Friday, February 29, 2008
Whodini - Whodini
Whodini, "The Haunted House of Rock" (YSI link)
Whodini, "Underground" (YSI link)
Whodini, "Magic's Wand" (YSI link)
Whodini, "Rap Machine" (YSI link)
Oh my G-d, I think I'm having a rap attack! It's been too long since I did any hip-hop here. I could give a whole spiel about why this is and masculinity and women and my own disgust with what I was hearing, but that would be boring. I'll just say that I hope to return more to my roots with an emphasis on the early days of the genre, when it was still trying to find its voice amidst electro, disco and house. I'm not gonna lie, it feels so good to be back home.
I'm also not gonna lie at how rad I think the self-titled debut LP from Whodini is. Released in 1984 on Jive Records, it's classic electro-rap, all synths and drum machines and wordy raps, Whodini is everything I could ask for. The group consisted of vocalists Jalil Hutchins and Ecstasy (John Fletcher) plus DJ Drew Carter; they were one of the first rap groups to enjoy a good deal of popularity, breaking out of the one-hit wonder ghetto. Their sound, at least on this one, sounds like it's at the crossroads between rap and electro, brittle beats and synths, other times it has an r&b/rap mix, out in front of the new jack swing sound of the late 80s.
The classic Whodini song is "Magic's Wand," which was originally conceived as an advertisement for a popular NYC DJ Mr. Magic. If you're thinking that's the coolest part of the story behind this song, you're wrong. The producer is Mr. "Blinded Me With Science," Thomas Dolby. How cool is that? It's like an 80s dream, Anthony Michael Hall in a John Hughes movie wearing Z Cavaricci pants. Dolby turned out a synth heavy number with a big elastic bassline, some vocodered vocals, people shouting in the background, percussion and keys that sounds miles away from what you'd hear on the radio today. There's a similar template on the other tracks, love how much slower and stretched out these tracks sound, it sounds so much more dancefloor friendly than the bangers today. Check "The Haunted House of Rock" for a Grateful Dead reference! Yeah! Steal your face!
I'd definitely recommend picking up Funky Beat: The Best of Whodini, a good overview of their career which lasted more than a decade. This group helped define the genre before it became the global sound it is today, still sounds great all of these years later.