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Tucson Weekly Arizona Rap?

NastyBoy Klick Is An Actual Fact, Just Like The Grand Canyon. Dig?

By Tom Danehy

OCTOBER 6, 1997:  WHAT'S IT LIKE being the biggest rap group in Arizona? Probably like being the best surfer in Montana. It's something, but not much.

See, Arizona's one of the whitest places in the whole United States. That's not to say white folks can't be down with the 'hood team. Why, just the other day I saw a white kid wearing a Wu-Tang Clan T-shirt. Of course, he was being chased down the street by some westside thug wannabes. But at least he made the effort. All the way down the street, he kept yelling, "Ol' Dirty Bastard rocks, dude!"

Anyway, the distinction of being the biggest rap group in the Grand Canyon State falls to NastyBoy Klick, a Phoenix-based group whose single, "Down For Yours," is receiving un chingo de airplay on both Hot 98 FM and Power 97.5, the only local stations where you can hear urban music in this sleepy cowtown. Like the rest of the cuts on Tha First Chapter, "Down For Yours" is a mixture of styles, slickly produced and obscenely catchy, but in the end, completely familiar.

The Klick is the brainchild of MC Magic, a Phoenix semi-legend who toiled for years selling his homemade cassettes at the swap meet every weekend. The tapes contained everything from rapped birthday greetings to conveyances of love.

(Wow, just imagine sending your grandmother a rapped birthday greeting. "So, Gramma, you're sixty-fo', And most o' yo' life you've been a....")

MC Magic eked out a living putting together custom tapes, which he sold from his booth at the Phoenix Park 'N' Swap. Finally he saved up enough money to make a record on his own independent label, NastyBoy Records. Not exactly the Jackson Five being discovered by Diana Ross, but then again, look how the Jacksons turned out. Not to mention how Diana Ross turned out.

That first album, Don't Worry, sold a modest 15,000 copies, but it earned him a solid following in Phoenix and caught the attention of several major labels.

When it came time for his second album, he decided to make it a collaborative effort. He rounded up an assortment of hip-hop artists from the Valley of the Sun to form the Klick. Ranging in age from 9 to 30, the Klick consists of Latinos MC Magic, L'il Mischief (MC Magic's 9-year-old son), Zig Zag, Sly, Dos, and Bookie-Loc, an African-American who serves as the answer to the question, "What's wrong with this picture?"

Oh yeah, Dos is as in "two" in Spanish, not a computer operating system. You hardly ever hear of hip-hop guys naming themselves after computer hardware. Or software, for that matter.

I wanted to ask Dos if his royalty checks were made out to "Dos," and if so, what kind of ID did he have to produce to cash those

suckers. Didn't get the chance, though.

The result of this group project is Tha First Chapter, a mildly-entertaining album which screams for the adjective "derivative." Virtually every thread which has run through hip-hop and rap over the past decade is woven into this album.

Want some dirty language? We've got it. How 'bout a couple sappy ballads. Right here. Bumpin' bass lines? By the dozens. It's not bad, but there's absolutely nothing here we haven't heard before.

Perhaps that's an Arizona problem. It's like subdivision music. Everybody came here from someplace else, so Arizona music doesn't have an identity. The biggest Arizona artist ever, Linda Ronstadt, became a mega-star by singing remakes of Smokey Robinson and Buddy Holly tunes. The Gin Blossoms, out of Phoenix, sound like an updated version of the L.A. jingle-jangle bands of the '60s-- the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and such.

The real problem with being derivative, however, is that no matter how well you copy your influences, it loses a little something in the translation. It's like that third clone of Michael Keaton in Multiplicity. What do you mean I'm the only one who saw that movie? There were at least two other people in the theater that day.

Getting back to the problem, say you start with Led Zeppelin, a seminal electric blues band. They become huge, so other bands copy them. Then still other bands copy the copiers. After three or four generations of this, Led Zeppelin has become Def Leppard.

This is less of a problem here, since rap is derivative by nature. Just about everything is borrowed, from a lick here to a sample there, or sometimes even the entire Rick James song, "Super Freak," which serves as the backbone of the biggest-selling rap album ever, Please Hammer, Don't Hurt 'Em. (Don't yell at me! I didn't buy it. But apparently, 15 million of y'all did.)

On Tha First Chapter, there's something for--and from--everyone. "Temptation" samples Notorious B.I.G.'s "#!*@ Me (Interlude)." "Constantly" lifts from Kid Frost's "La Raza." Heck, they even sample The Fat Boys, who were famous for a couple weeks back in 1989. Even the album cover is an Earth, Wind and Fire knockoff of a pyramid with Prince-like lettering.

Bookie-Loc does a decent Snoop imitation on "Bookies freestyle," but it drifts into boring let's-see-how-much-I-can-cuss-in-three-minutes nauseam. About the best he can do is, "It doesn't matter if you're short or tall, I'll make you feel like a pussy, feelin' like a bitch, sorta like RuPaul." Yeah, right.

The highlight by a wide margin is "Down For Yours," a surprisingly pretty mix of different styles--pedestrian rap backed by electronic singing, all punctuated by a catchy chorus of "Loving you this way, I'll never lead you astray" by backup singers Lakiva, Nakia and Dee. "Down For Yours" also features a guest appearance by Roger Troutman of Roger and Zapp fame.

The single rocketed into the Top 10 of Billboard's Hot Rap Singles and is moving up the Hot 100 Singles chart as well.

One thing the Klick needs to worry about: Throughout the CD, there are numerous references to "Valley of the Sun," "A-Z," and mostly the area code "6-0-2." What happens next year when the Valley splits into two area codes because of all the cell phones and pagers? They'd better hope they stay in the 602 part. Otherwise, we'll have to be down with the 418 or something.

NastyBoy Klick will be appearing at the Domingo Sensacional show at Kennedy Park this Sunday, October 5. The show, sponsored by Radio Pantera, Hot-98 FM and Radio Fiesta, also features Angelina and A Lighter Shade of Brown.

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