Sir Mix-A-Lot – “My Hooptie” 12″ (1990)

Sir Mix-A-Lot was a big deal to my group of friends in high school.  Whether we were all piled into my car or Brent’s, there was always a cassette (and later CD) copy of Swass on hand to blast out the windows as we rapped loudly along with Mix.  We were all excited when Seminar came out the following year, but it never caught on with the crew as a whole.  I loved “Beepers” and “My Hooptie”, but for the most part we stuck with Swass as our high school years came to an end.

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When we saw Mix perform live a year or so ago I was excited that he played both these tracks from Seminar.  Generally speaking I prefer his wittier and funnier rhymes, and both of these tracks fit the bill.  To be clear, Sir Mix-A-Lot isn’t some kind of comedy rap act – he’s no Bobby Jimmy & The Critters.  But he did bring us songs about biscuits, square dancing, and swap meet Louis Vuitton, so he definitely has a sense of humor.

Which brings me to this great 12″ of “My Hooptie” I scored on a recent business trip to Chicago.  I actually started on the B side so I could hear “Society’s Creation”, a track that I don’t believe ever appeared on a Mix album.  The beats and scratching in the intro have an almost industrial feel to them, followed by dry snappy snares coming in when Mix starts to rap.  The society that hates the man / Made the man.  This is more serious social commentary about society reaping what it sows, with inner city poverty and lack of opportunity resulting in violence.  It’s hardly gansta in approach, simply a matter-of-fact explanation of how things got this way.

Side A is a 5-minute remix of “My Hooptie”.  And my friend, if you can’t get down with “My Hooptie” I don’t know if I can be down with you.

My hooptie rollin’, tailpipe draggin’
Heat don’t work an’ my girl keeps naggin’
Six-nine Buick, deuce keeps rollin’
One hubcap ’cause three got stolen

Mix and the crew are rollin’ in the ’69 Buick because his Benz is in the shop, and shenanigans ensue.

I ain’t really fazed, ’cause I pop much game
Rolled up tough, ’cause I got much fame
“How ya doin’ baby, my name is Mixalot”
“Mix-A-Lot got a Benz boy, quit smokin’ that rock”

This is Mix-A-Lot at his storytelling finest – witty and exaggerating, but with doses of harsh reality.

Tank on E, pulled into Arco
Cops on tip for Columbian cargo
We fit a stereotype, that’s what he said
Big long car, four big black heads
Cops keep jockin’, grabbin’ like ‘gators
‘Bout stereotypes, I’m lookin’ nuthin’ like Noriega
Cop took my wallet, looked at my license
His partner said “Damn, they all look like Tyson”

“My Hooptie” still sounds as good to me today as it did 30 years ago. (♠)  It makes me want to get in the car, roll the windows down, and let ‘er rip.

(♠)  Wait, what?  What???  30 years ago?????

Kid Sensation – “Rollin’ With Number One” (1990)

Kid Sensation was still a teenager when his debut Rollin’ With Number One came out in 1990, but he was already well known in Seattle due to his association with Sir Mix-A-Lot.  He spit some rhymes on Mix’s seminal Swass in 1988 but we all knew him for droppin’ a twenty and not even missing it, and having a plan thinking he was a superstar as Mix-A-Lot name-dropped him throughout the album.  Rollin’ With Number One was released on the Swass-ster’s own Nastymix label and his influence can be felt all over the album, from the tracks he co-produced to the flow of songs like “Seatown Ballers”.

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That’s not to say that Sensation put out a copycat album, however.  He establishes his own vibe on “Hype It Up” and the dance track “Skin to Skin”.  Like his mentor he mostly stays away from the gangsta trend that was dominating the rap scene at the time, sticking instead to the older, self-aggrandizing style that defined much of the mid-1980s.  The notable exception is “Prisoner of Ignorance” which details a life of crime and was released as a video that featured Sensation rapping from an electric chair.  Its flow and storytelling are reminiscent of Ice-T, an urban portrait of a young man who society gives no economic options other than crime.  Kid Sensation, however, also makes a point of letting you know that all the money he makes is legit, telling us on “Legal” that the only thing the cops will find in his trunk is bass.

