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The Good The Bad And The Funky
Here’s a gentle reminder that rap didn’t always equate with firearms and crack. Almost ten years before De La Soul’s daisy age of sampladelic delight, Tom Tom Club were imagining rap not as a martial but a visual art with the hot colours and graffiti sensibilities of their eponymous debut.
Peter Murphy, 07 Jun 2001
Here’s a gentle reminder that rap didn’t always equate with firearms and crack. Almost ten years before De La Soul’s daisy age of sampladelic delight, Tom Tom Club were imagining rap not as a martial but a visual art with the hot colours and graffiti sensibilities of their eponymous debut. Society’s debt to Frantz and Weymouth would later be repaid in samples by Grandmaster Flash, Puffy, Mariah Carey and many others.
Given that TTC rely heavily on the chill-out factor, it’s little surprise that this record’s roots are in sunshine reggae rather than Isaac’s Shaft. The Good, The Bad And The Funky sees the collective reviving rap’s prototype, good old fashioned toasting (courtesy of a character called Mystic Bowie), as well as dabbling in the black arts of bluebeat and dub.
But then, any Tom Tom album will rely on grooves rather than songs in the tradesman’s sense. The upshot of this is that most of TGTBATF, especially the Fishbone ska of ‘She’s Dangerous’ and a cover of Lee Perry’s ‘Soul Fire’, will probably sound great in a humid club, not so good in a frosty bedsit. It’s a collection that is both bottom-heavy and light-headed, the work of a crack rhythm section sometimes ill served by the tunes.
So, they rock hardest on tracks like ‘She’s A Freak’, with Weymouth doing her best Rick James. The pair even have the cheek to enter Moroder and Summer’s eroto-grotto ‘Love To Love You Baby’, and while it isn’t exactly the same journey through the sensual realm, they’re on the right track. In fact, the real gems are the dub versions of ‘Time To Bounce’ and ‘Dangerous’ tacked on the end of the album.
As Mikey Dread was apt to say: “Toorn up de baaaass”.