So the Ice Cube “Amerikkka’s Most Wanted” album came out, and it was definitely THE schitt. Very influential to what I was about to do next. After hearing how dope that record was, I decided to dead the positive schitt (even though that was still the guy I really was) and just get buckwild with the content of my songs. X-rated lyrics was nothing new to me at all… way back when I was just starting to rhyme in the early 80’s I’d write these nasty azz rhymes and say them on the streets, and I ALWAYS got a great reaction, even from the females. By 1991 that was not my style at all, but Baritone Tiplove… yo, these fictional characters would be perfect vehicles for this lewd and lascivious new material I had planned. So I started putting the whole idea into motion.
Besides just the lyrical content, I also wanted to take the production up a notch, once again inspired by the Bomb Squad‘s work on that Ice Cube album as well as the Public Enemy “Fear Of A Black Planet” album. Samples, samples and more samples, coming at you from all directions. Around this time I was getting deep into beat diggin’ (even though I still didn’t know what I was doing and really didn’t have all that big of a collection yet) and I was trying to incorporate as many dope sounds as possible into this project. I came up with a style I called the “kitchen sink” method of production, where I’m basically just flying all kinds of sounds and samples into the mix, making a chaos that went even beyond the Bomb Squad’s style. Eric “Vietnam” Sadler was a trained musician, and he had a way of taking those abrasive sounds and still make the Bomb Squad stuff sound musical; me, I’m potty trained and that’s about it. I was just trying to make some dope noise and could mostly give a damn less about melody or musicality or any of that schitt.
So I holed myself up in my crib for I don’t know how many weeks and just started making songs for this Baritone Tiplove “LIVIN’ FOUL” project. Whenever I wasn’t at work, I was by myself in the house working on music. Listening to the songs now, it sounds like they must’ve taken a LOT of work to create. Well, there was a lot that was done, but it all came together very naturally and easily- it wasn’t a struggle at all. All of those samples melded together without a lot of tinkering and the rhymes flowed without much thought at all. I was just totally having fun with it.
Mock j-card for “Rhymes From The Wall Of The Men’s Room Stall”, an early tentative title for “Livin’ Foul”
As I would get a few songs done, I’d let some of my boys hear them. I am telling you, people were losing their minds over this schitt! I had a hard time getting people to give me the tape back after I’d go over their cribs to play this schitt for them! After I kept getting these reactions from people 100% of the time, I’m starting to think “whoa… what do I have here? Is this the formula I’ve been missing all this time I’ve been doing this rap schitt?” So that just inspired me to keep trying to outdo myself with every song. By the time I was done, everybody was saying I had a monster on my hands. I got a copy out to the people at Tin Apple Management and they were floored, just like everybody else. They start shopping this tape to the majors and the next thing I’m told is that there’s a bidding war going on. I’m hearing numbers like $300,000 are being thrown around and I’m like “daaaaaaaamn… maybe I WILL be able to quit the day job after all!” Schitt couldn’t be better, right?
Well, uh… not so fast. As always, I forget the exact timeline of everything and I am getting slightly senile, so please forgive me if I’m slightly off with any of the particulars in this story. But 1991 was right before an election year, and all this PMRC and Tipper Gore “parental guidance sticker” schitt was brewing plus I think either the Turtles vs. De La Soul and/or the Gilbert O’Sullivan vs. Biz Markie sampling lawsuits were making labels nervous as hell for a minute. Unfortunately, that minute of shakiness came right as our negotiations with labels were going down and the red hot offers got lukewarm reeeeeeal fast. Labels got very hesitant when they realized just how many samples were being used- it was a litigation nightmare waiting to happen. So my big contract didn’t go down at that moment, but I was far from deterred because I had seen for myself how people were going nuts over this album. I’m still thinking, naively, that this is a can’t-miss thing that I’ve got here.
So I’m up in Third Story Recording in West Philly (which was my home base ever since the “On Tempo Jack” record) mixing some of the “Living Foul” songs, and a dude who’s in the studio hears the music and, like everybody else, is blown away. He tells me right on the spot that he can get me a contract with either Warner Brothers or indy dance label Easy Street Records in NYC, no doubt about it. The average person would probably say “WARNER BROTHERS! WARNER BROTHERS!” But I’m thinking, no… WB is gonna give me a bullshit deal that I’ll be stuck in, like, forever with no guarantee that they’ll ever even put the record out (I know you’ve heard THOSE horror stories from artists before). If I sign with the indy I’ll have far more control of what goes down, Easy Street will put this thing out right away (VERY important), I’ll be in more of a hands-on position with a small label, and if schitt blows up we can still get picked up by a major down the line. This is what I’m thinking, anyway.
