In 1988, hip hop was approaching the crest of its fabled golden age. Public Enemy and N.W.A. were assaulting America with hard-hitting polemics from both coasts, Marley Marl’s funky productions were launching the all-star Juice Crew squad to rap royalty status, and acts like Eric B. & Rakim and the Ultramagnetic MCs were dropping futuristic rhymes that sounded like they were beamed down from another dimension. Beyond the roll call of future hall of fame artists, in Chicago a fresh grassroots movement was about to sprout up and notch a cult position in the hip hop history books. They called it hip house.
Officially created in the spring of 1988 by a young artist from the west side of Chicago named Fast Eddie, the hip house formula was an upbeat fusion of its two namesake genres. House music beats, tempos and melodic synth piano lines were paired with the sort of funk and soul samples hip hop producers were mining at the time, while MCs rapped over the energized beats with club-centric lyrics.
This fresh sonic mix quickly caught on and spread beyond its Chicago foundation, where local artists like Tyree Cooper, Mr. Lee, Kool Rock Steady, JMD and Sundance became figureheads of the scene. In New York City, a wave of key hip hop artists embraced the trend and recorded one-off hip house efforts, spearheaded by the Jungle Brothers’ reworking of a Todd Terry production for “I’ll House You.” Hip house scenes sprang up in Washington, D.C. and overseas in London, too, as the major labels began to pay attention and attempted to ride the hip house wave to commercial success – a move that conspired to kill hip house barely two years after its birth. This is how it happened.
The Birth of Hip House
Chicago-raised DJ and producer best known for “Turn Up The Bass”
Fast Eddie invented hip house, without a doubt.
Chicago hip hop artist and hip house pioneer
Honestly, I was kind of bored with all the tracks that was being released out of Chicago. I just wanted to hear something different. I was really into hip hop before I was into house music. I was at this record label [DJ International] and I wanted to do some hip hop music and they weren’t producing or releasing hip hop music, period, at this time. This was Chicago, so we just looked to dance music.
I just started sampling the hip hop music, hip hop tracks, drum loops. A lot of my inspiration was James Brown, KRS-One and a lot of the older hip hop guys. I started sampling and sampling and sampling and I just came up with this sound, and it didn’t have a name at the time – it was just tracks I was making. Then at one point I produced this one track and I called it “Hip House,” and from that point on that title took off.
“Hip House” was the first record titled with hip house, but I did “Yo Yo Get Funky” before I did “Hip House.” I would consider “Yo Yo Get Funky” more of a hip house song. When I produced those tracks, I asked 20 to 30 different MCs would they rap on this track, because I wanted to try something different. No one would do it. They would just flat-out tell me, “No, I’m not going to do that house mouse stuff.” I just ended up writing it myself. That was the first rap I ever wrote in my life.
As Fast Eddie was putting [the song] together, I walked in the studio at DJ International and asked him what he was doing. At this time in Eddie’s career that I can remember, he didn’t want to do house music anymore. He was fed up with house music, so he just started doing hip hop. He came back to DJ International and wanted to do some hip hop and Rocky Jones [the label founder] was like, “We don’t sell hip hop, we just sell house.” I guess Eddie was like, “Well, screw that, I’ll just combine the two.” So he put together a house record in the fashion of a hip hop record.
We recorded at Underground Studios, basically a home studio for the most part, but with just a little bit more money involved than a home studio. It had a 16-track recorder, we had an engineer, we had a mixing boy; you had the tape deck, keyboards, two-track recording deck. It wasn’t a whole lot, but it did the job.
Tyree came in after me. That was my best guy and he was trying to do something different as well. He saw what I was doing and tagged along, and I helped him with whatever he wanted to do. Tyree was a producer and a DJ before he started doing the hip house stuff.
I thought “Yo Yo Get Funky” was real, real cool, but I was like, “You know, that’s Ed’s thing.” I was into the stuff we was trading on the streets – the disco stuff or the acid or the deep house or the beat tracks – so that was where my head was at. Then Rocky Jones had this great idea. He said, “Hey, Tyree, you should put together a song like Eddie.”
After Rocky Jones asked me to do it, I called my friend JMD, and JMD didn’t really want to do it at that time. He was gung-ho into hip hop, so I asked my friend [the house artist] Lidell Townsell for Kool Rock Steady’s number – he was the cousin of Afrika Bambaataa and Afrika Islam. I had met him before – Kool Rock and I had a DJ battle on the north side of Chicago.
