Without a doubt, Sparky D is one of the greatest to emerge from the ripple effect of U.T.F.O’s “Roxanne Roxanne” explosion in the mid 80s*. The only true arguable competitor would be Roxanne Shante, with whom Sparky D traded lyrical blows in the early parts of her career.
Sparky D entered the game with “Sparky’s Turn (Roxanne You’re Through)” on NIA Records. Immediately you notice her commanding voice and excellent flow. She spends 4+ minutes mostly tearing into “Roxanne”, but also finds time to give props to her crew, The Playgirls. The song highlight is perhaps the final line that builds up with a heavy snare roll into a echoed acapella, “Don’t ever forget/This is Sparky D’s world and you’re living in it! ((((“
That resulted in Sparky D being one of the very few to turn her “Roxanne” rebuttle into a career. 1985 saw the release of the Roxanne Shante Vs Sparky D “Round 1” battle album. All parties involved must have saw the potential in marketing the battle on wax in a unique fashion. Here you have a record that contains both MCs already famous “Roxanne Answer Records”, a solo “Profile” song for each MC, and then there is the battle track. No matter how much of a marketing ploy it may have been, the battle is definitely authentic. Both MCs are going off the head and at the throat. There are no pulled punches as things get pretty explicit and brutal. To sweeten the deal the tracks are produced by both MC’s main producers, two of the best in the biz; Marley Marl & Spyder D.
Further solidifying herself as a battle MC, another of her early singles is titled “The Battle” and listed as Sparky D Vs The Playgirls. It contains Sparky D going head to head with her ex-partner Mo-Ski, who questions Sparky D’s loyalty to the crew by going solo for the “Roxanne Wars”. Again, obviously this a record, so some planning and marketing went into it, but it is quite easy to believe that some of that anger came from a real place. It’s rare that both sides of the beef is captured on record and I feel that is something that was unique about Sparky D records.
Although “Answer Records” wasn’t all that Sparky D had to offer, she generally stayed focused on her skills and braggadocio. In “She’s So Def” (Nia Records ’85) she makes the bold statement, “Later for the girls, I’m going for the brothers” suggesting that no MC was safe from her wrath. The flipside cut, “He’s My DJ” is a dedication to the legendary, Kool DJ Red Alert. Sparky D does a great job of lyrically outlining Red Alert’s history, propping up his radio show, and allowing him to showcase his scratch skills.
Of all her early singles, my favorite is “Don’t Make Me Laugh” (Next Plateau ’86). Although there is a cheesy element to the weird laughing in the choruses and the somewhat unrelated Star Trek inspired dialog on the bridge, “Don’t Make Me Laugh” is Sparky D at her lyrical best, particularly in the first verse; “Ace lady president, The Chief Of Staff/(You) say I lose a battle, don’t make me laugh/Start riot with the beats, my rap will never soften/Not seen on the streets, but at a battle seen often/Defense against me has not been manufactured/Put my on stage, sucker mcs I’ll wax ya/Turn a rough tough MC to a woman that’s attractive/The lady president, just in case somebody ask ya/Thinking that your better is just a delusion/I’m making this record to stop the confusion/Protégés is what becomes of those who follow/Those who oppose on the mic will be swallowed…”
The onslaught continues thru out the track with more jewels dropped such as, “To you, my fans, I send hugs and kisses/To all my rivals, ha, best wishes!” or “I can read you and write you and also erase you/Whoever wanna battle, I would love to face you!” All those delivered with much conviction over a collaboratively produced Spyder D and Davy DMX beat.
Sparky D-Don't Make Me Laugh:
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Sparky-D-Dont-Make-Me-Laugh.mp3|titles=Sparky D-Don't Make Me Laugh]
In ’87 she showed up on her third record label, B-Boy Records, on the “B Girls Live And Kicking” Compilation. The album contains four female MCs of which Sparky D was the premiere attraction, alongside rising talent, L.A. Star, as well as Baby Doll and 5 Star Moet. There is featured production from Ced Gee (Ultramagnetic MCs), Boogie Down Productions, Keyboard Money Mike, and Spyder D. The new-comers throw out jabs to other top females MCs on the scene with L.A Star’s “Write That Rhyme (Salt & Pepa Diss)”** and 5 Star Moet’s “Moet Gets Busy (Shante Diss)”. Meanwhile Sparky D leaves the disses alone and contributes two solid tracks; “Throwdown” and “Sparky’s Back”. The latter picks up right where “Don’t Make Me Laugh” left off, while “Throwdown” showcases her growing song making skills. To me, that was the final inspiration I needed to look out for a Sparky D album and finally a year later it dropped.
