A Season of Songs, day 15: Ease Back

A Season of Songs is a type of Fun-A-Day project that I plan to do throughout this spring.  I’ll hit shuffle on the ol’ iPod and see what comes up.  I’ll then write a bit about that song, the band, the record, whatever.  Enjoy!

We get back to the hip-hop again today with “Ease Back” by Ultramagnetic MC’s from their 1988 album “Critical Beatdown”.

Motivated, as I relate it verbal
Dissin’ a mouse an’ smackin’ any gerbil
I bought a Saab, a 1990 Turbo
Shinin’, fog lights in the front
I’m by myself, no seats for a stunt

In the late 80’s and into the early 90’s I was listening to a weird mix of stuff.  Lots of hair metal stuff like Guns N Roses, Poison, Cinderella but also a bunch of hip hop.  The hip hop ranged from tame pop stuff like MC Hammer and PM Dawn to more obscure political stuff like Poor Righteous Teachers and X-Clan.  The Ultramagnetic MC’s never made it on my radar back then and throughout the 90’s I never got into the various Kool Keith, Dr Octagon, Dr Dooom, etc variations of Kool Keith’s career.

I think it was probably only 6-7 years ago when reading “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop” (or some other history of hip hop) that I was convinced that I was probably missing out on something.  I hunted down “Critical Beatdown” and I’m glad I did.  It’s a strange album – the lyrics are all over the place, both in content and the delivery.  The beats are noisy, loud, and grating.  As I was listening to “Ease Back”, I was realizing it uses the same squealing divebomb sample used by Public Enemy in “Rebel Without A Pause” and then just now I read that The Bomb Squad (PE’s production team) cited “Critical Beatdown” as a major influence.  If you like the noisiness of those early PE records, this album will likely appeal to you.

Interesting tidbit about the lyrics posted above – Kool Keith claims to have a 1990 Saab, but the year was only 1998 when the record came out.  Time travel?  So badass that they got their hands on the 1990 Saab a year+ before that model would have been available?  You decide.

“Critical Beatdown” isn’t an album that i’ve delved too deeply into (to be honest, I still heavily listen to lots of hip hop records from my youth, but in recent years I’ve had a hard time getting into other hip hop albums, whether they are new or just new to me), but it’s a damn fine album and one that I can clearly see how it influenced some of the other rappers that I enjoyed in the late 80’s/early 90’s.  I still haven’t gone down the Dr Octagon/Dr Dooom route, but maybe that’s a project for this spring?

There’s probably a bunch more to be said about this record, but it’s a beautiful spring, Friday night, so we’ll leave that for another day.


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