Underground Classics: Trickeration "Western Gangstertown" (1980)

Posted on June 07, 2011 by Kevin | 0 Comments

Trickeration remains not only one of my favorite early 80s Hip Hop records, but also one of the most mysterious. I know very little about the group…the rest of the world, Internets included, hasn’t added much to the story.

In ‘80/’81 Steve “Romeo” White move to Stuttgart, Germany where a 9/10 year old Kevin Beacham was living. Along with rap skills, East Coast coolness straight out of New York (Queens?), he also brought a nice stack of park jam tapes and vinyl releases that had not hit the racks of the nearby German mall where I made my Hip Hop purchases. In that fine stack lay the amazing Trickeration 12”.

The A-side, “Rap Bounce Rockskate”, borrows the backing track from one of the hottest Soul/Funk/Disco cuts of the time, Vaughn Mason & Crew “Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll”. The Trickeration version tells the story of Country Willie, who decides he has had enough of his country lifestyle. This revelation spurs his radical move, “I gotta go to the city, gotta show my face”. Even as his girl pleads out for him not to leave his home and her behind, “He caught the next plane and was in the air. “
Upon touching down in New York City, he quickly discovers the popularity of the disco rollerskating craze. With the assistance of a nice looking city girl, he has his skating skills down-packed in time for the third verse and even gets his own move named after him, “The Willie Glide”… Not bad for a man living an unhappy life in the Country just one day (a.k.a a few verses) earlier…

The track closes off with the two Trickeration MCs just flaunting a bit of their party rocking skills, which they do very well. Even from that short display, you can tell they have a certain style, flair, & intelligence to their approach that sets them apart from the competition. It digs even deeper on the flip side…

Trickeration-“Rap Bounce Rockskate”
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Trickeration-Rap-Bonce-Rockskate.mp3|titles=Trickeration-Rap Bonce Rockskate]

No doubt, the A-side is a quality cut and able to compare with any party rap joint of the time, but it’s the B-Side that really hits the mark for making this a classic and underground legendary record. I don’t even know where to begin with the greatness of this track…

Before we go any further, let’s finally give them props for naming things. First, their group name is Trickeration! I can’t think of any other Old School crew with a name like that. It is just this powerful and interesting, one-word name. In the days where every other name had a number attached to it, even to my 10 year old mind that stuck out as unique. To build on that, in the group, you have Disco Rick (normal enough) and his partner Basic... Again, it was so simple and powerful, not to mention ironic, because naming yourself Basic in the early 80s was anything but. Then the naming of the B-Side, “Western Gangstertown” is just so ill. I don’t recall hearing the word “gangster” used in Hip Hop before this. The first verse is straight out of a old classic Wild West movie with a Hip Hop twist, but the second verse touches on city politics, hopping turnstyles, jail time, break-out contemplation, and coping with the system. Again, these were not topics that I was accustomed to hearing about in Hip Hop at this point.

They touched on their story-telling skills on the A-side, but this cut showcases that talent to the maximum. They should definitely get more credit for their story-telling abilities alongside the other pioneers like Spoonie Gee, Jimmy Spicer, and Grandmaster Caz.

The music is about as raw and stripped down as you can get pre-drum machine/sampled Hip Hop; loud but sparse drums and a heavy guitar laying comfortable in the back with some nice piano and heavy breathing sprinkled thru out.

Disco Rick takes the first verse and goes on a all-out B-Boy Outlaw mission or as he describes, “I was going to a Western Gangstertown/Where everybody wore guns as they walked around.” The clock barely strikes Noon before he was knocking back drinks, smoking some cheeba and entertaining an enterprising young lady.

However, the fun comes to a quick end when the moment is interrupted, as his female companion explains, “Don’t get worried, it’s just my man/He won’t try nothing with a gun in your hand.” Easy for her to say…ha. Anyway, Disco Rick complies and stands behind the door and places his gun to the head of the unsuspecting gentlemen who enters. What happens next is the testimonial from a man “about 6 foot 4”, who could be the most understanding and boldest man on vinyl. With the gun to his head he proclaims, “Don’t Shoot, I don’t wanna draw down/Get your leg and get the hell out of town/I know your name, your name is Disco Rick/and you’re the baddest MC since Dead Eye Dick/I seen you at a disco in Tennessee and even in jam in Albuquerque/You were talking up a storm at the Presidents ball/Then you went to the Garden and you served them all/I never knew a man that talked so well/achieving all his goals with his clientele/You shocked all the females around the world/and that’s the only reason why you got my girl/What can I say, What can I do?/You better be glad that I heard of you/Cause if it wasn’t for the sake of Trickeration/You wouldn’t rock around the whole damn nation.” Yes, all that is spoken with a gun to his head, bold and understanding indeed…

On the second verse, Basic takes on a more modern day tale of the streets and the struggles of black youth vs the system. His crimes are minimal, but land him in jail none-the-less. He makes the most of it by applying the wisdom, “When you bite off a piece, you know you have to chew it*.” Upon detailing his release from lockdown he precedes to just get loose, but still maintains that rugged street element, “I’m not ever alone/ I’m not full grown/My aim is to please on the microphone/cause I was never defeated, I was never foretold(?)/To all you MCs don’t try to act bold/because I’m one of the two riding thru your town/Don’t act a fool or I’ll shoot you down/I’m satisfied with the way I rock/cause my rhyme’s so def**, I’ll bust a roadblock/I don’t drink no glue, don’t flick no bic/cause everybody knows my name’s Basic.”

Following that last line, both MCs go into a quick chant of, “Believe it or not, Believe it or not, Believe it or not, BELEIVE it or NOT/We’re Trickeration and we’re super hot” and then the song quickly fades away and that was the last I ever heard of Trickeration…

Trickeration-"Western Gangstertown"
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Trickeration-Western-Gangstertown.mp3|titles=Trickeration-Western Gangstertown]

However, what many don’t seem to know is that the two MCs had at least one additional appearance on wax and on a record that in the last 10 or so years has become quite a hot internet item, Outlaw Four “Million Dollar Legs” [Produced By Pumpkin]. This 12” also dropped in ’80 and here, Basic and Disco Rick are joined by Jazzy J and Junie J. It’s another quality cut that displays their great natural rapping ability and knack for good song structure that comes to a peak with some raw New York street corner styled harmonizing and rare usage of horns in the songs mix.

Outlaw Four-"Million Dollar Legs"
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/01-Million-Dollar-Legs-Rap.mp3|titles=01 Million Dollar Legs (Rap)]

That is the extent of my, and apparently the world at large, knowledge about the short, but impressive legacy of Basic and Disco Rick. I’m constantly on a mission for more information, contacts, or anything to help add to the story. If you have any info hit me up! In the meantime, enjoy these vastly under-appreciated Hip Hop classics!!

*This is one of the earliest examples of a multi-syllabic rhyme in Hip Hop that I’ve found, with Basic rhyming “Do It” with “Chew It”.

**It just occurred to me that I can’t think of any other earlier use of the word “Def” in a song either… I have previously thought that Trickeration could be from Queens. This could have a very loose supporting theory as the strongest support for the word def came from Russell Simmons/Run-DMC also from Queens, perhaps the word has it roots from there…hmmmm

Written, Theorized, & Concepted by Kevin Becham

Posted in RedefineHipHop


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