Divine Styler was a bit of a strange fellow. He was a thinking man’s thinking man. His compositions were dense with Islam, progressiveness, politics and scathing critique. How it failed is quite evident. He was simply ahead of his time. While De La Soul had proven that there was room and space in the scene for the weird and eccentric, there wasn’t yet space for the weird, eccentric and unaccessible. That is what we have in Word Power.
It’s not completely unlistenable and unaccessible. In fact, quite the opposite. It has this curious magnetism. The closest correlation so far from 1989 is the way the Schoolly D record Am I Black Enough For You? managed to take proven elements that had worked for other groups or hip hop acts and display them in ways that we had yet to see either from the level of lyrical content or the production.
Word Power is an urgent and frantic masterpiece. From a musicality standpoint, it’s production has this oddly rough and under-produced quality which, surprisingly, works. Even the obligatory house track, “Last House on the Left,” has a wonderfully unsettling feel which offers just enough peculiarity to grab the listener. But it’s the production on tracks like “Koexistin U4RIA,” “Play It for the Divine,” and “Ain’t Sayin’ Nothin’” that truly set it apart from its counterparts.
Divine Styler, as an emcee, is a man amongst boys, but often, fails to connect because of his eccentricism, which is probably one of the tragedies of the album. It’s often difficult to tell if he’s being real, cynical, critical or humorous because, largely, his tone is static through the entire recording. But, we can’t fault a man for attempting or aspiring to greatness which is quite evidently what Styler was doing. It simply is too much for one recording to hold.
But similar to all things that are ahead of their time, their greatness is never fully recognized because by the time heads are ready, the world has moved onto other things. Such is the case with Divine Styler. Clearly talented, but labels didn’t have a clue on what to do with him. The scene didn’t know how to receive him. Audiences simply didn’t care. But the richness that is Word Power makes it well worthy of a second listen here two decades later. /sonofbyford/
Thanks to Ernesto!
Alex Henderson@allmusic: ”Those arguing that the most individualistic R&B and dance music of the late ’80s and early to mid-’90s came out of Britain could point to Neneh Cherry’s unconventional Raw Like Sushi as a shining example. An unorthodox and brilliantly daring blend of R&B, rap, pop, and dance music, Sushi enjoyed little exposure on America’s conservative urban contemporary radio formats, but was a definite underground hit. Full of personality, the singer/rapper is as thought-provoking as she is witty and humorous when addressing relationships and taking aim at less-than-kosher behavior of males and females alike. Macho homeboys and Casanovas take a pounding on “So Here I Come” and the hit “Buffalo Stance,” while women who are shallow, cold-hearted, or materialistic get lambasted on “Phoney Ladies,” “Heart,” and “Inna City Mamma.” Cherry’s idealism comes through loud and clear on “The Next Generation,” a plea to take responsibility for one’s sexual actions and give children the respect and attention they deserve.”
This Clapham, south London, England rap duo comprised MC Remedee (Debbie Pryce, a former chef for the Ministry Of Defence) and Susie Q. (Susie Banfield, sister of the Pasadenas’ Andrew Banfield). They put the act together in 1983, originally as a 13-piece collective entitled Warm Milk And The Cookie Crew, after which they were picked up by the Rhythm King Records label. The breakthrough followed when they recorded ‘Rok Da House’ with their producers, the Beatmasters. Originally to have been used as an advert for soft drink Ribena, it became a UK hit in December 1987, and is often credited with being the first ‘hip-house’ record. Signing to ffrr Records, they went on to work with producers such as Stetsasonic, Gang Starr, Black Sheep, Davey D, Daddy-O and Dancin’ Danny D (D-Mob), and later added Dutch singer MC Peggy Lee as a ‘human beatbox’. Their DJs also included DJ Maxine and DJ Dazzle, who were among a succession of collaborators. In 1989 they enjoyed hits with ‘Born This Way’, ‘Got To Keep On’ and ‘Come And Get Some’.
They were also prominent as part of the Black Rhyme Organisation To Help Equal Rights (B.R.O.T.H.E.R.) along with Overlord X, Demon Boyz, She Rockers, and many other black rap acts in the UK. On their second album they teamed up with jazz fusion artist Roy Ayers for a new version of his ‘Love Will Bring Us Back Together’. However, all was not well between the Cookie Crew and London Records. The latter wished to increase the duo’s chart profile with more commercial material. The Cookie Crew, for their part, wanted to concentrate on more hardcore hip-hop. A bizarre compromise was reached in the summer of 1992 when two singles, ‘Like Brother Like Sister’ and ‘Crew’s Gone Mad’ were released side by side. The former was a hip house pop tune, the latter a biting rap track, in an experiment to decide the direction of their future career. In the event, the group had run its course anyway, and Remedee would go on to form the New Wave Sisters with Trouble And Bass (another female rap duo) and Dee II, also setting up a concert and club agency – 786 Promotions.
Alex Henderson@allmusic: ”Difficult to categorize and difficult to market, KC Flightt is a unique rapper who has remained in obscurity. Flightt, unlike most rappers, doesn’t always rhyme, and can be quite angular and abstract. On his imaginative and visionary debut album, In Flightt, he draws on influences ranging from jazz to house music — and is considerably more musical and melodic than most rappers. Not terribly easy to absorb, this cerebral effort must be listened to several times in order to be fully appreciated. In the mid-’90s, Flightt resurfaced in the band of jazz saxophonist Bill Evans (who has been featuring rappers in much the same way jazz artists feature singers) but wasn’t nearly as cerebral as he is on In Flightt.”
One of early rap’s most successful acts, the Fat Boys parlayed a combined weight of over 750 pounds into a comic novelty act that sustained them through several albums and hit singles. Originally known as the Disco 3, Brooklynites Mark “Prince Markie Dee” Morales, Damon “Kool Rock-Ski” Wimbley, and Darren “Buff the Human Beat Box” Robinson won a talent contest at Radio City Music Hall in 1983, thanks in part to Robinson’s talent for using his mouth to improvise hip-hop rhythms and a variety of sound effects. The trio changed their name and recorded a series of good-time party anthems and songs humorously exploiting their weight; their first few records were produced by Kurtis Blow and feature fusions of hip-hop with reggae and rock. the Fat Boys hit their commercial peak with 1987’s platinum LP Crushin’, a collection of entertaining party tunes that included a hit collaboration with the Beach Boys, “Wipeout.” The group took the opportunity to star in the comedy film Disorderlies that year. Coming Back Hard Again essentially repeated the formula of Crushin’; the cover this time was “The Twist (Yo’ Twist),” which featured backing from Chubby Checker. However, audience tastes were changing, and the Fat Boys’ gimmicky novelty act was quickly becoming passé. The group tried to expand their artistic and street credibility with the ill-advised “rap opera” On and On, which promptly stiffed and prefaced the group’s breakup. Prince Markie Dee recorded a solo album in 1992 and went on to a successful R&B songwriting/producing career. Robinson died of a heart attack in December 1995.