Catastrophe III Freestyle 12" (Hurricane, 1988)
For a brief moment in the early 1980s I had a hip hop career. I was listening to KDVS, the excellent student-run radio station in Davis, and some sly dejay slipped Grandmaster Flash's The Message in between the Gang of Four and James Brown. Lake many who heard The Message for the first time, especially those who heard at the time it was released, the song was nothing less than revolutionary. The sound - so funky and stark and angry. The words - no bullshit, tell it like it is poetry that was the most cut to the bone since the Last Poets. I rushed to the local Tower Records and bought a copy of the album. Interest peaked, I went searching for more. Problem was, in Sacramento there wasn't much more, certainly nothing as good or as raw as The Message. So as wee-punkers, my little gang tried to make our own hip hop. We hang out in Okie Park and create Get Down Music, our "band" dubbed the Ungrateful Get Down Band. The band consisted of one person rapping, one person interjecting "That's right! "Get Down!," one human beat box, and two people mimicking bass and keyboard. It was as horrible as you can image and never escaped our little world (though I have a cassette tape of it, which about a year ago I considered posting but I've shamed myself enough already).
A few years later, fifty miles south and from a whole different world, Catastrophe III had their Get Down Band going. They actually knew what they were doing. Instead of spiky hair and shaved skulls, they sported jerry curls, and their rhymes were a bit better than "get down/get funky/fuck you/i'm a junkie." Their human beat box sounded a bit better than a someone coughing up a fur ball. And I am sure there are countless other factors that distance Catastrophe III from the Ungrateful Get Down Band. Perhaps the biggest thing is that they made a record and we didn't.
I found the Freestyle 12" in a thrift store in Stockton. It is one of thousands of early hip hop 12"s that came out in the 1980s, so many doomed to obscurity (there is a whole line of Killed By Death style hip hop comps to be made). Catastrophe III had the bad luck of being from Stockton, where they might have gained some local support but had no chance of breaking nationally, especially not at the time. While Freestyle starts a bit rough, the song has a great build and contains some great off-the-cuff rapping.
That's be awesome. I could compile at least one volume.
There are numerous virtually unknown local hip hop artists especially out of Sacramento and the Bay Area going all the way back to '81. Even the legendary producer Khayree put out a record in '83. As little as 50 (!) copies were made of some of these.
Just like this 12", many of these obscure records were put out by the "Fantasy" record label out of Berkeley, CA - just like the Macola Record company (L.A.) did on a much larger scale.
Yes, most of these were doomed to obscurity and are impossible to find these days. The price some collectors pay for the better ones are often in the $100s. Some have fetched $1,000+.
This particular record sold for $24.50 on eBay in Novemeber '06. Most of these records are on a long journey to Europe or Japan.