A film about Northwest hip-hop from 1993
'90s Unreleased, Demos & Rare Tracks
Casual fans of Tribal Productions know about the collective’s famous 1996 rap compilation called Do The Math which now sells for hundreds of dollars on Discogs. More serious followers not only have Do The Math but also trade copies of Untranslated Prescriptions, the crew’s rare earlier compilation from 1995. But then we come to the third category of Tribal fan, the completist. Fellow Town Love writer Jack Devo fits into this third category, and he has written an excellent piece here about the obscure Tribal Productions release titled Freestyle Demo Tape which was uploaded to Bandcamp in 2013. Back 2 Da Source Records in Belgium has been releasing an incredible series of Tribal reissues on vinyl, including Narcotik’s classic album Intro To Da Central in 2018, and then Untranslated and Math in 2019. In 2021, Back 2 Da Source gave us another dose of that sweet Tribal goodness, this gatefold collection of a dozen early tracks called 90’s Unreleased, Demos & Rare Tracks by foundational Tribal group Ghetto Chilldren.
Ghetto Chilldren began as four members, Culture, Capabilities, B-Self, and Vitamin D. The four young musicians came together at a time when hip-hop was rediscovering its identity after several years of domination by gangster rap. Groups like De La Soul and Freestyle Fellowship were showing a blueprint for rap that dealt with complicated emotions caused by issues of identity, progress, and everyday life. Ghetto Chilldren rapped about their academic successes and failures, their attempts at meeting women, and fears about neighborhood violence. These topics were relatable to listeners, and the tracks were entertaining and educational. Ghetto Chilldren caught a huge buzz in Seattle, which led to attention from major labels. They got a demo deal from Geffen, but creative differences crashed that project and the group returned to Seattle.
90’s Unreleased, Demos & Rare Tracks proves the unparalleled skill of GC despite the extremely lo-fi sound. The songs were recorded at The Pharmacy studio, which at that time was Vitamin D’s basement bedroom. Vocals were recorded using a single Shure mic in the middle of the studio, with all the resulting hiss and background noise. If you listen closely you can catch snippets of voices or laughter from other people in the room. Even with the lo-fi setup, the tracks are masterpieces. The beat for “On The 1’s and 2’s” has a carefree, moon-gravity astronaut bounce, and don’t miss B-Self’s hilarious verse about avoiding gangbangers. “Detour To The Left” disarms with its clever inventive hook that bursts open like a flower in spring. But “Free Enterprise” featuring Narcotik is the star of the show. Found on a never-released Tribal project called Therapeutics, this track sounds sparkling and streamlined next to the earlier amateur material on this release. “Free Enterprise” is the dope theme song of Y2K and it exemplifies the unlimited potential of rap to create its own billion-dollar industry.