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Tone Loc: Loc-ed After Dark (1989)

March 22, 2013

tone loc

Roll: 8-9-3
Album: Tone Lōc, Lōc-ed After Dark

Lōc-ed After Dark came out in January of 1989 but in my mind, it was always associated with a pair of pop-hop albums released in 1990: Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em and To The Extreme. This is primarily due to the massive hit single “Wild Thing” being about as annoying and overplayed as the annoying and overplayed hit single “Ice Ice Baby“.

Hindlistening being 20/20, I can accept that the classic rock-riff sampling “Wild Thing” was a hit simply because (unlike the classic rock-riff sampling “Ice Ice Baby”) it was actually reasonably good. Not Run-DMC good, but not MC Hammer or Vanilla Ice bad either.

Yet I still can’t hear “Wild Thing” without being instantly transported back to the halls of my high school where, for a brief time, the lines were drawn between rockers and rappers. Now, when I say “rappers”, I mean semi-rural middle-class white boys dressing like Mike D and Ad-Rock. My school was small (500 students), almost entirely white, and the kids who were not white also were not of African heritage (there’d previously been one or two, but they’d already graduated). So exactly why these guys would dress like that was confusing us head-banging good ol’ boy types.

On my way to practice Judas Priest covers with my first real band (Shadow), I’d say, “Naw, I don’t like rap. Dude, drum machines are, like, faggot music,” completely oblivious to the irony. Apparently, despite seeing Police Academy a dozen times, I wasn’t familiar with the concept of a “leather daddy.” And apparently the concept of drag queens never entered my mind as I listened to Poison and Hanoi Rocks. I’d like to think the fact Rob Halford‘s sexuality wasn’t even a blip on my radar meant I was somehow super queer-positive in spite of my apparent drum-machine inspired homophobia. But, no, I was just as confused and idiotic a teenage boy as you’re likely to find in a small town.

By the time I was aware of Tone Lōc, I considered “rap” just a fad that came and went in middle school with The Fat Boys. I hadn’t yet discovered (and been terrified to my white, middle-class core by) Public Enemy and N.W.A. and I didn’t have a clue hip-hop was steeped in much more real-world macho-violence than the fantasy-laden death metal I was listening to. Maybe not every gangsta-rapper went on drive-by’s with an Uzi, but I suspect the percentage was almost 100% higher than black metal dudes actually sacrificing and cannibalizing virgins (excluding, perhaps, the Norwegians, of course).

The above is all to simply illustrate my excuse for never having given this classic, under-appreciated west-coast rap album a listen until this year. It’s perhaps one of the last proper old-school party rap albums before the Vanillas and Hammers of the MTV world made “party rap” a dirty word. Once C + C Music Factory hit the scene, it was game over for this kind of record. Any decent MC who previously might’ve made one, started making  different kinds of records—either hardcore gangsta or experimental new-school.

Though Tone Lōc didn’t spin gritty street tales like Ice-T or The D.O.C., he didn’t trade in parent-friendly fluff like The Fresh Prince either. Expressed with a surprising frankness (surprising if you were expecting The Fresh Prince, that is), the themes on Lōc-ed After Dark are the classic hip-hop mainstays: sex, drugs, and funk’n’soul. An emphasis on funk and soul in the samples and crunchier than expected production especially.

And even if  I expected sex-obsessed numbers like “Funky Cold Medina“, I sure didn’t see the graphic ode to marijuana “Cheeba Cheeba” coming. Not half as veiled as Sabbath‘s “Sweet Leaf“, that track would have blown my teenage headbanger’s brain.

Ultimately, the album can’t help but sort of falls through the cracks of hip-hop history. Branded as a one-hit-wonder, it’s easy to write off Lōc-ed After Dark as a nostalgic novelty. But it’s deserving of more praise and attention than that though perhaps it’s no more than a distant 5th to the best titles by Run-DMC or LL Cool J. But it should still be spoken of in the same breath and not lumped with MC Hammer or Vanilla Ice.

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2 comments

  1. didn’t this dude become a cartoon voice for disneycom


  2. […] white guys making rap music must’ve been a pretty hard gig in 1991. As I mentioned in my Tone Lōc review, you wouldn’t want your listeners to pick up any hint of Vanilla Ice. But it would almost be […]



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