Thought it was a shame this slice of fried gold couldn't be found on Souncloud. As the first experimental rap song ever made and with cover art by Jean-Micheal Basquiat, this is truly a historic record.
Originally released in 1983 by record label Tartown. Initially distributed merely as a test pressing, it is notable for being featured in the hip-hop documentary film Style Wars and having a cover designed by famed New York graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. The result of a disagreement between Rammellzee and Basquiat, the track has been cited as having an influence on artists such as Beastie Boys and many experimental hip hop artists due to its chaotic, abstract sound. Due to the rarity of its original pressing, it has been called the Holy Grail of rap records.
The track was initially intended as a battle rap between Rammellzee and Basquiat, following heated arguments between the two. Rammellzee, an influential graffiti artist himself, accused Basquiat of being a fraud. In turn, Basquiat claimed he could out-rap, out-dance, and out-paint anybody. The duo eventually settled on "Beat Bop" acting as an outlet for this tension. With links to Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat was the toast of the New York art world during that period. Rammellzee, on the other hand, describes himself as being an "up-and-coming con artist". Basquiat therefore agreed to pay for recording, pressing and eventual release. Despite this, both Rammellzee and K-Rob had the power to overrule Basquiat on the record's content:
"He wanted to say his own verses... me and K-Rob read them and started laughing, and we crushed up his paper with the words he had written down and we threw it back at him face first."
The result was a ten-minute track featuring Rammellzee and K-Rob on vocals, under the direction of Fab Five Freddy, its production credited to Basquiat only (despite Rammellzee insisting that Basquiat did nothing but foot the bill). Speaking in 2008, Rammellzee reflected on the relaxed nature of the recording session by saying "we were just having fun". The record was eventually released in 1983, limited to 500 copies with custom art by Basquiat. It has also been distributed by Profile Records, in 1983 and later in 2001.
Various instruments are brought in and out of the mix throughout, the majority of them played by Al Diaz, a friend of Basquiat. These include a violin, an electric guitar, and a varied range of percussion. The vocals are delivered in a relaxed, chaotic and almost stream of consciousness manner, often overlapping themselves, with both rappers occasionally adopting fake voices. A heavy amount of reverb is applied to the vocals in a seemingly random manner, sometimes during the middle of sentences. The track ends by fading out during the middle of a verse, offering the listener no definite conclusion. Each version of the single has featured the instrumental of the track on the B-side.
The lyrics take the form of improvised role playing, with Rammellzee playing a pimp and K-Rob in the character of a schoolboy. Rammellzee's vocal delivery has been cited by Allmusic as a clear example of his "flights of wordplay, fantasy, and street surrealism". The lyrical abstraction present on "Beat Bop" is often praised, with a writer for The Guardian commenting that "people have been trying to decipher it ever since". However, perhaps as part of the characters adopted by each rapper, there are many clear examples of socially conscious lyrics present throughout the track, discussing violence, theft, and illegal drug use: "New York City is a place of mysteries / Drug addicts, dope dealers taking over the streets”
- Old School