Son of Bazerk – “Part One”

I’m gonna be honest with y’all: I really only started this website just to talk about Son of Bazerk.

So what do you get when you cross James Brown with Public Enemy and amp it up by 10,000%? You’d get Son of Bazerk, one of the weirdest, wildest, woolliest acts hip-hop has ever seen. S.O.B. (heh), featuring No Self Control and the Band is a five-member group from Long Island led by emcee/crooner/all-around-showman Son of Bazerk (I’m guessing the Hardest Working Man in Show Business was Bazerk, Sr.), M.C. Halfpint, a.k.a Cassandra, the helium-voiced hypewoman who was the Flavor Flav to Bazerk’s Chuck D, and the rest of the group: Daddy Rawe, Jahwell, and Sandman, who all provided guest vocals and ad libs.

The group was assembled in the late ’80s by PE members Chuck D and Hank Shocklee as a headlining act for their new label, Sound of Urban Listeners, which was intended to bring harder-edged rap acts following in PE’s style and attitude. Bazerk and another group, Young Black Teenagers (which, ironically, had no black members in it, but that’s a tale for another time), were the first ones signed. A testament to James Brown’s godlike stature in hip-hop, S.O.B. closely emulated his style, right down to the band wearing slick suits during their performances, Bazerk Jr. recreating Brown’s screeches, calls, and mannerisms on songs, and the Bomb Squad production taking cues from Brown’s back catalog. Hell, even the the album cover of the band’s debut, Bazerk Bazerk Bazerk, was a tribute to an early Brown album.

Aside from the star-studded cast and numerous callbacks to Pa Brown, what made the group really special was their sound. With the help of P.E.’s Bomb Squad production team, S.O.B’s soundscapes are out of this world. It’s wild and experimental, with liberal use of samples, sirens, scratches, electronic outbursts, and no pauses to let you catch your breath. While not as apocalyptic as P.E.’s content, S.O.B’s mix is bombastic and funky, often employing some nice grooves in the middle of the madness.

Released in 1991, Bazerk Bazerk Bazerk was one hell of a blast that the hip-hop world wasn’t quite ready for, passed over by listeners and critics. It’s a shame, since the album is groovy, frenetic, and just super fun, as the band manically darts from one groove to the next. It’s a record I discovered by accident in my youth and loved right off the bat for how daring and out-there it is.

“Part One” is one of my faves from the record, a real marvel in it’s energy. I love how Bazerk drops that opening line: “I can’t stand it when ya hold my hand,” and BOOOOMMMM the track kicks off like a bomb! Bazerk and No Self Control go wild, and Cassandra’s distinct, child-like voice pitches in on the chaos. And that beat switch towards the middle of the track—instantly flipping it from a frenetic free-for-all to a funk-laced groove—is ridiculously awesome.

It makes it all the more unfortunate that there was no “Part Two.” Though they had a minor hit with their single “Change The Style,” a mashup of soul, dub, country, and punk rock, S.O.B. never took off. The group alleges that there were some shady deals and favoritism going on at SOUL, and though they recorded not one, but two followups to Bazerk Bazerk Bazerk, both efforts were rejected by the label. The group called it quits not long afterwards.

The story doesn’t end there though, as Bazerk (x3) gained a cult following over the years, enough to bring the group out of retirement in 2009, 19 years following their debut. Since then they’ve put out two more albums and the group is still at it! Pretty amazing.

And that was your obscure hip-hop lesson for the day! Class dismissed.

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