A film about Northwest hip-hop from

Let's Get It On!

This final single from Tacoma/NYC beat-maker Whiz Kid–and his second with NastyMix–is a breezy, disco-infused tune, occasionally layered with YSL’s old-school, shuffle-rap verses about the most beautiful woman, and how the two of them really should “get it on.” The vinyl single also includes a remix, clean radio version, and an instrumental.

Whiz Kid joined the NastyMix exodus at the end of 1990–alongside High Performance and Sir Mix-A-Lot–leaving a large and ever-growing hip-hop hole at the record label, and the scene at large. NastyMix was left pinning their hopes for 1991 on the remaining duo of Kid Sensation and Criminal Nation.

Sadly, Whiz Kid, aka Harold McGuire, released no further music. Only a few short years after releasing this single, he died from pneumonia in NYC at the young age of 34.

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He's Got The Beat

“Whiz Kid will always be the Godfather of Northwest hip-hop,” wrote Glen Boyd in The Rocket magazine in 1987. With such high praise, it’s surprising how little anyone seems to know about the music of Harold McGuire and his contributions to the earliest days of Tacoma and Seattle hip-hop.

Whiz Kid was a native New Yorker. In 1981, his notorious quick cutting and scratching won him the very first DJ “Battle For World Supremacy,” organized by Afrika Bambaataa. The attention landed him a European tour with Phase II, a record deal with Tommy Boy, and a spot in the orbit of Soulsonic Force. His first solo record, 1983’s Play That Beat Mr. DJ, featured MC G.L.O.B.E. His swift cutting and scratching debut sold more than 250,000 copies, making it an early massive rap hit.

While Play That Beat was racing up the charts, Whiz Kid’s military wife Betty was posted to Fort Lewis, and the McGuire family relocated to Tacoma.

In 1983, Whiz Kid was a big-deal hip-hop star living in our midst. He quickly became active in our flourishing early NW scene, organizing Tacoma’s first Battle of The DJs (at Fort Lewis) with locals Galaxy, G-Man, Roots I, and Roots II. He headlined The Rocket’s 50th Issue Bash in November ’83 and performed at numerous other events throughout the region.

Whiz Kid’s second Tommy Boy release was 1985’s He’s Got The Beat. On the cover, it features his son wearing a Seahawks tracksuit, no doubt a nod to his time in the Northwest. The song is an ode to breakdancing and DJ culture, praising hi-top sneakers and b-boys from the street. Vocals from singer Sabrina are set against a beatbox backdrop with plenty of scratching and mixing trickery. There’s both a vocal and instrumental version. It debuted on the front cover of Billboard, describing Whiz as a “breakmaster and DJ supreme.” Spin magazine similarly praised the song’s “sinister cutting.”

By 1987, Whiz Kid was back in the Bronx, battling DJ Jazzy Jeff. Not long after, Seattle rap label NastyMix signed Whiz Kid to a two-record deal, releasing his follow-up singles Cut It Up Whiz (1989) and Let’s Get It On! (1990).

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Cut It Up Whiz

During this early rap era, a few armed forces assignments had a notable impact on Northwest hip-hop. (This was how Chilly Uptown arrived on the scene from Chicago.) Turntable scratcher and producer Whiz Kid similarly found himself living in ‘80s Tacoma after his military wife was posted to McChord AFB.

When he arrived here in the PNW, Harold “Whiz Kid” McQuire was already a pretty big deal: He’d famously beaten DJ Jazzy Jeff in a turntable battle in 1982 and toured the world with Zulu Nation. Shortly after his arrival in Tacoma, he leveraged his hometown NYC connections to land a hit single—“Play That Beat Mr. DJ”—on Tommy Boy Records. His swift cutting and scratching debut sold more than 250,000 copies, and so he became an adopted hometown hero.

NastyMix then added Whiz Kid to their roster for his second single, “Cut It Up Whiz,” featured here. No doubt the signing of this Bronx-born DJ added additional rap legitimacy to the young label’s expanding lineup.

On this single, the scratch deejay’s skills on the decks are top-notch: There’s no Serato here to lean on. The beat he lays down is curious, as though there’s an extra bar added here and there, the loop never quite resolving but always keeping your attention. I can’t find anything about featured rapper YSL, but at one point his lyrics imply he’s perhaps from Atlanta.

The B-side cut “Kick The Bass” takes a little time to get grooving but catches an undeliverable wave the longer it runs. This ain’t headphones music. Spin this superb single on some loud speakers the way it was designed to be heard.

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