observations, reviews and ramblings about Hip-Hop culture, sports, politics and the industry and life in general.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Stetsasonic "In Full Gear"

The Roots have always wallowed in the moniker of being the Hip-Hop band. They have done this with a certain amount of arrogance and condescension as well as superior artistry. The truth is that regardless of the instruments they are a better outfit than most. Particularly because Black Thought is one the nicest MC’s in the game and Questlove is the quintessential Hip-Hop nerd. They are good, even great, but let’s be clear they are not the first Hip-Hop band. That distinction goes to Wise, Daddy-O, Frukwan, Prince Paul, DBC, Bobby Simmons, and Deelite. Stetsasonic.

Stet was formed in 1981 and dropped their first album On Fire in 1986 and the follow up In Full Gear in 1988. The years they decided to release these two albums have a lot to do why Stet is one of the most underappreciated groups in Hip-Hop. ’86 and ’88 were huge years for Hip-Hop. The summer of ’86 was of course the mythical changing of the guard. We moved from Run, Whodini, and Kool Moe Dee to Rakim, Kool G Rap, and Boogie Down Productions. Simple rhyme patterns and coordinated outfits gave way to Dapper Dan suits and lesson from the Nation of Gods and Earths. And during this time is when Tommy Boy introduced Stet to the world.

In many ways Stet was the transition between the Run DMC era and the Rakim era. They had matching outfits and old school rhyme styles, but from the first time you heard ‘Go Stetsa’ you know there was something different about these dudes. It may hard to believe now, but in the 80’s Daddy-O was considered one of the nicest MC’s out and he was. His slightly nasal flow and fluid rhyme style was the envy of all aspiring MC’s. And the drums from the aforementioned and often sampled ‘Go Stetsa’ to the simple DBC beat box on ‘Faye’ were on another level.

On Fire received some attention but it wasn’t until In Full Gear dropped in 1988 that Stetsasonic really claimed their place in Hip-Hop history. While On Fire was cool (no pun intended) and Red Alert played it, In Full Gear had hits. Produced by the DJ and youngest member of Stet, Paul Houston aka Prince Paul, “Sally” and “Talkin All That Jazz” were bona fide smashes. In those songs you can hear the rich sample and layering that has become identified with Prince Paul. Combined with the old school flow of Deelite, Frukwan, and Daddy-O Stet was truly something different. They were a band. Not a band in that they had two percussionists, bongos, and an oboe but because their sound moved as one.

With Daddy-O leading the way, the four MC’s flowed in and out of each other like Cold Crush. Listening now to DBC on the beat box begs the question how come there are no more beat boxers in crews anymore. Bobby Simmons on the drums was the first ?uestlove. And with Paul and Daddy-O directing the music Stet was something you were not.

The timeless hit was “Talkin…” which was inspired by R&B artists Mtume’s tirade against sampling on WBLS in New York. Mtume was a great writer but was most known for his hit ‘Juicy Fruit’ which ironically was sampled by Biggie for ‘Juicy’ several years after his attack. Daddy-O called into the show and engaged Mtume in an ideological debate about sampling. For many, including my pops, this was the first time they had heard a Hip-Hop artists speak intelligently about his art and hold his own with a respected icon. Daddy-O became our spokesman and a star. To follow up this egghead episode with a track that was banging in headphones, the street, and the clubs pushed In Full Gear sales into the six figures.

Unfortunately In Full Gear was overshadowed by another Tommy Boy release. “Plug Tunin” dropped in ’88 to be followed by the classic “3 Feet High and Rising.” In an ill twist of fate De La Soul was developed by Stet’s own Prince Paul out of a sense of frustration. After “On Fire” Paul wanted to stretch his creative legs but was rebuffed by Daddy-O. Rather than become bitter Paul played his part in the band and began to work with the kids from Amityville on the side. The rest as the say est l’histoire.

Regardless of its timing In Full Gear is one of the best Hip-Hop records ever to be released. Outside of the hits there was “DBC Let The Music Play’ which used the sample that made Kid N Play’s “My Way” a novelty hit. My favorite was “Musically for the Stetfully Insane” and “Rollin With Rush” which were the harbingers for some of Paul’s quirkier pieces. On ‘Pen and Paper’ and “Stet Troop” ’88.” Daddy-O shines and shows why he could hang with most MC’s in the late 80’s, even the legends.

Stetsasonic released one more record after “In Full Gear”, the lukewarm “Blood, Sweat, and No Tears.” Then the crew went their separate ways. Some with more success than others, but if nothing they will always take pride in the record they release in 1988.


Blogger ian said...

How come u always put the pictures for your posts in a separate post?

October 24, 2006 9:17 PM

Blogger Swifty said...

cuz I usually do them seperately

October 24, 2006 9:25 PM

Blogger ian said...


October 25, 2006 1:29 AM

Anonymous Stephanie Elder said...

Great post. Just thinking about "Go Stetsa" gives me the chills, and I've always felt that as a group they've been incredibly underappreciated. I was in a bar in Baltimore back in September, and when the DJ dropped "Sally", the place went fucking nuts. Incidentally, in high school, a friend of mine used to call me "stephasonic", after the group.

October 25, 2006 11:05 AM

Blogger Swifty said...

That is perhaps the coolest nickcame I have ever heard

October 25, 2006 11:13 AM

Blogger ian said...

Agreed on the nickname. This was a great post by the way, Wes. Def. gonna link it up sometime.

October 25, 2006 1:48 PM


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