After meeting with the Easy Street folks and signing on the dotted line, they put me up in 39th Street Music in NYC to remix the whole album on a million dollar SSL board and got Elai Tubo (who’s name I’d seen on quite a few great rap records, including Eric B and Rakim‘s “Eric B Is President” 12″) to engineer. I’m real happy right about now! We mix a few songs and schitt is sounding good. Then, I’m noticing the overall sound of the songs is not hitting my ears right. So I ask Elai “yo, why is it sounding like that? Something ain’t right!” He assures me that it sounds good, don’t worry, blahblahblah. So I try to trust his experience, but… man, this is not soundin’ right! Finally he fesses up and tells me what’s really going on- Easy Street told him to mix the songs so that they don’t all sound the same. This is NOT what I wanted, even though to some degree I understand the thinking. Every song sounding the same or not was not the big concern, making everything sound as good as possible WAS, and now I didn’t think everything was as good as it could’ve been. This schitt was recorded in my house on cassettes, you gotta use that SSL magic to make it sound the best you can, the hell with variety! That was bad omen #1.
Bad omen #2- Easy Street didn’t put this record out right away as they were supposed to. Everything was done and ready to go- master tape, artwork, everything. Weeks went by, then the weeks turned into months. Soon 1991 was 1992, and I could sense that the sound of Hip Hop was changing. The Bomb Squad-esque production sound that I was using was about to be usurped by what people like Dr. Dre and Pete Rock were doing, and I saw it coming. And that comedic, fun type of rap that people like Biz, Slick Rick, Digital Underground, The Beastie Boys and others pioneered was being made obsolete by a more serious, no-nonsense “gangster” lyrical style. Hip Hop is soooo time sensitive, and if you’re trying to stay current with what’s going on at the moment you need to get your music out as soon as you can or you run the risk of being outdated in no time. So after awhile I was getting worried about this schitt.
By the time the album finally got officially released on cassette-only in 1992 (pay no attention to the “1991” seen on the j-card- it didn’t come out until early the next year) I pretty much knew that it was too late- you could just sense it. The time for this type of thing had passed. We went back to do studio recorded versions of “Young Ladees Drive Me Crazee” and “All Hell Iz Breakin’ Loose” so that there would be a single to push to radio, but while we were re-recording these songs there was a whole different feeling. When people heard us mixing the “Livin’ Foul” lp they were ecstatic about it; when they heard us mixing the “Young Ladees” single, all I was getting was the “meh” face. And it don’t matter what a person says to you… they can say, “yeah, that’s dope” all they want, but if they’re giving you the “meh” face while they’re saying it, it’s a wrap.
I still had some hope, though- once the “Young Ladees” 12″ got serviced to deejays a lot of them actually did dig the record and played it quite a bit. The great Kid Capri, strictly on the strength of liking the music, was rocking this schitt real hard for weeks. I got quite a few of my NY homies calling me in Philly like “yo, they playin’ your record in the daytime on ‘BLS, yo!” I know we got some burn in other markets as well- Sway and Tech were spinning it, as well as a lot of other cats. Over in the UK I think the record was best received… we were like up to #3 on some chart over there, I forget all the details on that. Unfortunately the record must not have been loved by everybody- when I told my man Beni B (legendary dj, record collector and CEO of ABB Records) years after the fact that I was the guy who did the Baritone Tiplove record, he told me “ohh, I remember that! The one with the crazy face with the tongue hanging out? I threw that schitt away!” I don’t know if I should laugh or cry… aw, what the hell… bwahahaha.
`The “Young Ladees” single ran it’s course and Easy Street planned to follow it up with a single for “I’m A Lover”. We went in the studio to record it, but I had other plans- I wanted to do a whole new EP that sounded more up to date, more like the sound that was popular in Hip Hop at that moment. So I used the studio time to do a bunch of other songs- “Tax That Booty”, “Uh My Mellow My Man”, “I’m A Lover- The Tuff Love Remix” (which sounded NOTHING like the original version), “Some Ol’ Other Sh-t”, “If You Got The Claps”, a solo Phill Most joint “Don’t Test Me” and some interludes. I guess Easy Street was not impressed with my new direction because they shelved the record and never put it out. Either that or they just never paid the studio bill and the tapes got erased… I’ll probably never know. If you’re reading this, Easy Street, put them schitts out if you got ’em! I don’t even have a copy of “Some Ol’ Other Sh-t” myself, and that was my favorite joint!
That was the end of Baritone Tip, unfortunately… I had no desire to continue with the funny-slash-foul rap schitt. If there ever was a time for it, it had definitely passed by then. I still have good memories of that era and am still proud of the creativity as I was able to bring forth with BT. Bottom line, it was just fun to do those two crazy azz characters! I still enjoy listening to that stuff and reminiscing about it all, and am very grateful and pleased to know that there are some folks out here today, sixteen years later, who enjoy the stuff I made way back when. Hopefully we’ll be able to put out more of the unreleased stuff soon, so stay tuned.
