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J.V.C. F.O.R.C.E. – Strong Island

Posted: November 12th, 2004, by Dave Stockwell

I’ve been trying to find a useful link or audio sample for this group/track for days of scamming off work, but have so far had no luck. Oh well, you’ll just have to bear with me, or dig out some old-skool hip-hop compilations (such as ‘Hip-Hop Don’t Stop’ Vol. One). If anyone knows any good hip-hop archive websites, please let me know.

Anyway, as a contrast to Mr Summerlin’s detailing of songs that plague his life; here’s a song that I wish would plague my life – no one I know has even heard this damn thing, yet it’s a classic slice of mid-eighties hip-hop that encapsulates everything I love about the DIY approach and ramshackle form of this music’s earliest days. I thought I’d lost my copy when my CD with it on got scratched to shit a good five years back, but a recent rediscovery and tentative play yielded surprisingly good results. Moreover, it still sounds FUCKING AWESOME.

‘Strong Island’ is built from an insistent guitar sample that I know I recognise from a record by a sixties/seventies band, but I can’t for the life of me remember what it is. Even if I did know, it couldn’t detract from the power that it instils this song with, roughly coupled as it is to a basic but goddamn heavy drum loop with some serious dub-informed echo. The first time you hear the drums crash in, it seems like they’ve not bothered to check whether the sample, drums and echo actually match up at all, but if you wait… dum… dum… dum… somehow it all fits together. This slightly off-beat, misaligned feel permeates the whole track, giving it a real if-it-even-vaguely-sort-of-fits-let-it-fly feel. Be sure brother, this ain’t no seamless piece of ultra-slick modern corporate ‘hip-hop’, it’s got soul AND it sounds far better than anything the man previously known as Puffy could ever produce.

I could listen to this song for days, and I’m not even sure what J.V.C.F.O.R.C.E. are even talking about half the time. I’m fairly sure it’s to do with representing; the whole thing seems to be an ode to how great they are, and I couldn’t agree more. You see, there’s another piece of genius to this song. Remember Snap’s ‘Rhythm Is A Dancer’, with its infamous line “I’m a serious as cancer”? Stolen wholesale from here. And it actually makes sense in this conext. Honestly. Well, kinda.

So here’s a simple key to amazing hip-hop: (obscure guitar sample)+(dubby echo effects)+(fantastic/hilarious lyrics)=pure genius. Now repeat ad infinitum, adding only a marked ‘trip hop’ influence if you’re on the Anticon roster.

Next week: the fucking misanthropic genius of Schooly D. Or maybe The Geto Boyz.

Dave Stockwell

David can always be relied on to end his e-mails with one of those 'np: blah blah' things in order to remind us of how much more music he listens to every day than anybody else. His interests include rockin ' out in a major style as guitarist in Souvaris, throwing frisbees from tall buildings "just to see what happens" and simply kickin' back with his bitches in a gold-plated jacuzzi.


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