If there’s a reason J.V.C. Force’s “Doin’ Damage” is not better known 20 years after it was initially released, the music industry game is definitely to blame. B-Boy Records was already somewhat suspect in 1988, having lost rising rap star KRS-One and his Boogie Down Productions crew over financial issues to Jive Records. While BDP moved on to bigger and better things, B-Boy was forced to milk the lone “Criminal Minded” album they had for all it was worth while signing and releasing as much product as they could to shore up their shaky financial situation. The very name “J.V.C. Force” reflects how tenuous things were at B-Boy, since the label feared electronics giant JVC would sue over use of the name. The periods between letters are meant to indicate the name is an acronym; in fact the WHOLE NAME is alleged to stand for “Justified By Virtue of Creativity For Obvious Reasons Concerning Entertainment.” If you’re being generous that’s clunky at best, otherwise it’s just plain absurd. Either way the trio of DJ Curt Cazal and emcees AJ Rok & B-Luv lucked out that “Doin’ Damage” got into stores at all since B-Boy Records folded the same year this album was released. Those who remember the crew after all these years probably know them best for their anthemic song “Strong Island”:
“Livin in C.I., who the hell am I?
AJ Rok the juice, I get fly
Cool with the riffing, gotta keep a handle
Cause if you don’t I wax it down like a candle
B-Luv, I’m a top biller
Part time iller, permanent chiller
Son of Sam killer, the horror in the ‘Ville-a
Unlike the rest, the best, I am a thriller
Killer don’t shoot it, bite it and distribute it
But either way the two’s unconstituted
Stylin and whilin, constantly smilin
We’ll keep troopin in a place called – Strong Island”
A sample of P.E.’s Chuck D punctuated the hook, while a horn break worthy of Pete Rock made up the funky lyrical backdrop. “Strong Island” is one of those tracks almost GUARANTEED to make any b-boy in their 30’s who grew up in New York get a Kool-Aid smile and bob their head to the beat. It’s much more debateable how many of them have actual copies of “Doin’ Damage” in the crates. These days copies are widely available but that’s thanks to the fact Traffic Entertainment reissued the album back in 2005. Before that date, good luck. If you lived in the tri-state, if you knew about J.V.C. Force, and if you got a vinyl LP before B-Boy Records collapsed congratulations because you own a piece of rap history. For the rest of us, the reissue will have to do – after all it’s better than nothing at all.
There are plenty of highlights on “Doin’ Damage” that will have you feeling old school down to your fat gold chain and fedora hat, even if you were born after 1988. “Stylin’ Lyrics” rocks a classic Isaac Hayes sample shared with other timeless tracks like Biz Markie’s “Make the Music” and Intelligent Hoodlum’s “Grand Groove.” You may catch vapors off “The Force Is the Boss” as well, sparking memories of LL Cool J’s “The Bristol Hotel” or Super Cat’s “Ghetto Red Hot.” To say this album is more or less the prototype for the freewheeling uncleared sample era of the 1980’s might be an understatement. “Take it Away” gets away with a blatant jack of Vaughn Mason & Crew’s “Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll” and is SO MUCH THE BETTER FOR IT. That kind of natural chunky funk sets up Rok and B-Luv perfectly to trade lines back and forth:
“Break out the Moet, and listen to the poet
Can we do this!
Cuz you know it
We get appraisal like a Broadway play
The house’ll fill up if we’re gonna pull up and girls’ll say
(Turn it up! Turn it up!)
The formulation the key to my credential
Knowledge makes my potential more essential
T-A-L-E-N-T’s the opportunity
So bust it and discuss it
Cause it’s hittin communities
Like Pontiac me and B-Luv will be excitement
Preferably to the crowd’s delightment
Bringin the music field to a freeze
As we exterminate emcees and bring ’em down to their knees
You wanna dance more then let me hear you say please
And if you don’t it ain’t no difference you provided the G”
Now the flipside of a fun nostalgic record like “Doin’ Damage” is that it’s definitely DATED to a great degree. To be fair AJ Rok and B-Luv would have been above average for their vocabulary and delivery back in ’88, but the A to B schemes and occasionally simplistic rhymes will seem cornball to many modern listeners. The flipside of being fair is that there were far superior lyricists and rhymers even back then – J.V.C. Force are nowhere near the caliber of a Big Daddy Kane, Rakim or Ice Cube. What J.V.C. Force has that works goes far beyond the lyrics alone – a natural chemistry the trio had clearly perfected long before recording this record. You can tell the Force is having fun – cracking jokes, bragging and boasting, rapping fearlessly over any break that made a good beat. When the group declares “The Force Is the Boss” it’s hard to disagree, nor the relatively advanced rap sentiment that the group “has a college degree in rappin rhymeology” contained within. It’s worth your time to track down a copy of this reissue for yourself, of if you’re really lucky score an original on wax from a garage sale. Pick it up either way.