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It's Just Funky

“It’s Just Funky” is another groovy b-boy toe-tapper from Tacoma’s High Performance. The music is assembled from looped funk guitars, soul singers, and cowbell samples, each more clearly evidenced in the instrumental version of the song, also found here on this vinyl DJ release, along with a radio edit and a club remix.

The B-side is a surprise. It opens with “Action’s Intro,” where a new emcee highlights how he was left off the album and so then drops profanity galore, as if to deface the group’s clean, radio-friendly reputation… As though High Performance were now daring to be as explicit as possible.

The EP’s closing track, “Another Day In The Neighborhood,” has a genuinely scary construction: the chorus beats are made from gunshots, looped over and over again, and directed at the listener. By contrast, the verses are made from lemonade-sippin’ relaxed Motown samples. This combo sets up an unsettling verse-to-chorus pivot that each time feels like it arrives too soon.

The song is almost seven minutes long, and the whole time you’re riveted… Nervously never quite able to settle into those verses about sweet sunny days because at any moment they might be cut short in a hail of gunfire whenever the chorus arrives. And sometimes they make you wait. It’s honestly quite a remarkable song, probably the best in their whole catalog. It also demonstrates a group looking in a whole new direction away from their origins in the b-boy scene.

It’s Just Funky was the group’s last record with NastyMix. They left the label shortly after and all but disappeared. They resurfaced once more on vinyl in 1993 on the split single, “Talkin Over Shit” with The 23rd Street Mafia released on Tacoma label Just Cash Records.

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Here’s A Party Jam

Tacoma rap group High Performance followed their first single “Do You Really Wanna Party?” with the easy-to-confuse, similarly titled, “Here’s A Party Jam.”

This second “Party” song is another dance track for B-Boys, relying on a sample from Parliament’s “Flash Light” to do some heavy lifting. Nonetheless, it’s a real toe-tapper, and there are three versions on this vinyl: A Club Mix, A Remix Edit, and an instrumental “Dub” version.

Things get interesting with the B-Side cut, “The Hill,” which is most definitely not for the club.

This song has more serious, couch-lock vibes, warning youth of the dark pull of the streets in Tacoma’s Hilltop area, of drugs and criminality. High Performance have gone gangster, sampling Public Enemy and Mix-A-Lot’s “My Hooptie,” in telling this gritty tale of “rollin’ in Tacoma.”

This record’s artwork reflects these two identities: On the cover, the foursome are ready to dance-battle in matching uniforms. On the back, white police are in an armed standoff with an unarmed Black man. This haunting back cover art would again be used on the front of their debut full-length, All Things Considered which also dropped in 1990.

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Do You Really Wanna Party?

One of NastyMix Records’s first rap signees not named Mix-A-Lot was a Tacoma breakdancing foursome called High Performance. The group had famously won a breaking battle at the Tacoma Dome against the #1 ranked New York City Breakers.

Their first single, from 1989, is an irresistible dance track, a mash-up of three mega-hits from Michael Jackson, Prince, and KC & The Sunshine Band. The latter’s 1979 disco-funk hit, “Do You Wanna Go Party,” is heavily leaned on here, providing the key hook. There are a couple of verses, but they’re short. This record is for B-Boys.

“Do You Really Wanna Party?” spent seven weeks on the national Billboard rap chart, peaking at #16.

This 12” vinyl opens with a seven-minute “Dance Mix” of the group’s hit, remixed by famous Manhattan DJ Gail “Sky” King. Her name is credited in large type on the cover, so her involvement was clearly a big deal for the group. (Fun fact: Not long after working with High Performance, she was hired to be a composer and writer for Sesame Street from seasons 24 to 30–the years 1992 to 1998–where she created dozens of memorable songs for the show.)

This banger is followed by five other not especially different versions of the same song. This is a record you throw on and let it play. Vinyl DJs should keep a copy of this wax in their back pocket. It’s one of those great transition records guaranteed to keep the party hopping while you plot your next move or hop away for a quick smoke break.

One thing that always bugs me about this record, though, is a completely unnecessary insult towards women in the first verse: “Grab a girl, and hope the girl ain’t chunky.” STFU, dude. Otherwise, this song is a solid non-stop party from start to finish—Prince AND Michael Jackson, mixed together?!—completely worth spinning six times over in a row.

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All Things Considered

It’s too bad the nine-song debut full-length from Tacoma group High Performance isn’t on Spotify… or online anywhere. It’s one of Tacoma’s very first rap albums. And in 1990, NastyMix put a lot of marketing and airplay muscle into trying to make High Performance into superstars. All Things Considered is a solid effort that’s worth hearing.

Pictured here is the German edition. Both this record—and Mix’s Seminar—were released in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland by European record label BCM. Over five short years, NastyMix had grown from local D.I.Y. label to global powerhouse. All around the world, labels wanted to tap into that new Northwest hip-hop sound.

There’s a copy of this vinyl in KEXP’s vaults that’s covered with notes from DJs from over the years. One note says, “The production is hot, the lyrics are sharp, and the grooves are funky. It’s hard to choose a favorite cut here, they’re all solid. No laughable ballads, no silly novelty songs.” Another is more succinct: “T-town. (Rhymes with Sea-town: don’t let your slang down.)”

Either way, KEXP’s DJs praised how every song on this album is a radio-friendly “clean” version at a time when the ruling style of gangster rap was about being as profane as possible. (Though let’s also note that “Funk” does some heavy lifting here as an obvious lyrical placeholder.)

Both of the group’s solid “Party” singles are included on the album–“Do You Really Wanna Party?” and “Here’s A Party Jam”–as are a mix of other B-Boy bangers and more serious songs from the Hilltop streets. Either way, nine solid tunes from start to finish.

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