Tag: Run DMC

Throwback: RIP Prince Markie Dee

As a child of the 80s, I grew up listening to — and of course, admiring — the acts that helped hip-hop achieve mainstream success domestically and internationally. I was a huge Run DMC and LL Cool J fan. (Queens in the building after all, right?) Sadly though, you don’t hear a lot about The Fat Boys. But they were instrumental in hip-hop’s ascendance and global dominance: they were in the preeminent hip-hop movie of its time, Krush Groove 1987’s Crushin’ went Platinum while three others went at least Gold — and they were the first hip-hop act to actually star in their own movie, Disordelies. And they were fun. Watching the videos now, I’m reminded of a New York that I can’t get back.

I actually saw Disorderlies in the movie theater. Admittedly, it’s not a classic of cinema but I’m not sure where hip-hop would be without its release. When I heard the news that Prince Markie Dee died, it was heartbreaking. It’s a sign of aging — and of your own mortality — when your childhood favorites and heroes begin to die.

Thanks for the music Prince Markie Dee. Rest in beats.

Throwback: Black History Month: Run DMC

February 18, 2021 is the 18th day of Black History Month. The month has been rushing by — but throughout this past month, I’ve been featuring Black artists across a wide and eclectic array of genres and styes. Hopefully, this may be a bit of a primer on the Black experience and on Black music.

Of course, I hope that these posts will serve as a reminder of these very important facts:

Black culture is American culture — and Black music is American music.
America’s greatest and beloved contributions to the world are Black music styles — the blues, jazz, rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop.
Black art matters.
Black lives matter — all of them, all of the time.

Run DMC was among a batch of hip hop acts to have crossover/mainstream appeal in the 80s. And as a child of the 80s, who was born and raised in Queens, it was easy to be proud of them: they grew up in Hollis, where my father grew up — and in those brothers, I could see myself, unlike say, Metallica or Tears for Fears.

When I was small, I begged my folks for a pair of Adidas, because my heroes wore them. So my folks went to Modell’s and bought me a pair. Sadly, they fell apart in a few weeks and I was heartbroken.

We have to give love to the pioneers, who helped made hip-hop the global phenomenon it is today.

Lyric Video: Public Enemy Teams Up with Run-DMC and Beastie Boys’ Mike D and Ad-Rock

Earlier this year, the legendary Public Enemy — Chuck D, Flavor Flav, and DJ Lord — released their critically applauded 15th album What You Gonna Do When The Grid Goes Down? The album which features guest spots from a who’s who list of just about everyone who’s truly dope — including Nas, YG, Rapsody, DJ Premier, Black Thought, Questlove, Cypress Hill, Run DMC, Ice-T, PMD, Daddy-O, Jahi, The Impossebulls, Mark Jenkins, the S1W’s Pop Diesel and James Bomb and Beastie Boys’ Mike D and Ad-Rock — marks the act’s return to their longtime label home, Def Jam.

Now, if you’ve been frequenting this site throughout the course of this year, you may recall that I’ve written about two of What You Gonna Do When The Grid Goes Down? singles:

“State of the Union (STFU),” a righteous and much-needed DJ Premier-produced tweeter and woofer rocking boom bap condemnation of the Trump Administration. Naturally, the track continues their long-held reputation for boldly speaking truth to power with teh track urging the listener to get involved and fight systemic racism, injustice and oppression with their voices and through collective action — but most importantly, through their vote. So far about 1 million New Yorkers have voted in early elections, but you still have election day. If you haven’t voted or thinking about not voting because you think that your vote isn’t important, think of it this way: if i’m not mistaken, Trump won a state by less than 100,000 votes. So go out there and vote like your life depends on it — because it does.
“Fight The Power: Remix 2020.” an updated version of their seminal 1989 anthem “Fight The Power” that features inspired guest verses from Nas, Rapsody, Black Thought, YG and JAHI. The original may have been released 31 years ago but it still manages to be relevant and necessary until there’s equity and equality for all.

What You Gonna Do When The Grid Goes Down?’s latest single “Public Enemy Number Won” is a much-needed blast of tweeter and woofer rocking, old-school boom bap goodness featuring guest verses from a Hall of Fame crew of legends: Run DMC and The Beastie Boys’ Ad-Rock and Mike D. And for that added blast of nostalgia, the hip-hop legends released a lyric video featuring classic 80s Def Jam footage of all of the artists.

Along with the release of the video, Public Enemy announced their support of Election Super Centers’ Make History Here initiative. The non-partisan group has been working with local election authorities and more than 70 NBA, MLB, NFL, NHL and MLS arenas, stadia and teams, as well as prominent artists and athletes to inform communities that their local arena or stadium is open as a polling location, ensuring safe, socially-distanced voting.

