Miami Bass Means to Us
Grand Royal, Issue 05
Written "off the dome" on the plane to Florida, by DJ Shadow
In this case, "Us" refers to the West Coast Hip-Hop scene as a whole.
Bass music had always been big in the West. As hip-hop moved from the east to the westward states, like some kind of musical manifest destiny, the influences and cultural peculiarities of infected regions set the stage for a whole generation of what I like to call "hip-hop bastards." Most of us in Seattle, Bay Area, L.A., Phoenix, etc..., experienced all different types of hip-hop growing up. Records like "Planet Rock" (the genesis of modern bass music), "Clear" by Cybotron, and "Jam the Box" by Pretty Tony, occupied the same mix tapes that exposed New York's finest. KDAY played it, KSOL played it, KFOX was on it too. DJs that were breaking "Planet Rock" spin-offs eventually began to dabble in the studio. KFOX's Sir Mix-a-Lot Ray (as he was called then) busted out with "Squaredance Rap" and produced other Shannon-esque female uptempo records. DJ Unknown and, later, Battlecat, would form pseudonyms like the "X-men" and up the tempo even higher. Even Sway and Tech busted out with one of the dopest bass jams of the time (late 86's), "We Want To Rock You." But undoubtedly the chief ambassadors of Electro Bass-Funk was Uncle Jam's Army. Their freaky tales (and parties) inspired a whole generation of bass enthusiasts and spawned the man most directly responsible for the sensation to come: The Egyptian Lover. His Egyptian Empire introduced the world to Jamie Jupiter (the man himself is an alias) and of course, Rodney O. Meanwhile, The World Class Wreckin' Cru (of course, featuring Doctor Dre) and the Knights Of The Turntables were doing their thing too.
Sac Town busted out with "Scratch Motion", and Too Short was honing his craft on "99 Girls." Meanwhile, Just-Ice's Mantronik-produced and bass heavy Back to the Old School LP was selling more copies in San Francisco than in the rest of the West Coast combined. In other words, the bass-wave was spreading.
But what, you say, does this have to do with Miami? The South's obsession with bass can be traced, according to a hypothesis by my man Cut Chemist, to not only "Planet Rock" but also a Roxanne Shante party in '84 when Marley Marl busted out the 808 to an unsuspecting crowd. Whether or not this is indeed the case, by '85 the volume of independent records indicated a tremendously strong regional scene. For me, it all jumped off in a major way with "Throw the Dick" by 2 Live Crew, I remember buying all that 12" the same day I bought "South Bronx" by B.D.P. and I actually was feeling 2 Live more. Within the grooves on that mysterious gray label were the sounds that to this day epitomize the best of Miami Bass: top notch, outraged scratching; expert programming; and earthquake bass. (2 Live had, of course already represented from the West on "Revelation" and "What I Like", a true classic.) "Throw the Dick" set it off nationwide for 2 Live and their newest group member, one Luther Campbell. Concurrently, another label with a huge stable of talent emerged: 4 Sight Records. Early releases include "Bass Rock Express" by MC A.D.E., a dope reworking of Kraftwerk's "Trans-Europe Express," like "Planet Rock." 4 Sight also signed Riverside's own Byron Davis and the Fresh Krew, who released two albums and a bonafide classic: "Now Dance." Not to be outdone, and aware of their strong grip on the west, Skyywalker picked up MC Twist out of San Jose. Skyywalker also released one of the classic Miami Bass albums of all time: MC Shy D's, I've Gotta Be Tough, featuring the Ghetto-Style techniques of DJ MANN later hooked up with Le Juan Love for a decent LP with above average beats.
Others began to enter the fray in a major way. Beatmaster Clay D busted out several indie singles, including the classic "Boot the Booty" before delivering his debut LP, You be You And I Be Me. Back in the West, Kool Rock Jay and DJ Slice busted out with "Slice it Up" and DJ Battery Brain hit us with "808 Volt Megamix." And in '89, Afro- Rican took Miami Bass to the national charts with "Just Let it Go," the undisputed summer party jam of the year until Young MC knocked 'em off with "Bust A Move." Afro-Rican really set it off for Miami Bass and a slew of imitators set in to claim bank. But by the early '90's, only one name reigned in the bass game: DJ Magic Mike and he made ALL the money. Then Tag Team, 69 Boyz, etc. etc...
I've got to wrap this up now 'cause my flight to Ft. Lauderdale is leaving. (I'm on a beat-mission). But we should appreciate Miami Bass as a very important and legitimate form of hip-hop that has always given a lot to us here in the West (and all over the world). Now here's 10 of my favorites to check out. Even if you weren't there at the time, you should still check these out and pay your respects to the genius of Miami Bass:
the D" by 2 Live Crew
2. "Boot the Booty" by Mc Cool Rock and Chezy Chess
3. "Gotta Be Tough" by MC Shy D
4. "Just Give the DJ A Break" by Dynamix II
5. "Now Dance" by Byron Davis and the Fresh Krew
6. "What I Like" by 2 Live Crew
7. "Roll It Up" by Success In 'Effect
8. "Ghetto Bass" by 2 Live Crew
9. "Bass Rock Express" by MC A.D.E.
10. "He is DJ Crash" by Gigolo Tony