Freewheeling through time and space, Kris Needs continues his adventures in sound. This month: Miami Bass
Recently, I’ve been hitting the bulk of my record collection at the storage unit for the first time in two years. Near-complete runs of Nu Groove, UR, Red Planet, Transmat and others reminded me of being an unashamed obsessive trainspotter. Obviously, some perfect column fodder reared from the crates like a wax bison’s stiffy, including a pile of tackle under the Maggotron banner.
Once again, these can be traced back to my 1989 stretch editing ‘Dance Music Report’ at Tommy Boy’s NYC offices and fielding daily deluges of vinyl from around the US. One day, a box arrived from Miami stuffed with Maggotron 12-inches and the cartoon-covered LP ‘The Miami Bass Wars’.
Just that first blast of ‘Bass Rock The Planet’ – credited to Maggotron Crushing Crew – tweaked the astral todger like a corkscrew, as its robo-rhyming took the piss out of NY’s “stupid other rappers” over extra-terrestrial electro grooves and whale flatulence bass frequencies. Other delights included DXJ & The Bassonlians’ ‘Bass It Up’, joyriding through the George Clinton songbook, snatching clips from ‘Atomic Dog’ and funk chants – narrated by deranged chipmunks, splattered with heavy guitars and electronic trouser trumpet action. ‘Hardcore Bass’ by Smokey Dee & DXJ featuring Super JB, flopped its pulsing rump on hip hop with James Brown guitar licks, Bob James sample and cool rap.
Ostensibly minting Miami bass since 1984’s ‘Raiders Of The Lost Groove’, Maggotron-derived tunes were future-funky but supremely silly, like ‘Funkentelechy’-era Parliament having an acid party to a warped electro soundtrack. This rampaging gang of electronic marauders was actually one man called James McCauley, whose aliases include DXJ, Dimitrius, Planet Detroit and Bassmaster Khan & The Elements Of Noise, joined by assorted collaborators, rappers and technical assistants. Vocals were subjected to extreme studio trickery, from gargling alien chorales to interstellar gerbils having a circle jerking party.
At that time, when sampling wasn’t hampered by details like copyright, he mercilessly plundered NYC electro tracks for beats and synth lines and dunked them in a radioactive beach khazi with Beastie Boys irreverence.
That same day back in 1989, another box arrived from Ruthless Records in LA, including new NWA and Eazy-E 12s. Later, I got to ride around Harlem in the back of Eazy’s limo, came back to the office – and stuck on Maggotron.