Sunday, 20 June 2010

That XXL AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted piece

Terrorizer is a fine magazine, but I don't have enough of an interest in modern metal and hardcore beyond 6 groups who either started in the 90s or contain members of bands I listened to in the 90s to buy it every month, so XXL is the only monthly music mag I still pick up without fail. Staples like the letters from prison inmates calling whatever rapper was on the cover of the last issue a faggot and the toadying responses to them from the letters editor ("real recognize real, and you look pretty familiar right now"), the Swagger Jacker section (because it's always nice to know that Yung Berg has been interpolating Ma$e lyrics), and the Hacker For Hire advertisments (Is your music being leaked? Is your homeboy a snitch? Is your phone being tapped? Is someone talking bad about you on a blog? Do you think your girl or your man is cheating?) are always welcome, but they always manage to wheel out a couple of marquee pieces per issue too. The Guru article (less yet another tribute, and more of an investigative piece of journalism on Solar) in the latest one fits that bill, but the highlight of the issue is the Making Of AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted retrospective to celebrate that it's been 20 years since its release with track-by-track breakdowns and anecdotes from Cube himself, the Shocklee brothers, Eric "Vietnam" Sadler, Sir Jinx, Chuck D, Flavor Flav, and even Yo-Yo.

In it we learn that Cube originally wanted Sam Sever from 3rd Bass to produce AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted (I mean, The Cactus Album was a decent LP but..) but after Server flaked on a meeting Cube happened to bump into Chuck D in the Def Jam offices and the two agreed to work together, that Once Upon A Time In The Projects was loosely inspired by Sergio Leone's Once Upon A Time In America, that The N*gga Ya Love To Hate was originally conceived as an NWA song, that Flavor Flav was notoriously hard to find with Cube not seeing hide-nor-hair of him for 6 weeks despite the fact that P.E were recording Fear Of A Black Planet in the same building, and that Spike Lee would've prefered if they'd asked him first before using the Do The Right Thing sample at the start of Turn Off The Radio. but what I found most interesting was the breakdown of A Gangsta's Fairytale where we learn about who the kid was on the intro and that it originally started life as a song Cube wrote for Eazy-E.

Ice Cube - A Gangsta's Fairytale

Ice Cube : "A Gangsta's Fairytale" was a song that I wrote for Eazy-E that I ended up keeping. We wanted to use this Mr. Rogers shit in the beginning, and we had the whole thing planned out. And we was like "We need this kid on here talking shit about how we want a real fairytale, not no bullshit." I wasn't from New York, so I didn't really know no little kids out there. So Keith Shocklee was like, "Yo, I got the perfect kid. He's a good kid, but he talks a lot of shit." I asked Keith, "His mama gonna let him do it?" Keith was like "How much you gonna pay him?" I said, "I got a G for him if they come in and do a good job." They came in there, and he stood there and just laced it. He was talking shit! [Laughs]

Eric Sadler : The biggest thing about "A Gangsta's Fairytale" was lil' Les. When lil' Les came on there for the intro, I was like, "Oh, you gotta be kidding me. This is so cool." I didn't know what he was gonna say at all. I just knew that Cube wanted him at the beginning of the record. So once he said the famous line - "Hey, you got some shit for the niggas and bitches. What about the kids?" - man, we all just passed out. [Laughs] It only took him like two or three to do it... He got some cash, and I'm just like, "Okay, we're going to hell for this." But it was perfect.

Sir Jinx : That was the closest you were going to get to an Ice Cube/N.W.A collaboration, because it was written for Eazy-E. You can kinda flip the words around, "Little boys and girls, they all love me/Come and sit on the lap of Eazy-E."

I can definately hear that and it would've worked as a sequel of sorts to Boyz-N-The-Hood. But it wouldn't have sounded like that because Dr Dre would've produced it instead of The Bomb Squad, wouldn't he?. This then got me thinking about Dre productions from 1990 which might've ended up being used for an Eazy-E version of A Gangsta's Fairytale. I can't imagine Real Niggas, Untouchable and Murder Rap as anything other than what they are, and 100 Miles And Runnin' and Menace To Society are both too uptempo and busy for a fairly elaborate narrative, so I'm thinking the most likely outcome would've involved one of these 4 '90 Dre productions :

Above The Law - Another Execution

Livin' Like Hustlers, Freedom Of Speech, and The Last Song from the first Above The Law LP would also be contenders, but this is easily the best fit for Eazy rapping about various cartoon characters having sex and living down the street in Air Jordans, no?

