I always wondered why such a successful format as the Beastie Boys was never copied by any label trying to jump on the bandwagon. Well, apparently it was. I introduce to you: the White Boys. Judging solely from the cover of this album, the White Boys could have been the usual '80s rock trio that was on whatever rock-related 'mission'. It has them lined up wearing black leather jackets, having seemingly just been released from the care of their hairstylists. The only thing that hints at a hip-hop context are their crossed arms (the classic b-boy stance). But what gave them away to me were their songtitles. Most of them could apply to either rock or rap ("We Live to Rock", "On a Mission", "This Is Hardcore", "Running the Show", "Pump Me Up", "You Can't Stop Us Now", "Listen Up"), but it was "Coolin' in the Crib" that made me think this had to be a rap album. Plus the fact that it was released on Tin Pan Apple Records. One of the most successful hip-hop acts of the '80s were the Fat Boys. Somehow it doesn't surprise me that the White Boys were on the same label as them. The Fat Boys derived their name from their popular "Fat Boys" single when they still were the Disco 3. Once he realized how marketable the concept was, their manager Charles Stettler exploited the gimmick to no end. It's easy to imagine he thought of his Fat Boys when he gave the world the White Boys.
Or maybe they came up with the name themselves. Little is known about this group. The sometimes too succint source of rap knowledge, Ego Trip's 'Book of Rap Lists', credits one of hip-hop's most slept-on producers, T-Ray, as a member of this group. From what I'm gathering from "On a Mission", they were from Queens, New York and consisted of two rappers, Exact and Precise and one third member, possibly guitarist Mr. Ed. That's where the Beasties analogy starts to fall apart. In the Beastie Boys there are three rappers, whereas the White Boys were more like a white Run-D.M.C. Why the 'racial profiling', anyhow? Because they called themselves White Boys, thus making the fact that they were white boys doing black music a part of their 'mission'. Ironically, as far as image goes, they would have seemed to bring 'white' and 'black' together with their fusion of rock and rap, when in fact rock 'n roll originally was black music. That's also the reason I'm referring to the Beastie Boys: the rock influence. Def Jam co-founder Rick Rubin is often credited for bringing rock and rap together, but Run-D.M.C. were using guitar riffs before they teamed up with Rubin and even before that there were attempts to fuse the two genres.
But the White Boys were a little late in '88. Hip-hop was already on some different shit. While there was a rock aesthetic on Public Enemy's first album, on Ice-T's first album, on Run-D.M.C.'s "Raising Hell", all these three acts were exploring the possibilites of sampling by 1988. And the Beasties were somewhere out in Cali tripping on some Dust Brothers stuff, the result being 1989's colorful "Paul's Boutique" album. In 1988 another distinct sound hit it big: that of superproducer Marley Marl. And damn me, the same Marley Marl produces one song on this White Boys album. That's like having Primo production in 1994. It's these inevitable comparisons that make the White Boys really look bad. In every aspect imaginable people like Big Daddy Kane, Rakim or KRS-One were lightyears ahead of these poor dudes.
Yet if I block all that out, this album is actually enjoyable. I always liked the post-old school/pre-sampling era, and it's in full effect here. Fat drum beats, a lot of sonically relevant scratching (mostly done by Cut Master D.C.), and a in clear sound, all supervised by the team of Van Gibbs & Eddison Electrik (who did tracks for Kurtis Blow and the Fat Boys). Musically, that shit rocks. In a hip-hop kind of way. As expected there is some screaming as well as some guitar-strumming going on here. But never on a Beastie Boys noise level. And that's where the whole Beasties analogy ends, really. While Adrock, Mike D and MCA were as excentric on the mic as any old school rhymer and on top of that basically behaved like brats, Exact and Precise, quite aptly named, are simple and straightforward. No pop culture references. No teenage wit. No wilding out. No drugs. No drinking. No cursing. No fun? Well, maybe a little bit, but not too much, please. Remember, they're 'on a mission'. The title song is also the opener. The first thing you'll hear is a "Mission: Impossible"-styled order: "Good morning Boys. We just received details of a plan by unfriendly elements to undermine the efforts of the hip-hop generation. Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to overcome these elements using any methods necessary. As always, should any of your crew be caught or killed, the producer will disavow any knowledge of your actions. Good luck!" Remember, this was +before+ Vanilla Ice. I guess with 'unfriendly elements' they were referring to the outside forces that were attacking hip-hop: parental groups, the media, etc. However, the White Boys completely fail to address any of these issues. They rather crawl up into their fantasy world where they are the greatest rappers in the universe and aim to prove it with some of the simplest rhymes in history:
"3-2-1, time's expired
Guns for hire, we're on fire
Our mission, printed on paper
We begin a brand new caper
with order to take the throne
Servin' suckers because we've shown
a knack to crack and attack the wack
Mr. Ed, Precise and Exact
deliverin' the goods like the should
If you could I know you would
try to slide, run and hide
Here's a token, take a ride
cause your time is up, this is our time
our record and our rhyme
So listen to what we say
we're gonna pave the way
We're on a mission"
Sounds better than it reads. But even the dopest rapper couldn't get wack rhyme schemes like "So step back, let us take care / of business / a nightmare / is occurring / I'm referring / to the bruises, to the blurring / eyes / that you possess / yes, you can guess / we're on a mission" to work. "On a Mission" works mostly because of the bouncing beat and the freely used "Mission: Impossible" theme music. The same goes for Marley's "Running the Show". Once you get over the fact that they're obviously lying (about them running the show), you might even enjoy a line like "Just like my lady my rhymes are choice" (dear, how old school). Plus they give Marley dap by mentioning his name and describing the work he's done for them with: "The beat is loose, it's on parole". And tell me this isn't a pretty accurate description of hip-hop music: "It sounds strange, but you got to move". Word up. Rappers who get a positive message out will always have my vote: "So unwind, loosen up, just get funky." We all need to do that. White boys especially.
