By Rebecca Bulnes
By Laurie Charles
By Chuck Strouse
By Lee Zimmerman
By Laurie Charles
By Falyn Freyman
By Hans Morgenstern
What is it with groups/MCs from hip-hop's late-Eighties/early-Nineties era trying to resurrect their careers of late? Both Boot Camp Clik and Wu-Tang members are churning out new material, CL Smooth has just dropped a solo album, and even EPMD and A Tribe Called Quest are again doing shows, the latter making a stop at Revolution in Fort Lauderdale a few days ago. Be it negative performances in their 401K funds or an open void in the rap game, the names that the grown hip-hop audience grew up on are back on the block for the 06.
Enter Mr. Long. Formerly half of the duo known as Black Sheep, the Brooklyn-born South Florida resident is back with his first offering in more than a decade, titled The Class of '89. Long's resurgence is representative of reason number two: an opening, or rather a gaping hole, in the industry today. William McLean, the producer/MC/DJ who created classic hits and remixes such as "Flavor of the Month" and "The Choice Is Yours," is now 35 years old and speaking to an audience different from the one when he exited the scene in the early Nineties.
"Whoever is feelin' real hip-hop and remembers when it was about skills and talent, that's who I'm trying to capture," says Long. "I have no expectations on what the album will do," he admits. "I'm just throwing it out there to see who's feelin' it. I'm not trying to compete with what's going on now because there's no competition; it's so beneath me. It's like, okay, you have more money than me that's it."
On The Class of '89, Long handles all production and rhyming duties, delivering sped-up soul samples and dusty loops with hard-hitting drum-break interludes suggesting an updated Native Tongues-era formula, alongside real talk about the rap game, knockin' boots with wifey, and summertime profiling. Long's return after a ten-year layoff has shown growth in his subject matter and beat-making skills, but don't get it twisted. As he states on "Make It Take It": "If being nice was a crime, I'd confess to it."
Born in Brooklyn in 1971 and then moving at a young age to Sanford, North Carolina, Long formed an alliance with a group of friends, all with their own Big Apple roots. Long began to DJ at parties around the way, and through a chance run-in with legendary Kool DJ Red Alert, exchanged numbers with him. When visiting New York during the summers, Long contacted Red Alert, and Red basically put him on to the whole hip-hop community.
After graduating from high school in 1989, Long moved back to New York, linked up with old crew member Dres from Carolina to form Black Sheep, and used connections with his Native Tongues family to make the group official. "We spent some money doing a demo, and then Red Alert made some phone calls. The same demo we had without Red Alert would have been thrown in the trash," confesses Long. Two albums (including the classic Wolf in Sheep's Clothing), world tours, and a few singles later, the duo parted ways after their record label, Mercury, folded. Since that time, Long has stayed under the radar, still making beats for the love and relocating his family to Fort Lauderdale around 2000.
In his opinion, today "musically everything has become the same. When we were coming up, everybody had their own identity, like you could always tell when you were in Cali. Now you could be in Montana and see a cat that looks like he's from everywhere else. I feel hip-hop was a lot better when people had their own style, but things have changed because of the monopoly on who is controlling the music and them dictating what is the new hot shit."
After a recent attempt at a reunion, Long has severed ties with Black Sheep once again.