When you talk about the scene in New York City in the ‘70s and early ‘80s, you can’t just talk about musicians. You need to recognize the impact of (predominately) visual artists as well. Case in point: “Beat Bop,” credited to Rammellzee Vs. K-Rob. Formally speaking, it’s a ten-minute battle rap between the rapper K-Rob and the graffiti-artist (and all-around wild dude) Rammellzee. Wild studio effects get added and taken away with no real rhyme or reason. Just go with it.
There’s a lot you can say about Rammellzee. I’ll leave it at the critic Mark Dery’s report of something he used to wear at gallery shows, a late-period project called Gasholeer, which Dery describes as a “148-pound, gadgetry-encrusted exoskeleton”—and which happened to be equipped with flamethrowers and a crazy sound-system. Look the guy up. I’m selling him short.
But getting back to “Beat Bop,” the track was conceived as a collaboration between Rammellzee and the visual artist Basquiat—who was obviously a pretty big deal in the history of the New York art scene at that point. By the time the record saw release, Rammellzee and K-Rob (with the assistance of Fab Five Freddy in the studio) had overruled most of Basquiat’s artistic decisions—although he still provided funding for a test-pressing of 500 copies, and those first pressings, as you can imagine, are rare as hell these days.
There’s a lot more that’s been written about this track, and a lot more I can say, but really just check it out. One of the classics of the early hip-hop era.