Eazy-E - Eazy Street

Taken from the Superfly 1990 soundtrack, this was the only Eazy-E song of 1990, and a slightly bizarre semi-storytelling song which ends in Eazy getting his Scatman-John on to boot. The most likely Dre production which could've become the Eazy E A Gangsta's Fairytale? Yeah, I guess. Hardly the best fit, though.

NWA - Just Don't Bite It

See, I could really imagine it over Just Don't Bite It with Eazy employing the same sort of stoic flow Ren employed on it, but then that would deprive us of NWA's greatest ode to chicks tooting on the blue veined flute and that would be an absolute tragedy, so I'm gonna pluck for this as being the most likely Dr Dre beat which would've been used for Eazy's A Gangsta's Fairytale. Drumroll, please...

West Coast All Stars - We're All In The Same Gang

Classic Dre production, but totally wasted on the West's very own Self Destruction despite the impressive line-up (NWA, Ice-T, Above The Law and King Tee all on a song together!). These streetz ain't tryna hear positivity from NWA or listen to Michel'le, Young MC and Body & Soul, b (I always had a soft spot for Tone Loc, though), and it's the one Dre production out of this bunch which kinda has the same feel as the Bomb Squad beat on Cube's tale of Snow White & the 7 dwarfs, Humpty-Dumpty, Cinderella, Mr Rogers et al going about their daily business in the projects.

Bonus action :

Another amusing Youtube collage, this time for A Gangsta's Fairytale 2, which is my favorite rap sequel, like, ever. Shout outs to Lil' Les returning a couple of years later too. If only the continuity problems with Walt from Lost's voice breaking could've been that simple :


Boothe said...

I haven't looked at a XXL magazine in years. Thanks for sharing.

Sam Sever is an interesting first choice. I liked a lot of the work he did with 3rd Bass. Most of their notable singles were produced by the Bomb Squad, Prince Paul and SD50's, but Sam did provide a lot of dope album cuts.

Things probably turned out for the better with Cube and Jinx hooking up with the Bomb Squad.

I live for this behind the scene shit. Especially for the classic albums we grew up. Not sure if you've ever read Check The Technique by Brian Coleman, if not I would highly recommend it for more shit like this.

MF said...

I certinly have. That's a great book.

That and the other XXL retrospectives (Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, Ready To Die, Reasonable Doubt etc) are all excellent, but the 33 1/3 book on the making of Paul's Boutique is on another level. You got that?

Boothe said...

Missed out on that one (33 1/3).

Gonna cop it immediately. Love that album.

MF said...

It's pretty much the perfect rap album for book treatment, and it doesn't disappoint. Really well written and researched.

Mr Bozack said...

There's a massive lack of decent hip hop literature isn't there - can count the number of books I've read and didn't detest on one hand.

Always wished they'd do some hip hop "Classic Albums" programmes - great progs for detailed track by track analysis, normally with the main players in the studio, sitting behind the 48 track board, breaking it all down.

Class post - Sam "Server" though?!

MF said...

Hah. I always call him that in real life too.

Some Making Of.. tv shows would definately be good. The only one I've ever seen is the (VH1?) Making Of Reasonable Doubt one which BBC4 showed a couple of years back.

bradley said...

great post

any chance of better quality versions of the 3rd and 4th xxl pix?

MF said...

My scanner is broke, but i'll scan them in work on wednesday, yeah.

dj said...

Unbelievable: you write about rap music that I've listened to.

I don't really like "just don't bite it", I prefer "a bitch is a bitch". Still, it's nice to be able to comment again.

MF said...

DJ the secret quasi-NWA fan.

Bitch Iz A Bitch is definately a better song, but since that's an ode to the contradictory impulses of the male and female psyche rather than a dedication to gettin' chix to give your dick fat licks it's difficult to compare the two.

Sam said...

great post, would love to read the rest of this but the last two scans are a bit out of focus - any chance of better quality?
really interesting that he wanted dre first and then the 3rd bass guy, im SO glad he finally used the bomb squad though, this is one of my favorite albums for production

MF said...

Ah, yeah, i'll get this full thing properly scanned sometime this week.