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Dedication: The Legacy Of The Fearless Four

Throughout the four decades of recorded rap music there have been many artists whose contributions went unrecognized. Once the music grabbed the ears and hearts of urban America and later the world, the music and the culture surrounding it moved at such a rapid pace that many greats were left out of historical records and conversations. Harlem’s Fearless 4 is one of those groups.

The Fearless 4 achieved many firsts in Rap music. They were the first Rap group signed to a major record label – Elektra Asylum in 1983, the first Rap group featured at the iconic New Music Seminar and they were also the first Rap group featured on a television talk show – The Joe Franklin Show.

The Fearless 4 was formed in late 1979 and comprised of members of the House Rockers Crew, The Family and members that would eventually form The Disco 4. The line up that the world would come to know through recordings was front man Microphone Wizard DLB, The Great Peso, The Mighty Mike C and The Devastating Tito with D.J.’s O.C. & Krazy Eddie. Growing up in the same neighborhood as the  Treacherous 3, the members of the Fearless 4 would hang out at Enjoy Records (the label that the Treacherous 3 was signed to). Mike C was persistent in his efforts to get an audition with label owner Bobby Robinson and this persistence led to him signing the Fearless 4 and them being in the studio the next week to record their debut single 1982’s “It’s Magic.”

quotes
These things called computers do the thinking for a man/Leaving one man on the buttons while unemployed are ten/Should have trained with computers in some college course/So when I played the game of life just maybe I’d win”

- Microphone Wizard DLB

D.L.B. says that “It’s Magic” was based on a routine that the group used to perform which was inspired by the braggadocios feats that the Temptations sang about on their hit  “I Cant Get Next To You” . The group simply converted the subject matter to Hip Hop form and scored an underground classic over the Cat Stevens “Was Dog A Donut” break replayed by Enjoy house producer and musician the late Pumpkin. “It’s Magic” was a great record to introduce those outside of the boroughs to the Fearless 4, and it also kept the iconic Enjoy label relevant in the fast changing rap genre.

In 1982 The Fearless 4 also released “Rockin’ It” to success that greatly surpassed their debut. While many D.J.’s were spinning  Kraftwerk’s “Numbers” and “Trans Europe Express” as a sound bed for their M.C.’s to rhyme over, The Fearless 4 recruited Pumpkin once again to replay the lesser known “Man Machine” break for “Rockin’ It”. “Rockin’ It” was an instant success that Frankie Crocker had to personally retire from the #1 spot on New York’s WBLS because it spent so many weeks there. “Rockin’ It” has been sampled by everyone from De La Soul and M.C. Lyte to Jay Z and Camp Lo. Among many Fearless 4 fans “Rockin’ It” remains their favorite song.

The Fearless 4 signed to Elektra/Asylum Records in 1983 and released the maxi single “Just Rock”/”Got To Turn Out”. This Pumpkin produced single had a further reach than that of their previous efforts due to Elektra’s distribution and promotion power. One thing that separated this release from other Rap releases of the time was the fact that it came in a record cover that contained a picture of the group with a graffiti logo created by group member and graf artist The Great Peso. The maxi single titled “Something New” also contained a short bio and picture of each member on the back of the record cover. This kind of attention to the artist as a real and viable entity had not been bestowed upon a rap artist before, especially on a single. This release was not as popular as “Rockin It”, likely due to the faster tempo and Punk Rock feel of “Just Rock”  (“Just Rock” was a re interpretation of “Cars” by Gary Numan) at a time when tempos were slowing down and the music was becoming mostly drums. This was the year that Run-D.M.C. released the record that literally ushered in the next school - “It’s Like That/Sucker M.C.’s” rendering many records created outside of that format dated.

In that same year the Fearless 4 released the maxi single “Problems of The World” which contained “Fearless Freestyle” and “F4000” as well as the title track. Penned by DLB, “Problems of The World” though not as gritty as “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious 5 picked up where “The Message” left off with each M.C. addressing timely urban issues such as job loss due to technology, adultery, child abuse,  relationship stress even kleptomania. The track, produced by Davy DMX, Pumpkin, Kurtis Blow and the late Mr. Magic was their best received since “Rockin’ It” and combined with a scripted video (a rarity at the time in Rap and another advantage of the Elektra affiliation) put the Fearless 4 in a good position in this newly formed “drum machine era”. Lyrically “Problems” was ahead of it’s time. DLB’s line about computers taking over was written 15 years before the internet and was a precursor of what was to come.

