Ahead of Mark McDonald’s much eagerly anticipated tome on the UK’s top 100 Rap records, Splendid Magnificent, we thought it would be a perfect opportunity (opportunist more like) to once again share from the archives our piece on one of the golden era’s essential releases, The Whole Nine Yards…And Then Some, by High Wycombe’s finest, Caveman. We also select our very own list of tracks from the period, which we suspect, will feature somewhere in McDonald’s top 100.
Chronicling in a panoptic manner that very much forgotten and misrepresented scene, McDonald not only picks what he believes are the most influential and best tracks from that era (from 1987 – 1993) but also interviews some of the key players behind those records, and the fans who supported them. More information can be found in the recent McDonald interview with Vice.
Monolith Cocktail’s choice selection:
Asher D & Daddy Freddy ‘Ragamuffin Hip Hop’ (Profile) 1987
Black Radical MK II ‘Monsoon’ (2 The Bone Records) 1989
Blade (feat. MC Mell’O’) ‘Dark And Sinister’ (691 Influential) 1993
Cash Crew ‘Green Grass’ (Scream) 1990
Caveman ‘Streetlife’ (Profile) 1992
Cookie Crew ‘Born This Way’ (FFRR) 1989
Demon Boyz ‘Hocus Pocus’ (Tribal Bass Records) 1992
MC Duke ‘I’m Riffin’ (Music Of Life) 1989
Gunshot ‘Battle Creek Brawl’ (Vinyl Solution) 1990
Hardnoise ‘Untitled’ (Music Of Life) 1990
Hijack ‘The Badman Is Robbin’ (Rhyme $yndicate Records) 1989
Katch 22 ‘Lifestyles Of The Poor & Ruffneck’ (Kold Sweat) 1993
Krispy 3 ‘The Sound’ (K3 Records) 1991
London Posse ‘How’s Life In London’ (Bullett Records) 1993
London Rhyme Syndicate ‘Hard To The Core’ (Rhyme ‘N’ Reason Records) 1988
MC Mell’O’ ‘Open Up Your Mind’ (Republic Records) 1990
Overlord X ‘Rough In Hackney’ (Mango Street) 1989
Ruthless Rap Assassins ‘And It Wasn’t A Dream’ (Syncopate) 1990
She Rockers ‘Give It A Rest’ (Music Of Life) 1988
Silver Bullet ‘Bring Forth The Guillotine’ (Tam Tam Records) 1989
SL Troopers ‘Movement’ (Music Of Life) 1989
Son Of Noise ‘Funk Meets Son Of Noise’ (Kold Sweat) 1992
Caveman ‘The Whole Nine Yards…And Then Some’ (Profile Records) 1992
Hip Hop closer to home has always had an identity problem. The UK scene couldn’t help but be classed as mere epigone; an imitator, and poor substitute to the founding forefathers across the pond. Put it down in part, to all those cool sounding American locations like The Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Compton, Philadelphia, Miami – the list is endless – all delivered in a drawl, swaggering US accent that always sounded more dramatic and cool. Over here we have to settle with Brixton, Hackney, Manchester, Neasden! All pronounced with a usually nasal downcast accent; almost out of embarrassment. Those faraway cities and towns always carried a certain candour, and had a ring to them; the distance allowing naive green and young Hip Hop fans like myself, a chance to conjure up all kinds of perceived imaginative preconceptions about these places, which I’d only ever glimpsed on TV or dodgy quality video copies of Wildstyle.