All in all, this album is much better than I expected it to be.  As a first effort by a teenager working mostly on his own, there’s plenty for Kid Sensation to be proud of here.

Sir Mix-A-Lot – “Seminar” (1989)

mixseminar1989s Seminar was one of the first times one of my favorite artists put out a new album after I fell in love with them.  Swass was in constant rotation in my ’84 Mustang and at all my friends’ houses, so we were all stoked that Sir Mix-A-Lot had new music coming out.  And when it came out, well… I probably liked it more than any of my friends, but for some reason none of us were enthralled with it.  And that’s probably not fair, because in many ways it’s superior to Swass – the beats are solid and Mix found his flow.  Maybe it didn’t have the local feel of “Posse On Broadway” and the metal vibe from “Iron Man”… but man, “Beepers” and “My Hooptie” are as good as anything Mix-A-Lot ever did.  Swass has a few songs that I like more than anything on Seminar, but I feel like Seminar is the more solid album top-to-bottom.

I’m rollin’ like a playboy,
Beep beep beep
— Sir Mix-A-Lot – “Beepers”

One observation here.  Many an article and blog post has been written about how CD covers simply can’t compare to the size and detail of a 12″ record jacket.  And sure, you can get way more detail on an album.  But here’s the thing.  I owned this on CD back in the day, and this weekend was the first time I’ve owned it on vinyl.  And after all those hours playing it and looking at the CD cover, I’d never noticed before that the reflection of the Mix Crew on the table has them wearing different clothes than what they’re sporting on the main image – togas versus some militant stuff.  I can’t believe I never noticed this before.  I feel like somehow part of my senior year in high school was a lie.  So I guess this validates that premise about the power of album covers.

Look, Seminar might be a bit inconsistent.  But when it’s good, it’s great.  “My Hooptie” slays all comers, that perfect blend of flow and humor that Mix-A-Lot did better than anyone.  I mean, you know the rapper is from Seattle if he writes a song called “Gortex”.  I’ve been on a bit Mix jag since seeing him live back in December – and it’s fun when what you remember being good still sounds good almost 30 years later.  Thanks Mix, I will be seeing you live again.

The Best of 2017

Unlike many Life in the Vinyl Lane blogs, I’m writing this one on the same day I’m posting it.  It’s Christmas morning, and out my living room window I can see the rare Seattle white Christmas in effect as we got about three inches of snow last night, which is a nice touch (it’ll be even nicer if it’s all melted off the roads by time I have to leave for work on Wednesday morning…).  But since we don’t have kids and both of us have very small immediate families, this morning is much like any other winter-time weekend, only with different holiday-themed coffee cups.

Going into 2017 I decided to start keeping a log to help me with my year-end lists, and while I wasn’t as diligent as I’d have liked it still was a big help, especially in the area of new releases.  There was a lot of great new music this year!  In fact, there was so much that the choices weren’t all that easy to make.  Since Holly and I both have project management backgrounds, though, we were able to come up with a solution – we created a scrum board of our favorite 16 releases of 2017 and then used a random number generator to select which one we would play every night as we worked our way through them.  And I’m glad we did, because there were some albums from earlier in the year that had fallen off our radars a bit, and man they sounded great when we came back around to them.

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In preparation I also spent a few hours combing through the top albums lists of various major (and minor) publications and blogs.  Perhaps even more so in years past I was struck by two things.  The first is how few of the albums on other lists I’ve heard.  In fact, when it came to the major pubs (think Rolling Stone, SPIN, NME…) I literally had only heard ONE album on any of these lists – Songhoy Blues’ Résistance, which appeared at #31 on the Rolling Stone list, though nowhere else.  The only other one I found was in The Quietus‘ top metal albums list, having heard and reviewed Sólstafir’s Berdreyminn.    So at least there’s that.  Only Dr. Rok’s list of Top 20 Icelandic releases yielded any common ground – I’ve heard 14 of these, which probably is indicative of the real issue here, which is that I listen to a lot of Icelandic music, and that stuff doesn’t generally make the year-end lists with a few exceptions.  And that brings me to my second observation.  I’m surprised how many of the bands on these lists I have never even heard of.  In fact, on most lists I’m lucky to have heard of maybe a quarter of the artists, sometimes less.  For a guy who writes a music blog, I sure don’t seem to know much about what’s happening in music.

