Artist Profile: KC Work (B Boy/Sutra Records 1988)

August 01, 2011 6 min read

In 1988 B-Boy Records, the label most well known for officially launching the careers of Boogie Down Productions*, compiled a compilation to expose some new talent**. It was a pretty solid idea. It had a couple BDP hits from “Criminal Minded”, with their picture on the front cover (including a young D-Nice), to draw you in. The production was handled by Keyboard Money Mike, Al Street Rap and TK***, who I would classify as slept-on. The liner notes say that all the groups were “hand picked by Boogie Down Productions”, except for the Camden Crew.

Far as I know, none of the groups on the compilation released any other music, at least under those particular names; Bennetton Gang, G-Force, Camden Crew,and KC Work.
Honestly when this first dropped, I was not going crazy over most of the stuff on here****. Camden Crew “My Summer Kicks” had a super ill beat and the wild stories of their escapades were bugged out enough to keep me entertained. Many might recognize the beat as the “Mary Banilow” beat on D-Styles “Sqratch Fetishes Of The Third Kind”.

D Styles-Mary Banilow [a.k.a Camden Crew-My Summer Kicks Instrumental]
[audio:|titles=02 - Mary Banilow]

Beyond that, there were two tracks that got constant play and left me hungry for more. Both of those were from KC Work and produced by TK. I just knew, based on the quality music and the praise for his work in the liner notes, that I was soon to see a KC Work album… I waited in vain.

The liner notes give brief descriptions of the artists and most of them are pretty vague or don’t really offer much insight, nor help sell you on the idea of wanting to hear them. The piece on KC Work is the most-lengthy and best builds intrigue, it reads; “The Raps of KC Work are more serious, with a message and we feel this young entertainer hold(s) the future of Rap music in his hands. He’s good-he can do rhythm; do beats; write his own stuff-and can produce. With all these talents he’s sure to make his mark on the music industry.” With those comments, even when ranging from the far-reaching to the under-whelming, it helped solidify my interest.

KC Work starts the compilation off with “A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste”. First, TK lays a formidable sonic landscape. The basic foundation is simple, but crisp and effective drums, enhanced by stabs and yells from Wilson Pickett “Get Me Back On Time”. The chorus is preceded by a quick drum roll that settles into a sample of Headhunters “God Made Me Funky" mixed with some slowed-down vocals from Sly & The Family Stone “Sing A Simple Song”.

KC Work spends the next 4+ Minutes talking about education, responsibility, literacy, drug use, senseless violence, employment, self-improvement, his Graffiti history, etc… He seems to effortlessly rotate from first person narrative, 3rd person characterizations, and direct to audience conversational style to illustrate all the above points.

He throws out a healthy dose of useful jewels, particularly in the last two verses:

-“I’m educating myself, college is my next step/I’m an artist, when I paint, my paintings have depth”

-“This is the age of machines, you have to excel/Unless you are building one yourself, you are doomed to hell”

He even proclaims, “School is number one, I’m not ashamed to admit it”. The climax comes together perfectly when drops this ill visual;

“All I’m getting at is that you can’t live by the day/Today your’re 18, tomorrow you’re old and grey/It’s a figure of speech, but in the future you’ll see/When your son brings you a book and you barely can read/”Dad, what’s this word?”, “Go ask your mother son”/”Ma, what’s this say?”, “Go ask you dad, he’s the smart one”/The parents are illiterate, that makes the child ignorant/…You can never fail if you never quit.”

KC Work-A Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste:
[audio:|titles=01 The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste]

His other track is “Rikaty Rackaty” and showcases his excellent story-telling skills. Once again, TK shines with the production. His minimalistic, but intense, drums are accented by alternating snares supported by a hard-hitting stab, which generally is the early warning for a sneaky bassline that gives the track some nice movement. The chorus is filled with some static and an indescribable noise to drive home the song concept…

The first verse deals with police brutality, as KC Work is harassed for playing his radio too loudly for their taste. He chooses to ignore the police and expresses his disgust to himself with, “What made it so bad (he) was no older than me/Had the audacity to say I was disturbing the peace.” The next sequence events, which involve a straight up fist fight with the cops, all seem pretty realistic, until a gun his pulled and he rationalizes, “Then a thought passed my mind, why am I scared of this cop/I forgot I have my radio, the bullet proof box.” This aids in his escape into the subway, where he displays no remorse for his actions as he steps on the last train to “Play my music for spite”. However, the reaction here is not the same, “I was staring at people, people were staring at me/Then a couple of heads started to move with my beat/This is my kind of crowd, teenagers dancing around/and I knew they had appreciated this type of sound.”

The second verse ultimately serves as the bridge to get to the final verse which best addresses the song concept. This time the opponent is his Grandmother and her “Clan of Jehovah Witnesses”, as well as his mother who attacks, “Moms busted in, “This ain’t no Holiday Inn”/Keep playing that loud stuff, I’m gonna make you pay rent.” From there he gets to the root of the issue, the older generation not understanding and more importantly respecting Hip Hop, even as music, much less an artform. Too often Hip Hop Music was being described as “Just Noise”. KC Work decides rather than be offended by that sentiment, to embrace it, “Not being sarcastic, I’m enthusiastic/If noise is what you want, then noise is what you get/Cause now you face that facts and it’s a definite one/It’s really radical and here it comes!”

KC Work-Rickaty Rackaty:

[audio:|titles=07 Rickaty Rackaty]

He definitely sounds young on these tracks. On “A Mind Is A Terrible Waste” he hints to being 18 and/or just finishing High School and these two tracks suggests that he probably was developing growth in the right direction.

His only other appearance, I know of, is on the somewhat rare, B Boy Records Christmas Album, one year prior to these two tracks. On The “Shout Outs” track he kicks off a nice freestyle. Not sure what happened to him after this. Perhaps he focused on his artwork rather than his rhymes. Truthfully, I wrote his partially because there seems to be no info on him out there and also in hopes that maybe he’ll run across this one day in a google search and resurface to tell his story…

Editors, mostly trivial, notes:

*Yes, I know BDP worked on a couple other projects just before this, such as 12:41, but no real knowledge of them or impact took place until B-boy Records.

**This compilation is actually on Sutra Records, but it is compiled by B-Boy Records. Not exactly sure what the arrangement was. I never thought about it until right now. Right on the back of the record they say “B Boy Posse is the first record to be released on a label other than B-Boy Records and we thank the for(e)sight of Sutra Records for this opportunity”. Yeah, whatever that means….

***TK: Far as I know, his work was limited, but very solid. Besides the KC Work stuff, he also did production for Cold Crush Brothers, Levi 167,and Soul Dimension. His “Trash N Ready” beat is one of my favorite mid 80s productions and easily one the all time best Reggae Hip Hop beats. I’ve been hoping to track him down for to find out what else he did…

****However, since I revisited this record a couple times a few more of these joints stood out to me. I suppose the issue could be that it was 1988, one of the illest years in Hip Hop, so the competition for my ear at the time was pretty high powered…

Written By Kevin Beacham

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