This week’s edition of BHYH features a maybe less-than-familiar horror-tinged hip hop anthem, an absolute banger of a classic hip hop album you may have forgotten about, a sexy soundtrack number from the underdog of the two Grease movies, and a sentimental ode to a prolific mainstay of 1970s AM radio. Play on, players!
SPICE 1, “BORN II DIE”
Tales from the Hood is one of my favorite horror films. The film was one of only several high moments in ’90s horror, which makes me think it deserves more praise. Especially since apparently people have no issue regurgitating their opinion on Scream like a Milli Vanilli record.
Along with being a great movie, Tales from the Hood has a superior soundtrack that captures what many refer to as the golden age of rap. The track that sticks out to me most is Spice 1’s “Born II Die.”
The song is featured in the film’s final segment, “Hardcore Convert.” It plays at the beginning and later scores a gang leader being spun on a torture rack while images of lynchings mixed with gang violence play before him. It’s the segment where Tales from the Hood comes closest to being a Twilight Zone episode. While the rest mirrors the gory social commentary found in 1972’s Tales from the Crypt, “Hardcore Convert” feels more like something written by Rod Serling.
If you’re looking for a deep cut ’90s gangsta rap track that hits as hard as Dr. Dre and Ice Cube’s “Natural Born Killaz,” “Born II Die” is it. So not only do you get gangsta rap recommendations, you’re also being reminded of what you hopefully already know is a great horror film. I always strive to offer readers The Shit. — Emilio Amaro
A TRIBE CALLED QUEST, MIDNIGHT MARAUDERS
Earlier this week, I was driving around, trying to find a very necessary computer cable, and failing miserably in the process. I was masked up, washing and sanitizing my hands like my life depended on it (and, arguably, it does), and losing my mind at the number of unmasked people just getting closer to me than recommended. It was a bad scene.
Then I went to Walmart. Take all of my above complaints, amplify them by 50%, and you have something akin to what I experienced. Plus, the electronic department — like every other store I’d gone to — didn’t have said necessary cable. As I left, I bopped over to the movie section, to see if they maybe had some weird DVD for cheap.
Such was not the case, but they did have a record I didn’t expect to see. If you’ve been to Walmart, Target, or Best Buy, and seen their vinyl selection, it’s a case of classic rock records, modern pop (or hip-hop, if you’re lucky), and a smattering of soundtracks, usually Stranger Things or Guardians of the Galaxy. Our Walmart does, occasionally, throw in the odd Metallica record, as well, and I’m still somewhat bummed I didn’t snag Master of Puppets when I saw it there over the holidays.
What I didn’t expect to see in a Kansas Walmart’s vinyl selection, however, was A Tribe Called Quest’s 1993 hip-hop classic, Midnight Marauders. There it was, though, at the front of a stack of LPs which also included the Eagles and a bunch of Elvis, like it was set there to catch the eye. Kind of like, “Hey, I’m just as surprised as you are.”
It was $18. I’d had a lousy, sweaty, and otherwise fruitless afternoon of searching and having my anxiety levels pushed way up. I bought it. I came home. I slit open the shrink wrap. I put it on. Laurel Dann’s intro started. The LP played. I relaxed. By the time the opening notes on the Rhodes piano started off “Award Tour,” I was in a very happy place. The drums slapped in, and I was in heaven.
There’s a hip-hop/R&B station out of Kansas City, Hot 103 Jamz, which does a 6am Saturday morning throwback show. They’ve been playing the same 40-50 songs for as long as I’ve been listening to it, but they occasionally sneak in some ’90s backpack rap, as opposed to the usual TLC / Biggie / Tupac / Dre / Snoop tracks, and “Award Tour” made an appearance a few weeks back. It’s not what you expect at 7am, but in the best possible way.
Despite an inclination to just lift the needle and play “Award Tour” 15 times in a row, I let the LP spin, flipped it over, bugged out when I remembered that Midnight Marauders has “Oh My God,” and just generally managed to rescue what had been an otherwise terrible day with an absolute stunner of a classic. I’d forgotten how flipping good “We Can Get Down” was. Never thought I’d say this, but … thanks, Walmart?