All that being said, the scrum board has been taken down and the votes tallied.  So without further ado…

Top 5 New Releases In 2017

  1. Neysluvara – Hatari (Iceland)
  2. Midnight Champion – Legend (Iceland)
  3. Suero – Farmacia (Argentina)
  4. Space Cadaver – Space Cadaver (US – New Orleans)
  5. Sports – Fufanu (Iceland)

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There were two albums I knew were going to be in my Top 5 even before the scrum board experiment – Neysluvara and Midnight Champion.  They were clearly head-and-shoulders above all comers in 2017.  While Legend held an edge over Hatari by virtue of the fact that they put out a full album while their island-mates only gave us a four-song EP (and one that was only on CD to boot!), we were both simply blown away by Hatari.  Neysluvara‘s brand of IDM has been pumping out of my iPod almost non-stop over the last two months and it doesn’t get old.  If I’m being honest Hatari probably gets a little extra lift by the fact that we saw them live this year and they blew us away.  I get that that shouldn’t impact a top album kind of thing, but as Holly pointed out, this is a blog and music is a personal experience, and it’s hard to separate out those personal experiences from the music itself.  So as much as I love Midnight Champion, both musically and lyrically, I’m giving the top spot by Hatari.

Suero had fallen off the radar for a while and revisiting it reminded me of just how good it is.  If there’s one thing that separates it from Space Cadaver and Sports, it’s the sonic experimentation the Argentinian’s do.  Sure, it’s all electronic music; but it’s all over the board, from pure dance numbers to crazy experiments.  And I’d be lying if the personal connection we made with the Sima brothers earlier this year on our visit to Buenos Aires didn’t have an impact on my feelings about this album.  Space Cadaver is unquestionably my favorite metal album of 2017, and while I think it’s only available on cassette you owe it to yourself to get a copy and go buy a cheap boom box at the pawn shop so you can listen to it (or, of course, simply buy a download, you know, if you’re lazy like that), and Fufanu hit it out of the post-punk park with Sports.  From a genre standpoint I’m very happy with this Top 5 list as there’s great stuff here for people of almost any musical taste.

Top 5 “New to Me” Bands/Performers

  1. Hatari (Iceland)
  2. Farmacia (Argentina)
  3. Kuldaboli (Iceland)
  4. Revenge of Calculon (UK)
  5. Egyptian Lover (US)

I’ve already touched on the top two bands on this list, so let me move on to the next three.  Kuldaboli’s Vafasamur Lífsstíll 2015-2016 came out at the very end of 2016, and if I’d heard it then instead of early this year it probably would have made my top five new releases list last year – it’s that good.  I got to see him perform live at Lucky Records during Airwaves this years as well as chat with him for a few minutes – good dude.  We caught Revenge of Calculon live in the cramped, damp confines of Dillon on the last day of Airwaves and they killed it with their brand of electro-movie-horror-funk and since then I’ve picked up all four of their 7″ records.  As for Egyptian Lover… how had I gone this long without ever having heard the Lover before??  I can thank our friend Ingvar for this one.  We were chatting about music over dinner when he visited Seattle and was dumbfounded by my lack of Egyptian experience.  The next day at Silver Platters he walked up to me with a box set, pressed it in my hands, and said “you need to buy this”.  And he was right. Takk, Ingvar!

Top 5 Vinyl Purchases

  1. “Tug of War” b/w “Give Me the Knife” – Connections
  2. Driving the Bats Thru Jerusalem – Bonemen of Barumba
  3. 20 Jazz Funk Greats – Throbbing Gristle
  4. Special Offer – Sensational
  5. Suero – Farmacia

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Four of the five items on this list have some kind of personal connection, actually resulting in me becoming connected with the artists.  The totally random pick-up of the Connections 7″ led me to former member Nolan Anderson and his lovely wife Catherine, who today perform as the Mad Andersons.  I was able to provide a ripped copy of the songs to Nolan, which he hadn’t heard in decades, and that made me feel really good.