“Fearless Freestyle” has an interesting back story. At the time a freestyle was not an impromptu “off the top” rhyme. It was a written rhyme that didn’t follow any particular format or subject matter. Mr. Magic cued up the instrumental of “Problems of The World” and muted Davy DMX’s bass line. He told the M.C.’s to start rhyming to the drum track so that he could get a good recording level on the microphones. The M.C.’s spit their rhymes and passed the mic off to the next M.C. unaware that Magic intended to save the performance as a song. What we hear on “Fearless Freestyle” was simply a practice run for the M.C.’s, but for the listener it was an incredible display of lyricism.

quotes
“As my rhymin’ momentum proceeds to elevate, puttin’ me on a platform a step beyond great any other M.C. will regurgitate ‘cus they just can swallow what I regulate”

- Microphone Wizard DLB

The Davy DMX produced “F4000” sounded as futuristic as its title. The only rap song at the time to use a vocoder for the entire song not just the hook , “F4000” sounded good on the boom box and the scratched hook provided by D.J. Krazy Eddie (which was later sampled on “A Roller Skating Jam Named Saturdays” by De La Soul) was the icing on an already perfectly baked cake. DLB speaks of his vision for the video that never came to be - “Everyone at the time was taking about the year 2000 but I was on the year 4000, and F stood for Fearless. In the video we were going to be frozen until the year 4000 – and you would see the seasons change and everything while we were frozen. Hip Hop would turn to garbage during that time, and we would be awakened in the year 4000 to save it”. No one was making those kinds of videos like that back then, so it never happened.”

Elektra and The Fearless parted ways not long after the “Problems of The World” maxi single because according to DLB Elektra started to neglect them after Grandmaster Flash & The Furious 5 split into two factions and one faction was signed to Elektra. “They really didn’t know what to do with Rap music yet, and they didn’t know that Grandmaster Flash would not work without Rahiem and Mele Mel on the same team. They started shelving our material, so we got out”.

The Fearless 4’s next release was the harmonizing heavy “Dedication” released on the independent Tuff City record label in 1984. “Dedication” was a sonic appreciation letter thanking the fans for their support for the group over the years. The group wasn’t signed to Tuff City and “Dedication” was released simply to keep the Fearless 4 name going and prevent a dry spell. The record did well and was included on a few Rap compilations at the time and it received heavy airplay on Rap radio shows. “Dedication” is a favorite among Fearless 4 fans.

1984 also brought a project credited to Master O.C. & Krazy Eddie featuring Peso, Tito and the Main Attraction on Next Plateau Records. “Masters of The Scratch” was a huge record that received heavy radio play on Rap radio shows and boom boxes all over urban America. In the next year that same line up minus Tito released “Private Lessons” which performed well also. 1985 was a busy year for Peso, as he collaborated with Papa Austin and released the Reggae & Rap collaboration “Wrong Girls To Play With” which was produced by Master O.C. and mixed by Pumpkin. The record is a collectors item with original copies fetching in excess of over 100 dollars regularly. “Wrong Girls” is credited as one of the first Rap/Reggae collaborations along with Run- D.M.C.’s “Roots, Rap Reggae” and The Fat Boys “Hardcore Reggae” in the same year. In ’85 Peso also collaborated with Hiko and released “She’s Wild” on Tommy Boy Records.

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The Mighty Mike C released his solo effort “I’m Stupid Fresh” on Smokin’/Tuff City in 1985 as well.

In 1987 The Fearless 4 released “After Tonite”/”You Can’t Rock Us” on Mercury Records, but it was poorly promoted and didn’t make much noise at all.

The Devastating Tito who is credited as one of the early lyrical Puerto Rican M.C.’s in the genre appeared on the Clark Kent remix of “Spread My Wings” by Troop in ’89 and the group minus Tito released “Creepin’ Up On Ya’” a full length album on D.J. Easy Lee’s Easy Lee Records under the name Fearless in 1994. The album was a great outing that contained timely production, and the Fearless were as sharp as ever on the mic. Unfortunately, the album got lost amongst the other releases of the time.

DLB is currently an educator and has also acted in Training Day and other small roles. He continues to write and record as well. Peso is still recording and releasing material regularly online and he is also a graphic designer who creates and sells Fearless 4 merch. The Mighty Mike C hosts his own podcast The Mighty Mike C Show and he continues to tour with Kool Moe Dee as he has done since Moe Dee launched his solo career in the mid 80s. Tito operated his own label Iron Clad in the early 2000’s and he collaborated with Kool G. Rap and other heavy hitters during that time. The Fearless 4 influenced many M.C.’s that went on to be considered greats and they have a discography that represents the best of the eras that they were active in. They are an extremely important part of the genre that remains the dominant form of music in the world. Salute.

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