Sunday, 21 March 2010
Esther Phillips and The Private Investigators
A couple of Saturday's ago my kids were away for the weekend with their Mum so I took the opportunity to hit a few charity shops in the morning before lunchtime kick off at Fratton Park. I took the camera out to document the days digging but haven't yet got round to finishing the post (dragging those damn pictures about drives me mad). Anyway, one of the records I picked up on that day was Esther Phillips's 1975 Kudu release "Esther Phillips With Beck". It's an OK LP with a few decent tracks but nothing particularly outstanding. It does however feature a song which I immediately recognized as being sampled on a Hip-Hop record that I've been trying to track down for ages.
I first heard "Mom Dukes" a year or two ago on a DJ Premier radio show from 1993 and although I'd asked quite a few people about the song nobody seemed to know who it was by. I'd pretty much given up on it until the sample popped up on this Esther Phillps LP. Now, I'm not really a great fan of 'The-Breaks' or any other similar website that straight up 'snitches', as Primo would say, but in this case I must say I'm quite grateful for the info. A quick 'artist search' for Esther Williams revealed that "Hurtin' House" was sampled by a group called 'Private Investigators' on the track "Mom Dukes". Bingo! Problem solved! I'd never heard of 'Private Investigators' before so next stop was Discogs, and luckily for me there was a plentiful supply of cheap copies available for sale. A week later and the record was finally in my hands.
So who exactly are the 'Private Investigators'? Well, it turns out 'they' were in fact The Redhead Kingpin (and his crew), which probably explains why I must have overlooked it in the racks at the time. 1993 was pretty much the peek of my Hip-Hop buying habits when I'd spend just about every penny I earned on vinyl. There wasn't much at the time that I didn't buy and even some fairly average records (in hindsight) were snapped up. Still, I don't remember seeing this about. Maybe I did, and maybe it was the Redhead Kingpin tag that put me off. I'm surprised I didn't at least give it a listen though - there's Diamond D remix on here for G*d's sake! Anyway, thanks to Esther Phillips (and the Scope Charity Shop it came from) "Mom Dukes", or the 12"s' A-Side title "Who Am I?", sits happily in the shelves alongside all the other classics featured on that DJ Premier radio show.
The record as a whole is pretty decent for a cheap pick up. You get three different mixes (and album Instrumental) of "Who Am I?" plus the album versions of "Mom Dukes" and "Mash Up The Mic". The latter is a typical party style tune from that era - think "Igpay Atinlay" by Black Madness or KGB's "Pick Up The Pace" - pretty cool for occasional play but slightly irritating after repeat listening. The title track in it's LP form features a hard, sinister beat but is let down by the rappers who sound like they wanna be the bastard sons of Onyx and Leaders Of The New School. Thank god for the instrumental. The Diamond D remix is vintage early '90s DITC production - deep bassline, screaming horns and hard hitting drums - Lord Finesse or Big L would have been so dope on this but unfortunately there's no vocal-less version to put their accapellas over. Shame. Anyway, all of these tracks are kind of a bonus for me since I only bought if for the timeless ode to mothers across the world, which I love. To hear DJ Premier cutting up doubles live on radio click here. Listen to the whole show and weep at the state of current Hip-Hop compared to the classics that were getting dropped weekly back then. At the same time remind yourself that not only is DJ Premier the best Hip-Hop producer to ever do it, he is arguably the greatest DJ too.
Private Investigators "Mom Dukes" (1993 Virgin U.S. 12")
Esther Phillips "Hurtin' House" (1975 Kudu U.K. L.P. track)