Greetings! I’ve finally worked my way through 1995. Before I jump into ’96, I’ll be doing a little house cleaning, so the next handful of posts will be new additions to my collection (or albums that somehow got overlooked on my spreadsheet) that came out before ’96. Thanks for reading!
The first and last time we checked in with Whodini was with their third release, Back In Black, an album that I felt started out strong, but begin to waiver towards the middle. Since that write-up, I’ve added a few more Whodini albums to my collection, including a vinyl copy of their self-titled debut, which will discuss in detail today.
The entirety of Whodini was recorded in Europe (split between Battery Studios in London and Can Studios in Weilerswist, Germany), as Ecstasy and Jalil (Grandmaster Dee wouldn’t join the group until the Back In Black album) would call on a host of European producers to craft the album’s sound: Conny Plank (rip), Thomas Dolby, Roy Carter (of the 70’s/80’s r&b group Heatwave) and the production team with an interesting alias, Willesden Dodgers, comprised of Nigel Green, Peter Q. Harris and Richard Joh Smith. The album wasn’t a huge commercial success, and it wouldn’t earn any RIAA certifications, but it would set the stage for Whodini’s next two albums, Escape and Back In Black, which would both earn gold plaques.
I’ve never listened to Whodini before today and none of the songs on the tracklist look familiar (my introduction to Whodini was with “Friends” and “Freaks Come Out At Night”), so let’s see how this one plays out.
Rest in peace to John “Ecstasy” Fletcher, who passed away at the end of 2020. May you continue to rest easy.
The Haunted House Of Rock – Whodini opens the album with what would also be their second single. Ecstasy and Jalil were obviously influenced by MJ’s “Thriller”, as they use this one to discuss a creepy party at a haunted house that some of your favorite horror characters show up to (i.e. The creature from the Black Lagoon, Dracula, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Addams Family), and this spooky party is deejayed by no other than Wolfman Jack (you youngins might need to do your Googles on him). I’m curious on why they didn’t name this “The Haunted House Of Hip-Hop”, but regardless, Whodini does a solid job of keeping the listener engaged with the details of the party, and sonically, the instrumentation sounds way ahead of its time. This is a great song to throw into your Halloween mix.
Nasty Lady – Whodini uses this one to shoutout a nasty chick they met at a club and rocked their worlds, leaving them so whipped that they had to write a song about it. You wanna hear it? Here it goes. There aren’t really any lyrics to this song, just Ecstasy repeating the same refrain over a simple drum beat for nearly six minutes. No need to listen to this one more than once.
Underground – Coming in with a runtime of just under six minutes, this is pretty much an extended interlude that Whodini dedicates to the underground hip-hop scene. There’s a super dope break sprinkled throughout the instrumental, but other than that there’s not much to see here.
It’s All In Mr Magic’s Wand – This is the instrumental version of the next song…
Magic’s Wand – Whodini uses this one to pay homage to the late pioneering Bronx born hip-hop radio deejay, Mr. Magic (you can do your Googles on him as well). Once again, the production sounds way more advanced and layered than a lot of the instrumentals we were hearing from other hip-hop acts around this time (although, one could argue that the instrumental is more r&b than hip-hop). I appreciated the song’s sentiment and enjoyed the smooth stylings of Thomas Dolby instrumental.
Yours For A Night – Roy Carter and the Willesden Dodgers hook up a chill r&b flavored backdrop that Ecstasy and Jalil use to ask the ladies of their lives for a little quality time, while Thomas Jerome Pearse (who sounds a lot like former Today lead man, Big Bub) drops by and sings the hook. This makes for a cool little bop.
Rap Machine – Jalil creates a rap machine that allegedly has the ability to rap for eternity, never running out of breath or fresh rhymes. Ecstasy uses his verses to express his disdain for Jalil’s invention and sets out to proof that he’s superior to the rhyming apparatus, and actually ends the song battling the rap machine. Yes. It sounds just as corny as it reads. The synthy instrumentation was kind of cheesy, but I’ll shoot Conny Plank some bail, as he was obviously trying to create a robotic feel to match the song’s content. Ecstasy and Jalil’s concept was poorly executed, but kudos for the original idea.
The Haunted House Of Rock (Vocoder Version) – Whodini brings back the instrumental from the original mix and replaces the verses with a rambling vocoder voice that hi-lariously reminds the listen: “If you don’t want to party take your dead ass home”. And that concludes Whodini.
As I mentioned earlier in this write-up, most of the instrumentation on Whodini sounds more musical and layered than a lot of Whodini’s contemporaries of that era. Neither Ecstasy or Jalil are superb lyricists, but both are competent emcees, and they bring original ideas that sound refreshing, even if the execution of those ideas isn’t the greatest. With only eight tracks, two of them being instrumentals of other songs on the album (“It’s All In Mr Magic’s Wand” and “The Haunted House Of Rock (Vocoder Version)”), and two more acting as extended interludes (“Nasty Lady” and “Underground”), Whodini plays more like an EP than a full-length album. But if you subtract the fluff, the four remaining songs are pretty enjoyable, and have aged fairly well over the past thirty-five plus years.