DJ International recording artist
Kool Rock Steady and I were enemies in the beginning. We were at each other’s necks in the streets because he’d represent the Zulu Nation, and me as a Five Percenter… I didn’t really know much about being a Five Percenter. I just knew whatever Kool Rock was, I wanted to be the opposite.
For “Turn Up The Bass,” I remember giving Kool Rock Steady the beat and seeing what he thought of the track, because I thought it was too deep. It was acid with a piano and had the “Woo! Yeah!” in it, so it had a little funk to it, but I thought it was too deep for him. He liked it when he first heard it, but then when he rapped it, I was like, “Oh, yeah, okay!” It was a cool session. [The reaction] was interesting. I was the only one that had no idea. Everybody that I didn’t think would listen to a hip house record loved it. My friend Benji Espinoza [from DJ International] said, “Hey, Tyree, this will probably be your biggest commercial record ever,” and I looked at him and was laughing, like, “Get the fuck out of here!” I thought he was crazy because it was too deep.
Hip hop producer and radio host from the Maryland area who recorded the hit “Let It Roll”
“Turn Up The Bass,” the piano line kills me, the simple riff he had and the way it flowed with the beat. Very few things grab me instantly – that was one of the ones.
I was kinda tricked into getting into hip house. My focus was mainly hip hop, but there were no recording outlets here in the city of Chicago except one prominent studio and record label, which was DJ International. Rocky Jones, the CEO of the label, was basically telling me it was a house label. Tyree told me, “J, man, you can do it, it’s easy, just rap over house music. It’s just the tempo is a little faster, man.”
Tyree had a track called “Turn Up The Bass,” and he originally brought it to me and I was meant to do that, but I didn’t reach back to him, so he wound up getting Kool Rock Steady for it. But he told me he had another track for me and I figured I missed the first opportunity, so I went on and freestyled the “Move Your Body” song in the studio. I was finished with the song in, like, ten minutes. Next thing I know Tyree is showing me a Billboard Top 20 dance chart and we were there with other artists who weren’t doing hip house music. He told me, “This means we’re about to go on tour, brother. We did it.”
I wrote “Get Up And Dance” once I’d had more opportunities in the studio. It was mainly Tyree and Fast Eddie in the studio all the time, but when I finally had the opportunity to have some solo studio time I felt like the song would be more me. I loved that Rebel MC track that I heard overseas, “Just Keep Rockin’,” like that “Woo!” and “Yeah!” sample sound. DJ International was known for their samples and I still wanted to bring that hardcore vibe, so we did a sample of N.W.A.’s “If It Ain’t Ruff,” and I wanted to use that heavy 808 – I just needed an engineer to put my vision together, and Craig Loftis was the engineer.
I was reaching out to other MCs trying to keep the hip house thing going, and keep it relevant and different at the same time. For “Git On Up” I was asking people if they knew a female MC, and then Sundance was brought to me. I was good with that.
“Git On Up” was nice. Sundance: the Queen of Hip House.
When I signed to DJ International, Kool Rock and I didn’t get along for that first year – we went down to blows every time – but I guess one day Kool Rock had a change of heart and it kinda shook me. So I spoke back and I guess since I’d signed to the label he realized I was part of the family, and he realized we should squash beef and become cool. We realized we were in a place in our lives where we had to be mature and make money and become friends. We’d ride around together and go in the neighborhoods and just be kickin’ it, and we started to understand each other. Then we made a couple of songs that didn’t get released. There was even a project we worked on called America’s Most Wanted with Tyree, Fast Eddie, MC Dee and myself, and Sundance had a cameo on one of the songs.
Kool Rock passed away, and I’m grateful we got to squash our beefs. I got to say rest in peace to the late, great Kool Rock Steady.
Hip House Takes Over New York City
AFRIKA BABY BAM
One third of the Jungle Brothers, member of the Native Tongues collective
Afrika Baby Bam
Back in the day, I used to go from the hip hop clubs when they shut down to house clubs in Lower Manhattan, small clubs that stayed open to four or five in the morning. I was hearing Steve “Silk” Hurley’s “Jack Your Body,” Jack ’N’ Chill’s “The Jack That House Built.” Most of what I was hearing, though, was from Chicago. At the time hip hop was more danceable, anyway – hip hop was around 110 to 115 BPM, then you go to a house club and it’s like 119, 120 BPM. I just got into those rhythms and I saw them as one; I liked to dance and I just liked the steady beat. I thought, “Man, there’s a few vocals on these records, like speeches from Martin Luther King or somebody talking like they’re giving a sermon at a church.” It just lent itself to vocals, so I was like, “Yeah, let’s do something with it.”
