Wu-Tang, Puff Daddy Dig Up Rap's Roots On Classic Compilation

Today's rappers turn back clock by covering pioneers such as Run DMC on new LP.

Basketball great "Sir" Charles Barkley of the Houston Rockets is always bitching

about NBA upstart-millionaires not giving the game's old-school greats their

proper respect.

Rap producer Andrew Shack apparently knows that game, too.

"A lot of these artists agreed that it was time to do this kind of thing," said Shack,

senior vice president of A&R at Priority Records and co-executive producer of

the 12-track In Tha Beginning ... There Was Rap album, which features

new-school rappers covering hits by artists such as LL Cool J, Run DMC and

Doug E. Fresh. "Obviously everyone is always wanting to pay respect to hip-hop

and the scene that created it. Snoop [Doggy Dogg] has done it on his own

albums, but to get such powerhouse artists to do it on one album is great."

Appropriately, the first single released off the album, by The Def Squad (Erick

Sermon, Keith Murray and Redman), a cover of the Sugarhill Gang's

monumental single

HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Sermon,_Erick/Rapper's_Delight.ram">

"Rapper's Delight" (RealAudio excerpt), has already hit it big, re-

launching the song for a whole new generation who weren't old enough to

remember when the song first blew open the doors for rap in 1979.

As with that song, which hews closely to the original's indelible rhythm, most of

the artists on In Tha Beginning ... leave well enough alone, whether it's

Master P lending his unique slurred delivery to Ice T's "6 'N Tha Mornin' " or

Bone Thugs-N-Harmony hanging up their interlacing, ghostly voices for a

minute to lay-down a hard-core, Cleveland-gangsta version of NWA's

HREF="http://www.addict.com/music/Bone_Thugs-N-

Harmony/Fuck_Tha_Police.ram">"F--- Tha Police" (RealAudio

excerpt).

"It took eight months," Shack said, referring to the project on which he

collaborated with Violet Brown, national rap-buyer for the Wherehouse Music

chain. "But we just went out and attempted to get the biggest artists in business.

Once we put word out, everyone fell into place and everyone wanted to do it."

Producers gave suggestions to some of the artists, but most knew immediately

who they wanted to pay respect to, he added.

Also included on the album are tracks from: Wu-Tang Clan (Run-DMC's "Sucker

M.C.'s"), Sean "Puffy" Combs (LL Cool J's "Big Ole Butt"), Snoop Doggy Dog

(Too $hort's "Freaky Tales"), Coolio (Jimmy Spicer's "Money (Dollar Bill Y'all)"),

Tha Dogg Pound (EPMD's "Knick Knack Patty Wack"), Cypress Hill (KRS-One's

"I'm Still #1"), Too $hort (Sexual Harassment's "I Need a Freak"), Mack 10

(NWA's "Dopeman") and The Roots (Doug E. Fresh's "The Show").

Phyllis Pollack, a veteran rap publicist who has worked with artists such as the

Geto Boys and NWA, said she thinks a project such as In Tha Beginning

... makes perfect sense, given the respect that rappers have for each other's

music. "These songs are so revered in the hip-hop community," said Pollack,

who has been dealing with hip-hop groups for over 10 years. "People don't do

cover versions in hip-hop lightly like they do in rock, because you just don't

touch other artists' stuff like that."

Rather, she added, people are more cautious about it because they have more

respect for the old-school masters who wrote and originally performed these

tracks. "Covers are taken more seriously in the hip-hop community than people

outside might understand," Pollack said, explaining why the songs were primed

for being covered.

Nonetheless, artists showed their continued respect for the tunes by not altering

them much on their mix, Shack added.

"A lot of the artists saw these songs as classic songs that didn't need to be

changed," said Shack of reverent versions such as Tha Dogg Pound's slightly

g-funked take on EPMD's classic hit, "Knick Knack Patty Wack," and Cypress

Hill's edgy, modern shout-out cover of KRS-One's "I'm Still #1."

"These songs were hits as they were. They were special as they were and

everybody just wanted to bring them into the '90s and make them hotter, but still

keep all the lyrics as close as possible," Shack added. "That's how they paid

respect because these songs were great then and they're great now, it's just

that a lot of kids today may not know these songs."

Color="#720418">[Wed., Dec. 3, 1997, 9 a.m. PDT]