Published Wed, November 9, 2022 at 11:00 PM EST
In 1983, the 12-inch single was the sole vehicle for releasing and promoting rap music.
As a result of winning a record deal via the Tin Pan Apple Rap Contest that year, the Disco 3 released their first 12-inch single titled "Reality" on Sutra Records. The record contained a synthesizer heavy "music version" and a "beat version" with simply a drum machine and human beatboxing, which was pretty much unheard of outside on New York's boroughs at the time. As far as subject matter "Reality" was very much in the vein of "The Message" by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, which was released the previous year, and "It's Like That" by Run-D.M.C., released the same year—a cautionary tale about following the right path in life. "Reality" largely flew under the radar, but a hit single, a full album and a name change awaited the Disco 3 the next year.
In 1984, The Disco 3 released "Fat Boys/The Human Beat Box" to thunderous approval from Hip-Hop. Both songs on the single were a perfect introduction to this non-traditional group. The first line of the first verse of the Kurtis Blow-produced "Fat Boys" let the world know who they were listening to: "Prince Markie Dee, Kool Rock Ski, The Human Beat Box providin' the beat/1000 pounds put all together, the disco brothers will last forever."
"The Human Beat Box" was famously a description of the man who also went by Buffy, Buff Love and Grandmaster Doc Nice; and it was a demonstration of exactly what he did. But there were no drums, and no instruments. There were only percussion sounds coming from the mouth of the man who they also dubbed "The Ox That Rocks."
At this time the only other nationally known "Human Beat Box" was Doug E. Fresh, who released "Just Havin Fun," also in 1984. Markie Dee and Kool Rock Ski spit:
And as we told you before, he is the grandmaster, the man with the beats to cause a disaster the man who’s overtop, guaranteed to rock from a positive source, it’s the Human Beat Box with a million watts of power coming out his mouth making all the young ladies want to scream and shout with a thousand beats for every day of the week so come on Beat Box – play one for me."
A new style had arrived that would be mimicked the world over, and demand for more Disco 3 material was high.
On May 29, 1984, The Disco 3 released their debut full length album, rechristened as The Fat Boys. Although the group had undergone the name change before starring in the semi-autobiographical film Krush Groove (released in October of 1985), the film's explanation of the name change was accurate. They were "fat boys who liked to eat." They rapped about eating and after the success of the song "Fat Boys," The Disco 3 no longer made sense as a group name. The album cover alone, with the group members atop a giant New York style pizza in their soon to be famous ball and chain outfits, was a huge hit and officially ushered in Fat Boymania.
Larry Smith started working on 'Jail House Rap', but he had some obligations overseas, so Kurtis called me in to finish it. Don Blackmon played keys on it."
- Davy DMX
As it generally was with full length rap albums in the mid 1980's, the previously released singles ("Fat Boys"/"Human Beat Box") were included on the album, offering only five new songs on the seven song project. "Jail House Rap", produced by Kurtis Blow became a highlight in the Fat Boys live sets on the Fresh Festival tours and contained that full "Kurtis Blow signature sound" due to Davy DMX on bass and guitar. Davy told ROCK THE BELLS that Larry Smith worked on the iconic song as well. "Larry started working on 'Jail House Rap', but he had some obligations overseas, so Kurtis called me in to finish it. Don Blackmon played keys on it as well." The song is a humorous tale of the MC's and their huge appetites getting them into trouble with the law. It ends with a serious warning to youth to avoid situations that would land them behind bars. The song and video played a huge part in the runaway success of the album.
"Stick 'Em" is a blistering banger that shows each of the Fat Boys at their best. Buffy and his human percussion carry the song with only his scratching (he's dope on the turntables too) added. A flange sound effect is added to certain parts of his beatboxing adding a gritty "recorded at home" dynamic to the beat while Markie Dee and Kool Rock deliver classic lines. "Can You Feel It?" still resonates as a fan favorite with its slick synthesizer sequencing, chunky bassline and half human beat box/half sung hook. The song and video are still referenced as highlights of the classic album.
Many in the core audience of The Fat Boys find it ironic that the group became synonymous with comedy in their later albums because so many of the songs on this debut are hardcore, by what the definition of hardcore rap was at the time. "In The Place To Be" is one of those songs where the emcees are displaying various rhyme styles that are essential to the art of emceeing and the song is arranged like a classic old school tape from the era before rap records. From the acapella intro and the passing of the mic between the emcees ("Kool Rock, my throat is weak—get on the mic and let me hear you speak") to Markie Dee's Spider-Man rhyme (many first generation emcees had superhero rhymes), the song pays homage to the generation of emcees that preceded them.
It started out when I was very small/I devoured chocolate cake—plates, candles and all."
- Prince Markie Dee
"Dont You Dog Me" chronicles different episodes where the Fat Boys felt that people attempted to play them. Whether its other emcees underestimating their skills on the mic, or young ladies using them for their newfound fame, The Fat Boys put haters on notice. "Fat Boys" served as a warning that something new and different was happening in Hip-Hop and happen it did. Whether it was the legions of rap acts that incorporated a human beat box, or even groups like The Skinny Boys who borrowed more directly from the trio, The Fat Boys forever changed the game, and their debut album was the spark.
Rest In Peace Buffy The Human Beat Box and Prince Markie Dee.