We got to the end of our album [Straight Out The Jungle], and the studio we were working in was T.T.O. Studios. The guy who was running it was Tony D. The album was done and we just happened to go by there after school and he was like, “You want to make a house record?” In seconds I was like, “Yeah, of course!” He said, “How about this one?” and played [Royal House’s] “Can You Party,” which was a remix that was on the radio on the house show on Kiss FM, and I also heard the original from the clubs.
One day Tony says, “You know, your ‘Can You Party’ shit is enormous. We should do a rap version to it.” - Todd Terry
Member of the Jungle Brothers
The instrumental of “I’ll House You” was already a track, I believe, for a group called Royal House. They were basically just trying to do a remix using the same track – that’s when they asked us. It was right at the end of our album Straight Out The Jungle. Like I said, that song was catching a lot of steam in the clubs and throughout the city. Todd Terry gave us the opportunity, we took advantage of it.
Brooklyn-born house music producer and DJ
I used to work with Tony D., and we had Idlers Records. It was the affiliate through Warlock. My whole thing was the dance stuff, but I still wanted to make rap records. That was just my whole thing. So I would work with Jungle Brothers. I had ties into Whodini and Doug E. Fresh... I was still backdooring my rap projects here and there.
We used to all be in the same basement – that’s where all the records came out of. “Can You Party,” “Party People.” A lot of the stuff I did at my house, but I would master the stuff at Tony D.’s crib in Coney Island. And then one day Tony says, “You know, your “Can You Party” shit is enormous. We should do a rap version to it.” I was just, “Man, I don’t know about doing that,” ’cause I didn’t want nobody on top of my records unless I thought of it. That’s how I was. But it really was Tony D.’s idea – he’s the one that thought of it.
Afrika Baby Bam
Within 20 minutes I wrote that song, the “Girl I’ll house you” part. We actually took the record, put it on the turntable, recorded it to the tape machine, and then did the vocals on top of the record as it is. That’s what it became – it was a totally spontaneous move, wasn’t even really thought out. It was just jamming out in the studio the way I would be jamming out in the house clubs.
I think pure hip hop heads look at it like, “Oh, that’s taboo, doing this and that.” At the time, coming from the era we came from, it wasn’t nothing to rap over a funky beat. There was no hesitation or no type of like, “No, we can’t rap on that, that’s going to smear our image.”
DJ in the Jungle Brothers
I was so used to that hip hop vibe from back in the day, listening to Grandmaster Caz, Furious Five MCs and Jazzy Five MCs. I just thought that was the tradition of hip hop. So I was kind of narrow-minded back then, but [“I’ll House You”] really opened me up. And we knew about the scene in New York with the house music and disco and all that downtown.
Afrika Baby Bam
From a lyrical point of view, I don’t think it was any different [from a hip hop song]. I mean, when we wrote songs like “Braggin & Boastin,” the page is full of lyrics, braggadocio stuff, obviously there’s more rapping than singing. But “I’ll House You” was more catchy and more melodic. It still felt hip hop, because back in the day we used to say “I’ll house you,” which meant “I’ll beat you up” or take something from you. That was the words: ”What?” “I’ll house you.” Like roundhouse you, but “I’ll house you,” so it was a double meaning. We knew from the hip hop sphere people would take it from a street level and say, “Oh, you’re talking about jackin’ you up,” and we knew from people who were into house music, they would think about the genre of music. It was like a double meaning in there, so we kind of made it a hip hop thing.
Member of the hip hop group Onyx, known for their rowdy anthems
New York in ’88, ’89 had the Jungle Brothers come out with “I’ll House You,” and the shift in hip hop changed – hip hop became hip house, that’s what the fuck they was calling it! [Onyx] was into the deep house like Larry Levan, we was up in Mars club, but we was always the hip hop kids in those clubs. That’s where it was poppin’ at. The first time I went to the Tunnel it was crazy, ’cause it wasn’t a hip hop club when we went there – it was house music. This kid named Jamal, who worked in this barbershop in Brooklyn, was into the house scene and was showing us the city. This was how we got hip to New York City. Coming from Queens, nobody went out from Queens, [but] Jamal would put us in Manhattan in ’89 and it was house music. We enjoyed it – there was a lot of drugs in those nights.
