BEAT BOP, Rammellzee and K-Rob, originally released in 1983 by record label Tartown, cover artwork & produce by Jean-Michel Basquiad

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“Beat Bop” is a hip hop single by American rappers Rammellzee and K-Rob, originally released in 1983 by record label Tartown. Initially distributed merely as a test pressing, it is notable for being the theme of hip hop culture documentary film Style Wars and having a cover designed by famed New York graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. The result of a disagreement between Rammellzee and Basquiat, the track has been cited as having an influence on artists such as Beastie Boys and many modern experimental hip hop artists due to its chaotic, abstract sound, and, due to the rarity of its original pressing, has been called the Holy Grail of rap records”Beat Bop” is a hip hop single by American rappers Rammellzee and K-Rob, originally released in 1983 by record label Tartown. Initially distributed merely as a test pressing, it is notable for being the theme of hip hop culture documentary film Style Wars and having a cover designed by famed New York graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. The result of a disagreement between Rammellzee and Basquiat, the track has been cited as having an influence on artists such as Beastie Boys and many modern experimental hip hop artists due to its chaotic, abstract sound, and, due to the rarity of its original pressing, has been called the Holy Grail of rap records.

Rammellzee 1988

The track was initially intended as a battle rap between Rammellzee and Basquiat, following heated arguments between the two. Rammellzee, an influential graffiti artist himself, accused Basquiat of being a fraud. In turn, Basquiat claimed he could out-rap, out-dance, and out-paint anybody. The duo eventually settled on “Beat Bop” acting as an outlet for this tension. In 1983, with strong links to Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat was the toast of the New York art world (Rammellzee, on the other hand, describes himself as being an “up-and-coming con artist”). Basquiat therefore agreed to pay for the entirety of the single’s recording, pressing and eventual release. Despite this, both Rammellzee and K-Rob had the power to overrule Basquiat on the record’s content:

“He wanted (to) say his own verses… me and K-Rob read them and started laughing, and we crushed up his paper with the words he had written down and we threw it back at him face first.”

The result was a ten minute track featuring Rammellzee and K-Rob on vocals, under the direction of Fab Five Freddy, its production credited to Basquiat only (despite Rammellzee insisting that Basquiat did nothing but foot the bill). Speaking in 2008, Rammellzee reflected on the relaxed nature of the recording session by saying “we were just having fun”. The record was eventually released in 1983, limited to 500 copies and sporting custom art by Basquiat. Due to this rarity and the fame of Basquiat, “Beat Bop has been called the Holy Grail of rap records. It has also been distributed by Profile Records, in 1983 and later in 2001.

COVER ART:


Designed solely by Jean-Michel Basquiat, the front and back covers of the record are typical of his style, featuring a graffiti-influenced, chaotic clash of imagery and text. In contrast to his colourful canvas work, however, they are drawn in black and white. The front cover includes rough sketches of bones, what appears to be a crown, an explosion (and within it, the word “bang!” in capital letters), and Roman numerals. The record labels are in the same style, even going as far as originally not mentioning the artists involved in its production or the name of the track. Due to Basquiat’s fame, original copies exchange hands for over four figures. Curiously, the cover spells Rammellzee’s name incorrectly, using only one L instead of two, a fact that still irks Rammellzee. The single was repressed in 2001 by Tartown Records, the label that initially released it, with its original cover art retained.

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