In 1987, Eazy-E and Jerry Heller founded Ruthless Records, which would go on to become the home to Eazy and his groundbreaking group, N.W.A. and all their platinum selling releases, including their seminal full-length debut, Straight Outta Compton. Ruthless would also become the label home to other successful artists, including The D.O.C., Above The Law, Michel’le and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. But before N.W.A. became gangsta rap deity or any of the other acts or artist found success on the label, Ruthless Records’ foundation would be built on two Dr. Dre produced singles: Eazy-E’s “Boyz-n-the-Hood” and J.J. Fad’s “Supersonic”.
J.J. Fad was an all-female group from Rialto, California that formed in the eighties and were first signed to the small independent Dream Team label. The group’s name started out as an acronym derived from the first letter of all the original five members names (Juana, Juanita, Fatima, Anna and Dania), which is also the line-up that recorded the original version of “Supersonic”. The first inception of “Supersonic” made a little noise, locally, but Eazy and Dre believed the song could be a bigger hit and found a way to swoop J.J. Fad and the song from Dream Team. After joining the Ruthless team, J.J. Fad’s line-up would go through some drastic changes, as the five women team would be shaved down to a threesome, with only two of the original members remaining: Juana aka MC J.B. and Dania aka Baby D. They would add newcomer, Sassy C, change the meaning of J.J. Fad to “Just Jammin’, Fresh and Def (yep, super corn), re-record “Supersonic”, making a few changes to the lyrics (mainly the intro where they explain the meaning of the “J.J. Fad” acronym), and Dre would make a few alterations to the original instrumental. The song would become a commercial success and helped propel the single and J.J. Fad’s debut album (which was completely produced by Dr. Dre, with co-production credit going to DJ Yella and Arabian Prince) to RIAA gold certified status, and the single would earn the ladies a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Performance in 1989, making J.J. Fad the first all-female rap group to be nominated for a Grammy (they would eventually lose in the category to DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince’s “Parents Just Don’t Understand”).
J.J. Fad would release a few more singles from Supersonic, but nothing else from the album was able to catch on or experience the same level of success as the lead single. In 1990 they would release their second album, Not Just A Fad, but with Dr. Dre being completely absence from project, the album flopped, and J.J. Fad would ironically, become exactly what the album title denied.
A few months ago, I came across a used vinyl copy of Supersonic at one of the record stores I frequent. I copped it because the price was right (a $2 holla), and because it brought back memories of my twin sister and I as kids, boppin’ to the title track while watching the video, repeatedly, on The Video Jukebox Network (Remember that channel?). I was also curious to hear how the rest of Dr. Dre’s production work would sound. I haven’t listened to the album until now, so let’s jump into it.
Supersonic – J.J. Fad kicks off the album with the title track and gold selling lead single that would earn the trio a Grammy nod. It would also earn the ladies a slot at number 76 on VH1’s list of 100 Greatest One Hit Wonders from the 80’s. Dre and company hook up a 808 drum laden techno-esque backdrop (which was definitely influenced by Bambaataa’s “Planet Rock”, as Sugga and Spice not so kindly suggested on their J.J. Fad diss track, “That’s Funky”; more on that song in a bit.) that the ladies use to rap about supersonic, and based on their content, I’m convinced they have no idea what the word really means. Regardless of the nonsensical rhymes, the hook is catchy, the simple backdrop is effective, and still sounds solid today.
Way Out – This was the second single released from Supersonic. Dre and ’em borrow a loop from The Monkees and The Flintstones (yep, you read that right) to create a backdrop that reeks of Beach Boy vibes. The ladies use the poppy instrumental to spit the simplest battle rhymes in the most elementary cadence hip-hop has ever seen. I’m being dramatic, but you get my drift. From beginning to end, top to bottom, this was awful.
Blame It On The Muzick – Our hostesses are ready to party on this one, and they attempt to get the listeners into dance mode as well. Dre accommodates the ladies with a cheesy sounding Casio keyboard backdrop that left me questioning which sounded worst: J.J. Fad or Dre & Co.’s beat? Side note: The little breakdown when Dre convinces and teaches the “freak in the biker shorts” to dance is hi-larious to me for some reason.
In The Mix – This one picks up where the previous song left off at: more cheesy Casio keyboard dance music and J.J. Fad spewing corny rhymes over it. Warning: If you’re listening to this song through your headphones/earbuds, towards the midway point of the song, a reoccurring clash that sounds like a gunshot is brought in, and it scared the shit out of me. Hopefully, I went through that, so you won’t have to go through that.
Eenie Meenie Beats – I’m not sure what the hell this song title means, but this is pretty much an instrumental rehash of “Supersonic”. If you’re listening to Supersonic on vinyl, this concludes the “Pop Side”.
My Dope Intro – The “Hip-Hop Side” begins with a loop that sounds like J.J. Fad is getting ready to square dance, but things quickly change when they instruct DJ Train to drop “one of those old school beats”, to which he response by dropping an instrumental built around a few loops from Freedom’s “Get Up And Dance” (I love the horn breaks on that record). J.J. Fad uses the funky backdrop to boast and brag of their dopeness, and while they come nowhere close to sounding great, their rhymes sounds way better than anything they spit on the “Pop Side”. I found it kind of strange to name the first song on side two of your album “My Dope Intro”, but regardless of the generic misplaced song title, this was pretty dope (no pun intended).
Let’s Get Hyped – The previous song bleeds right into this one, as our hostesses continue to spew much improved battle bars, except for Baby D, who spits some embarrassingly bad lines during her verse. Dre provides a simple, sleek and slick instrumental to make this one moderately enjoyable.
Now Really – J.J. Fad dedicates this diss record to the female rap duo, Sugga and Spice. As the story goes, J.J. Fad and Sugga and Spice had beef dating back to the days when they were labelmates on the small independent label, Dream Team. I’m not sure what sparked the beef (if you know, please weigh in in the comments), but whatever the reason, it caused Sugga and Spice to fire two diss tracks at J.J. Fad: “That’s Funky” and “Yes We Can”. Our hostesses would respond with this record, and they do manage to land a few decent blows, but it pales in comparison to the body shots Sugga and Spice connected with on “That’s Funky”.
Time Tah Get Stupid – This one gets off to a strange start, as our hostesses revamp a portion of “Little Drummer Boy” for the song’s intro. Dre quickly steers the ship back in the right direction by serving the lady trio a couple of simple, but smooth, 808 beats to rap over. They don’t do much with them, but at least he did his part.
Is It Love – The final song of the evening finds each of the ladies grappling and questioning the feelings they have for the men in their lives; and ironically, with all their questioning, they still managed to forget to put a question mark at the end of the song title. Dre and company, hook up a smooth groove to back the ladies (it kind of reminds me of his work on his former love interest and baby mama, Michel’le’s “Nicety” record), and this ends up being one of the strongest songs on the album.
Wisely, J.J. Fad starts the album out with the title track, which is really the sole reason the album even exists. Unfortunately, after that the rest of the first half of Supersonic is filled with forgettable trash. The “Hip-Hop Side” fairs slightly better, as a few of Dre’s instrumentals sound pretty decent. But ultimately, it’s J.J. Fad’s limited skills (or lack of) that leaves Supersonic sounding not that super, sonically.
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This review almost makes me want to listen to a few songs not named “Supersonic.” Sometimes your comments about the bad songs make me want to go listen to them, and to that, I say well done!