Brooklyn-based hip hop artist and member of the Crooklyn Dodgers
The hip hop crowd was the house crowd. Even as a teenager, I used to get in [the clubs]. In high school I was 5’10” and growing. There used to be one open until the morning and I used to be in there as a high school kid. They used to serve fruit and water, like, they had an area where you can have water or have fruit as opposed to, you know, the other things. The set would go from a house set to a hip hop set and back to a house set and then back to a hip hop set like it was nothing.
DJ for Big Daddy Kane, producer and radio personality
Club music at the time was very strong in the nightclubs. Just as much as you had to play your hip hop or R&B record, you definitely had to play some house or club music, too.
Afrika Baby Bam
One of [the clubs] was called the World, which had two floors; another was called Limelight. Another one, I can’t remember the name, it was a small one where all the walls were painted black and it was down by the Brooklyn Bridge. Some of them I’d just find because I was hanging out with people who were dancing and they were like, “Yeah, there’s a party going on here,” and it would just be a one-off.
It was the dancers. There were dancers that were at the hip hop clubs that would leave hip hop clubs and go to the house clubs. I didn’t see MCs [at house clubs], not in New York. Our record changed the game because before that, MCs and hip hop people were like, “I don’t listen to house music, I don’t like house music,” but then we made it so hip hop that it worked for everybody. Then more artists started making remixes of their records to sound more house or making house records like Big Daddy Kane, Queen Latifah, Chill Rob G, Chubb Rock, Special Ed, MC Lyte…
At that time, 1989, the hip house movement was pretty strong. You had artists like Queen Latifah – she had “Come Into My House” – then the Jungle Brothers with “I’ll House You,” and artists like Doug Lazy, KC Flightt and Twin Hype. All these artists that had a hip hop influence on them was making the transition to making the hip house record. Even Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock’s “It Takes Two,” which is predominantly a hip hop record, you could easily mix that with the hip house records because it had that same tempo. Back in the late ’80s and early ’90s, that was the sound. Even people like Marshall Jefferson with “The House Music Anthem” and Soho with “Hot Music,” those records were the genesis of the hip house sound to me.
They would mix the songs, you know? You had Queen Latifah’s “Come Into My House,” and the Jungle Brothers had a lot of club songs, and that was probably one of the biggest integrations of hip hop and house that I can recall.
DJ KING SHAMEEK
DJ for the hip hop group Twin Hype
DJ King Shameek
The Jungle Brothers were really winning with “I’ll House You” and it’s funny, because I was surprised that they didn’t really come back and continue doing that because of the success off of that record. I thought it was done really well.
“Club Scene” was my quote-unquote ode to house music. It was us covering the spectrum of house music. I approached “Club Scene” as a bigger look than just being hip hop. It featured myself and Howie Tee’s daughter’s mom, Dee Dee Scott, and we called her Kazaam. She was on the club scene.
Man, people loved “Club Scene!” It was many times used as a segue between hip hop and house segments and sets at the party. They used songs like “Club Scene,” the Jungle Brothers or the Latifah songs to segue into hip hop, so it was a good song to lead into another set, to just merge the hip hop with the house.
DJ King Shameek
Back in the days when hip hop artists pretty much had dedicated one particular song to their DJ, [Twin Hype’s] “Do It To The Crowd” was created for me. That song was one of the last songs we recorded for our first album, and it came out so well it ended up being our first single. “For Those Who Like To Groove” was a follow-up, so we tried to keep it along the same lines. Hip house was getting pretty popular around that time. We were pretty much looking like we were labeled as a group that did hip house because of the first single, so we kind of kept the momentum going.
At that time during the late ’80s, when most rappers did an album they let the DJ have one song off the album to record their own song. On the first Big Daddy Kane album, Long Live The Kane, I had a song called “Mister Cee’s Master Plan.” For the second album, It’s A Big Daddy Thing, that’s when I did “The House That Cee Built.” When I put together the song I really didn’t have any conversations with Big Daddy Kane about it.
Like I said, house music was big at the time, so when I went in that direction with it Big Daddy Kane was not surprised at all. I’ve also got to give special thanks to Easy Mo Bee who helped me produce the song – I don’t even know if he got a full producer credit.
We did a segment in the record at the end where Kane talked. We did the whole “You can hurt me, hurt me, hurt me, hurt me!” That was a little chant that people were doing in nightclubs at the time when they heard house music. I had Kane do that at the end of the record, and that was really about the gist of it.
