A film about Northwest hip-hop from

It's A Ghetto Thang

Herb Superb recorded “It’s A Ghetto Thang” in Gig Harbor at Sax Recording Company. On the beats, he worked with Criminal Nation’s beat-maker DJ-E, who brings along his signature sample sources like Zapp and Ohio Players. “Ghetto Thang” opens with a piece of Parliament’s “Flash Light.” It’s actually the same opening as we heard on the NastyMix record “Here’s A Party Jam” by High Performance. Here, the beats and raps walk a fine line between gangster jams and dance music.

Herb’s verses on “Ghetto Thang” play like an autobiography. He explains how he’s from California–South Central L.A.–and how it was “so rough, so tough, I had to get out of there.” He explains why he’s moved to Tacoma, how there were just “too many motherfuckers talking.” There are a lot of expletives in this song. Fuck, Bitch. Shit. He’s got sick burns, saying things like, “compared to a pocket of hundreds, you’re one penny.” He says “motherfuckers” at least a dozen times, all but guaranteeing the song would never be played on the radio. On the record label, the song is defiantly described as “Real Game, Gangster Sh_t.”

This record’s biggest surprises arrive on side B. Before we get there, let me do a quick history lesson: At the start of the ’90s, European rave culture was huge. In the charts, it started regularly colliding with rap, leading to a handful of massive International crossover hits. These included “Pump Up The Jam” by Belgium’s Technotronic, Sweden’s Neneh Cherry with “Buffalo Stance,” and “Strike It Up” from Italian music group Black Box.

So after the seriousness of “Ghetto Thang,” it’s quite a surprise to flip over this vinyl and spin the two b-side cuts. Here you have two radio-friendly, dancefloor-pounding, expletive-free anthems. “Get On Up And Dance” and “Y.U.B. Trippen?” gleam and glitter with European house beats and slamming synth stabs. They’re great songs that would readily fit well alongside the international hits described above. Vocal hooks are courtesy of Angela Feel Good, a name that’s no doubt a play on one song’s sampling of Lyn Collins’s “Mama Feelgood” from 1973.

This EP is an unexpected delight, a deep-cut rarity worth seeking out. It heralded new sounds and songs unlike what anyone else was creating in the Northwest at the time. Herb Superb was an early pioneer of Northwest house-rap dance music. This EP shows off two versions of his abilities, from real “Gangster Sh_t” raps to those rave culture clockwork beats. At some point after recording this record, Herb Superb moved East, settling in Virginia, where he still sometimes raps and makes music.

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