The hip-hop world has lost a true pioneer in the game. Legendary rapper Lovebug Starski, whose real name is Kevin Smith, passed away in Las Vegas on Thursday (Feb. 8). According to reports, the rap pioneer died from a heart attack. He was 57.
Lovebug Starski’s contribution to hip-hop is enormous. He is considered the first MC and DJ to come out of the birthplace of hip-hop -- the Bronx, New York. He is also credited of coining the phrase "hip-hop" during the late 1970s. He would later DJ at the fame Disco Fever Club and then became a major recording artist.
“Lovebug Starski was A DJ, MC and innovator," said Public Enemy frontman Chuck D (via HipHopDX). “A pioneer who excelled before and after the recording line of ’79, the year when rap records began. He was the first double trouble threat in Hip Hop and rap music. He DJ’ed for the great MCs and MC’ed with the great DJs. Besides Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, Lovebug Starski was one of the few that took his legendary street records status into the recording world.”
Some of Lovebug Starski's classic songs include "Dancin' Party" and "Gangster Rock" where he recorded under the rap alias Little Starkey. On the latter song, Starski used the phrase "hip, hop, hippity, hop, hip, hop, she-bop, bang." The "hip-hop" phrase would later be popularized by the first successful rap song in the genre - "Rapper's Delight" by The Sugarhill Gang in 1979.
Other tracks include 1983's "Starski Live at the Disco Fever" (produced by the late and great Larry Smith) and "You Gotta Believe," which have been heavily sampled in rap, as well as “Amityville (The House on the Hill)” "House Rocker" and “Do the Right Thing,” among others.
For some hip-hop fans, they probably have heard of Lovebug Starski vicariously through Notorious B.I.G.’s 1994 song “Juicy,” which begins with the lines: “You never thought that hip-hop would take it this far...Peace to Ron G, Brucie B, Kid Capri/ Funkmaster Flex, Lovebug Starski.”
In memory of the rap pioneer, we present 10 raps songs that sample Lovebug Starski, in no particular order, because they're all classic material.
Lovebug Starski was an important figure in hip-hop and he will be sorely missed. May he rest in peace.
"B-Boy Bouillabaisse"Beastie Boys
The Beastie Boys’ classic 1989 album, Paul's Boutique, boasted a pastiche of samples on each and every track. “B-Boy Bouillabaisse” is a prime example of this. Produced by the Dust Brothers, the head-nodding, post-modern banger featured kooky rhymes from the trio and over 20 samples, including Lovebug Starski’s “Starski Live at the Disco Fever.” A classic song indeed.
"Universal Mind Control"Common Featuring Pharrell
In 2009, Common tried to go pop with his underwhelming album, Universal Mind Control. The Neptunes-produced title track was made strictly for the clubs but left many fans disappointed. Lyrically, it was on-point, but folks weren’t ready for the Chicago rhymer to go electro-pop with his sound. If you listen closely, you can hear “Starski Live at the Disco Fever” interwoven into the song.
"You Gotta Believe"Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch
Before Mark Wahlberg became a Hollywood star, he was a chart-topping rapper in the 1990s. One of his biggest hits was “You Gotta Believe,” which sampled Lovebug Starski's 1983 song of the same name.
"Way Way Back"Kool Moe Dee
Kool Moe Doe is also a pioneering MC who was rocking the mic alongside Lovebug Starski, Grandmaster Caz and many others during hip-hop’s infancy in the 1970s. On his classic 1987 album, How Ya Like Me Now, Moe Dee paid homage to the early B-boys (particularly Lovebug Starski) on throwback banger “Way Way Back.” Moe Dee’s lyrical flow on the song is the same as Starski’s rhyme style on “Dancin' Party People.” It’s a great tribute to Lovebug Starski and other rappers from that era.
"Girls at the Party"World Class
This is an oldie but a goodie. Early B-boy group The World Class released a 1986 track called “Girls at the Party.” It’s your basic storytelling rap song featuring rappers Hollywood, CD Love and Masterpiece 2 detailing their stories of meeting a fly girl at a party. Along with turntable chief Scratch Master T delivering the scratches, the group sampled the intro from Lovebug Starski’s 1981 song, “Positive Life.”
"Live at the Tunnel"Cru Featuring the LOX
The Bronx rap group Cru (aka Rhythm Blunt Cru) released their underrated album, Da Dirty 30, in 1997. While “Just Another Case” and “Pronto” are their most known tracks from the LP, they were a couple of other gems that went unnoticed. The head-nodding banger “Live at the Tunnel” features gritty rhymes from both Cru and the LOX. And if you listen closely, you can hear a sample of Lovebug Starski's classic track, “Starski Live at the Disco Fever.”
Lovebug Starski’s influence in hip-hop stretches from the East Coast to the West Coast. Compton rapper King Tee rapped some lyrical flavor over his 1987 song “Bass,” which samples “Starski Live at the Disco Fever.” On the song, King Tee shows that he could easily rhyme like the East Coast B-boys and still keep it all the way G. The track was produced by DJ Pooh and Bobcat who would later produced LL Cool J’s classic sophomore album, BAD (Bigger and Deffer).
"Pump Up the Volume (UK Remix)"M|A|R|R|S
M|A|R|R|S was a London-based dance group who garnered an international club hit with “Pump Up the Volume” in 1987. While the song is famous for sampling Rakim’s line on “Paid in Full” (“Pump up the volume”), the song also boasts a small vocal sample of Lovebug Starski’s “Positive Life.”
Boston indie group 7L & Esoteric dissed who they deemed are talentless rappers on their 2010 boom-bap banger “No Shots.” 7L spits his braggadocious rhymes while Esoteric provides a throwback sound with additional samples from Trouble Funk, the “Dragnet Theme Song” and “Starski Live at the Disco Fever,” among others.
"You Gotta Believe"Def Duo
Here’s another oldie but goodie. Rap tandem Def Duo scored a minor hit in 1989 with “You Gotta Believe.” Of course, the main sample used is Big Daddy Kane’s “Raw” (among other rap classics), but it also uses a vocal snippet of Lovebug Starski’s “You Gotta Believe” on the chorus. Turntable master Joe Stick’s phenomenal scratching at the end of the song is worthy of your attention.