I’ve had to clean up and clean out the piles of cassette tapes that were at my parents’ house, the shoe boxes that were in my closet and stashed on shelves. Most of the tapes were recordings of records I bought so I could listen to them in car and on a Walkman in the pre-MP3 era. I got ride of most of them but kept nearly all of the mixtapes that people made for me. This one is a pause tape that my brother made for me back in 2006. The tape reflects his ecletic world of hip-hop taste. Think Stones Throw meets back of the crate gems.
And the best part is that it is a pause tape. As much as I love a well done live analogue mix, there is a special place for a pause tape. As much effort, time, and care the a mixtape takes, the pause tape is that extra step of planning and effort that reach a sublime when it is executed well. This one is well done. Pause tapes have a long history in Hip Hop. I’d argue that the pause tape is a physical representation of Hip Hop. But that is a longer take on history and theory…let’s just get to the jams.
To my barely teen self, Tim Dog’s Fuck Compton, along with NWA and Boss’s “I Don’t Give a Fuck,” was part of a spate of rap releases that straddled the line between fascinating and frightening. I was fairly oblivious to the nitty-gritty of the East Coast – West Coast rap beef, but being from the northeast I just reflexively threw my lot in with the East Coast. Here Tim Dog menacingly threatens NWA and anyone in their orbit. To my mind at the time, anyone willing to call out NWA must be a real badass.
And that is the sticking point — at that time. Listening to it now it comes across as cartoon goonery over ESG and James Brown samples. On one hand he calls them out for fighting for gang turf but then he quickly goes to the other hand threatening to beat and rob them for being from the West Coast. If it wasn’t for the call to arms I don’t think Tim Dog’s flow or technique would have him stand out from his peers.
I point out the cartoon aspect of the song not because he was likely exaggerating or speaking from a persona, many rappers do that, but because at the time I fully believed that what was presented on the song was who he was. It probably helped that I was very young and from the suburbs but I was effectively conned. I bring this up because I hadn’t given Tim Dog much though until I read that he was on the lam, accused of being a con man and possibly faking his own death. Turns out he did pass away but the accusations appear to be real. One ironic aspect is that one of his cons was promoting an all male “Chocolate Thunder” stripper tour — the b-side here is Wild in the Penile where Tim Dog breaks down his time in jail where he makes it clear he is not down for any gay shit. Anyway, the thread I’m trying to tie here is that I was fully willing to believe that he was a true goon who shouldn’t be messed with, I was willing to be hoodwinked into believing his story. I wasn’t alone judging by the amount of controversy and press Fuck Compton generated. Tim Dog apparently had gift of getting people to believe his version of reality.
There is a surprising dearth of information about the Boston Goes Def! compilation online, and given how small the Boston scene was (and is), it is also surprising that none of these groups seem to have the faintest existence outside of this album, although Edo.G might be on there with FTI Crew, but the date of his joining the group and when the recording was made might not match up. The Old School Hip-Hop forum does shed some possible light on the situation:
I grew up in Boston (actually Newton Centre which is right outside of Boston) and I can remember when this album was being put together. I used to listen to a show called Lekkos Lemma (sp?) They would promote this album on the air and accepted demo tapes from local acts. The guys name was Magnus. He would play demo tapes from up and coming acts. They all sounded low budget compared to the stuff that was coming out of New York at the time.
That pretty much sums the good and the bad about this album. It isn’t as good as other rap cuts from the time, in fact, some songs just sound like lesser versions of other songs. So it doesn’t seem that critical of a record to have stashed in the collection outside of regional identity based interest. But then again, when I listen past the Whodini and Run-D.M.C. aping it does have some nice moments. And after knowing the hyper-local and humble origins, it starts to be endearing.
Also, I am a bit fascinated by what is implied by this compilation – namely that given Boston’s demographics, some, if not many, of the artists are likely to be white. And while in 2014 this is nearly a non-issue, I can only think that in 1986 Boston it would only be one. The rappers here would have been young children during the Boston busing crisis. I think its a bit heartening that other issues aside, just nine years after the start of racist violence an integrated rap compilation could come out of those very neighborhoods.
The group that wears its name most obviously, the White Boy Crew, has some interesting connections to hip-hop history: John Dorff, a.k.a. The M.C. Popeye, with rhyming roots in Mission Hill (Boston) and Four Corners (Dorchester, MA), founded The White Boy Crew when he teamed up with Seth Trafford, a.k.a. The Beat Box Spinach. For most of the 2 year career of the group it was just John and Seth, who earned considerable local respect by performing live, competing in talent shows, and getting airplay on 88.1′s Saturday afternoon underground hip hop show hosted by the Magnus Johnstone, the now legendary radio deejay credited with being instrumental in breaking the underground hip hop scene in Boston. Soon they were scouted to appear on the Boston Goes Def Boston Goes Def! compilation. The White Boy Crew did have a deejay as part of the act at two different points – first was Mike Dee, of the original Boston based Gangstarr (Keith Elam ‘The Guru’ later took Gangstarr to NYC but left Mike behind), and later Sean Gillis a.k.a. DJ Steady a.k.a. DJ Shamrock.
So despite the flaws there is a little more to this record than the first drop of the needle suggests.
UPDATE: After publishing this post I came across an article in Wax Poetics about the Lecco’s Lemma radio show and the origins of Beautiful Sounds record label. It is an interesting look at the Boston rap scene and the handful of artists, like Edo-G and Guru, who developed out of it. Wax Poetics is such a great resource and I should have known better and went there first.
Kool Rock Jay & DJ Slice were a duo out of Fresno and before they became a bit militant with It’s a Black Thing they debuted with this 1986 single on Erika Records / Jam City Records. Check It Out wears the period on its sleeve with style echos of Rakim. The flip is DJ Slice’s showcase and again the era is all over it- from the Planet Rock, Funkadelic, Wild Sugar, and The Smurf samples, to the cuts. I copped it because it is a pretty good taste of mid-80′s hip-hop. Fun Fact: they were later produced by Lionel ‘The Super Duper Dope Hook Man’ Bea. Clearly a man with a humble ego.