My post on Bonemen of Barumba somehow found its way to former founding member Mark Panick, who stunned me when he posted on Facebook that he liked the fact that I obviously “got it” in terms of what the band was doing.  We later connected online, only to come to find out that we have a friend in common – the one and only Ingvar of Reykjavik’s Lucky Records.  Mark even sports a Lucky t-shirt in a video he was in earlier this year.  Ingvar struck again with Sensational, who I turned him onto during his trip to Seattle and who he then, against all logical odds, ran into randomly on the streets of NYC just days later.  That led to me Facebook messaging with Sensational a bit and buying some mail order from him.

Oddly enough Iceland also played a part in us connecting with Ariel and Diego Sima of Farmacia in Buenos Aires – their album Suero was put out on cassette by Reykjavik’s Lady Boy Records.  We thoroughly enjoyed our time with the brothers while in Argentina and picked up a bunch of their back catalog from them.  As for Throbbing Gristle… this one was purely about acquisition.  My local record haunt Vortex posted on FB that they’d just acquired a bunch of experimental stuff from a local DJ and I immediately wend down to the store where I scored a couple of great condition TG titles, a great opportunity to explore some of the early works of the pioneers of industrial music.

Top 5 Live Shows

  1. Hatari – Gamla Bíó, Reykjavik
  2. Sir Mix-A-Lot – Nectar Lounge, Seattle
  3. Metallica – CenturyLink Field, Seattle
  4. Revenge of Calculon – Dillon, Reykjavik
  5. GusGus – Reykjavik Art Museum, Reykjavik

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I thought I had this list wrapped up about a week ago.  And I did.  At least until we headed out to Nectar Lounge on Dec. 23 and caught Sir Mix-A-Lot live, which forced me into a last-minute revision.

I covered the Hatari, Revenge of Calculon, and Gusgus shows in my various posts from Iceland Airwaves this year, and actually did the same about Metallica when I wrote about the live CD of this actual show.  Each of these shows gave me something different.  Hatari was a brilliant performance, an integration of stage presence and music; Metallica was a chance to revisit my youth, the first time I’d seen the masters of thrash live since the late 1980s; Revenge of Calculon was one of those great unexpected surprises you sometimes get at live shows; and Gusgus… what more can I say about Gusgus?  They gave us a 90 minute set that had the crowd swaying and dancing the entire time and were musically brilliant as always.

As for Mix-A-Lot, he’s Seattle hip hop royalty and his 1986 debut LP Swass spent a lot of time in the cassette player of my ’84 Mustang when I was in high school.  He did shows on back-to-back nights at the intimate Nectar Lounge (max capacity 400) in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood last weekend and we had a blast at the Saturday night gig.  In addition to some new stuff, Mix gave us a ton of classics like “Testarossa”, “Beepers”, “My Hooptie”, “Swass”, and even a little “Buttermilk Biscuits”.  Of course he also played his mega-hit “Baby Got Back”, but as a Seattleite and long-time Sir Mix-A-Lot fan there was one song I HAD to hear, and he gave it to us – “Posse on Broadway”.  Rest assured Mix fans, he’s still got it.  Posse up!

Top 5 Places to Buy Records

North America
1.  Easy Street Records, Seattle
2.  Daybreak Records, Seattle
3.  Disko Obscura, New Orleans
4.  Skully’z Recordz, New Orleans
5.  Extremem Noise Records, Minneapolis

The Rest of the World
1.  Lucky Records, Reykjavik
2.  Reykjavik Record Shop, Reykjavik
3.  Smekkleysa, Reykjavik
4.  Tempo Musica, Buenos Aires
5.  Reykjavik Flea Market

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I swear, much of these lists don’t change don’t change from year to year.  It would be a weird for Easy Street not to be #1 for me in North America given how often we go there, though the relatively new Daybreak Records definitely gives Easy Street a run for its money in the area of used vinyl.  Our trip to New Orleans didn’t yield a ton of music, but Disko Obscura’s collection of great synth albums was well worth the visit and the guy over at Skully’z turned us on to Space Cadaver and some good punk and metal stuff, which was cool.  I’ve been to Minneapolis a bunch of times, but somehow never made it to Extreme Noise, an oversight I was glad to correct this year – tons of great punk and metal there.  We have a trips to Portland (OR) and Denver already on the books for the first half of 2018, so I definitely have some more good record shopping in my future.

