This column looks back at the vast pop culture wasteland we as a society leave in our wake. It spotlights the odd, weird, forgotten and yet totally awesome games, movies, comics and television shows that we here at Strange Kid’s Club believe deserve to find a new audience or get re-discovered by their original one. Join me for this look back at some forgotten favorites.
The Fat Boys were a sensation in the 80s. The group was comprised of three members; Prince Markie Dee, Kool-Rock-Ski and Human Beat Box (Buff Love). They came in during the early part of the 80s when rap was just gaining a foothold in mainstream pop culture. I remember first seeing them during Nickelodeon’s music video show, Nick Rocks: Video to Go (another Forgotten Favorite). They were plucked from obscurity by Russell Simmons and Def Jam records (the story of which is told in the movie Krush Groove). The Fat Boys’ trademark style included dope beats and fun, zany lyrics. Another thing that set them apart from other rap acts, they made heavy use of their “Human Beat Box”, DJ Buff Love, which no other group at the time used.
Their first single, the self-titled Fat Boys was a huge hit with the hip hop crowd. The dope beat and self-effacing lyrics make it a very fun song to listen to. As for the album, the group tried hard not to rap about the same things that everyone else rapped about. Sure, there were plenty of songs about how great MCs they were, but they also had songs talking about over-eating, movies, comic book characters and girls. This is why they were one of my favorite groups, they would reference pop culture from within their songs. And not only reference it, they would rap alongside it. But I’ll talk about that in a minute. Let’s look at some of the more fun pop culture references within the Fat Boys discography.
Here are their first two albums released in 1984 and 1985, respectively. Their first album, The Fat Boys (on the left), had a song called The Place to Be which, in part, talked about Spider-Man. Then, on their second album, The Fat Boys are Back (to the right), they had a song called Yes, Yes, Y’all which talked about Bruce Banner changing into the Hulk. Since I was a huge comic book fan at the time, these songs just made me love them more. They also had a song on each album called Human Beat Box Part I and Part II in which the Human Beat Box was the only instrumentation they used. No drum machine, no synthesizers. Just Markie Dee and Kool Rock rapping over “Buffy’s” mouth generated beats. No one in hip hop was doing that either.
Also in 1985, but not included officially on one of their albums, the Fat Boys released a single with William “The Refrigerator” Perry of the Chicago Bears. It was called Chillin’ with the Refrigerator. The single was released during the Bears’ Super Bowl run and during the time the Bears released the equally as awesome Super Bowl Shuffle. I loved the ’85 Bears, The Super Bowl Shuffle and the pageantry of Super Bowl XX. So, of course, I loved this song.
This single gave mainstream America a clear idea of what this group was about; having fun with hip hop. The group’s off the wall songs and demeanor earned them the moniker The Clown Princes of Rap. A designation that is another allusion to comic books, this time to The Joker, the Clown Prince of Crime.
Not many hits came off the group’s third album, Big & Beautiful, in 1986. But, if it’s not their most mainstream album, it’s probably their most fun and experimental. They really tried a lot of new things on this record. They would begin their trend of remaking existing popular songs (a la later hits Wipe Out, The Twist and Louie Louie) with James Brown’s Sex Machine. There is also a song called Double-O Fat Boys in which the group envisions themselves top CIA agents in the vein of James Bond. They would continue the beat box trend with Human Beat Box Part III, probably the best one in the series. But the crown jewel of this album is a song called Rap Symphony (in C-Minor) which, on paper, shouldn’t work at all. Instead of a music machine, an orchestra provides the background music. No one was doing stuff like this at this time. I mean, Metallica wouldn’t do it for another THIRTEEN YEARS.
Their 1987 album, Crushin’, is what shot the Fat Boys to the forefront of rap. The release of the single Wipe Out, a collaboration with The Beach Boys, became an instant hit and cemented The Fat Boys’ place in hip hop history. It shot them to the top of every chart and made the group a household name. It would also lead to them starring in their second movie, Disorderlies.
With their 1988 album, Coming Back Hard Again, the Boys took the success of Wipe Out and used the same formula to record The Twist with the song’s original creator, Chubby Checker. It too became a gigantic hit. Also on this album was a song the Fat Boys did called Are You Ready for Freddy? It featured Robert Englund actually rapping in character as Freddy Krueger. They even made a video, Thriller-style, featuring Englund as Freddy. Yes, the Fat Boys did a song WITH Freddy Krueger. It was to promote the release of Nightmare on Elm Street 4: Dream Master. Another song on the above album was a rap version of Louie, Louie that was released as a single and had its own video. It was actually a pretty good and fun song and became a modest hit.
Also in 1988, The Fat Boys would record the theme song to a Police Academy cartoon series. However the show would only last a few seasons.
Unfortunately, the group would reach the apex of its popularity by the 1990s. As a group, they had one more album, On and On, in 1989 and then Prince Markie Dee would leave the group for a solo career and to become a fairly well known producer and Miami DJ. The remaining two group members would release another album as a duo in 1991 then call it quits. Sadly, Buff Love, the Human Beat Box, would pass away in 1995 at the age of 28.
Recently, the surviving members, Kool-Rock-Ski and Prince Markie Dee, have reunited and started performing together in small venues across the country. They teamed up with Doug E Fresh to replace the departed Human Beat Box. Reportedly they are set to release a new album and single sometime soon. I don’t know if any of the new stuff can match the old stuff, but the simple fact that The Fat Boys had so much fun and received so much success rapping about comic books, movies and cartoons fills my heart with joy.
If you can tell me that a group that rapped with William “The Refrigerator” Perry, The Beach Boys and Freddy f**king Krueger wasn’t awesome, I would have to disagree and say you are wrong, sir. These boys were awesome. And I still listen to their albums on tape to this day.