Sparky D-Throwdown [Original 12" Mix]:
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/12-Throwndown-Original-12_-Version.mp3|titles=12 Throwndown (Original 12_ Version)]
Approximately three years after her debut, Sparky D released “This Is Sparky D’s World”. It’s a somewhat weird and interesting album. There’s definitely some classic Sparky D flavor on there. Spyder D is still on deck as the album producer and Grand Creator K-Wiz takes over the DJ duties.
One of the most interesting thing is the opening two minutes. On one hand, the fact that it is an acapella battle rhyme is revealing of her dedication to her lyrical content. It’s one-part auto-biographical, one-part Brooklyn anthem (particularly Brownsville), and one-part battle rhyme. She is definitely snapping. The weird part is upon completing her verse she asks “K Wiz” to “Pass my Mountain Dew”, which she cracks open and takes a sip. Then drops the final line, “It’s 1988, I made this album for you/Take my advice, drink Mountain Dew”. That might be the first, and in some ways, the only, outright product commercial I’ve heard in a song. I wonder how much money changed hands for that…hopefully something decent…ha.
Sparky D-Never Ran, Never Will [DJ Nikoless "Brownsville Blend" Mix]: This is something I just did randomly while reminiscing on how great Sparky D was back in the day and always wanting to hear this to a beat:
[audio:http://www.fifthelementonline.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Never-Ran-Never-Will-Brownsville-Blend-Mix.mp3|titles=Never Ran Never Will (Brownsville Blend Mix)]
Beyond that, stand out tracks include her latest DJ dedication “Grand Creator K Wiz, Best In The Biz”, “I Can’t Stop”, and the title track. Also included are her two tracks from the “B Girls Live & Kicking” Compilation. The rest of the album has her experimenting with a variety of different styles and approaches. I imagine this was what may have taken so long to get an album deal. She was only known for battle rhymes so there may have been some question as to whether or not she could make a well-rounded album, but she definitely gave it a shot here. The result is two love songs (“Changes (In Love)” and “I Want You Back”), a reggae track (“Yankee Boy”), a somewhat cleverly titled Story Rap about a neighborhood man-stealer (“Klepto-Man-Iac”) and “Punk Rock Rap”, which is fairly self-explanatory. While these songs aren’t necessarily horrible, it’s clear that Sparky D is most effective when she stays in her realm. To her defense, this is a time when most Hip Hop albums suffered similarly as the genre struggled to shift from a singles to an album market.
Not long after this Sparky D disappeared from the scene and from time to time I would wonder what happened to her. Here’s a informative mini-documentary on Sparky D I found online that captures here career with testimonials from MC Shan, Big Daddy Kane, & Salt N Pepa giving her due props. Plus chronicles her downfall and eventual rebirth in life and the music business:
Being that her music was mainly only available on vinyl previously, I was excited for the reissues of the “B Girls Live And Kicking It” Compilation and her “This Is Sparky D’s World” album. The album contains some bonus tracks of 12” mixes, remixes, and instrumentals as well.
Sparky D is certainly a key piece of the puzzle when looking back on the history of, not only Female MCs, but battle MCs, as well as early representers of Brooklyn Hip Hop. If you missed it the first time around here's your chance to check it out!
*U.T.F.O: I'm currently working on a full U.T.F.O story that I'm excited about. Stay tuned!!
**L.A. Star-Write That Rhyme (Salt & Pepa Diss): Always thought this was great, if only for the fact that it was dead set on dispelling the ridiculous notion that all female MCs didn’t write their rhymes. L.A. Star takes shots at Salt & Pepa for having Hurby Luv Bug writing and producing all their hits. Not long after, Salt & Pepa started becoming more pro-active in their writing and production of their records. Although it is probably not because of this record, it’s fun to look at it that way…ha. L.A. Star dropped a few other nice cuts on this comp as well, namely “B Girls” and “LA Gear” before going on to her solo album deal with Profile Records in the early 90s called "Poetess", which is interesting, good, and weird in its own right.