It was our beat of our street and they was feeling it, like we was feeling the beat on their street. - Tyree Cooper
I loved it [when hip hop artists made hip house]. I was like, “Wow, it’s really picking up, it’s picking up in New York, the capital of music.” I’d be out there [in New York] with 2 In A Room, out there with those guys hanging, going to different clubs here and there.
This was something that, at least in my eye, no one else had done. We connected to someone that was far away from us that I thought we couldn’t connect to – but on a straight up street level, not necessarily on a corporate level. It was our beat of our street and they was feeling it, like we was feeling the beat on their street. We was the “boom-shh,” they was the “boom-bap.” A Chicago hip house track is going to have jacking in it somewhere, because of the way we dance in Chicago; a New York hip house track, when they dance it’s more of a whole body expression, so their tracks relate to that. I loved “I’ll House You.” I was laughing my ass off, but I loved it. I was laughing like, “Damn, they’re doing some hip house – get the fuck out of here!” I had just heard [the Jungle Brothers’] “Jimbrowski” and I was like, “Oh, shit, they’re doing hip house?”
If you remember, there was a flood of [hip hop artists] that came out when hip house was big. There were some that were good, but there were some where it was like, okay, this sounds like I want to go in here and rap on a house beat, you know what I mean? For the people that did it right, I liked it, and the ones that didn’t, I just left it alone. I always considered myself a hip hop producer first, even before house. As much as I love house, I started out with hip hop.
When rappers was rapping to hip house, it wasn’t no corny shit. It wasn’t rhyming corny in the beginning. You was coming with some lyrics, with a style.
Hip House’s D.C. Connection
The first hip house song I heard was Tyree Cooper’s “Turn Up The Bass” with Kool Rock Steady. I loved it, but when I heard that it kind of threw me off, because I’m from a hip hop background. My first production was for Sleeping Bag Records, for an artist named Stezo; I had two songs on his album, “Freak The Funk” and “Bring The Horns” [credited as Vicious V]. He was fun to work with – he was EPMD’s dancer. It was crazy, because me being from the Maryland area, I went down to the studio in New York, and just being there with him and the rest of the crew, it was a creative environment. I got to actually sit in there with the legendary Paul C and work with him a little bit – he’s such a legend for back-then producers. He actually gave me some props: He said he liked the way I picked samples out.
When I heard “Turn Up The Bass,” I had already started getting into the house community. It kind of grabbed me and I was like, “I really like this whole style, putting hip hop with the house.” That was an inspiration for me – I’ve told Tyree Cooper that numerous times.
I started mixing at a radio station, WPDC, and I did a Friday mix there and I had been making house tracks just on my own. But what made me want to do my first hip house song, “Let It Roll,” is there was a bell loop that Mantronix had done on his “King Of The Beats,” which was just a bunch of beats he put together. I looped it up and played it during the mix show. The on-air jock was talking over that break and during the commercial break he came to me and said, “There was a song you played that has, like, bells?” And three people also called up and asked what beat that was. I was like, “Ah, maybe I can do something with this…”
I went in the studio that night, in the radio station, and just sped up the tempo, looped it up, and came up with the early pieces of “Let It Roll.” I was in my bedroom after I got the track together, and I went and I wrote the lyrics. This was really kind of new to me, writing lyrics. I just tried to make them fun lyrics. One specific thing I remember about the way I wrote the lyrics is I drove in a car and I said, “I have to recite these four verses, and I have to do them without messing up one time before I can stop driving and go back home.” I was riding around for a couple of hours because I would always mess up! Even if I got to the last verse, if I would mess up one word, I would have to start over. I knew by the time I’d get in the studio, “Let It Roll” would be literally one take.
My former manager was Vaughan Mason [from Raze]. A fellow DJ, Sir Charles Dixon, took me down to Vaughan’s studio where I played the basics of “Let It Roll,” what I had put together at the radio station. That’s when he said he would put it out on his label, which was Grove St. Records. I recorded it right in his home studio. That’s where I added more of the elements that you hear today – they all kind of fell into place like crazy. I tell people the bassline wasn’t even going to be in there, which is one of the main things people love about the song. I just did it at the last second. If it wouldn’t have been in there, I’m sure it would have been a different outcome.
