As it did for so many folks I know, hip-hop changed my life. I don’t mean in the “It saved my life” way, but when I was introduced to hip-hop, I fell hook, line and sinker into the ocean and never came up for air.
I was living in Germany in the late ’80s and early ’90s, so all of my hip-hop came via mixtapes I borrowed from my sister and friends at school, albums the cashiers at the base PX sold me despite the parental-advisory stickers, and the VHS tapes full of music videos that were sent from family members in the States.
Because that love has persisted since the early ’90s, I often have days when I will start with one song and see where I end up. Today was one of those days. I was trying to remember which songs on 3rd Bass’ debut album, The Cactus Album, were produced by Prince Paul (“The Gas Face, “Brooklyn-Queens” and “Step Into the A.M.”). So I pulled up the album, and it led me to being annoyed that most of De La Soul’s albums are unavailable on digital streaming services, especially because De La Soul Is Dead continues to be one of my favorite projects ever, regardless of genre.
Anyway, this led me to A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory, which led me to the Q-Tip-produced “Crooklyn Dodgers,” which led me to one of my favorite hip-hop beats ever in the DJ Premier-produced “Return of the Crooklyn Dodgers” (you can see my mind works in interesting ways), which took me back to 1990 and Chubb Rock’s “Treat ’Em Right.”
Here, I took a weird turn, because one of my favorite songs, “La Schmoove,” from the early ’90s popped immediately into my head even though, short of the time period, there’s very little connection. But that’s cool, ’cause I ain’t got nothing to prove.
I fell in love with “La Schmoove” from watching videos courtesy of the Fu-Schnickens, a gimmicky (in retrospect) group of Brooklyn, N.Y.-bred rappers who went by the names Chip Fu (the stand-out), Moc Fu and Pac Fu. The “Fu” apparently stood for “for unity.” Phife Dawg from A Tribe Called Quest was on the song and in the video looking exactly like what 1992 looked like. What I remembered most was that the bass line for that song was so heavy and I wished I had a boom box so badly.
The song came out in April 1992, and probably a few months later in Frankfurt, Germany, I found myself at the PX making a purchase of the group’s debut on Jive Records, F.U. Don’t Take It Personal. I played the tape so much (and eventually the CD) that I popped the tape and had to replace it. While “La Schmoove” was the single that put the Fu-Schnickens on the rap map, my songs on that album were “Generals” and “Ring the Alarm.” For the life of me, I have no idea why I loved this group so much, but I was the person in seventh grade singing all of the praises of and trying to put everybody onto the Fu-Schnickens.
And then they tossed me the ultimate alley-oop with their Shaquille O’Neal-assisted single, “What’s Up Doc?” where Shaq-Fu (as he called himself) came through with the verse and the dancing and the fun and landed them right onto the charts, and into the annals of hip-hop history. I remember them on The Arsenio Hall Show, another must for any legit rap act back in the early ’90s.
After their 1994 album, Nervous Breakdown, which included the single “What’s Up Doc?” (but a whole year after the single dropped), they more or less faded into Mike Tyson’s “bolivion.” But for a few years, the Fu-Schnickens were one of those fun representers of the shift into sample-heavy, bass-heavy, gimmicky-with-early-’90s-integrity rap.
While I’d wager that most folks don’t have any Fu-Schnickens readily available on their playlists or on their minds, every now and then it’s fun to tumble down into the rabbit holes of early-’90s R&B and hip-hop and end up on songs that stand as time capsules of style and essence from an era that so many of us have fond memories of. We reminisce, we reminisce.
Where do your hip-hop (or music) rabbit holes take you?