We didn’t do as much international travel this year has we have in the recent past, only visiting two countries – Iceland and Argentina (hard to say we “only” got to take two international trips this year… we’re super-fortunate to be able to travel as much as we do). Unfortunately the one thing we found to be expensive in Argentina was vinyl, which was seemingly completely out of whack with reality.  I found some exciting early punk stuff, but at $150+ per record US I just couldn’t do it.  I broke down and picked up a couple of titles, but our best success was in the tiny Tempo Musica where we loaded up on local CDs thanks to a lot of help from the owner (and some recommendations from a couple of guys working at a food truck earlier in the day!).  The rest of the shops are all in Reykjavik and you’ve likely heard me prattle on about them endlessly in the past, but all are great places to check out should you find yourself in Iceland.

Top 5 Music Books

  1. Art Sex Music by Cosey Fanni Tutti
  2. Lou Reed:  A Life by Anthony DeCurtis
  3. Complicated Fun: The Birth of Minneapolis Punk and Indie Rock, 1974-1984 by Cyn Collins
  4. Disco’s Out…Murder’s In!: The True Story of Frank the Shank and L.A.’s Deadliest Punk Rock Gang by Heath Mattioli and David Spacone
  5. I Dreamed I Was a Very Clean Tramp by Richard Hell

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I didn’t do as much music reading this year as I have in years past – probably only 7-8 books total.  That being said, I’m comfortable in recommending all of these to you.  Art Sex Music is head and shoulders above the rest, giving us as it does a glimpse into the 1970s experimental scene in the UK by Throbbing Gristle member and artist Cosey Fanni Tutti.  Tutti isn’t afraid to let us know anything about her life and art, and her seemingly near-complete transparency makes for a powerful, if at times sad, read.  I have a tremendous amount of respect for her and her work.  DeCurtis’ book on Lou Reed was deeply researched and I was primarily drawn to the more pure biographical aspects of the narrative, not so much the minutiae of Reed’s individual releases.  Complicated Fun is an entertaining and informative oral history of the Minneapolis scene, one that in many ways is reminiscent of Seattle’s, while the last two are entertaining first person tellings of hard punk rock lives.  It also features our very own Kevin Cole from Seattle’s KEXP radio, as Kevin was a noted DJ and record store owner in Minneapolis during the era.  it’s a small, small world.

 

Well, there you have it, my faithful readers.  Thank you, as always, for your support and comments.  While at times the pure need to write overwhelms me to the point where I feel like it’s something I have to do in order to not spontaneously combust, Life in the Vinyl Lane doesn’t exist in a vacuum and it’s put me in touch with some amazing people over the years, perhaps no year more so than 2017.  And it’s these connections that make it a truly special experience.  So no matter where you’re reading this, I say “thank you”, and I’ll see you in 2018!

Sir Mix-A-Lot – “I Want A Freak (Remix)” 12″ (1987)

I had no intention of writing about this 12″.  I bought it this weekend because it was some pre-Swass Sir Mix-A-Lot.  I’d heard “I Want a Freak,” but not the B-side track “Electro Scratch,” so I figured I’d pick it up.

Then I played “Electro Scratch”.  And my brain melted.

Mix’s voice is done like a robot, more precisely like he’s channeling Twiki from the 1980s TV show Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.  For real.  It’s every bit as amazing (or awful, depending on your feelings about Twiki) as I just described it. Plus it has some wicked old school scratching on it.  There isn’t even anything more to say.  Fortunately some enterprising soul has burned it to YouTube, so check it out.  Just wow.