High Wycombe…hmmmm…a good example of just what I’m trying to convey here. In the States they’d probably drawl-out the vowels, “Hiiiiii-gh Wy-combe”, give it an exotic sound, but in dear old Blighty, its just plain old High Wycombe, the unassuming – well it was back in the 80s/90s, though in recent times its seen a spate of arrests and raids linked to terrorism – Buckinghamshire town, on the outskirts of London. It did however spawn one of this country’s great hopes against the tidal wave of American acts, the promising Caveman. Headed by the syllable swinging, articulate rapper MCM and his verbal sparring partner MC Bee, alongside the DJ production duo of The Principle and Diamond J; this loose collective cemented their rep from the off, with the release of the Victory EP in early 1990. By this point, the UK was producing some considerable contenders, such as The Cash Crew, London Posse, Black Radical MK II, MC Duke, Overlod X, She-Rockers, Blade andMC Mell’O’; all helped along by British labels, like the Simon Harris imprint Music Of Life. Some glimmers of success and cross-over potential had occurred with Derek B, whilst both Monie Love and Hijack were courted in the US – Hijack signed a brief deal with Ice T, and Monie appeared as a member of the Native Tongues posse, guesting alongside such notable Hip Hop acts as Queen Latifah, A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul.
On the wave of an-ever-increasingly sophisticated and radical British scene, Caveman were snapped-up by Profile records, making them the first homegrown act to be signed by an American major label. Wasting no time, they blazed through an uninterrupted schedule, releasing a couple of 12″, an EP, and their debut album, Positive Reaction, all within the year of 1990. Aficionados gave them an instant seal of approval, with features and countless underground radio airplay.
Inspired by the same jazz and trunk funk cuts favored by such US counterparts as Gang Starr, Master Ace, Main Source and Pete Rock & CL Smooth; Caveman’s initial experiments flowed with a mellow air of lazy break-beats, horns and Donald Byrd-esque sampled loops – though they always maintained a rough edge. But it was the troglodyte inspired moniker crews follow-up LP, The Whole 9 Yards…And Then Some that really marked them out in my book.
With a bombastic beat-driven stomp of a sound, the 1992 tome of jeep-music bass-lines and voracious swaying lyrical splurges, still carried the signature jazz-matazz feel, albeit with an obsession for the Soulfather, James Brown – whose yelps, especially, pierce and punctuate nigh-on every track. Although all the original founding members make an appearance, DJ/producer, The Principle, contributes to only two tracks, as a remixer. The double dose of heavy re-worked prime cuts include ‘Streetlife’, a bass booming, chopped guitar riffing and Gillespie style blasting horns anthem, that reworks Randy Crawford‘s original; and the equally rolling beat-junkie classic ‘Brother In Action’, that features a vocal break ripped straight off the Marly Marl all-star cast rapathon, ‘The Symphony’ – the “Action is in effect” snatch sample is sung by Master Ace.
Guest spots come courtesy of fellow UK scenesters, Detroit Red and Cabin Stabin Gavin – I can only assume his title carries some relevance or connotation that is oblivious to me. Red dutifully rasps and peppers over the Public Enemy/Hank Shocklee charged wining ‘Neva Relax’, and pairs up with both main man MCM and Gabin Stabin for the salacious Byrd sampled, and sexual bravado bragging rites of ‘T-Shirt and Panties’.
MCM commands the lion’s share of these meaty and free-flowing tunes, shadowed on a handful by MC Bee’s more rough and stumbling cockney delivery style. Using a scattering of lyrical references indigenous to our own shores – check out the mention of snooker player Derek Taylor – High Wycombe’s finest blend social striking observations and showboating skills to the max.
Samples are supplied by such funked-up party choices as Sly and the Family Stone’s smoldering organ motif led ‘Babies Making Babies’ – used on ‘Rap Biznizz’ – and Kool and the Gang’s ‘Who’s Gonna take the Weight’ – which is used wisely on the marauding smoky ‘Watch Me’.
To beak up the sonorous deep barbecued, live at the Apollo beats, they throw in a couple of Beatnuts style vignettes: The introductory sauntering, Diamond J scratch fluttering, ‘You are now rocking with…’ eases the listener in, whilst the Motown fueled fuck-parody, ‘Business as Usual’, acts as an over-played sex-tape porn segue way.
Caveman set a benchmark, yet failed to stay together, with all the members splitting to pursue solo projects and careers – MCM still continues to release new material, though he trades, with respect, on the Caveman reputation.
‘The Whole 9 Yards…And Then Some’ takes a proto-jazz and rocking bombardment of big US production, and makes it somehow quintessentially British.