Friday, December 4, 2009

Old School Back In Session: Vintage Vinyl Unearths Another St. Louis Hip-Hop Original

Posted By on Fri, Dec 4, 2009 at 9:00 AM

Last year, while digging through a cluttered storeroom, a Vintage Vinyl employee discovered a pair of rare 12" records with roots that stretched back to the very beginning of St. Louis hip-hop.

The records-- "Power of Soul" by Dangerous D and DJ Charlie Chan and "Culture Shock" by Early D--eventually became the subject of an RFT feature story, detailing the history of rap in St. Louis and some of the early scene's key players, including Vintage Vinyl owner Tom "Papa" Ray.

Well, it's just about a year later and--just in time for the holidays-- the boys at Vintage have dug up another obscure old school St. Louis jam.

The cuts, "Life's Hard" and "Fresh New Group," are from 1985 by the group Gateway Rockers. Here's the disc:
As for the back story behind this record...

...Vintage Vinyl's Jim Utz says the records were found by Matt Harnish (he of Bunnygrunt and snarky A to Z comment fame) "while looking for more Early D records to put next to the Rink DVDs we have in stock."

Says Harnish of the music: "It's a little cheesy, I'm not going to lie."

That's a pretty accurate assessment. The songs are valiant attempts at impersonating Run-DMC, only they lack the latter's rapid-fire rhymes and high-end production value.

"Life's Hard" is backed by some woozy Tetris-like synthesizers and an 808 so plain it almost sounds like a metronome. All the rhymes are about how shitty it is to lose your job, like, "You're feeling sort of sad so you start to drink/you need to stay sober cause now's the time to think/ life's hard."

"Fresh New Group" is a little better, with a firecracker drum machine and awesomely outdated lines like "We do it so well you can't even tell/if it's memorex runnin' off your Duracell."

According to the usually reliable record-collector site Discogs, "Life's Hard" is the only record that Gateway Rockers ever produced.

Utz says Vintage now has a couple dozen of the records in stock, which probably accounts for 99 percent of all existing copies.

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