For the sake of historical accuracy, the subject of this review should be the original “Soul Clap” EP on Showbiz Records. This would be the wax Show & A were, as legend has it, selling out of the trunk of the car. The ever-reliable Discogs database tells me it was pressed up in 1991, recorded at Jazzy Jay Recording Studios, Bronx, NY, engineered by Jazzy Jay and Skeff Anselm and mastered by Carlton Batts. But since I only own the extended 1992 CD release and all digital downloads available seem based on a 2006 Japanese re-issue of that CD, I decided to go with this later, more widespread version entitled “Party Groove/Soul Clap.”
It was still an EP, but contained for the large part new material, signaling the next step for the duo. Their hopes and expecations are condensed in the “Intro.” Showbiz notifies us, “I wanna let them know that we in the stores now, cause I sold like 4’000 out my car and niggas keep askin’ for my shit” while Andre the Giant foresees, “We about to blow the fuck up like a ash can.”
If anything erupts, it’s “Party Groove (Instrumental).” The subtitle suggests that there exists a vocal version, and while that is technically true, this here isn’t just the beat of a proper song, it’s a full-fledged hip-hop instrumental meant to be enjoyed as such. An obscure funk horn loop builds anticipation in the first seconds, before Chuck D orders, “Hear the drummer get wicked!” The percussion drops with the full potency of hip-hop drums, hard, thick, crisp, and the field is open for Show to get busy behind the boards and decks. Chopping up the Chuck D phrase and later introducing an enthusiastic Kid Capri bit telling you to “bend and stretch,” he creates a track that is as catchy as it is varied, flinging samples left and right in a concise but still scattershot manner. The same year that KRS-One told sucker MC’s to duck down, Showbiz made sucker producers duck down with his barrage of boombastic beats.
“Soul Clap (Short Version)” opens up with James Brown vocals and an old school quote inviting you to “just clap your hands to the beatbox.” Again it takes a while for the drums to kick in, and when they do, it’s like rolling out the red carpet for dancers. The track is smooth and inviting, but still Andre the Giant lays down the law as soon as he enters, with “The Giant is greater, so step back…” Lyrically, the song is all about AG convicing listeners of his stature. “I’m on a lyrical tip / for you to whip the Giant, that’ll be a Miracle Whip” is the most inspired lyric, but still fans of the song are likely to remember lines like “I love hip-hop, not rock ‘n roll / Yeah, I’m a Giant and I gots of soul” and “I’m AG, yeah, the one you can’t hold back / You want your party to pump? Then throw on the Soul Clap.” Which by the way also applies to the alternate version “Soul Clap (Off Beat Mix)” with its softer beat shuffling in overdrive.
Diamond does the hook, Dre shouts out his crew and proudly shows off his battle scars… before you know it, you’re already deep in DITC territory. “Diggin’ in the Crates” should probably be considered the posse’s inaugural cut. Clocking it at 6 minutes, it starts with Diamond and Showbiz trading compliments. Show recalls their childhood days, while D slams the door shut on beat biters (“The session is closed / cause I know you got a big nose / tried to sniff out the name / you lack originality and that’s a damn shame”) and concludes, “I like to program beats / Diamond D is out, I wanna say peace / Showbiz, there’s deals to make / so let’s get busy and dig in the crates.” The two full-time MC’s AG and Lord Finesse round off the experience.
“Catchin’ Wreck” seems to be Showbiz’ rap debut, his verses matching his intimidating physical appearance (well, in comparison to AG, at least) as he talks about beating down bootleggers who sell his tapes on 125th Street and promises to have challengers “slavin’ to the rhythm like Toby or Kizzy” and to toss their “ass like a frisbee.” Coincidence or not, the drums ring especially loud and pound especially hard on this track, but the beat is still a labor of love with delicate flutes, horns and pianos. AG meanwhile concentrates on issues specific to emceeing, from sounding live as good as on record to keeping things basic: “I might rap a tune but I’ll never sing a song / I make my rhymes simple so you can sing along / You see me at a show, you know I’m good to go / you can tell cause I don’t yell, all I do is flow.”
Apparently taking a liking to this rapping thing, Show also graces (alongside his partner) the aptly named Bass Mix of “Party Groove,” where he calls himself “related to beats like crime is to Gotti,” only to call out “gangster images” and “ignorance.” But the grand finale belongs to the MC of the duo. “Giant in the Mental” highlights AG’s smooth, clear voice streaming in a lecturing flow that lends him an almost intellectual touch. Introduced with a fantastic vocal sample and building up in by now classic Showbiz fashion, the track invites him to finally get lyrical, right in tune with the statement “I’m a giant in the mental when you play the instrumental.” Said instrumental samples the staple “Get Up, Get into It, Get Involved,” but it does so so subtly that there’s ample room for the MC to argue his grandiosity:
“A giant in the mental, anything else just has to cease
Whenever you doubt I break out with a masterpiece
Thoughts are kept in my head, they’re never written down
I start gettin’ down – opponents are sittin’ down
Chill, and be a witness
This LP with slammin’ tracks, in fact yours is hitless
Step on the scene, get mean cause I’m the Jolly Green
Go ahead and down me, but you probably fiend
Put out a head or two after which you’ll need medical
attention – Did I mention Showbiz is incredible?
The Rainman, scoop your girl with a gameplan
Hit her up, did her up, now Dre is the main man
Stick y’all, thick like a brick wall
You take a quick fall – Aww shit, y’all
Let’s flirt, let’s see who has the best work
Whether the ladies, the mics, the fights, Dre is an expert
Come on strong but not gentle
Just remember, I’m a giant in the mental”
The Bronx duo would go on to record the seminal “Runaway Slave” LP, but this EP perfectly captures the innocence of a posse of hip-hop enthusiasts hatching “a combination of the new and the old rap.” Musically and lyrically simple but not simplistic, it exudes the pride they felt in these recordings that slowly came together. As mentioned, “Party Groove/Soul Clap” saw a re-issue, and if on it you also find the Lord Finesse feature “It’s Up to You” and the original complete vocal version of “Soul Clap,” all the better.