Monie in the Middle

Once April is over you’ll no longer be witness to MTV’s most face-saving decision in years -- the airing of vintage Yo! MTV Raps episodes in place of banal reality shows and worthless modern videos. Oh wait, they have three other channels on which to broadcast that junk. Why they don’t have separate channels that loop shows like 120 Minutes, Headbanger’s Ball, Buzzkill, and Remote Control is beyond me. VH1 Classic picks up the slack, and the new series Miss Rap Supreme shows Viacom at least investing trust in creative types like Ego Trip and whoever programs Metal Mania. This time around, along with the actual intros and outros hosted by Fab Five Freddy, Ed Lover and Dr. Dre, live performances, and extremely unknown videos, the team behind this marathon added topical segments – “best high-top fade,” “best rope chain,” etc. Genius for a kid like me who spent more hours at the Record and Tape Outlet near the Salem Mall at 9 than the baseball card shop (spent some time there as well). I would pay an extra $10 a month on top of my already ballooning cable bill if I got to see the Superlover C and Cassanova Rud do “Girls I Got ‘Em Locked” daily.

Which brings me to Monie Love, after MC Lyte my second love in hip-hop. I was probably smitten by all female rappers at the time, hitting puberty and the like, but Monie had such charm – she came from London, wore Cross Colors, hung with the De La Soul, the Jungle Brothers and Queen Latifah (making her an official member of the Native Tongue family), and could spit lightning quick rhymes on par with her male counters. Prequels like the verse in De La Soul’s “Buddy” or sidekicking on Latifah’s fierce, 7th Wonder-sampling “Ladies First” showed definite promise, a future superstar still only a teenager. Her hyper-syllabic delivery (a precursor to Das Efx, Eminem, Twista?) was certainly a bit naïve, and her themes somewhat silly and femme-preachy (see “It’s a Shame”), for a few months in 1990 though all her trappings were fitting. Having the distinction of being the first international female hip-hop artist signed to a major label and coming up when surgically safe pop-rap was fusing with New Jack Swing, her “Monie in the Middle” single is an ephemeral classic from the era – pocket change beats, horns, and chants. It has an edge that I could only wish for when re-trekking through Down to Earth, her debut album and a record indicative of the filler that littered full-lengths of the genre at the time (and pretty much beyond).

The fire fizzled out quickly afterwards, a lame-duck follow-up, a “hit” from Class Act (the Kid and Play movie) and eventually landing a gig as a disc jockey in Philadelphia, Monie has found herself fighting the recent maxim that hip-hop is dead, only to find her own career dead in the water. Maybe, no fingers crossed, Mo’ still has some playing power left. Highly unlikely though.

1 comment:

Passion of the Weiss said...

I was also a big fan of Monie Love. "Born to Breed" had a steady rotation if my tape deck for a long time in Junior High school.