Hey: support your local record stores. They need the business. In order to counteract this, I’m going to head to my local (shoutout to Love Garden Sounds) and drop double what I spent at Walmart. — Nick Spacek
MICHELLE PFEIFFER, “COOL RIDER” (FROM GREASE 2)
For decades, Grease 2 sat alongside More American Graffiti and The Sting II as a sequel to a classic blockbuster that most people hadn’t seen, had no desire to, or didn’t even know existed. Producers Allan Carr and Robert Stigwood’s maligned attempt at forcing lighting to strike twice has garnered a cult following over the past decade, and while the movie ends up floundering for the most part, the soundtrack does feature a handful of catchy if mostly forgettable tunes. With juvenile, on the dick sexual innuendos abounding on “Score Tonight” and “Reproduction,” “Cool Rider”—featuring a go for broke Michelle Pfeiffer channeling Suzi Quatro—is the sole tune in the musical that’s actually sexy, sounding less like a Broadway show tune and more like a long lost Jim Steinman track written for The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Songwriter Dennis Linde (“Burning Love,” “Goodbye To Earl”) brings a raucous rock ‘n’ roll authenticity to “Cool Rider” by combining a classic AM radio chestnut (lusting after a cool boy on a bike) and blending it with new wave-y, Rockpile inspired production, and Tim May’s overdriven Chuck Berry riffing. The indelible image of a sultry Pfeiffer, straddling a ladder in skintight pants and red lipstick fervidly belting out “if he’s cool enough, he can burn me through and through,” hits that overwhelming teenage feeling of either wanting to be cool or wanting to bang someone that is. — Mike Vanderbilt
WINGS (any 1970s AM Radio hit WILL DO)
It’s embarrassing for a guy who proclaims himself an “aged punk” to admit, but ego be damned: during the pandemic, I’ve been listening to a lot of ‘70s pop songs; the songs I grew up hearing on AM radio, from everything like Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” to Three Dog Night’s “An Old Fashioned Love Song” (yeah yeah yeah, I’ll recommend an SST Records playlist next time). Remember when you were really young and thought your parents were the coolest people on the planet? Maybe you’re the lucky one who did have righteous folks, but it was a nice fantasy for the rest of us. My parents listened to AM radio constantly, at home and in the car, and there was only one station played: CFQC in Saskatoon (My mom even won a trip for two to the Fairmont Hot Springs in beautiful British Columbia by writing a humorous letter to DJ Denny Carr, Saskatoon’s answer to Dr. Johnny Fever, dumping my brother and I in a senior citizens court to stay with our grandparents for two weeks, but that’s a story for another time…). Or maybe I thought it was a cool radio station because they kept playing Meco’s disco STAR WARS theme well into the mid-‘80s? It was WKRP, but before its format change to rock ‘n’ roll.
I’m going to recommend some Wings songs. Wait! Before you stop reading in disgust and scroll past me, hear me out: with all the misery and injustice that’s occurring outside our quarantined homes, silly love songs are more important, now more than ever! I grew up with Wings on the radio (and Paul McCartney was my favourite Beatle), so revisiting some of these songs is an agreeable shot of pop pleasure: it feels really good, but, sadly, the effects aren’t long lasting.
I’m starting with “Band on the Run”, a ballad of agreeable mix of music influences, and perhaps the greatest of the so-called Yacht Rock subgenre; it’s probably Wings’ most popular song after “Live and Let Die” (which I’m not writing about here, as you all dig it already, right?). As a child, I was always entranced by its synthesizer opening and how the song kept changing tempos and syles. Frequently, over the years, if I had consumed a few pints at my local pub and “Band on the Run” came on, I would smile, close my eyes, and tune out the rest of the world. Like the best Wings songs, “Band on the Run” demonstrates Paul McCartney’s strength as a lyricist, making references to his Beatles heyday while serving up infectious melody.
“Let ‘Em In” is another breezy pop song to sway your head while enjoying a drive in the summer dusk. It’s a throwback to the amusing songs Paul McCartney wrote in later-period Beatles albums, as he namechecks famous people and family members amid military drums and a vibraphone (yeah, I don’t know what that is either).
“Hi Hi Hi” is a cheeky, bluesy song that sounds like a throwback to ‘50s rock ‘n’ roll, but lyrics about getting high and boning suggest otherwise. Sir Paul is a bit saucy with his lines: “I want you to lie down/Get you ready for my polygon/I’m gonna do it to you, gonna do it/Sweet banana, you’ve never been done/Yes, I go like a rabbit, gonna grab it/Gonna do it ’til the night is done”. I used to listen to this song all the time and my mom (pre-born-again-Christian) never said a thing!
A song like “My Love” conjure up memories of “The Long and Winding Road” for me (it’s one of my favourite Beatles songs, just behind “We Can Work It Out” and “Somewhere”) and I want to hug my partner, Amanda, in a long embrace and feel safe and comforted. Why don’t we all hug someone? If you don’t have a significant other, a pet will do. If you don’t have either one handy, love yourself—Sir Paul says it’s okay.
I saved the best for last: “Silly Love Songs” isn’t going to win song-writing awards (it didn’t), but it’s a wonderful song, a catchy piece of aural confection that will make your heart soar with delirious joy. There’s a horn section and a groovy bass—this is as close as I get to the black hole known as disco. Reportedly, Paul and his wife, the lovely late Linda, wrote it as a funny reply to critics’ complaints that Paul didn’t write substantive songs (how many songs are truly deep anyway? I listen to songs like “Slack Motherfucker”). Forget “In Your Eyes”—I’m raising my boombox with “Silly Love Songs” to impress my lady. Besides, it was used in that spectacular MOULIN ROUGE medley, so I’m not wrong.
If you liked those, check out additional songs like “Junior’s Farm”, “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey”, “Jet”, and “With a Little Luck”–all very good Wings songs guaranteed to make you swoon with euphoria. Of course now I’ve lost all my punk rock cred with these picks; as penance, I must sell my Slits and Gang of Four records. Happy? Next time: I recommend only ‘90s bands signed previously to the Drag City Records label. — Jay Alary