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That's The Way Girls Are

In the early 1980s, Portland’s VitaMix (Chris Blanchard) racked up praise as a quick-cutting turntable master. On one of his first cassettes, The Master Mix, he chopped up Whiz Kid’s hit “Play That Beat Mr. D.J.” in every possible direction, establishing a rivalry between himself and the Tacoma turntable king. Not long after, in May 1985, The Rocket music rag published their infamous “The Hip-Hop Debate” piece which pitted VitaMix’s Portland turntables against Six Mix-A-Lot’s Seattle computer music. In the article, VitaMix writes off Mix-A-Lot’s abilities, suggesting “anyone can spend $4,000 on synthesizers and be the best DJ in town. But where’s the talent?” He adds, “Everyone else is trying to do it now, but I was first.”

Whether or not that’s true, he was definitely around at the beginning. From 1982, VitaMix hosted a radio show on KBOO-FM in Portland. He’d sometimes play beats and encourage fans to call in and rap overtop whatever he was playing. He’d broadcast the callers’ raps on the radio. His early cassette 1984 (aka VitaMix ’84) combines his scratches and beats with raps from him and some of the callers from his show. He followed this tape in 1985 with a buzzy cassette called Cut Classics.

That’s The Way Girls Are was his four-song vinyl debut from 1986. It was the first rap release from Northwest label Cold Rock when they were still called “Cold Rock Stuff Recordings.” The label was backed by Brett Carlson (who helped VitaMix with the recording) and support from DJ Nasty Nes. Cold Rock would later also co-release several Criminal Nation projects in partnership with NastyMix.

VitaMix’s songs are mostly autobiographical capers where we learn his efforts to find and impress women. It’s a distinctly male perspective common in rap music. He describes early heartbreaks in his efforts to find a girlfriend and describing all the times he’s been rejected. This is young person’s music: It’s lighthearted and sweet, in the vein of DJ Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince.

In their review, The Rocket says the vinyl combines a “hard East coast beat with a rap that was surprisingly convincing,” while explaining that “VitaMix has at times faced a credibility problem in the local rap community as a white man attempting to be accepted in what was, until recently, an exclusively Black musical landscape.”

The second song, “Getting Live” shows off VitaMix’s prowess at rapping, turntables and beatboxing at the same time. It’s the last song, “13,000 Taxi Cabs in NYC” that’s most curious. It features the exact same beat as “That’s The Way,” acting as a rap-free instrumental version for DJs and freestyles. VitaMix also cuts in various radio clips about taxicabs, police, and New York throughout.

This record proved to be a big enough success locally that it was also pressed in much larger numbers by New York hip-hop label Profile, who were perhaps won over by the New York song. Most of the copies of this record that you might find anywhere will be the Profile edition, which omits the longer “That’s The Way Girls Are” extended remix found on the original.

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A film about Northwest hip-hop from

I'm A Trip

Sir Mix-A-Lot’s first commercial single, “Square Dance Rap,” was a bonafide international hit. When he returned to Seattle he found the local scene had become filled with haters, everyone accusing him of “trippin’.”

His second EP is a battle rap response to “you jealous boneheads: you know who you are” from “the man you love to hate.” On it, he proudly declares that “my game is never lame,” while adding “To rock the West Coast you must know more than turntables, yeah I said it, and I’m right… I’m the only DJ with computers in Seattle.”

Indeed, the superiority of his computer music is a theme that carries throughout most of the EP’s five tunes. Mix itemizes his gear, explains how to use bass oscillators to improve your drum sounds, dismisses anyone using the Roland 808 or Technics SL-1200 all the while praising his own choice of the Oberheim DMX drum machine. This EP is musically awesome but also nerdy AF. The last song begins, “I demolish DJs with computer technology.”

A skit at the end of side A is the first recorded appearance of the word “Swass,” as Mix and Maharaji discuss their fashion sense: “I’m Swass. That means I look good, and I know I look good.”

One crazy little story to add: Vanilla Ice, in his 1991 autobiography, included several pages of verses that he wrote when he was young… Except these were actually the plagiarized lyrics of “I’m A Trip.” Mix threatened a lawsuit, leading to a tabloid-fodder beef between the two in the early ’90s.

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Square Dance Rap

It was the mid-’80s, and hip-hop was still trying to figure out what it was. “Square Dance Rap” is a strange entry into the canon. It has sped-up chipmunk vocals. At the time, super-fast rapping was a thing, and Mix achieved this by slowing down the song, spitting his verses, and then speeding the song back up. He then performs as a Southern hillbilly character, instructing us how to square dance. But also, the beats are monstrous, the bassline is groovy as hell and you’ll find yourself singing along while contemplating the racist history of the United States. It’s one of those rare songs that becomes all the more perplexing the more times you listen to it.

It was a surprise hit song, a B-side cut on Mix-A-Lot’s debut four-song EP. It’s definitely a memorable listen. While “Square Dance Rap” did well locally in Seattle, it was a runaway hit in England. British record label Streetwave issued this eye-catching UK single in 1986. Mix-A-Lot was invited to play at the UK Fresh ’86 festival held at Wembley Stadium in London. He performed in front of 80,000 people, alongside his peers Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, Dr. Dre & World Class Wreckin’ Cru, and numerous other golden age greats.

You can find the whole two-day festival on MixCloud, and it’s well worth a listen, especially for the moment when Mix-A-Lot convinces the crowd he can now rap very fast without needing to speed up the record.

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Party Invader

West Seattle’s Big Boss Cross released his rap single, “Party Invader,” in 1986. The song is six-and-a-half minutes of electro techno-funk beats fronted by an ever-more creative series of rap boasts.

In the early ‘80s, Chris “Big Boss” Cross was in a group with Gary Jam, called Jam Delight. Later, he released a cassette called “Pimpin’ Wit Me,” which created enough buzz to convince California’s Macola Records to distribute “Party Invader” all across the country.

In the song, we learn that Big Boss Cross is a devastating force. He’s got “computers in the background.” He’s invincible. He’s “the rap messiah of the mixing board.” He’s “hotter than fire.” “A solid gold player in Rappinhood.” His “rhymes are never off tempo.” Some of these bars are truly entertaining. The B-side of this record features just the instrumental beats should you wish a break from the boasts.

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