Last week brought with it some important hip-hop milestones. Saturday marked the 20-year-anniversary of Wu-Tang Clan's Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) and A Tribe Called Quest's Midnight Marauders, while Jay Z's The Black Album and G-Unit's Beg For Mercy both turn 10 today. But hip-hop's history stretches much further than twenty years and 2013 also marks the 30-year-anniversary of the extremely rare and valuable 12" for K-Rob, Rammellzee, and Jean-Michel Basquiat's"Beat Bop."
The song is a collaboration between the three graffiti artists-turned-musicians, decades before Basquiat would become a rap music touchstone, referenced by everyone from Jay Z to Ray J. On the track, K-Rob and Rammellzee trade rhymes for eight minutes over Basquiat's sparse, experimental production, never stopping to put down a chorus.
Basquiat has 500 copies of the single pressed with his own original artwork before Profile Records picked it up later that year. But as Basquiat became an artworld icon, the limited copies of the 12" are even more valuable. The song itself was sampled by the Beastie Boys twice, and is considered a source of inspiration for artists ranging from El-P to Cypress Hill.
On the occassion of its anniversay, Spin has published an oral history of its making, featuring the voices of K-Rob, Profile Records founder Cory Robbins, track percussionist Al Diaz, and GQ style columnist and friend of Basquiat Glenn O'Brien, as well as excerpts from an interview with Rammellzee before his passing in 2010. What's most interesting is the disparity between K-Rob's and Rammellzee's stories behind the music. While Rammellzee believed that Basquiat tried to get in the booth with them, K-Rob says otherwise: "Jean trying to come in there? Oh, that'd been horrible. He would've gotten spanked! That'd be like me trying to do a painting for Jean. He stayed where he was at and let us do our thing."
Robbins also had an interesting tidbit about Basquiat's contribution (or lackthereof) to the project. When he offered to create new artwork for the single ahead of its release on Profile, Robbins declined the offer, electing to use the standard single artwork. Recognizing the blunder—albeit, in hindsight—Robbins said, "[T]hat was really stupid. That [painting] would probably be worth millions now. But I'm in the record business—I knew very little about art back then." Read the entire story at Spin.