The Wildstyle Story #28-Song Breakdown “The Wildstyle Theme (Outro)”

Me at North Chicago High School, circa ‘88.

These lyrics were written in 1988, and were supposed to be the acapella intro to our EP or Album. It is essentially the group mantra. I think LA and I wrote it together, but not 100% on that.

Each bar had a specific purpose, “There’s no rap style Wildstyle can’t do/There’s no drum track we can’t rap to/Hard beats, soft tunes, themes from cartoons/Horror flicks with Roland Kick booms/Funk, Reggae, Jazz, Blues or Disco/Even House beats, we will still flow/Fast or slow to congas, banjos/Guitars from rock stars, or go Techno(((((“

One of our primary goals as a group was to prove we could be stylistic and showcase lyricism not matter what the backing track was. We loved to challenge ourselves that way. Admittedly, it didn’t always result in the best representation of our skill sets as producers or lyricists, because our career became more about proving points and conducting experiments in musical science, more than it was about simply making the best songs we could, but I don’t regret our approach. I’m proud of the music we made, even in its imperfections.

For some specific points about the lyrics, here are some tidbits. “Themes from cartoons” was a reference to a song we had planned in ‘88, but never recorded, called “Tricks Are For Kids”, which was a dedication to our DJ’s skills. There probably weren’t going to be any lyrics, except maybe a few bars to introduce the concept, and then it was going to be an all-out hi-tech scratch assault by Madd Maxx*. The music we planned to use was from the Looney Tunes theme song, and the song title was from the famous Trix rabbit commercials, which we planned to sample for the hook, “Sorry, Trix are for kids!”. The concept was that this was a straight up scratch track relying on his skills, so there were no studio illusions or technology trickery to do the cuts, only him and his hands. But, the Punchline was that we are making that point on a song using several different kids-related sample sources. We were all about the double meanings and mind games. Later in the lyrics, and with that same idea in mind, when we mention “Banjos”, that is because part of the “Tricks Are For Kids” song had a section were we planned to use this children’s record I had since my childhood, a favorite of mine as a child, called “Songs ‘n Stories About ANIMALS”. There was a square dance song, that while giving dance instructions, says, “Don’t Move Slow”. Maxx was going to scratch up a piece of the Banjo music and that vocal quote, quickly following with some super fast scratches in response to the request. I think part of the reason we never recorded this, is before we got a chance to, Craig G dropped his debut album, The Kingpin, and Marley Marl sampled the Looney Tunes them for “Slammin’”, so we felt we couldn’t use it also, especially since we already used a sample from another song on his debut album, and we never found a different cartoon theme that we wanted to use. Then, also in ‘89, Special Ed had a song sampling a banjo on his album, though he wasn’t the first, the Disco Four likely deserve that award due to “Country Rock and Rap” (‘82). I honestly think about this concept all the time and consider doing it now. It’s one of those things that I believe I eventually will do…

This is the record with the square dance song on it. I don’t have it anymore. It got away from me when Maxx and I split up records/equipment. I’ve been looking for another copy pretty much every since then.

*We also planned to use the “silly rabbit” mention from Public Enemy from “Don’t Believe The Hype”, assuming it would sound good when scratched.

As for the mention of, “Horror flicks with Roland kick booms”, that was a bit of misdirection. For our song “Maniacs”, Madd Maxx sampled the TV show Unsolved Mysteries as I noted in that Song Breakdown. That sample was something people would recognize, but not always know why, and often would think it was from a horror movie, which obviously fits the theme of a song called “Maniacs”, and the other primary musical element to that song is the Roland TR-808, including its heavy “kick boom”.

All the rest of the things we mention in these lyrics you can find used someway in our music, except for Reggae, but I think we had a plan to do something using Reggae. Also, the last part saying, “or go Techno”, is a reference to a term Wildstyle used to describe our uptempo dance tracks that had an Electro influence, such as “Exploits of the Lyrical Legend”, “What Dope Is”, and the first one we did like that, “Beat This!”, which was always intended to be the first song on the album, so these intro lyrics, particularly the ending, “or go Techno…”. were specifically wrote knowing that they would lead in to “Beat This!”. But, I chose to use it as an outro rather than an intro on this anniversary release, and I’ll explain why in a moment.

The beat is produced by D.B.I (Def Boys Incorporated), a part of our Hardrock Alliance crew. I was drawn to them as artists because they had a raw edge, a lot of heart, and a D.I.Y attitude much like our own. They were one of the only groups on the Lake County scene at the time using their own beats. It was simply the Synsonic Drums and a cheap Casio keyboard, essentially two toys, so the sound quality wasn’t great, but I admired their desire to use whatever they had to get the job done, and I also liked the rawness of it.

Synsonic Drums commercial with Buddy Rich, which is pretty awesome.

At some point in early to mid 1989, I told them I wanted them to produce a song for us, and this beat is that they gave us. It was exactly what I was looking for, and I think it might have been the best thing they ever produced using that same set up of Synsonic Drums and Casio. Our plan was to use it for our album outro, or an interlude, but we never wrote or planned what that was going to be.

