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Obscure Basquiat Record Reissued for Black Friday Record Store Day

By David Goe

It’s Black Friday, a day when American consumerism is at its very best, a day when you can get the deal of a lifetime on giant TVs, tablets, cameras and ... records?

Yes, not to be left for dead like the trampled hoards of door-buster shoppers, the music industry has expanded the popular Record Store Day concept to Black Friday, offering limited vinyl pressings and reissues of both new and long-forgotten recordings.

This year’s offering delves deep into 1990s nostalgia. Among the many specialty items are Dave Matthews Band’s initial 1994 EP “Recently,” Aaliyah’s 1994 debut album “Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number” and They Might Be Giants’ 1990 major label debut “Flood.”

Other highlights include the “Guardians of the Galaxy” soundtrack on cassette (just like in the movie!), a Ramones’ best-of album curated by Morrissey and a picture disc of Wu-Tang Clan’s “C.R.E.A.M.” that comes in the shape of the rap collaborative’s iconic logo.

Considering all the Black Friday releases, perhaps this year’s most coveted item, the so-called Holy Grail of early era New York hip-hop, is Rammellzee vs. K-Rob’s recording “Beat Bop.” Produced by the Radiant Child himself, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and featuring his own artwork on the cover, this 10-minute plus track has never been officially reissued since the initial 500 copies came off the press in 1983 and were sold through a New York art gallery.

Initially intended to be rap battle between the famous artist and Rammellzee, “Beat Bop” is an extended back-and-forth barrage of lyrics over a repetitive minimal funk beat. Rammellzee plays the role of a street corner pimp and K-Rob raps from the point of view of a young boy coming home from school.

While the continuous interplay between Rammellzee and K-Rob is impressive, Basquiat’s contribution to the actual recording of “Beat Bop” goes well beyond floating the cash to record the song.

What makes “Beat Bop” so interesting is Basquiat’s influence over the entire track and how it mirrors his own work as a fine artist. The minimal beat is credited to him, as well as the decision to include such heavy processing and effects such as chorus, delay and echo.

The use of these effects give the track new levels of dimension, previously unheard in early era hip-hop, and highlight a number of Rammellzee and K-Rob’s lyrics in much the same way as the scrawling words across canvases and New York City walls highlighted messages in Basquiat’s paintings and graffiti.

“Beat Bop” doesn’t follow any traditional rules and is a free-form dichotomy of street life, both traits typical in Basquiat’s work as a painter.

“Beat Bop” is an experimental and witty recording that is decidedly not SAMO (the artist’s original graffiti tag name, meaning “Same Old S$@!”) and is cited alongside The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” and Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five’s “The Message” as one of old school rap’s essential songs.

Though less celebrated than its two counterparts, “Beat Bop” was nonetheless an influential record to a number of well-known hip-hop artists, including El-P, B-Real of Cypress Hill and, most notably, the Beastie Boys, who sampled the track on “B-Boys Makin’” from 1994’s “Ill Communication” and on “Jimmy James from 1992’s “Check Your Head.”

The Black Friday reissue again features Basquiat’s original artwork, which, by the way, includes a misspelling of Rammellzee’s name on the back cover, and an insert featuring interviews with those who helped create the landmark recording.

I’m sure very few will be beating down store doors the morning of Friday, Nov. 28, to get a copy of “Beat Bop,” but for hard core record collectors and fans of early hip-hop, there is no better Black Friday deal than this exclusive, genre defining reissue.