point, and the amount of bouncing titflesh Nikki displays in her video will in the year 2011 inspire one YouTube viewer to comment, ‘I’d have fucked her into a wheelchair’.

3rd Bass – Steppin To The A.M.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Ready in the intro, cue up the Serch-lite”, when that comes in you knew these guys meant business. Def Jam wisely omitted their caucasian faces from the cover sleeve to ensure these guys were judged solely on the quality of the music. At a time when it wasn’t aiiight to be white Serch and Pete overcame any preconceptions and were universally embraced. But it’s the first and long lasting impressions a first single  can make that can make it so special, no frills, just a great record that worked at both club and radio  and still does to this day. This still gets mad rotation in the Doncaster Ritzy.

Original Concept – Can You Feel It? (1986)

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Rick Rubin and Original Concept go spastic with a drum machine, some familiar samples and in the process create a masterpiece that is like ‘Ichiban Scratch’ for the post-electro era. There are only 2 or 3 songs of any real interest on Original Concept’s ‘Straight from the Basement of Cooley High’ LP, perhaps the first truly overlong LP in hip-hop history, mostly because there isn’t a tremendous amount of lyrical prowess in the crew. This, ‘Pump That Bass’ and ‘Charlie Sez’ are pretty much all they wrote, although it’s worth flipping this single over for the sloppy ‘Knowledge Me’, jacked pretty much wholesale for Duval Clear’s ‘Born to Roll’

Beastie Boys – She’s On It

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The Beasties Def Jam debut 12″ ‘Rock Hard’ wasn’t half as good as their previous single ‘Cooky Puss’ but it hints at what lay ahead and, at the very least, that shit can claim a place in history as the first Rap song to use ‘Back In Black’ by AC/DC. It wasn’t until the ‘She’s On It’ 12″ later in 1985 that the O.G Heebs of Rap finally found their feet as Rap artists, with the B. side ‘Hold It Now, Hit It’ becoming the hit/bona fide classic and the A. side here from the ‘Krush Groove’ OST being used a dry-run for ‘(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)’. There isn’t a line in ‘She’s On It’ that captures male adolescence as eloquently as “your mum threw away your best porno mag” from ‘Fight For Your Right’, but it’s still a on banger which never fails to have the Fat Lace crew strapping on air-guitars like we’re Chris Needham.

Slick Rick – Treat Her Like A Prostitute (Movie Version) &
Slick Rick ft. Doug E. Fresh – Sittin’ In My Car

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Treat Her Like A Prostitute

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Sittin’ in My Car

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After Russell spent so much time and effort separating Ricky D. from the clutches of Doug E. Fresh after the success of that classic 12″ of theirs in 1985, he made damn sure their subsequent reunions were buried. The superior beatbox version of ‘Treat Her Like A Prostitute’ was hidden away on the flip of the ‘Teenage Love’ 12″ and, although ‘Sittin’ In My Car’ was a single for the ‘Behind Bars’ album, it was the gay Doug-less Jermaine Dupri remix of the song which found favour with radio and MTV. Both of these are as good as ‘The Show’ and ‘La Di Da Di’, and they serve to make us raise our fists to the sky and curse that they never recorded a full EP or album as a duo, although this might be a good thing as we don’t much fancy the idea of Rick shilling for Jesus on MC Hammer’s label like Doug.

Jay-Z – A Million And One Questions Extended Mix

 

 

 

 

 

 

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AKA the extended radio edit remix in which the beat doesn’t switch up from the plink-plonking pianos of the original Primo heater. Tipper Gore and the PMRC may have ultimately lost the war against censorship in the 90s thanks to the combined forces of Gangsta Rap and Death Metal, but they sure managed to pick off a few generals along the way since this is one of those classics which only exist on 12″ in a bowdlerized clean version for benders alongside ‘Steady Mobbin’’ by Ice Cube, ‘Havin’ Thangs’ by Big Mike, ‘Ain’t No Thang’ by OutKast, ‘Firm Biz’ remix by The Firm & Half-A-Mill and ‘Wood Wheel’ by UGK. It’s enough to make Eazy roll in his grave.


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