Years after it was originally recorded, and now that all the hip-hop on the world has been processed and is more about the material than the streets and society where it came from, a vital piece of the artform’s primary stages has finally bubbled to the surface. Death Comet Crew’s This is Riphop, recorded in 1984, is hip-hop before the bling, before the template and before the rest of the bullshit. It was an undiscovered country, and the music, filtering down from the Bronx to the Lower East Side, was fair game for anybody.
Death Comet Crew is a logical connection between the Sugarhill Gang and Grandmaster Flash and New York City genre-hoppers of the day like Liquid Liquid and ESG. Not only does This is Riphop reflect the burgeoning hip-hop scene, it reflects the claustrophobia of a city that was dealing with a tanked economy and high crime rates. This can be heard in standout tracks like “America” and “At the Marble Bar,” which would sound no different on the dance floor today. If these confections were not thrown together twenty years ago, we may never have seen the genius of L’Trimm, Del or Company Flow.
It’s fitting that This Is Riphop is making a go-around in 2004, with a political landscape that’s similar to the mid-1980s and an underground hip-hop scene that’s more interesting than it has been in years. Only four of the album’s fourteen tracks — “At the Marble Bar,” “Scratching Galaxies,” “Exterior Street” and “Funky Dream One” — were ever officially released, and that was in the U.K. Despite the dust that has collected on Death Comet Crew, this collection sounds fresher than most commercial releases this year.