I don’t know a lot about the subject of today’s post, Channel Live. I do know that the East Orange, New Jersey duo consisting of Vincent “Tuffy” Morgan and Hakim Green, were discovered by the legendary BDP co-founder, KRS-One back in the nineties. With the teacher’s help, the students were able to secure a deal with Capitol Records where they would release their debut album, Station Identification.
KRS-One would produce about half of Station Identification, with Rheji Burrell and a young up and coming, Salaam Remi producing the other half. The album’s lead single (“Mad Izm”) made some noise on the hip-hop charts and gave the duo street cred, but the album wasn’t a commercial success.
I bought Station Identification on cd back in ’95 and haven’t listen to it since. The only thing I remember about the album are the singles. So without further ado, let’s revisit Station Identification, shall we?
Station Identification – The opening song and title track finds the New Jersey duo full of enthusiasm, flexing their intellectual stylings as they display some of their extensive vocabulary, wittiness and wordplay. KRS-One provides a decent instrumental for our hosts, although the sample of the woman harmonizing quickly becomes a bit annoying.
Channel 1 – Interlude that sets up the next song.
Lock It Up – Salaam Remi gets his first production credit of the evening and slides Channel Live a slick mid-tempo instrumental that they use to cleverly celebrate natural black hair: “As my dreadlock twist like a fist I got the punch, givin’ knots like my locks, I roll ’em up like blunts, twirled in the riddle, just bring the comprehension, I kick that real shit, not the wack extensions”. Well done, fellas.
Channel 2 – Interlude that sets up the next song.
What! (Cause And Effect) – Channel Live uses this one to call out rappers for their over usage of “nigga” and “bitch” in their rhymes. KRS hooks up a quality instrumental (built around the same Notations’ loop used for Big Daddy Kane’s “Dance With The Devil”) and our hosts do a solid job of getting their point across.
Mad Izm – This was the lead single from Station Identification and unanimously the biggest hit in Channel Live’s limited catalog. KRS-One joins his apprentices as they pass the mic like a blunt, while “puff, puff, passing”: “Wake up in the mornin’ got me yearnin’ for herb, which loosens up the nouns, metaphors and verbs, and adjectives, aint it magic kid, what I’m kickin’, multi-flavored bags of sess for the pickin'”. KRS-One is also responsible for the tough backdrop and adds a dope Buckshot vocal snippet to complete the song. Side note: Buckwild’s remix was pretty dope as well.
Reprogram – This one was decent enough, I guess.
Channel 3 – Interlude that sets up the next song, but this one is pretty funny.
Sex For The Sport – This was the second single released from Station Identification. Rheji Burrell builds a soothing groove around an O.C. Smith loop that Hakim and Tuffy use to cleverly compare sex to sports: “She’s beggin’ for my tongue to cease, so I halted, she wrestled me on the mat then up my pole she vaulted, gymnastic flips and other tricks is how my game is, I’m live when I dive into sex like Greg Louganis, I don’t come quick, sprints is not my meet, sex for the sport a gold medal athlete”. “Mad Izm” is Channel Live’s biggest hit, but this feel good bop is easily my favorite Channel Live song.
Channel 4 – By this point, I’m sure you can guess what this is and what it does.
Down Goes The Devil – Hakim and Tuffy are on their black militant shit for this one. KRS-One provides the semi-aggressive backdrop as the duo buck down their oppressors for all the pain and suffering they’ve cause the black man the past 400 plus years in North America: “They’ve been fucking us, and they’ve been crushing us, who stole 200 million from accounting? It wasn’t us, 400 years of murdering and pillage, is why you get my middle finger walkin’ through the village, why increase the peace while the beast increase the pressure? I’m tired of the lecture, the speech is gettin’ trifle, brothers killin’ brothers, time to redirect the rifle”. It would have been nice to hear the Teacher rejoin his students on this one, but it’s still a pretty dope record.
Build & Destroy – Channel Live digs back into their metaphor bag, as Tuffy kicks a verse comparing his rhymes to building and Hakim’s make reference to destroying. KRS-One builds (no pun intended) a solid mid-tempo instrumental to compliment the duo’s clever rhyme scheme.
Alpha & Omega – Salaam Remi gets his second production credit of the evening, and even though it’s not as dope as “Lock It Up”, it’s still decent. Hakim and Tuffy’s smart bars are up to par, even if the “crippling your rhyme style like Teddy Pendergrass” line was a bit insensitive.
Homicide Ride – Salaam Remi hooks up a slick mid-temp groove to escort Hakim and Tuffy on this homicide ride through your mind. Salaam’s instrumental is infectiously yummy, and my second favorite instrumental on the album, next to “Sex For The Sport”.
Who U Represent – The final song of the evening finds Channel Live giving props to the emcees they respect and were influenced by, which includes a shout out to A Tribe Called Quest during the first verse (Tribe Degrees of Separation: Check). KRS loops up The Isley Brothers’ “Groove With You”, which makes for an adequate instrumental for Station Identification’s finale.
If Station Identification were a television network, it would be PBS. It provides quality and smart programming, but compared to NBC, CBS and ABC’s line-ups, it’s just not as entertaining. Hakim and Tuffy are intelligent, clever and more than capable emcees, but they lack personality and never truly identify their station during the album. KRS-One, Salaam Remi and Rheji Burrell do a solid job on the production side, but in a year stacked with superior output, Station Identification easily gets lost in the shuffle.
first of all, thank you for writing this blog. For several years now I’ve been clicking in regularly every week. I find it very interesting to read about your view of these classics, to find the similarities and the differences to my perception. Some of these albums I rate higher than you (eg “Station Identification”, which I find way more than solid), some less (mainly the West Coast stuff) and sometimes I discover something completely new (The Legion “Theme + Echo = Krill” .. never heard of it before). Please keep it up.
Back to this album here: You hardly came up with anything about “Reprogram” and I also find this song rather bulky due to its reduction to drums and bass. Still it was released as a single and on it there also was a remix of the song. That brings me to the phenomenon of remixes. There is one variant: Nice that the remix exists because it makes the song appear in a different light, but the original is simply untouchable. The Buckwild Remix of “Mad Izm” would be an example for that. And then there is the other variant that takes a song that is average in the original to a completely different level. For me that would be the Easy Mo Bee Remix of “Reprogram”. It has the same slow speed as the original, but brings in a totally different mood. Hypnotic. I love this one.
When the album came out, I really wanted it (fixed by the “Mad Izm” and “Reprogram” singles). But for some reason the vinyl version of the album was very difficult to get around here and I had to go for the CD. Fortunately I was able to get the LP a few years later. Now this album is one of the handful that I own on vinyl (what I prefer) AND compact disc.
So much for my nerdy comment.
Thanks again and all the best to you, especially in these strange times.
Mike from Germany
(sorry for any grammatical errors)
Mike – Thanks for your support and I appreciate your input. I had know idea Easy Mo Bee remixed “Reprogram”. I just checked it out and it’s way better than the album version. Thanks!
Never heard this album but damnit Loved that Mad Izm song