\

Currently comprised of Gilbert Elorreaga, Mark Gonzales, Greg Gonzalez, Josh Levy, Sweet Lou, Beto Martinez, Adrian Quesada, John Speice and Alex Marrero, the Austin, TX-based act Brownout was formed ten years as a side project featuring members of the Grammy Award-winning Latin funk act Grupo Fantasma, but interestingly enough, the project has evolved into its own as a unique effort, separate from the members’ primary gigs. Over the past few years, the act has garnered critical praise — they won their third Austin Music Award last year, while composing and arranging work that’s unflinchingly progressive while evoking the influences of WAR, Cymande and Funkadelic. Unsurprisingly, the members of Brownout have been a highly-sought after backing band,  who have collaborated with GZA, Prince, Daniel Johnston and Bernie Worrell, and adding to a growing profile, they’ve made appearances across the major festival circuit, including Bonnaroo, High Sierra Music Festival, Pickathon, Bear Creek Musical Festival, Utopia Festival, Pachanga Fest, and others.

Throughout the course of this site’s history, I’ve written quite a bit about the Austin-based act, and as you may know, the band has released five full-length albums: 2008’s Homenaje, 2009’s Aguilas and Cobras, 2012’s Oozy, 2015’s Brownout Presents: Brown Sabbath and 2016’s Brownout Presents: Brown Sabbath, Vol. II — with their last two albums Latin funk interpretations and re-imaginings of the legendary work of Black Sabbath. Of course, during their run together, Brownout has released a handful of EPs, including 2017’s critically applauded Over the Covers, their first batch of original material in some time.

As a child of the 80s, hip-hop was a nothing short of a revelation to me and countless others. Every day after school, I practically ran home to catch Yo! MTV Raps with Ed Lover and Dr. Dre and BET’s Rap City and during the weekends I’d catch Yo! MTV Raps with the legendary Fab 5 Freddy  — all to catch Run DMC, LL Cool J, Big Daddy Kane, MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, Biz Markie, Das EFX, A Tribe Called Quest, X Clan and Public Enemy among an incredibly lengthy list. (Admittedly, I didn’t watch Rap City as much. Even as a kid, I hated their host and I found their overall production values to be incredible cheap. Plus, I really loathed how they almost always managed to either cut to a commercial or the end credits during the middle of a fucking song — and it was always during your favorite jam. Always.) 28 years ago, Public Enemy released their seminal album Fear of a Black Planet, and unsurprisingly, the album wound up profoundly influencing the future founding members of Grupo Fantasma/Brownout. The band’s Greg Gonzalez (bass) remembers how a kid back in junior high school hipped him to the fact that Public Enemy’s “Bring the Noise” was built on James Brown samples. As a teenager, Beto Martinez (guitar) speaks fondly of alternating between hip-hop and metal tapes on his walkman (much like me). And Adrian Quesada remembers falling in love with Public Enemy and their sound at an early age. “When I got into hip-hop, I was looking for this aggressive outlet . . .,” Quesada says in press notes, “and I didn’t even understand what they were pissed off about, because I was twelve and lived in Laredo . . . but I loved it, and I felt angry along with them.”

So as true children of the 80s and 90s, the members of Brownout, with the influence and encouragement of Fat Beats‘ Records Joseph Abajian have tackled Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet — with their own unique take on the legendary material and sound. And although they were eager to get back to work on new, original material, they couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pay homage to one of their favorite acts. As Abajian says in press notes “I thought their sound would work covering Public Enemy songs.” He adds “it was good to know they were P.E. fans . .  We came up with a track listing and they went to work.”

Understandably, translating sample-based music to a live band turned out to be more challenging than everyone anticipated. Quesada tried to get into the heads of the legendary production team the Bomb Squad in order to reinterpret Public Enemy’s work. “Imagine the Bomb Squad going back in time and getting the J.B.’s in the studio and setting up a couple analog synths and then playing those songs.” And while some songs closely hew to the original, other songs use the breakbeats as a jumping-off point for Mark “Speedy” Gonzales’ horn arrangements, synth work by Peter Stopchinski and DJ Trackstar‘s turntablism. “Our approach is never in the tribute sense,” Adrian Quesada explains. “We’ve always taken it and made it our own, whether it’s the Brown Sabbath thing or this Public Enemy thing.”

Fear of a Brown Planet comes on the heels of several Brown Sabbath tours, and while being an incredibly tight and funky band, the members of the band are incredibly psyched to bring revolutionary music to the people, especially in light of both the current   social climate and that they’re not particularly known for having an overt political agenda. “If there’s any way that we can use the already political and protest nature [of P.E.’s music], we would like to try,” Beto says. “The album’s title, Fear of Brown Planet is definitely a relevant idea today and we’re not afraid to put it out there, because we want to speak out.”

Fear of a Brown Planet‘s first single is Brownout’s take on “Fight the Power,” and while retaining the breakbeats that you’ll remember fondly, their instrumental take is a funky JB’s meets Booker T-like jam, centered around an incredible horn line, bursts of analog synth and sinuous guitar line. As a result, Brownout’s take is warmly familiar but without being a carbon copy; in fact, they manage to breathe a much different life into the song without erasing its revolutionary sound or its righteous fury. Check out how it compares to the original below.