THE UMCS: BEFORE STATEN WAS SHAOLIN



The UMCs: Anyway the Wind Blows (Bassinterface Mix)
From “Blue Cheese” 12″ (Wild Pitch, 1991)

The UMCs: Swing It To the Area (O-Dub’s All Areas Edit)
From “One to Grow On” 12″ (Wild Pitch, 1991)

One favorite conversation I have with my friend Hua is over what rap acts were doomed never to last past 1994. After all, what Nas, Biggie and the Wu collectively did was make it impossible for an entire era of happy-go-lucky rappers to sustain a career in a time when the dominant hip-hop motif switched from polka dots and high top fades to laser scopes and fish scales.

High on that list of rappers fated to irrelevance was the Staten Island duo of Kool Kim and Haas Gee, aka the UMCs, who had the bad luck to be the biggest rappers out of Staten before this little crew called the Wu-Tang Clan remade the Island into Shaolin. Still, for 1991 and 1992, while the Genius was talking about passing the bone and Rza was making sappy love anthems, the UMCs and their producer RNS were one the only crews pumping up Staten, flaunting a cheery sound and image that was obviously Native Tongues influenced but they didn’t seem purely deriviative.

That said, let’s just honest: in this day and age of hyper black masculinity, what rap artist would name their album Fruits of Nature, yaoming? A different era, I’m telling you.

“Anyway the Wind Blows” comes off the B-side to their first, breakout single, “Blue Cheese” and the Bassinterface Mix stripped down the song to just a breakbeat and bouncy bassline. Much as I liked the original version with the Al Green sample, the song sounds a bit cleaner with this sparse approach.

“Swing It to the Area” is another B-side cut (both songs appeared on the Fruits of Nature album but not in remix form), this time from their excellent “One to Grow On” single. What happens in the original song is that midway through, it switches up tracks and slides into more of a freestyle flow. On the 12″, they have a new lyrical remix that’s just the freestyle version and what I did was edit both the O.G. and remix to run back-to-back. Personally, I really dig “Swing It To the Area” with its funky guitar loop (“Cleo’s Back”) and some slick freestyle-ish verses from Haas and Kim. The remix is especially cool since it switches up tracks again halfway through to some vamped up organ hypeness.

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