I got picked up by Atlantic Records – it was like a whirlwind. The record came out on Grove St. and I knew a lot of DJs in the D.C. area, so I knew people were saying, “Hey, we’re playing it in the club. We put it on and people run to the dance floor.” But you got to understand, this is really my first thing out. It didn’t hit me until Atlantic Records picked it up: I would go into the club and I could see the response. They would put the bassline on, and by the time the bells and the beat came in, people were already going crazy and flipping out. I think that’s the time when I realized it’s not a dream. It was such a fast reaction, even overseas, because Vaughan happened to take the record to England. He had taken some of the test pressings [and] just off the strength of that it started getting a real buzz over in the UK. I was literally in the UK on a promo tour after my second show. Everything moved so fast. It was crazy.
I think one reason I did well was because my lyrics never really flew over anybody’s head. I wasn’t trying to be Rakim over a house beat. When you are in a club, you ain’t paying that much attention to the lyrics back then, anyway – you are just there to have fun. That’s one of the things: When I did shows I would see people in the audience word-for-word rhyming with me. I used to love that. I was like, “They are feeling it and that’s all that matters really.”
My dude, Doug Lazy, his whole flow: “What is Lazy? Back with the style / That’s right, hip house style!” Doug Lazy was sick with it, was sick with some hip house.
Hip House Blows Up (And Tries To Go Pop)
I couldn’t believe it [the commercial success]. I really couldn’t believe it. I’m a small kid from the west side of Chicago. That’s not a good place. For anything to happen, I was just blown away. I was amazed.
The moment I got off the plane in London on tour, people knew who I was. I was shocked – that was a whole new experience for me. I remember doing a show and hearing the crowd go crazy and screaming after the announcement “JMD is in the building.” And just the autographs: I remember one guy had his girl and she pulled her titties out and the guy was like, “She wants you to autograph her breasts.” I got the marker and I promise you that was the first time in my life I spelled my name as slow as possible!
I was in a meeting and one of the people asked, do I have any of the pants like MC Hammer has. I knew when I heard that. I said, “I’m pretty much doomed.” - Doug Lazy
[Going commercial] was just part of the evolution. First, nobody was really paying too much attention to it – meaning the major labels – until we really started going against some of the hip hop artists in terms of sales, so I guess they didn’t want to miss out. Black stations were starting to get bought up by corporate America, so it wasn’t necessarily something we had control over. The commerciality came when pop stations started playing dance music. Isn’t that always the case?
DJ King Shameek
What I was really surprised at was the fact that every place we went to, there wasn’t the crowd that we expected to be performing in front of – which would have been the keep-it-real street heads. That would be, like, a marijuana smoke-filled room with head-bopping kids. The majority of them were white kids that were at the club. The whole night, before and even after we got off, they were just playing house music, freestyle music, club music and then your regular pop stuff.
[Being signed to Atlantic] was cool. I had some people there on my side. My first album, I can say it was good. It’s not until I got around to the second album, that’s when things kind of fell apart. MC Hammer had just came out. If you know anything about big labels, whatever is hot at the time, they kind of try and direct you in that way. No disrespect to Hammer, but that’s not really my thing.
I was in a meeting and one of the people asked, do I have any of the pants like MC Hammer has. I knew when I heard that. I said, “I’m pretty much doomed.”
Because “Let it Roll” did well, because the [first] album did well, it got to a certain point. Honestly, I was only told that my album sold over 150,000 copies – I’m not even sure what the final amount was, or even if that was the correct amount. It wasn’t super status or anything like that, but everybody sees when you get to this point, they want to be the ones to take you over to the next level, take you over the edge. I had three number one songs on the dance chart for my first album. People were like, “Okay, for this next one we can get him over the edge, get him to explode.” That’s when a lot of people pull you in different directions.
I produced my own first album, so handing over the reigns to other people kind of hit me a little funny. I did some songs with Todd Terry that was going to be for the second album. I don’t know what happened – the internal politics or whatever – because I really liked the songs that me and Todd had done. [The songs] were really like Todd’s style back during that time. Like, he had “Bango (To The Batmobile),” all the joints like that. It was that flavor, but with my rhymes on it. He even had some slower hip hop ones. It was more than five or six cuts that we did. They did get played for people at Atlantic, but obviously it wasn’t the direction they wanted to go.
Basically, I never got that second album because it was just in limbo after that. If you don’t want to go the direction they want you to go, sometimes you’ve got to wait it out. I just got caught up in a lot of politics. That’s why I never released a second album.