But can they get funky, the White Boys? Whites getting into black music has always been a delicate subject, especially with jazz and rap. And then there's funk, which has ties to both of them. There's this '70s song called "Play that Funky Music" (by Wild Cherry) written from the perspective of a conventional rock 'n roll singer who gets drawn in by this crazy funk music. When Vanilla Ice covered it, it was a poor joke, but the White Boys actually take the song's message and put it in a rap. Without openly saying so, their "Play that Funky Music" tells the tale of the white man being attracted by the black man's music. It's a highly romantic story, because even though at first he has no idea what's going on, he tries to do that thing too and when finally called onstage to "play that funky music, white boy", he miraculously succeeds. From:
"3 years ago
I was tryin' to go to the show
I had money, but no dice
bein' too young I paid the price
So I left with my head hangin' down
went around back, heard the sound
comin' from the place into my face
Yo, you shoulda heard that bass
thumpin', the beat was pumpin'
without a doubt the joint was jumpin'
hard, I jumped on a crate
looked at my watch, it was 12:08
so I hurried and looked in the window
man, what a show"
"Time passed, we developped a style
went back to the club, not crackin' a smile
No time to joke or time to jerk
just time for the Boys to cold do work
The man at the door said, "Come on in"
announced to the crowd we would soon begin
Backstage we all got ready
to move the crowd and to cold rock steady
to boldly go where no man had gone before
leave the crowd still beggin' for more
Preparations now over, party people in a rage
when the White Boys took the stage"
It does bring a smile free of any sarcasm to my face when I know that they talk about hip-hop when they say: "No way can I explain / what goes on inside my brain / the bass drum drops, the swing beat rocks / and the crowd just comes in flocks / payin' and stayin' to see us rhyme / Wonder why? Go back in time / when we saw the light and the way to go / at the club, long ago." The same goes for "Human Race", a reggae-tinged plea for racial harmony. It has been argued that it's easier for those less likely to be subject to racism to spread a message of love, but I'd much rather attribute a song like this to the fact that the White Boys made hip-hop, a universal tool in unifying people.
That's it for meaningful messages from this group. The rest of the album has them talking not so eloquently about what they do and how they do it. There's a love-struck ballad ("Only a Dream"), a sex-driven dance track ("Give Me What You Got"), a pledge of allegiance to rock ("We Live to Rock"), an attempt to prove their rhyming stamina ("Continuation"), getting inspired by Trouble Funk's "Pump Me Up" ("Pump Me Up"), rocking some more ("This Is Hardcore", "Listen Up") - nothing original, really. They even try to emulate "Licensed to Ill" cuts like "Paul Revere", "Brass Monkey", "Slow and Low" and their sub-woofer sound ("Coolin' in the Crib"). But everything they do, compared to the Beastie Boys, the White Boys show 10x less wit and go at it with 10x less zest. How do they start off "Coolin' in the Crib"? "Sittin' in my Lazy Boy watchin' MTV". That's how.
"Lots of people go to clubs, chill around the way
but the crib is the place that I like to stay
I got a microwave oven, big screen TV
steam room, sauna bath, water b-e-d
a wall full of medals from the battles I've won
and a golden microphone shinin' bright as the sun
cordless telephone, answering machine
with the pre-recorded rhyme that sounds real mean
says: 'I'm sorry, but the White Boys aren't in
Leave a message at the tone or call again
and if you really wanna see us come where we live
you'll find us coolin' in the crib'"
These guys got fat while everybody starved on the street. No wait, that's the Fat Boys. The White Boys were denied the success of their overweight labelmates. They thought different: "Check the chart, chump, my name will be there". But when two of your best similies are "When I polish ya off I don't even need pledge" and "Even with two wings, boy, you ain't fly" and your rhymes generally are way below nursery rhyme level, then you really deserve no success whatsoever. Precise and Exact make continuous use of the internal rhyme scheme ("I come across as the boss cause I'm runnin' the show") and have that little back-and-forth thing going on, but there's really no unit to measure the distance that separates them from the Run-D.M.C. of "Tougher than Leather". It's not just a another place or another time, it's a different dimension altogether.
What's left is the fact that for a white rap crew a name like White Boys is much more advised than say, Young Black Teenagers. Even though I'm sure their love for hip-hop was sincere, the White Boys remind me of the stereotype about rap that some people carried around during the '80s before the controversies of the later part of the decade hit: rappers are talking loud and not saying anything (I've mentioned the exceptions on this album). So here's to all you white boys, us white boys, let's be thankful for Eminem and all the other next school white boys doing their thing and contemplate this early attempt at rappin' & rockin' the house by some of our forefathers:
"Now my rhymes are so def that they can't even hear
even with the hearing aid in they ear
The beat is so dope it'll make you high
like a junkie gettin' funky, then wonderin' why
I bust a rhyme every time I'm given a chance
the beat is pumpin' and jumpin', invitin' you to dance
the show is on the go and the crowd is hype
you're jammin' and slammin' and the Boys are White"
Yep. That's us.
Music Vibes: 6 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 2 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 4 of 10
Originally posted: October 16, 2001