Friday, May 15, 2015


Memories of Paul C. McKasty is not for everybody. If your knowledge of rap & hip-hop doesn’t extend beyond today’s chart-topping radio hits, chances are you won’t know half of the people featured in this documentary and you won’t really know what anyone is talking about. This documentary is partially about the art of sampling, engineering & producing within rap music so a lot of the dialogue is nerdy musician tech-talk which can be very off-putting & confusing to the average viewer.
But if you’re a fan of drum machines, hip-hop’s “golden era” (which at this point is just code for rap music before post-Notorious B.I.G. P. Diddy), and actually find joy in reading the liner notes in old rap albums, this is definitely a documentary for you.

(the liner notes for Eric B & Rakim's "Let The Rhythm Hit 'Em")

I’ve always been fascinated with unsung/underappreciated heroes of hip-hop like; Chris Lighty (manager/A&R for everyone from A Tribe Called Quest to Busta Rhymes), Marley Marl (the man who introduced sampling to hip-hop), Dr. Butcher (original member of the X-men & underrated/underappreciated producer), Jazzy Jay (the man who indirectly created Def Jam records and mentored everyone from Brand Nubian to Diamond D), Dante Ross (A&R, producer & manager for everyone from Grand Puba to De La Soul), Shawn J. Period (producer for Artifacts, Mos-Def, Heltah Skeltah, various early rawkus releases, etc) and Large Professor (one of the key ingredients behind Nas’ debut album).
Producer/engineer Paul C. Mckasty definitely deserves to be mentioned alongside the aforementioned names. He became a bit of an urban legend to younger hip-hop fans like myself who discovered the culture in the late 80's/early 90's after his death."Who is this guy getting shouted out on songs and in the liner notes of all these classic hip-hop albums?" I thought.

(the liner notes from Main Source's "Breaking Atoms")

(you can hear Organized Konfusion shouting out his name at the end of one of their most famous songs around the 5:10 mark)

Before his untimely death at the age of 24, Paul C worked with Eric B. & Rakim, Organized Konfusion, Ultramagnetic MC’s, Grandmaster Caz & Biz Markie...

Only in recent years with the rise of various hip-hop sites & message boards geared towards music production has the legend of Paul C. resurfaced. Plenty of folks within the culture knew who he was, but over the years his quietly legendary status as a hip-hop producer/engineer cooled off a bit. But thanks to publications like Complex, Ego Trip & Fact magazine, his work has been rediscovered by a younger audience. Paul Mckasty produced some of the early demos for Organized Konfusion. He also went on to mentor/teach Large Professor who went on to become one of the most iconic producers in hip-hop.
Large Professor, who is sometimes labeled as Paul C's protegee, supposedly taught a young DJ Premier some early tricks on the SP-1200 drum machine (tricks he probably learned from Paul C.), he was one of only two outside producers to contribute to A Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Marauders album, and he produced other classic albums like Main Source’s "Breaking Atoms" & Akinyele’s "Vagina Diner"...

This documentary is kind of an unofficial prequel to last years’ Nas Documentary Time Is Illmatic. Some of the people, drum machines and various other spiritual elements in Memories Of Paul C. McKasty went on to have both a direct & indirect influence on Nas' classic debut album (Large Professor produced a third of Illmatic).

Memories Of Paul C McKasty also serves as a light history lesson on the Queens/Long Island hip-hop scene. With the exception of Ultramagnetic Mc’s, all the rap artists featured or mentioned in this documentary are from Queens (Large Professor, Organized Konfusion, Dr. Butcher & O.C.) or Long Island (Eric B. & Rakim & Biz Markie). Perhaps Paul C. belongs on the “mount rushmore” of Queens hip-hop producers alongside Marley Marl, Large Professor, Havoc, Ayatollah and a few others (I don’t think there’s a major rapper from Queens who hasn’t worked with at least two of those producers).

Thankfully this once rarely seen documentary is now up on youtube in one full length video. It's pretty typical in terms of execution and the sound quality leaves a lot to be desired. But the subject matter is so important that I’m willing to give it a pass (hey...a lot of classic hip-hop music, some of which Paul C. is responsible for, didn't necessarily have the cleanest quality either). It’s best to treat this documentary like a raw/archival piece of hip-hop history like Wild Style or Style Wars and not get too caught up in the technical aspects.

It’s films like this that cause me to laughably dismiss Eric Dyson’s title of “hip-hop scholar” (seriously, if he’s a hip-hop scholar, what does that make me and some of my friends? Hip-hop SUPER scholars?). I feel like the only pre-requisites for being a “hip-hop scholar” nowadays is being able to speak prolifically about Tupac & Public Enemy. Contrary to what a guy like Dyson would have some people believe, there’s so much more to hip-hop culture than what Rolling Stone & Spin magazine deems important. I’m willing to bet a guy like Eric Dyson (or other so-called hip-hop scholars like Cornell West, Toure & Dream Hampton) wouldn’t know the first thing about Paul McKasty, the iconic music equipment he & his peers used, or some of the artists featured in this documentary). The more Dream Hampton, Cornell West, Toure & Eric Dyson speak on hip-hop, it’s so obvious they have a basic (scholarly) understanding of what the culture is.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...