Monday, 30 August 2010

Marvin Gaye - Ego Tripping Out

If you thought the awful Unity by Afrika Bambaataa & James Brown was the first instance of r&b singers hijacking the rap bandwagon then you've obviously never heard Telephone Bill by Johnny "Guitar" Watson from 1980, where the Texan Bluesman who inspired Gangster Of Love by the Geto Boys weaves an amusing narrative about unpaid bills in a style which is more comparable to the proto-rapping of Lightnin' Rod than it is to Sugarhill Gang or even The Fatback Band on King Time III. If you really want to hear the very first example of an r&b singer trying to rap akin how to any of the original Bronx groups or Sugarhill Gang rapped, however, then you need to go back to Marvin Gaye's 1979 single Ego Tripping Out which surfaced a couple of months after Rapper's Delight blew up, where Marv' gets his Big Bank Hank/Grandmaster Caz on for the first quarter of the song over some typically lush late 70's disco backing. Well, sorta; here's where things get particularly interesting from a historical perspective : Ego Tripping Out began life as a demo for Marv's scrapped Love Man album sessions in late 1978 which means it predates even King Tim III, so, not only was Marvin Gaye a pioneer of the R&B Singers Chris Browning Their Hoes movement alongside Ike Turner, but he also accidently invented recorded rap musik in 1978. Who knew? Here he is miming Ego Tripping Out as he concentrates on grooving around in a snowblinded haze on some tv show :

Marvin Gaye - Ego Tripping Out

Despite his drug addiction, spiralling Tax debts, and lack of a hit single since 1977, Marvin was still bringing home the bacon via royalties off his back catalogue and live appearances in 1979, but after the failure of Here, My Dear the previous year he was becoming known as Marvin The Cokehead Who Stumbles Out Of Limousines Dripping In Diamonds And Wearing The Finest Silk Suits Money Could Buy Into The Arms Of A Bevy Of Beautiful Disco-Sluts At The Blue Parrot/Studio 54, rather than Marvin The R&B Singer. Thus Ego Tripping Out was a self-reflective way of poking fun at his public persona and letting people know that he was in on the joke too before providing us with a cautionary reminder that there is a comedown from the high-life and that drugs are as bad for the soul as they are for the body in the last verse. Since I'm somebody who prefers Let's Get It On to What's Going On (Inner City Blues aside, Marvin wasn't exactly Curtis Mayfield as far as socio-political commentary in songs go goes, eh?) I use Ego Tripping Out as a straight-faced demonstration of nouveau-riche flossin' and a celebration of the hedonism which occurs under the disco lights with a thudding closing warning that some touchy-feely, beaked-up wanker constantly yammering on in your ear about seeing Unkle live at some shitty festival/his t-shirt line/how he's totally wrecked/trying to sell you liquid MDMA which is 80% flat Dr Pepper will inevitably end up putting a dampner on your evening.

Anyway, Ego Tripping Out was released to a "Huh, What?" response from Marvin's hardcore fanbase and it didn't even chart on the Billboard Top 100 so Berry Gordy quickly pulled it from stores due to lack of sales to try and save face, and the song was forgotten about until Motown included a 7 minute version of it on the 1994 reissue of Marvin's 1981 album In Our Lifetime and all subsequent issues of the album like the double disc set from a few years back which included the original Love Man version and all the other songs from those aborted sessions on the 2nd disc. Since it isn't a song which benefits from an extended interpretation like, say, the 12" variants of I Feel Love by Donna Summer, Strictly Business by EPMD, Ghost Town by The Specials, and pretty much every Prince single released between 1979 to 1991, that's the definitive original 5 minute odd single version in the video up top.

Not a bad tune to play out if you're looking for something to provide a bridge between Moody (Spaced Out) by ESG and Biz's Let Me Turn You On as I've found out recently, but it's yet to be sampled according to After years of grumpy mediocrity De La can't be trusted to make a suitable sequel to Ego Trippin' Part 2 at this late point in their career, but DOOM rapping like he did on Gazzillion Ear or Batty Boyz last year would be a more than capable suitor for the task and Ego Tripping Out would just be the perfect song to loop up for it. If the internet could Beetlejuice-Beetlejuice-Beetlejuice multiple DOOM and Ghostface collaborations like those album tracks DOOM did for Fishscale plus More Fish, and the likes of Charlie Brown and the original Angelz into existence then this can surely happen too.


Boothe said...

my ears are shitty, so my name the sample game is weak, but is this track sampled from Ego Trippin?

Kelvin Mack10zie said...

No, that uses Love Spell by Fatback Band, which 45 King also used for Need Some Lovin' by Lakim Shabazz.

Best Fatback song ever, I reckon.

James said...

I like that song more than any other Marvin Gaye song i've ever heard