One of the hardest things to achieve in the music business is longevity. And if you’re lucky enough to be around for two decades, it’s time to celebrate. With that in mind, indie label Delicious Vinyl threw open its vaults and invited a grab bag of producers and deejays to remix tracks spanning the label’s history. The result is Rmxxolgy, credited to the Delicious Vinyl All-Stars.
The biggest surprise about Rmxxology is the fact that Delicious Vinyl is still around. Over the course of the label’s 20 years, its fortunes have been up and down. Periods of great success would be followed by long stretches of no activity. Arguably the label has made more money in recent times selling items imprinted with its iconic logo than selling CDs. Part of the problem is that while the label’s catalog has some of the most enduring songs in hip-hop, the label itself never really had a solid image in the way Def Jam or Death Row had in their early days. But what the label did have were monster crossover hits. It’s difficult to imagine anywhere in the world where Young MC’s “Bust A Move” or Tone Loc’s “Wild Thing” don’t inspire group sing-a-longs or at the very least quiet mouthing along to the lyrics.
While the future of the label may be up for debate, it’s the past that Rmxxology seeks to celebrate. And much like the label itself, the album is a mixed bag. Out of the 20-year history and 20-some artists who have graced the label, only six are featured over the course of ten cuts. (The bonus instrumental tracks don’t count.) And while some of the biggest songs are featured, others are completely out of leftfield. Was there anyone clamoring for a new version of Young MC’s “Slowest Rhyme?” It’s almost like someone closed their eyes and just pointed randomly at song titles written on a whiteboard. It’s frustrating that the opportunity to truly showcase the label’s history was basically ignored.
Another problem with Rmxxology is that it doesn’t really know its purpose. Up-tempo dancefloor stompers are smashed together with subdued introspective versions that at most illicit a shrug. If you threw the record on at a party, people would get whiplash from all of the stylistic changes, and taken as a whole, it doesn’t make a great deal of sense.
Taken as individual tracks, the idea fairs much better. The spiritual centerpiece of the record is Peaches’ remix of Tone Loc’s “Wild Thing.” Peaches approached the head of Delicious Vinyl and asked for permission to rework the song. It was that conversation which spawned the idea for Rmxxology. What makes Peaches’ version work so well is that not only does she add her trademark guitar-tinged electro beats, she also adds a couple of verses and background vocals to the song. The result is a playful back and forth between Peaches and Tone Loc, a perfect extension of the song’s humor. The Pharcyde’s two appearances also are highlights. The remix of “Runnin’,” originally produced by the late Detroit producer Jay Dee (a.k.a. J Dilla), takes the original’s cooled out vibe and builds upon the track without sacrificing what made the original work. And Hot Chip’s sparse and stripped down version of the lonely man’s anthem “Passin’ Me By” is stunning in its simplicity. It makes the verses seem even more poignant and direct.
For the songs aimed strictly at the dancefloor, they work but they’re also nothing that hasn’t been heard hundreds of times. Sure, Aaron LaCrate’s Baltimore club remix of Young MC’s rarely heard “Know How Theme” will get the asses moving, but it could really be any song given the same treatment. Same result on Don Rimini’s take on “Bust A Move.” It’s kind of like Justice with a touch of Daft Punk, and there are tons of variations of this sound at every PBR-fueled party.
As a celebration of a label’s proud history, Rmxxology falls dramatically short, and as a bridge of the past to the future, it’s not quite there either. Here’s hoping that Delicious Vinyl gets it together for its next anniversary.
Dorian S. Ham