Who Flipped It Better? Street Smartz vs. RiFF RAFF
The Sample: Bullet – ‘Smokey Joe the Dreamer’ (1975)
Another week, another sample that’ll make that stupid “Damn son, where’d you find that?” drop white people appropriated for Trap Music ring off in your head.
‘The Hanged Man’ is music from the ’70s Yorkshire (Yorkshire? Is that where Hobbits live?) TV show of the same name, which approximately zero people reading this have ever seen. So how did D.I.T.C. affiliate DJ Ogee find it? Renowned crate diggers like Dilla were known to flip through records and, if they didn’t notice the artists, pick out LPs with the illest covers. It seems doubtful that Ogee knew who Bullet were, considering it was a band only thrown together for this one album, even though the group was comprised of library music legends (in the relative sense of the word) like Alan Parker, Barry Morgan, Frank Ricotti, Frank Les, and Alan Hawkshaw. Maybe he just liked the star heads. We’ve covered library music in the past, so we won’t double back here, but do yourself a favor and track down the Bullet album. Not illegally, of course. We don’t support that kind of thing here at Boombox. Never. Not even once. You hear?
The soundtrack creeps, kicks, slouches, zooms. There’s smoked out jazz and Curtis Mayfield-infused funk soup for the soul side by side. ‘Smokey Joe the Dreamer’ appears on the later half of the album, and it slows everything down, like raindrops dripping into muddy puddles. Peep the magic Rhodes, too. Who knew some s–t called library music could sound so dope?
Flip 1: Street Smartz – ‘Metal Thangz’ (Feat. O.C. & Pharoahe Monch) [Prod. by DJ Ogee] (1996)
Ogee is, despite crafting classics since ’94, an unsung production genius. He’s been down with Diggin’ In The Crates since the mid-90s and made murky beats for O.C., De La Soul, Sadat X, Organized Konfusion, O.G.C., Big Pun, and others – an unfuckwittable resumè if we’ve ever seen one. Yet for all his accomplishments, one song with little-known rap group Street Smartz trumps them all – ‘Metal Thangz.’
Street Smartz was headed up by F.T. a.k.a. Fuc That with help from Maoz and Syx. They were an essential part of Tru Criminal Records, a small record label that also housed AK Skills and God Sunz, although their career only spanned a handful of singles between ’96 and ’97, minus the Large Professor collabs ‘Yo Yo’ from the ‘Bottom Line’ soundtrack in 1999 and ‘Cum Again’ from 2001, a remix to ‘Cum Now.’ Their debut was on the scorching ‘Ain’t No Burna,’ which flipped Jigga’s breakout single to stack bars like Rikers – within 30 seconds, a screwface is imminent.
‘Metal Thangz’ was the b-side to their next single, ‘Problemz,’ their best known song produced by Buckwild that delineated why they call bitches bitches. In ’97, they dropped the Domingo-produced ‘F-It-Less’ (‘How you feelin’ son?’ ‘Not that well’), continuing to display their effortless strings of multi-syllabic rhymes, and in the same year, they’d release another flaming cut, ‘Don’t Trust Anyone’ (‘2001′ fans might recognize that sample), on the ‘Tru Criminals Records EP.’
Flip 2: RiFF RAFF – Larry Bird (Prod. by Ron Kelly) 
RiFF RAFF is a hard act to pin down. His proper debut album ‘Neon Icon’ drops next week on Diplo’s Mad Decent label, and despite claiming Texas hip-hop culture, doing a stint as a ridiculous rapper-in-character on MTV’s ‘From G’s To Gents,’ and sniffing coke with a snake around his neck, he’s got more dimensions to show the world – country tunes and EDM jams arise on the forthcoming LP.
Interest in the rapper born Horst Christian Simco (word up) might have piqued when he impressed with a verse on Action Bronson’s ‘Bird On A Wire,’ simultaneously boosting Harry Fraud’s profile to those outside of French Montana’s sphere of influence, but he was getting love from internet luminaries like Noz before that with one of his best known songs, ‘Larry Bird.’ Minstrel show conspiracies aside, this s–t knocks. Don’t try to deny ‘I done shook dice with Larry Bird in Barcelona’ if you haven’t done so yourself.
Both songs sample the exact same gloomy part of ‘Smokey Joe the Dreamer.’ Naturally, ‘Metal Thangz’ retains the ’90s East Coast tempo, less something to smoke to than a song that itself can entrance you. It’s a faster flip than ‘Larry Bird,’ whose stop-and-go drums add to the song’s Southern slur. The latter not only echoes but recalls the former to a T, so this week goes to the originator, DJ Ogee. Check out his Soundcloud for a rundown of his best beats.