Thursday, May 10, 2007

What's That BHS Without the High?


Mod Squad - "Stroll"

Mod Squad - "B-Town Theme"
People's Park, 1992

I'm not sure how well received my retrospective on the works of Richie Rich was, but one way or another I'm going to go in a very different direction with my Bay coverage today.

It's a real pity that I didn't discover a fun little rap group from my own hometown until I'd moved across the country and saw them on another blog. When scanning a list of obscure albums that I'd never get to listen to on Bust the Facts (because that's what I usually do there) I came across a colorful cover that caught my eye just long enough for me to realize that the album was named after a rather famous park in the land of my birth, and so I had to download it. Awhile later I bought the actual CD for a cent on Amazon in hopes of finding out something, anything, about the group. All I discovered was that one's a white boy, and their names are Sam and Julian; though I have no idea which is which, nor which is the rapper. Needless to say, if anyone knows anything about these fools, speak up in the comments.

You can kind of guess this from the cover, but People's Park is in that psychadelic, hippie-ish vein that some hip-hop was going through in the early 90's. Think Arrested Development, P.M. Dawn, short dreads, neon clothing, and circular tinted glasses and you're there. Thing is, there's not really any place I can think of where such a sound would more naturally originate than Berkeley, California. See, Berkeley's kind of like Oakland's burnt-out-hippie little brother; a strange, almost too eclectic, and almost too leftist college town. I'll stop here, 'cause really you'll have a pretty good feel for Berkeley soon enough.

"Stroll" is the kind of thing you'd expect from such a group. It's a chill, surreal kind of a song--very good when it's what you're in the mood for. If you're walking down the street on a sunny day it feels great in your headphones, but it doesn't exactly fit every occasion. Our rapper (Sam/Julian?) comes across kinda like Speech rapping in a sometimes-Brotha J voice, not that I'd quite put him on the level of either. This shit is definitely all about the vibe--just pretend it's the early 90's again.

"B-Town Anthem" essentially sums up the Berkeley that I grew up in. I first heard this song about a year ago, yet upon hearing it I was immediately struck with a fucking wave of nostalgia for my childhood. It is dead on. Even though the rapper's teen years were clearly a good deal before mine, his reminiscences describe my high school days shockingly well--and I wasn't even one of the fools smoking up in the park. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but I think he perfectly pinpoints the feel of living in a place that, despite its cosmopolitan atmosphere, is still really a small town where there isn't that much to do--especially for teenagers stuck in a city geared towards college students. So yeah, much as I love all that mobb and d-boy shit that I grew up hearing, fact is that this song is what the Bay really was for me.

A fun album if you're into this sort of thing, Mod Squad capture a specific time and place almost frighteningly well... and that time and place being especially close to my heart doesn't hurt. Besides, far as I know the only other rap group to come out of my high school is The Pack (who I also like, despite the opinions of my fellow Better Than Butt Sex bloggers) and we need our hometown pride too.

5 comments:

burnoneman said...

You can still contact Julian or Sam from the Mod Squad at

myspace.com/modsquadpeoplespark

Elijah said...

Word? Wow, thanks.

Anonymous said...

Sam Urton (white boy, production) and Julian Brooks (vocals, lyrics)actualy still colaborate from time to time. In fact they're currently working on the "Prosumer Sound System" project together (available as a demo), which features mainly instrumental tracks. Julian raps on two songs avaialable on the Prosumer Sound System MySpace page:

myspace.com/prosumersoundsystem

Mod Squad released a second EP called "Abstract EP" in 1994. After Mod Squad disbanded in '95, both Sam and Julian went on to work on seperate projects.

Julian now lives in LA, and Sam in San Francisco (...and yes, they are both Berkeley High School alumni). They work together sporadically, but continue to find time to create together.

Elijah said...

That's all great to know, thanks. In the back of my head I kinda hoped that writing that post would unearth some info.

Julian Brooks said...
This comment has been removed by the author.