Inspired by the combination of some truly awful records and a recurring feature on Videogum, editor Joe Puglisi proves that even criminally awful albums can inspire us... to seek out which of them is the worst.
We all have ideas. Ideas in our little brains. There are good ideas, and then there are bad ideas. Remember the Animaniacs? What they taught us about ideas?
Wasn't that funny back then, children? Don't play catch with Grandma on a sailboat! Well they didn't have Animaniacs when some people grew up, and thus their dumb-meters don't quite point north when they think about doing things. Horrible ideas. Like worse than boiled goose. And when these ideas meet an event of cultural significance with extreme potential for ignorance of one's own stupidity and lack of talents, the results could be deadly.
THE RISE OF RAP MUSIC
"Old school rap (1979-1984) was "easily identified by its relatively simple raps" according to Allmusic, "the emphasis was not on lyrical technique, but simply on good times", one notable exception being Melle Mel, who set the way for future rappers through his socio-political content and creative wordplay." - The All-Knowing Wikipedia
GOOD IDEA: Riding this growing trend in music that will later take over the mainstream music industry and comprise roughly one half of all songs deemed worthy of the radio.
BAD IDEA: Riding this growing trend in music that will later take over the mainstream music industry and comprise roughly one half of all songs deemed worthy of the radio SO POORLY that no one can take you seriously, while already famous for something else.
You crazy for this one, J.
Now, we all agree that the eighties were a weird time. People wore things called "parachute pants" and wanted to look like Sigourney Weaver. Some of us were born, so we missed some/all of it. Rap was born, too, or at least began its eventual career path of working outside your window at 3 AM with the subs way up. Shaw-taaaaay! And cool leather jacket punk was on its way out, as it was being replaced in the 'stream with smart mouthed sneaker wearing rappers, futuristic pop stars, and in just a few short years, The Backstreet Boys. In short: times were changing.
Dee Dee Ramone, of The Ramones, decided that he wanted to change as well. He wanted to be a real, respected, white rapper named Dee Dee King. And the resulting recording was quite possibly the most depressing worst record of all time. Before we go ahead and talk about this, let me warn you: if I hadn't told you this was a serious effort by a well respected musician who thought he could really rap, you might think this was a Weird Al Record. In fact, I bet Weird Al has a signed copy of it in his giant rotating bedroom.
NOMINEE #3: Dee Dee King, Standing In The Spotlight
GOOD IDEA: Standing in the spotlight.
BAD IDEA: Standing in the spotlight while sounding like Ronald McDonald rapping:
Two all beef patties special sauce!
Let's get a few things out of the way, :
Yes, King thought this was going to be his successful solo breakout record.
He used to brag about his rap skills and show up to Ramones gigs in rap attire.
Yes, he sometimes raps in German.
DDK's rap voice sounds like Adam Sandler doing an impression of DDK.
There is an entire song dedicated to potatoes.
Songs have sound effects like burps.
Some tracks are just rock songs that he kind of raps over.
One song he meets a mermaid and quits surfing because he is afraid of crabs.
Really we can just stop right here and pack up and head home, pioneers oh pioneers, because the world ended in 1989 when this blight on humanity first emerged to kill our President. People talk about "red flags" as signs of warning in like finance or some junk as a "do not lend money" scenario, right? Let's go with that. This album has SO MANY RED FLAGS, you should bury your life savings at your friends house and fake your own death. Just stop reading about it even. Go home to your families where you are safe. Pretend you never came here. Put on a dress and shave your legs. If you are a girl, grow a beard. Hide.
Do you know any successful rappers that were born in the 1950s? Lil' Wayne is like thirty and he is almost already dead. DDW was almost 40 when this first rap album happened. Obviously, he was going to think it clever to rhyme "sour" with "hour," just like Groucho Marx and my Dad. Inspired!
"It's time to rock/it's time to rap/it's time for the mashed potatoe time." - Dee Dee King
THAT IS A REAL QUOTE FROM A REAL RAP SONG.
I know he is old school and focused on good times, but they get better than mashed potatoes, trust me. I know we're not focusing on lyrical content but he could at least make an effort to elongate his words so it sounds like someone rapping with flow and not rapping a Fred Schneider B-52s impression.
Let's get even more real for a second. Sure, "old-school" rap was kind of goofy. We like hot butter on our breakfast toast, amiright sugarhill gang cool kids on the block? But there is a fine line between "Rapper's Delight" and "Rapper's from Berlin." I don't speak fluent ARE YOU KIDDING ME? And neither does any reputable critic, because they mostly all would argue that listening to this album by itself is worse than getting yelled at by your dad while listening to this album. AT LEAST HE IS DISTRACTING ME!
It gets worse. Blondie is a guest vocal on multiple tracks. Oh great, a star studded guest spot. SPOILER ALERT: This is not your teenager's Jay-Z/Alicia Keys chart-topper. It's more like your children's early preschool sing-along. Her only line is basically "mashed potatoes," barring the "ooos" and the "it's the latest/it's the greatest/put some gravy on yours." This makes me want to put some boiling hot gravy on my face.
The other confusing thing: Dee Dee King is supposed to be a rapper, but he sometimes writes real songs? And they kind of sound like Ramone's tunes, becuase King was a great songwriter for the band. This makes it even more tragic that "Mashed Potatoe Time" exists. I mean, really. "Mashed Potatoe Time." He says things like "soda pop" and "goon." You know, rapper stuff. Woof. And technically, Dee Dee Ramone was the first, or one of the first white rappers. Way to set the tone there, Big D! You're like Bubba Sparxx's grandfather or something. You know, in rap years.
Let's not forget the nail-in-the-rap-coffin, glaringly obvious problem of Dee Dee Ramone having no flow whatsoever. He makes this guy look like the next Akon or something (NSFW! Get the 'phones!):
RED FLAG! And this guy is Canadian!
So, let's summarize our points: We've got mainstream distribution (Warner Bros put this record out). Universal disapproval (do an internet search for "worst rapper of all time" or "ways to audibly kill my self-esteem"). We've got an album of essentially pure comedy that was meant to be taken seriously. Terrible rapping skillz. A song that contains actual, legitimately God honest rhymes in a Germanic language. Are we done here? Can we call it? Please, if I have to hear one of King's goofy character voices rapping in faux conversations one more time, I might lock myself in my room and robotrip until I die of stupidity. BUT WAIT!
THE (weak) DEFENSE:
King accurately predicted that rap was a big part of the future of music. Although he had no way of knowing that it would be more about gun violence and less about learning to surf.
He touched on a few items (poorly) that rappers would totally embrace, like heritage (South Central, Germany, etc.), catching a cheating spouse and punishing her, big egos and attitudes, rapping about sluts, fear of crabs, and drinking.
"Baby Doll," the song he wrote for his wife, is actually kind of sweet and although he sounds dopey when he sings, the song isn't terrible by any means. Even though its the acceptable meat in a TERRIBLE SANDWICH WITH TERROPOTLE SAUCE AND MASHED POTATERRIBLE.
Um, none of it can defend this:
Let's all hold hands and watch some real fake real rapping. I don't even know why I bothered to do this one. It's too obvious. I hope it gets lost in the bowels of history with the Beatles winning the 1964 Superbowl against the Giants and the assassination of president Nixevelt. Here is a cute puppy to cheer us up for sitting through this:
Happy #$%& Thanksgiving. GOOD IDEA: I'm going to go take a cold shower until I no longer hear this music in my brain. Until next time, America. -joe puglisi
Special thanks to our videographer and friend Ben Mayer, who suggested this record, sent it to me, and subsequently inspired my suicide. Thanks Ben!