Critical Beatdown (Remastered, w/ bonus tracks) by Ultramagnetic MC’s
- Original Release: October 4, 1988
- Remastered Release: May 18, 2004
- Genres: Rap, Hip-Hop
- Label: Next Plateau
- Producers: Ced-Gee, Paul C, Ultramagnetic MCs
- Group Members: Kool Keith, Ced-Gee, TR Love, Moe Love
Here’s a group I had never heard of before randomly choosing to listen to it. I’m certainly not a rap scholar, but I’ve listened to my share of 80s and 90s rap. Yet, the Ultramagnetic MC’s had completely slipped through my radar. This is exactly the type of thing I’ve been hoping to discover as I randomly flip through the 1000 Recordings… book.
Listening to Critical Beatdown now, the sound is pretty typical for 80s rap. Upon original release, though, it was a whole new sound. The Ultramagnetic MC’s were pioneers in the use of samples and helped usher in the “New School” of rap, even criticizing the “Old School” in some of their tracks. Though they went mostly unnoticed in their time, the group’s impact would prove to be great, with even Public Enemy citing their influence.
A full read-through of the album’s Wikipedia article gets my hearty recommendation.
Samples are well-used throughout the album, with most of the production work handled by Ced-Gee. Samples are chopped up and remixed, creating whole new sounds and beats. This sample work is “old hat” now, but it was cutting edge at the time. The fact that the sample work sounds so polished is particularly impressive considering the Ultramagnetic MC’s were the first rap group to use the sampler to create music, heavily sampling others’ work in the process. They were paving the way for their peers, showing them how it should be done. Most of the work was done on the now primitive E-mu SP-1200.
The disjointed, choppy rapping manages to come off perfectly smooth (a testament to the rappers’ and producers’ skill). Rhymes twist, turn, and flow with ease, with none of it sounding forced.
Selected Song Notes
— “Watch Me Now” —
Great start to the album. Scratch-heavy from the start. Immediately proves that they’re not afraid to suddenly end a rhyme, switch to a new lyric, and pick up a whole new flow.
— “Ease Back” —
Great rhyme transitions from Kool Keith in this song.
Feedin’ on words
Small like a nerd
Haven’t you heard?
This…change of rhyme
Continuin’ the land of time.
— “Ego Trippin’ [Original 12” Version]” —
The 2004 re-release contains the original LP version of this song. The older CD release contained a medley of this song and Mentally Mad. I’m not into the “Ultra…MC Ultra” bit, but the lyrics are great. A sampling of the “Old School” bashing in this track:
They use the simple back and forth, the same, old rhythm
That a baby can pick up, and join, right with them
But their rhymes are pathetic, they think they copacetic
Using nursery terms, at least not poetic
On a educated base, intelligent wise
As the record just turn, you learn, plus burn
By the flame of the lyrics which cooks the human brain
Providing overheating knowledge, by means causing pain
— “Kool Keith Housing Things” —
Kool Keith really shines here. Interesting to note that he spent time in a psychiatric hospital before forming the Ultramagnetic MC’s. He’d later go on to perform as the characters Dr. Dooom and Dr. Octagon. I love the sample from Dennis Coffey’s “Ride Sally Ride.” I may just have to rip my own sample of the opening guitar strums and make a ring tone of it.
— “Feelin’ It” —
Great track. Highlight:
I’m back again
— “Ain’t It Good to You” —
The sample of Manzel’s “Jump Street” makes me want to listen Danger Mouse’s The Grey Album. Now, did Danger Mouse sample this song’s sample, or did he sample “Jump Street” directly? Is there a difference? Am I way off on my sample assessments?
— “Give the Drummer Some” —
Is it odd that they’re pleading to “give the drummer some,” when the drummer is a drum machine?
— “Break North” —
The Star Wars samples save this track.
— “Bait” —
One of the best tracks on the album. I can’t believe they left it off the original CD release. Great beat-boxing. I can’t help but think of the Beastie Boys when I hear this track.
Full Track List (via Wikipedia)
- "Watch Me Now" – 4:40
- "Ease Back" – 3:24
- "Ego Trippin’ (Original 12" Version)" – 5:26
- "Moe Luv’s Theme" – 2:14
- "Kool Keith Housing Things" – 3:15
- "Travelling at the Speed of Thought (Remix)" – 1:51
- "Feelin’ It" – 3:31
- "One Minute Less" – 1:58
- "Ain’t It Good to You" – 3:33
- "Funky (Remix)" – 3:40
- "Give the Drummer Some" – 3:43
- "Break North" – 3:24
- "Critical Beatdown" – 3:42
- "When I Burn" – 2:32
- "Ced-Gee (Delta Force One)" – 2:49
- "Bait (Original 12" Version)" – 4:26*
- "A Chorus Line (Original 12" Version)" (featuring Tim Dog) – 6:04*
- "Traveling at the Speed of Thought (Hip House Club Mix)" – 4:22*
- "Ego Trippin’ (Bonus Beats)" – 1:11*
- "Mentally Mad (Original 12" Version)" – 5:05*
*2004 edition bonus tracks
P.S. I don’t agree with the use of an apostrophe in MCs, but that’s the way they did it on the album cover. So, I’ve chosen to honor their spelling.
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