One reason why I wanted them to produce a track for us, and why what they came back with was perfect, was their sound was more fitting to the Lake County scene. Wildstyle were oddballs, some might also say trailblazers, on the scene. We didn’t really fit the mold, we were trying to cast our own, but in the process we were being viewed by some as outcasts. I don’t want to take all the credit (or blame) for that, because I don’t believe I would deserve it, but I think I definitely was a key part of it, but all three of us, and what uniqueness we brought to the group, was a part of that formula.

In any event, we were constantly hearing from people, Hip Hop fans and other artists, that we sounded “different”. Sometimes that was meant to be a compliment and other times meant as criticism, mostly from artists (IE competitors) to the latter point. I first learned this in 1987 when more MCs started popping up in school at North Chicago High. I’d say about 97% of all the rappers in the school rapped in the same style, which I also wrote about in the Battle History Part One story . I don’t know how to describe it in print, as it mostly has to do with delivery and personality. It’s similar to styles that Fearless Four and Run-DMC made popular, but it had this Midwest, street flavor, swing to it. Point being, for most listeners in those battle ciphers in Lake County at this time, if you weren’t using that style, you weren’t the best. That was the style that defined the scene. This D.B.I beat captured the essence of that style, which I thought would be dope to feature on the album.

Since we never recorded the acapella of the Wildstyle Theme lyrics, and while putting this version of the album together for the anniversary release, I still had this beat, I decided to merge the two. I recorded the vocals in the Summer of 2019, trying my best to tap into my mental state thirty years ago. I spent the week listening and studying Wildstyle songs, and a bunch of Lake County demos circa 1988–89, including D.B.I demos. I tried to be mindful of my voice and inflections in that time, or how I might have rode this beat back then. It helped that I still have the same microphone that we recorded with back then, the Shure SM58. I have an old version of Ableton that is the basic program with no effects or anything, so I digitized the beat from an old low-bias cassette tape, which over the years has some audio imperfections, and I thought that would be perfect to help this sound like it was recorded back then. I recorded the vocals and then bounced the acapella and instrumental down separately, and transferred them to a thumb drive. Then, I loaded them up to my HP laptop where I have 2004 bootleg version of Cool Edit Pro. I loaded and synced the beat and vocals, and then went crazy with the effects. That was a nod to how I was in 1988, a kid in a candy store when it came to studio technology. I wanted to use every echo, reverb, flange, etc… So, I used about ten or more different effects on the vocals and the beat, including a stereo pan on vocals, which is why if you listen on your phone, the vocals might cut out, unless you have some stereo speakers. Basically, trying the best I could to make this feel like it was done by me in 1989…

One of the original two mics used to record most of the Wildstyle demos and that I still use one of them today!

Fun fact, like most people it seems, I wasn’t fully comfortable with my recorded voice. I did however prefer it much more when it had a slight hoarseness to it. So, when I knew I was going to record, I would often try getting my voice a bit more raw sounding. I usually would just spend the day, or the day before, reciting lyrics over and over, as loud as I could. It could either be my own lyrics, practicing for whatever song I was going to be recording, or simply put on my favorite artists and rapping along. Or, if I was going to a party or concert, where I was always known to be the dude rapping along to most every song the DJ or performer played, that next day would usually be a good time for me to record vocals. For this track, in order to get that same sound, I spent the day doing the same thing, rapping lyrics as loud as I could until I got the voice where I wanted it to be.

Finally, I decided to use this at the end of the album, rather than the start, because I didn’t like the idea of the first thing on the album being something that I recorded recently. Admittedly, I’m now second-guessing that, and wished I did make it the intro. I suppose this whole experiment is a nod to my #AudioIllusion theory of making music.

Lastly, I thought it would be perfect, since this was ending the album, to try and capture the Wildstyle battle mentality, which I do at the end via the dialog. I was intentional with the cities I mentioned. Obviously, Waukegan and North Chicago were the two main cities where we represented. Park City is where Maxx and I had our second apartment, and Hardrock Alliance affiliate Treach JC of Chapter 2 lived there. Highland Park is where I lived before North Chicago, and I continued to spend a lot of time there even after I moved away. However, the only MCs I knew there were in Hardrock Alliance, so I’m merely being dramatic. I didn’t really know any MCs in Zion at the time, but just in case…ha. As for Round Lake, that’s an inside joke. I worked with some young dudes at MCDs that were from Round Lake, and they were gangbangers, and I used to make fun of them for trying to be Round Lake gangsters. I have no idea how I survived the 80s and 90s without getting beatdown or worse as a result of my reckless mouthpiece 🤣.

I’m happy with this came out, and I think it’s a great way to start bringing the album to a close.

Microphone Mathematics is my upcoming book on the evolution of songwriting in Hip Hop (circa 1977–1989). Contact: KevinBeacham21@gmail.com