When Record Labels Were King + Classic Rap Label T-Shirts!!!!

August 09, 2012 5 min read 1 Comment


Although the presence and branding impact of record labels as a whole may not be what it once was, there are still some excellent examples labels who are functioning like traditional labels in the basic sense and still doing things right by releasing great music and giving fans a brand they can trust in. To name a handful; Secret Stash, Mello Music Group, Stones Throw, Dope Folks, Jamille, Light In The Attic, Diggers With Gratitude, Galapagos4, Get On Down, Traffic Ent, Fat Beats, and of course, Rhymesayers. I’m sure there are some I’m forgetting as well…

I was fortunate enough to be at a perfect age just as the first Hip Hop records were released as a commercial product. That experience taught me a lot about getting familiar with labels and knowing what to expect from them. I would regularly find these labels that I felt I could count on for their releases. Sure, it would be a range of how good the music was, but anything between good to great to mind-blowing was satisfactory to me at that point, I wanted to soak it all in. At the very start it was easy, you basically had Sugarhilland Enjoy to choose from and both were very trustworthy with each new 12”. However, even as the 12” boom in Hip Hop took effect I still felt pretty good about putting my trust in different record labels; Profile, Wildpitch, Tommy Boy, Fresh Records, Tuff City, Sunnyview, Specific, Select, B Boy, Vintertainment, Egyptian Empire, N.V./Cutting, Pop Art, Slice, Fever, Cold Chillin, Music Of Life, Kold Sweat, Celluloid, Next Plateau and of course, Def Jam. There were also some you had to be a little careful with and be able to discern the difference between their Hip Hop and Dance groups; Party Time, TSOB, NIA, WMOT, Starlite, Warlock, etc*…

The point of all this is that I have a historical connection and countless fond memories of so many of these types of labels and that is why I was excited when Get On Downalerted me via Traffic Entertainment about their new T-Shirt line of some classic Hip Hop/Dance labels; PartyTime, Sleeping Bag, Streetwise, Livin’ Large, Fresh, and The Sound Of Brooklyn! I had to have all of them!! I figured I wouldn’t be alone so I ordered a few for the store as well. These T-Shirts are limited edition so don’t sleep.

Those not up on these labels and their roots in the world of Rap. Here are some tid-bits:

Party Time: I suppose the most famous Hip Hop record on the label is T La Rock’s “It’s Yours”. It’s a critical 12” for so many reasons; the first Rap record to bare the Def Jam name, key debut Hip Hop production of Rick Rubin, the handy work of Jazzy Jay’s scratching and studio work that gave one of the earliest emphasizes of the power of the Roland TR-808 bass drum, and the forward-thinking lyrics of T La Rock, which he later best described as, “I am T La Rock, rapper on It’s Yours/The record of the 80s which opened the doors/To a new style of Rap which is loved by all/Strong lyrics, no gimmicks, no yes, yes y’alls.” In other words, he was taking Rap to the future. The second most famous record would be Dimples D “Sucker DJs”, which is a sort of an artist debut for Marley Marl (he had some engineering/production stuff prior to this, but this was the first that really highlighted him as an artist). This record has gotten most of its post 80s use from the acapella, which accurately breaks down the required skills of a Hip Hop DJ. The song was also apparently written by Marley Marl as well. Nowhere as famous as those two, but definitely a favorite of mine on the label is Ultimate III MCs “What Are We Gonna Do?” Everything about that record is awesome! I wrote about it HERE. There are a few other gems on the label as well…

Streetwise:This label was heavier on the Dance and Electro side. Many Poppers got busy to the releases by Freez, which included the hit songs “Pop Goes My Love” and “I.O.U”. The Rockers Revenge cut “Walking On Sunshine” is the joint too….

TSOB (The Sound Of Brooklyn): Also, better known for a more Electronic sound. The song that most resonates with me is the label theme by Master Jay and Michael Dee from ’80. It was one of the first Hip Hop records I ever heard and it was easily one of my favorites of all the first Hip Hop records in ‘79/’80…particularly the “Shark Story”. They also put out the Wild Sugar “Bring It Here” record which should be easily recognizable as the sample source for Beastie Boys “Brass Monkey”. A kind of slept on joint for the label is Cory “The Smirf”, a nice slow Electro groove.

Sleeping Bag Records/Fresh Records:These were associated labels and seemed to release projects/artists sort of interchangeably. Their contributions are a few blog posts on it’s own, but their catalog of classic material includes artists; Mantronix, Nice & Smooth, Just-Ice, Cash Money & Marvelous, Stezo, EPMD, Dinosaur L,etc…  Although, not a smash act by any means, they also had 12:41, which gave the Boogie Down Productions crew (KRS One, Scott La Rock, and Levi 167) a launching pad into a career. Another underground favorite on the label MC EZ and Troup, was the debut for a young Craig Mack,years before he was putting "Flava In Your Ear" officially.


Livin’ Large: This was a sub-label for Cold Chillin'. I’m not exactly why they launched this side label, probably for financial reasons as Cold Chillin’wasn’t doing as well as previously. Anyway, Livin’ Large released music from veteran artists from the Cold Chillin’ roster such as; Shante and MC Shan. I would say that the most impressive release on this imprint was the YZ “The Ghetto’s Been Good To Me” Album, which is way slept on!

Much love for Get On Down for printing this up! I was very excited about these and not to be greedy, but seeing those just made me think about more I’d like to see, such as: B Boy Records, Slice Records (though it is a kind of a silly logo of a piece of pie, I still love it!), NV/Cutting, Vintertainment, Pop Art…What 80s Rap Labels would you love to see on a T-Shirt??

Written By Kevin Beacham, while wearing his Streetwise shirt…

*This reminds me of a “funny” story about Cold Chillin’. I’ll share that in the next couple days…

1 Response


September 08, 2015

Where can I purchase??

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