The suggestion that New York should step off “cos London’s here” in the opening line – was perhaps a little premature and UK hip hop audiences weren’t quite ready to get behind a potential transatlantic rap-battle – and the Lyn Collins‘ “Think” sampling funky-ass stonker that was “We’ve Got The Juice” didn’t garner the same success of his earlier two singles.
I’ve always thought that was a shame; for me it packed the same punch as “Bad Young Brother” and eclipsed the rather pedestrian and light-weight Jackson-5 sampling “Good Groove”. But now, with 30 years on the clock and in retrospect, we should see that opening shot as something quite prophetic.
Derek B was a trailblazer. He was the first UK hip hop artist to enjoy any pop success and appeared on the British institution Top of the Pops – up to then only two hip hop acts had been on the show – both from across the Atlantic and both, arguably, novelty acts:
In 1984 the formulated Break Machine appeared with their single “Street Dance”, which is barely even hip hop but rather, a cynical attempt to capitalize on the “craze” of break dancing orchestrated by the same people who created The Village People and in 1985 Doug E Fresh appeared with his humorous (?) “The Show” which seems to lean into the feeling that hip hop was a bit of a joke – and not to be taken seriously.
In 1986 Derek Boland was working with Simon Harris‘ Music of Life label and a planned compilation (Def Beats 1) of more serious / authentic US hip hip was a track short, so Boland co-produced under the moniker Derek B, with Harris, a “filler” track for the record. Boland also rapped on “Rock The Beat” adopting the moniker ECQ.
The irony that Derek B was a ring-in who pretended to be two people and rapped in a fake US accent, simply created to fill an empty space on a compilation LP of US hip hop is not lost when revisionally referring to his as a pioneer. But the fact remains that from this went on to UK chart success with “Good Groove” and “Bad Young Brother”, and this, his third single, “We’ve Got The Juice” .
I remember, at the time, feeling that the subsequent signing to RUSH management and the release of his Bullet From A Gun LP on New York label Tuff City was going to be the beginning of mighty big things for Derek B – RUSH got him touring with Public Enemy and RUN DMC (I remember seeing him live as support of RUN DMC and being very excited by his performance) – but after the album nothing much happened…
The poppy upbeat 1990 single “You’ve Got To Look Up” was featured on the Cool As Ice movie soundtrack (which starred Vanilla Ice as Johnny a teen ‘rebel’ rapper – his hubris knew no bounds when he referred to himself as the James Dean of rap in an interview promoting the film – who shows up in a sleepy middle American town and advises a girl to “ditch the zero and get with the hero”).
I like to think that Boland’s association with Robert Matthew Van Winkle disillusioned him so much from hip hop that he just hung up his microphone in shame. Sadly Boland passed away from a heart attack, aged just 44 on 15 November 2009.