I think it’s pretty clear that there are a lot more people recording music these days then there were in the 80s, as least as far as actual songs go. However, there were a far greater number of people making demos and small indie releases in the late 80s and early 90s than the average person would imagine. I was a part of that movement. Throughout the 80s and 90s I probably wrote or half-wrote at least a hundred or so songs and recorded, in some form, a little less than half of those. This was taking place in basements, attics, bedrooms, garages, and professionals studios (probably with engineers who knew nothing about recording Hip Hop) all around the world. I love when those lost and/over-looked recording find the way to the surface. Jamille Records has been one of the most exciting labels making that happen in recent times. I first sung praises for Jamille about a year ago with a Two-Part Record Label Profile on them, which you can read HERE (Part One) and HERE (Part Two).
Since then, label owner, Darrell D, has remained on task at unearthing and arranging to release more hidden gems, primarily focusing on the heavily overlooked Milwaukee scene. I think these releases hold a special connection to me because during these times I was close, yet so far away, by living in North Chicago/Waukegan.
For their latest release Jamille presents the 20/20 Boys on a limited edition Clear White Vinyl 7”. The two included tracks were originally released on 12” on VU Records out of Milwaukee and included the instrumentals, an acapella, and a third song as well, “Killer Will”. All the tracks were produced by Peechy, the man later and better known as Speech of Arrested Development.
Fully in-line with a prime 80s Rap Kraze, the 20/20 Boys introduce a new dance to the world, the “Burger Bounce”. To be quite honest, I don’t really understand what the connection between the dance and burgers is…maybe I don’t want to…ha. In any event, the dance involves getting a bit rambunctious…lots of humping involved. On this joint the production is the highlight for me. It uses various bits and pieces of Zapp that are added in with plenty of style via a series of cuts and scratches on the turntables. That’s supported with some rugged sounding drums that are programmed with a feel-good attitude. To make sure, I just took a dance break in my chair and this song is definitely easy to do some 80s dance moves to. I can also see it working well in some roller-skates. As one can imagine, selling the listener on the concept of something like the “Burger Bounce” requires some friendly and smooth vocal inflections with a dose of playful energy and the 20/20 Boys undoubtedly deliver on both counts. However, the mood takes a bit of a turn on the flipside…
“My Position” is the song that had me most entertained on this 7”. I was already pretty certain that would be the case when I read the song titles. However, I assumed it would be the typical, though appreciated, angle of MCs bragging about their top position in the Rap game. That’s not an adventurous concept, but when done well I always appreciate it, as it’s a key root of what MCing is about. However, that is not the route they took. The “position” they are referring to is a rather unfavorable one. The song outlines their attempts to build the name and success on their local scene and being met with closed doors, fake friends, wishy-washy supporters, jealousy, and straight up disrespect. As the vocal tones enter into letdown territory, they become more harsh and agitated. The backing drums of Led Zeppelin serve dual purpose here. First, they invoke that raw Hard Rock no-nonsense attitude. Secondly, the title “When The Levee Breaks” can take on the alternate meaning for when you have just had enough and reach your breaking point. Right off the bat the 20/20 Boys are on the brink, “Are you jealous of the crew because we like to explore/You tried to discs our Rap…tell me why? What For!?/We’ve been buddies for a long time, until I made my first rhyme/Backed you up with all your dreams and then you go and break up mine!/I asked you to buy this record cause you’re just like my cuz/But then you dissed me like you didn’t know who I was/YO, all my best friends are co’ doggin’ and dissin’/Listen! What would you do if you were in my position?!”
The somber keyboards on the break help set the mood of disappointment, as the pounding drums keep your head nodding until they come back with the second verse, full of more setbacks. They elaborate on their feelings of triumph in the studio when finishing a jam they consider to be, “without no flaws”, but as far as the public opinion, “Went back to school, proud of what I achieved/I left the school mad because of feedback I received…” As an artist from that era I can appreciate their situation. I had a handful of girls who would tease me because I “thought” I was a Rapper. It was annoying to say the least. But, on the other hand, the demeanor and phrase choices of the 20/20 Boys also make it sound pretty hilarious. It results in a split feeling of seriously rooting for them while simultaneously being a bit amused by it all. It’s a pretty nice combination and I’d definitely be curious to hear more tales of the 20/20 Boys…
Written By Kevin Beacham