Hip House: Life After Death
I really believe hip house died out because there was no capital put behind it. I really believe that.
When hip house fell off, it fell, like, Grand Canyon cliff off! It was like, “Boom!” Nobody was really trying to hear it. It was only a few years where it was really hot out there. At its height, when it was just all about hip house, that time frame I don’t think really lasted as long as other trends. Maybe people got tired of it or burned out of it. Or both elements, the hip hop and the house, decided to go their separate ways.
I believe hip house died because they focused on so many of the main people and they didn’t open the door enough to other artists to get in and add their style and elevate the genre. I believe people got tired of hearing the same old thing.
Everybody was feeling hip house, and it was really starting to feel it in America, until reality rap came. Then everybody wanted to be a gangsta because it looked cool. It tripped me out. People can say I’m wrong, but when reality rap or gangsta rap, when all that stuff came in, then they didn’t want to hear no house music, and then house music changed to dance. So the whole culture was being divided and money was being thrown everywhere and nobody was paying attention.
Black radio stations was getting ate up by bigger conglomerates, so there wasn’t too many more stations playing black music. So, there goes the voice. They was more into the new sound of black culture, the hip hop, which is not a bad thing. I love hip hop, but they wasn’t into the consciousness of hip hop. The gangsta rap was selling because they exploited the culture of urban youth, exploited it to the fullest. Hip house and house music is part of that, but they made it look like it was such a gay thing.
So, how is it going to survive in America? If you tell them, “Oh, man, that’s where all them gay people be down there,” and then “Hold on, man, hold on, slow down, man, it ain’t all gay people down there, check yourself.” They don’t want to hear that. They’re just like, “No, man, fuck that, I’m cool. My boy so-and-so, we’re on the block selling whatever, whatever. I’m listening to whoever, whoever, N.W.A, Ice Cube,” or whoever is giving the message.
Yo! MTV Raps didn’t give it no love. Mr. Lee was selling everywhere, all around the world, but Yo! MTV Raps wouldn’t play the videos. Fast Eddie, myself, we was selling everywhere. I did Dance Party USA in America; Mr. Lee was on Soul Train. Hip house on Soul Train! But nobody was giving us no love, nowhere. It just totally shifted, black consciousness. It totally shifted and went, “Yeah, well, that stuff they was listening to a year ago? Well, we’ll just say it’s gay and leave it to the white people.”
So commercial white stations started picking up on this dance music – not house, but dance music, and here’s the divide. So, where does hip house fit in? By that time, it was kind of commercial. It was no longer a cultural thing. It was a genre and a profit thing.
I can only speak for myself. I didn’t stop making hip house records. First and foremost, the record company we were with, I believe, ceased to believe in the genre, because he started going in a different direction, and again, music in general during that time period, like 1990, was going in a whole different direction. The rave scene started picking up, and where it was straight up house music, now house music had children – breakbeats, trip house, ambient, trance, so forth and so on. I call it the kids of house music. They started getting light, they started getting life. So, the party wasn’t just hip hop or house anymore – now it was a rave, you know what I mean?
People like the Jungle Brothers, Queen Latifah, Doug Lazy, Twin Hype – those artists just embraced it, embraced the fusion. Some of those artists’ biggest records was a hip house record. I mean, the Jungle Brothers’ biggest record was “I’ll House You,” and they’re a rap group! If they were to do a show right now, I guarantee you “I’ll House You” would be their encore record. It just goes to show you the importance of hip house in the late ’80s and early ’90s.
Afrika Baby Bam
I didn’t know that around the world people was such house heads. [“I’ll House You”] is genuine, it’s honest, because I’m just trying to talk about things from the experience of being on the dance floor, and people are connecting with that because it’s the same experience that they are having on the dance floor.
The longevity of it, that surprised me. That song is from ’88. Even today, sometimes we’re performing and people ask us to throw in that thing two or three times.
I don’t even know too many house songs [out now], but the only thing I guess I can compare hip house to are those big pop songs that are out now that kind of mix hip hop, like what Pitbull is doing. You know, what Pitbull is doing they may call world music, but that’s hip house.
Is hip house dead? No. The Black Eyed Peas for the last three, four, five years have been doing hip house – they just don’t call it that. Pitbull, his career is hip house – they just don’t call it that. Listen to the radio, listen to how many records have a four-to-the-floor beat to it. Just pay attention.
Illustrations by Vince Joy
Header image © Vince Joy