The rotating band of Pittsburgh-based MC’s and producers known as Shindiggaz said hello to 2010 armed only with shit-eating grins and two pitch-perfect debut projects: Prime Time Lineup and Saturday Morning Special, an absurdly hilarious couplet of mix tapes literally busting at the seams with nostalgic beats mined from late eighties-early nineties television theme songs.
Prime Time Lineup comes wall to wall with dismantled music from some of network television’s most iconic shows that includes Cheers, Family Matters, Full House, and Married With Children to name a few. Saturday Morning Special features themes from the same era’s most popular Saturday morning cartoons that will have anyone in their twenties giggling with fan-boy nerdness. Music from Ducktails, Inspector Gadget, G.I. Joe, Transformers and Thundercats all make appearances in various forms. Tracks after the Jump.
It helps that Shindiggaz feature a pretty deep bench, and with MC’s Dutch Rollin Rebel, SoulDivide, Greazy Duzit, Zigzag, Kid A, Mr. Brink, producer DJ Thermos and frequent associate MC Liquid Bones all playing it straight and making their beats and verses work hard, Prime Time and Saturday Morning move well beyond mere novelties. For me, the whole production amounts to an insanely fun romp through the warped reality of my childhood television memories; memories I can barely discern from those of my actual childhood. With that in mind, I reviewed my favorite tracks below, hope you have as much fun as I did.
Shindiggaz – Family Matters
I’ll admit, I never liked Family Matters. I couldn’t understand why Karl Winslow wasn’t as cool as he was in Die Hard. Regardless, the theme song coupled with gorgeous shots of middle-class Chicago always got me. The “days go by” section from the bridge is used as a shimmering choir section against an asymmetrical drum pattern and slight wisp of swelling strings, letting each MC (about 5 in all) play with their rhyming patterns against the dynamic nature of the beat. It’s fascinating to hear the original track pumped up and dissected at the same time, revealing its hidden capabilities in a new context. This will obviously become a theme.
Shindiggaz – G.I. Joe
While this sample is actually taken from the theme of the full-length G.I. Joe animated movie, the track already possessed a sinister horn arrangement and pulverizing beat before any studio tinkering. What makes the whole thing really bump is the addition of an old-school drum section and vicious, aggressive verses filtering the “conquer all” philosophy of the streets and hip-hop through the struggle to defeat COBRA at all costs. It’s an inventive device that, against all odds, seems to work and gets an extra push over the edge by the huge “COBRA” and “G.I. JOE” chants separating the verses. Reminiscent of the ways in which the Wu-Tang Clan would combine hazy Kung-Fu mythology with NYC street life, “G.I. Joe” intensely transforms from a standard “call to battle” track into an absurd shitstorm of assimilating realities, leading me to hope I may discover Cobra Commander lurking around Arsenal Park one of these days.
Shindiggaz – Thundercats
While other cuts on the two mix tapes incorporate the most recognizable pieces of a particular tv theme, “Thundercats” smashes the original song on the ground and melts the remaining segments into a glaring alloy of surprising power. What’s left is a massive, VHS-quality wall of sound pulsating beneath a simple, walloping drum pattern. Little touches like the 8-bit horns and recurring “HO’s!” from Lion-O pepper the track with just the right amount of detail, allowing Soul Divide to spin dense webs of unmitigated syllables almost too complex to decipher. And while searching for logic among rhymes set to a cut up “Thundercats” theme may seem a little insane, the sonic qualities of the verses remain watertight.
Shindiggaz – Love & Marriage
And while “Love & Marriage” is by far the straight up goofiest track Shindiggaz have put out yet, I can’t help but laugh when I think about Al Bundy as a piff-puffing MC narrating his miserable existence while a cut-up Sinatra chimes in every four bars. The rhymes are sloppy but playful, hilariously recounting the sordid details of Bundy’s legacy, some triumphant (“Four touchdowns in one game, bitch!”), others darkly speculative about what would actually happen if Al was pushed over the edge (“And I like our kids/till they mouth off/ let these little ***gaz know/ I kill them in their sleep if they slip though”). Regardless, the track shamelessly celebrates one of the most blatantly low-brow sitcoms of all-time in proper fashion and helped me realize that “Love and Marriage” could be the greatest Sinatra song (and only) to ever be appropriated for a network television theme .