Back in I guess it was 1981or 1982, when I used to listen to Mr.Magic‘s radio show as a kid (with the antennae hanging out the window wrapped in foil just so I could pick that schitt up), one night Magic played a couple of songs that perplexed me for years. One was by the Crash Crew, the other by the Funky Four. That they were great tunes wasn’t the issue- really they were kinda blah and not the type of joints that were gonna make you make the “OH SCHITT!” face. But these were, after all, the early days of rap on record, so ANY new record dropping was an event (I actually bought stuff like the Mr. Q 12″s and lots of other dreck back in that seminal period). The thing was, after hearing the songs on Magic’s show that night (make that morning- it had to be about 3:30 AM) I never heard them again. I was expecting to see the 12″s in stores pretty soon after hearing these joints, but they never appeared. So I always wondered what the story was- were these just demo tapes that somebody at Sugarhill (the label of both groups at the time) gave Magic so he could debut them and yell “A WORLD PREMIERE” with the echo chamber turned up? Were they actual vinyl test pressings? Was this all just a figment of my imagination maybe?
Well, luckily the CD age came along and labels started putting out reissues and greatest hits box sets so that they could capitalize with their vast catalogues of old music. Sugarhill also hopped on this opportunity to suck more dollars out of the public’s azzes (The Robinsons have never minded making a buck by any means neccessary, or so I hear). But in this case it was a good thing, because when labels put out these reissues and greatest hits box sets they often also include unreleased tracks, alternate takes and mixes. etc. For both the Crash Crew and Funky Four greatest hits packages Sugarhill did the right thing and included some unreleased recordings, including those 2 that I heard back in the days. Well, in all honesty some might say they did the wrong thing because some of that unreleased stuff probably shoulda stayed unreleased. But hey, it’s all a part of the history IMO.
And since I’m keepin’ it real, I gotta admit that I really didn’t like a lot of the records that the Sugarhill label put out (as well as probably most early Hip Hop that was recorded in studios). Oh, I used to rock to that stuff back then- again, it was the early days and there just wasn’t much Hip Hop being heard in comparison to the exposure it gets today, so you appreciated whatever you got. I just always felt that the slickly produced stuff did not capture the raw energy that you got from seeing a live show or listening to the live tapes. The Sugarhill house band, tight as they were, just could NOT replay the Magic Disco Machine‘s “Scratchin'” and make it sound even one tenth as dope as if DJ Darryl C was cutting up the actual record for the Crash. Two turntables (or a beatbox, human or electronic) and a mic… that’s THAT REAL SCHITT (there are a few exceptions, though, so naysayers please kill that noise before you even get started).
And I STILL wonder if Magic was playing test presses or just tapes of those songs back in the days… anybody out there with legit test presses of Funky Four “Superstars” or Crash Crew “Scratchin'” let me know what’s good… i got $$$.