INTERESTING BARITONE TIP TRIVIA-
To record the Baritone character I had to speed up the beats, which made it very hard to get through verses without messing up. And as I have explained in previous posts, my old school Portastudio recording set up was not good for punch-ins, meaning that if I erred while laying a verse I had to go back and do the whole thing over. And in the case of laying a Baritone verse, we’re talking about trying to rock to a track that’s going probably between 150 and 180 beats per minute! So unfortunately Baritone rarely sounded very sharp- usually a lot of blurrrs and slurrrs, which I didn’t like but unfortunately that was just how dude was gonna have to sound. I figured, yo, sounding lke you had a mouth fulla marbles never hurt Eric Sermon so hopefully it won’t hurt Baritone either.
Okay, so I have this project where I’m doing both of the voices and neither of them is my normal voice… how am I gonna do this live? Good question. I never had any intention of doing any live performances as Baritone Tip, but once I signed with Easy Street we had to try to promote the record. So I thought about doing all kinds of schitt- lip syncing while wearing big rubber masks or full-fledged cartoon character costumes actually was considered for a minute. But you know me… I always have been and always will be about THAT REAL SCHITT, so I decided it had to be the truth or it just couldn’t be at all. So I enlisted my man Soulson to do the Tiplove part and I did the Baritone part and we did a few shows, but everybody who was familiar with the record could tell that something was not sounding right. Pretty much everything was sounding TOTALLY not right. So we didn’t really push to do any more shows… the schitt just was not gonna work.
There actually was a plan to do a Baritone Tiplove “Young Ladees Drive Me Crazy” video… I had meetings with the director, went over storyboards, set up auditions for video chicks, the whole nine. As always when you’re dealing with a small indy label, though, money became an issue and it never got done. What was really crazy was that the director (first name was Geoffrey, can’t remember his last name… all I remember was that my man smoked some strong azz cigarettes that were KILLING me throughout our meeting) was at the time doing some stuff with Uptown Records and he let the folks over there hear the Baritone Tip stuff. Uptown was loving it! From what I was told they were interested in BT but only if I wasn’t locked up in a contract situation. Easy Street had no intentions of letting me go, so nothing ever came of it, unfortunately. This was back when the man formerly known as Puff Daddy was down with Uptown, so I always wondered if maybe Biggie got his hands on the “Livin’ Foul” cassette, heard “Baritone’s Celebrity Skinz Game” and got influenced to write that “Dreams Of F**king An R&B B*tch” joint. Probably not, but we’ll never know for sure…
The Baritone style sounds pretty silly and foolish today, but try to imagine the climate back when I was doing this… you had Biz, Slick Rick, The Beasties, Humpty Hump, etc… humorous schitt was a big part of hip hop back then. Everything wasn’t so serious in that era, although by the time “Livin’ Foul” dropped you could see that the times were changing. Not a change for the better either IMO, but I guess that’s just me and my old school azz.
Although the BT stuff was under-underground, it still definitely got heard by some people. We actually got stepped to twice for sample clearances- for the Ice Cube sample on “Cut The Barrell Off My Shotgun” and the Taana Gardner “Heartbeat” sample on the 12″ version of “Young Ladees Drive Me Crazee”. Which always made me wonder… nobody usually comes to you about samples unless you have a hit and they know that you made some money. So just how many copies did Baritone Tip really sell??? Hmmmm….
The sequencing of all the songs on “Livin’ Foul” was done by the legendary Dick Charles, a well known name in the NYC recording game. I went to Dick’s apartment in Manhattan, which is where he handled a lot of jobs like this. Dick was NOT ready for Baritone Tiplove! By the time he was done sequencing the album my man was so apalled by the subject matter (and probably just agitated by the whole sound of this schitt) that he could barely contain his displeasure and was probably very happy to see me and my filthy music exit from his home. I think his parrot liked it, though.
There were a couple of songs left off of “Livin’ Foul”, one that will NEVER see the light of day- the title of that one was “We Don’t Hate Homos”. Contrary to the title, it was a pretty offensive song aimed at gays (Dick Charles would’ve REALLY had a problem with that one!). It was meant to be very un-PC but not hateful, just funny. Still, even back in those days I knew it would be a bad move to put out a song like that. Today? I’d probably get burned at the stake if anybody ever heard that schitt. So that’s one that’s gonna have to stay… uhh… in the closet.
Probably the best thing that came out of the whole BT experience is that through me drawing a series of comic strips for the one-sheets promoting the record (you can check a few samples here, here, here and here)I got to work as a cartoonist for Rap Sheet magazine, which led to me writing the World Of Beats column. All of that changed the direction I was going in as far as the music biz goes, and it indirectly led to a lot of other things I’ve been involved in since the early 90’s. So even stories that don’t go the way you planned can STILL end happily ever after. I’m still writing my life story, though, so we’ll see where it goes from here. To be continued like Isaac Hayes…
DAMN- I just wrote a cotdamn book, didn’t I? I guess I need an editor.