Do you remember the classic hip hop duo Maroon (1985-1994)? You do?
Then, you're either deep into hip hop history and deserve much praise
or you're a dangerous stalker. Either way, welcome to the Maroon site.
MAROON: THE BEGINNING
In 1985, Martin and I were recording as Maroon. Then both 18, we recorded
our first track together, "Baddest and the Hippest," in the
Quadrangle Studios of the University of Michigan's East Quad dormitory.
We sat in the cafeteria, discussing what to call our act, young upstarts
with an idea. I said, "What's your favorite color?" Martin
said, "Yellow." I said, "Okay, what's your second favorite
color?" He said "Maroon" and that became our name.
On a Tascam four-track, in the basement of the house we rented with
three other guys, we filled up a stack of 45 minute cassette tapes (chrome
- that was a big deal) with beats and rhymes and random cacophony. Somebody
told us that the sound quality we were getting wasn't all that terrible,
so we pressed a record. Unfortunately, the track we thought should be
the first single got screwed up (drum track erased) and we left it off.
It was "We're Down"
and you can get the MP3 of the only existing (rough) mix here.
THE FUNKY RECORD
We pressed 300 LPs (first pressing) with money I saved by, well, misleading
my grandmother about tuition (God bless her and shame on me). The Funky
Record - recorded mostly in 1988 and mixed on December 22 of that same
year until 4 AM - was officially released in 1989. We weren't happy
with the test pressing, as you can tell by listening to this - a track
(Das Yo Ass)" which we dedicated to our mastering engineer.
The extra songs we'd fire off were our early day mix tapes - uncensored
The Funky Record, yes. It was funky in ways no one understood: it was
recorded in a basement using a headphone instead of a microphone (did
you know you can do that?). The title track of the album wasn't on it.
We printed our home phone number on the back of the record. We put the
thing in a tie-dye, generic sleeve (until we hustled some more money
for the second pressing when we brilliantly added the phone number!).
At the time we recorded out first stuff, from 1985 to 1988, hip hop
was relatively undefined and changing rapidly. By the time we recorded
our last work together in 1994, things had settled into a pattern, as
I see it. Our alternative planet of hip hop was unique (okay, weird)
enough in 1989, but by 1994, we were in an alternative universe. Still,
Maroon's recordings are good music and completely from and within the
genre, not a conscious hybrid of one thing and another, just off the
And we weren't just a little mad in terms of production and lyrics.
Our "marketing" approach (not to mention our sense of style)
was also odd. I left some posters around the block where a reporter
for Rolling Stone lived who had requested a copy of our album. I made
up fortune cookies with promotional messages and gave them out at the
CMJ New Music Convention. We put out regular "Fax Attacks"
with crude cutout cartoons and sent them out every week. Here's
a selection of some of this stuff.
So, here's what we sounded like musically in 1988: "Stupid
Cool" includes Martin singing part of the opera Rigoletto ("la
dona e mobile" or "woman is fickle" - a lyric written
in the 1800's to which we'd taken offense for it's sexist tone). We
had beef with Verdi as well as MC's who were biting beats off and/or
slandering women so I played with the double meaning of "stupid,"
as it was understood at the time.
with Squirrelly D," I re-introduced an alternate identity of
mine (Squirrelly D) which had first appeared spontaneously at the end
of "We're Down." We invented a pretty twisted dance and thought
we'd managed to get our biggest sound out of the four track on this
Another one: "Fresher
Eggs" is just plain weird. I'll let Sigmund Freud figure it
is about corruption in Brooklyn housing court, something I knew about
from my time as a tenant organizer (see article here). It was common
knowledge at the time that some judges were corrupt and I saw it in
action, but it never occurred to me to call a reporter - I just wrote
a rap. The story of corruption broke a few years later. This track features
a blazing guitar solo by Ann Arbor guitar slinger Dave "The Giffer"
A few things happened to The Funky Record. Most notably, Robert Christgau
gave it an A- in the Village Voice. The legendary Stanley Platzner (God
bless him), the fat guy who sat on a stool at the entrance of his record
shop on 42nd street where everyone got all of their hip hop 12 inches,
put it on his turntable and scratched the crap out of it. Not like a
DJ, but like a drunk short order cook at The House of Pancakes and then
he handed it back to us wrecked.
The Record got a lot of reviews, as you can see here,
little air play and a few sales. I found one in a used record store
just a few years ago. I bought it and now I have three copies for myself.
It's a true lost classic of an era that is as done as any period of
time can be. You can get all the MP3s here now. If you have one of the
LPs, drop us a line here.
LET THE MUSIC TAKE YOU HIGHER
Following The Funky Record came Let
the Music Take You Higher (LTMTYH) /
I Ain't Runnin' for Pope (Pope) in 1990. Get the extended
here. I still love Pope but I might be alone there. This 12 inch
single made it on the CMJ college radio charts, the video played on
MTV in Spanish (if you can believe that), and it got reviewed, as you
can read here. Just for fun,
here's a bonus track called "Posse
In Effect" that was never released from that period. How about
The next release, The Mutherplucker, 1994, went by Will EP instead of
Maroon, although we co-wrote the songs, as always. Martin worked from
my ideas and even some of the music I came up with. He consciously tried
to make it more Will E.P. and less Maroon. I'm not sure that was a good
idea, but that's how it went and it's a good album.
Some highlights: "Who's
Funky?." Note the tempo and key change. Song two, with quite
a wacky chorus: "Saying
the R Version." Our 1994 geek anthem: "CL,
Computer Literate" (did I say 80 megs?). "Realty's
Mean"--- I wish I'd reversed the order of the verses or done
a little self censorship, but there we go, it's done. "How'd
You Make Me Smile?", inspired by some naughty kids in the 3rd
grade class I taught in the Bronx. The political one "PinkoChickenFunk"
(another bird). "Summertime",
the single, a skit, "Pigeon
Casualties" about being boiled to death while eating potato
All Go Boom" about the end of the universe. "One
Little Sailor" recorded on a boom box and mailed to California.
That's a lot of good tracks for one album. I don't remember much traction
at all with this record. Maybe Martin does. He's shaking his head. Something
must have happened. What about that show in the club in New York, what
was that called? I said at the time that it might be the last one we
do so let's do an album, and we did.
But it wasn't quite the end. Turns out that there's still innovation
in the mighty genre of Hip Hop and it's still one of the most arresting
way to tell stories. So, what the hell, after 11 years of retirement,
we just dropped this little joint called "Nitrogen (Back
from the Vat)" to commemorate the 20th anniversary since
Maroon's "Baddest & the Hippest."
Still committed to the form.
MC Will EP