Before I get all philosophical, theoretical and all that over-thinking stuff, let me say this. This special packaging of the Fat Beats debut album does a grab job at communicating the feel good vibe of the group. It’s packaged in a mini pizza box and it comes with a cool Fat Boys name logo sticker and extensive liner notes. The liner notes consists of a recounting of the groups early beginnings and success from the group and some people involved in the making of the record (Ex: Kurtis Blow, Davy DMX, etc…). There are also plenty of great photos and flyers that document the crews rise to fame. Musically, the reissue contains the original debut album + some bonus tracks. Bonuses include; early Disco 3 tracks, the Krush Groove track “All You Can Eat”, a Mr Magic Radio Promo, and some of their earliest radio interviews in ’84, on Mr. Magic’s Rap Attack, to hear the crew discussing their new found success just as things were starting to build for the group. It’s classic mid 80s fun Rap Music to be loved by kids and adults alike…
There was a point and time when the Fat Boys were among the most popular Rap groups in the world. I suppose in a sense they were sort of unlikely champions of the Culture, particularly in a business so concerned with physical appearance and how that translates to appeal and ultimately sales. Yet, there are ways to over-ride the system and break the rules. The most prominent of those means is a good marketing campaign, specifically one drenched in humor.
In that aspect, the success story of the Fat Boys is a bit bittersweet. Although I always was and still am a huge Fat Boys fan, their rise to the top is saturated in three aspects that have plagued Hip Hop as it has sought to navigate the corporate world; 1)marketing ideas valued over musical creativity, 2)quick gimmicks VS longevity, and 3)the manufacturing of the artist direction by label executives. In truth, I suppose all of those are really just different subsidiary problems of the same issue, but I detailed them out to illustrate the point. It just so happens that in the case of the Fat Boys, even though all of those things ultimately ring true, they were able to beat the odds, where most groups ended up falling short and off. Firstly, they had talent and plenty of personality. Also, with Buff Love and his personalized style of the Human Beat Box, they were cutting edge in their style. Plus their production was great, which was headed by Kurtis Blow with a team of talented musicians.
Based on that above criteria the members of The Fat Boys started to build a name around New York City, by winning Rap Contests. Having the right management allowed them to do some international traveling early on as well. It was clear they had some talent and the right charisma to build an audience, but still needed some development. For example, on their early records they are known as the Disco 3. It was a name that was connected with Hip Hop’s Old School roots from which they were inspired. However, it wasn’t very distinguishable for multiple reasons. First off, there was already a group known as the Disco 4, who made some of the better songs in the first era of Rap records. Then there is the additional fact that the name didn’t really reveal anything about them. The first Disco 3 single is “Reality”, which was a serious record about the problems in the world, such as prostitution and drug use. At the time, this approach in Hip Hop was the new trend due to the success of “The Message” and the many songs it inspired. On “Reality” they don’t really capture the essence of their radiant personalities.
They followed up with the Disco 3 single “Fat Boys” and from the opening echoed singing of “Fat(((( Boys((((“, you can already tell they have found their identity. The difference in their sound from “Reality” to “Fat Boys” is quite stunning, particularly for being only one year later. On “Fat Boys” their confidence levels sound pumped way up. They have more fluidity in their flow. They also tap into what seems a natural characteristic they all possess…humor. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was their sense of humor that originally drew them together. It was from the success and response of this trakc that caused the song “Fat Boys” to become the defining sentiment of the group, from then on that is how they were known.
Their self-titled debut was just seven songs, which was pretty standard for an album then, particularly at a time in the recording industry when striking while the iron was hot was one of the #1 rules of the business. The group had some traction and they sought to capitalize on that momentum. The album cover showed them with silly faces, holding ice cream, soda and a hamburger while looking down on miniature versions of themselves in a pizza box. Content wise, that image gave you a pretty solid idea of what to expect.
However, despite the silliness of much of the album, the production is serious business. Kurtis Blow enlists some heavy-hitters to develop a pretty sophisticated production sound for the time. Dave Ogrin, who also engineered the album, has an amazing discography for his engineering and production in 80s Hip Hop and beyond. David Reeves a.k.a Davy DMX was right on the verge of dropping his own classics at the same time (notably “One For The Treble” and “DMX Will Rock”), so he was in full creative swing. Donald Blackman had been in the business since the 70s providing his talented works to the music of Weldon Irvine, Lenny White, Bernard Wright, Twennynine and others. They also had the helpful hands and ears of one of the most important Hip Hop producers of the mid 80s, the incredible and often under-appreciated Larry Smith, who helped craft classics for Run-DMC, Whodini, Lovebug Starski, etc… Those are just the names that I recognize. You also have Danny Harris and Tony McLaughlin credited to adding to the musical output. What that ensemble presented was excellent drum machine program, catchy riffs and baselines, dramatic and big sounding pianos, and it’s all supported by the heavy bass Human Beat Box antics of Buff Love.
“Jail House Rap” is one of the album tracks that most effectively demonstrates those attributes, while the crew showcases their ability to concoct well-written stories with simple language and old time humor. It’s probably a safe guess that one driving force to the Fat Boys success was hitting the scene right in time for the music video revolution. Outlining their, at-all-costs, food devouring adventures on camera adds an additional effect to the music. Their style of humor was a direct descendent of the Three Stooges. There is plenty of physical humor, exaggerated faces, and outlandish scenarios.
The album dedicates two tracks to showcase the pure and raw skills of Buff Love on the Human Beat Box: “Stick ‘Em” and “Human Beat Box”. These are two of the more serious tracks on the record, but they still capture the humor in the intros. Once they get into their rhyme zone they focus more on party rocking, battle rhymes and giving props to the man behind the mouthed beats.
My favorite Fat Boys track has always been “Can You Feel It?” The beat is mid 80s Hip Hop production at its finest. It has this awkward stutter start, but then drops into this great groove that reaches musical bliss when the keyboards come in with the beautiful singing of the hook. On the mic, Kool Rock Ski and Prince Markie Dee give you instructions on how to maximize your party experience. This is certainly the most timeless sounding piece on the record.
I’d have to guess that some people didn’t expect Fat Boys to have a long career and thought this first album would be a quick cash-in and be over, but the Fat Boys beat the odds. They followed up with six more albums to take their career into the early 90s. Along the way they hit a variety of different industry peaks, including a short-lived acting career. You will find some scattered musical highlights on their remaining discography, such as “The Fat Boys Are Back”, “Force MDs Meet The Fat Boys”, & “Beat Box Is Rockin”, but no album better captures them at their best than their debut.
R.I.P to Buffy a.k.a DJ Doc Nice…