A film about Northwest hip-hop from 1981
I'm Little Ray Rapper
Popular music was changing fast at the tail end of the 1970s. Disco had flooded the market and had certainly jumped the shark, as evidenced by the Saturday Night Fever album sweeping the Grammys in February of ’79, and the Comiskey Park “Disco Demolition Night” riot in June of that same year.
In Seattle, a music producer named David Perry was having success as a studio technician and also as a multi-talented musician. He worked on several popular records for an uptempo disco dance group called Salazar on Seattle’s First American Records. But when he heard the new rap sounds of Sugarhill Gang, Kurtis Blow, and Blondie, he knew he had to do something with this new art form.
Mr. Perry gathered live musicians to play the backup elements, and he recorded his first rap track in 1980, titled “Get That Future Punk.” The lyrics tell of an extremely short ‘everyman’ character named Ray who tells humorous stories of his adventures trying to meet women. Perry recorded the vocals slower than normal, and then sped up the tape, creating a “chipmunk” effect to his voice. This studio wizardry adds humor to the punchlines and creates a cartoon-like effect. The second track Perry recorded was an even funnier track titled “I’m Little Ray Rapper.” This song had more punchlines than “Get That Future Punk” including lines like, “You make me feel ten feet tall and that’s triple what I normally am.”
Perry recorded a total of eight songs using this ‘Little Ray Rapper’ concept. First American Records in Seattle liked the project and in 1981 it released “I’m Little Ray Rapper” as the A-side of a vinyl single with “Get That Future Punk” as the B-side. It sold well and was picked up for an immediate 1981 reprint by a French label named Barclay, which released the song in France on 7″ (pictured here) and 12″ single formats. Perry was thrilled and planned to release the full Little Ray Rapper album sometime in 1982. But the owner of First American Records shut down his business suddenly, and so the album was shelved and never came out.
Fast forward to 2014 when six of these songs were released digitally by a company called Soundworks USA. My personal favorite from the expanded set is “Going To Mars” which predicts the spacey sound of Newcleus years before their first album. “I’m Little Ray Rapper” isn’t the first rap ever from Seattle, but it is definitely the first rap to be released on a record. (Written by Novocaine132.)