Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock :: It Takes Two :: Profile Records
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[It Takes Two] "Not from the old school or from the new
Applaud or boo, do you want to
Talk to me, then try to put me down
We used to be cool now we don't hang around
Used to be friends but now we're foes
Ask me why - man, no one knows!
Maybe jealousy between you and me
Could be the fame, could be the money"
- Rob Base

Rob Base's eerily prophetic words on "Joy and Pain" would come back to haunt him just over a year later on his second album "The Incredible Base." In the late 1980's Robert Ginyard formed a successful partnership with Rodney 'DJ E-Z Rock' Bryce that led to the top ten hit "It Takes Two." If you're an 80's baby you already know the song's famous punchlines by heart: "Take it off the rack, if it's whack, put it back/I like the Whopper {fuck} the Big Mac." The up-tempo drum track, hypnotic "yeah... WHOO" sample and Rob's suave "ladies love me, girls adore me/I mean, even the ones who never saw me" confidence made the song a platinum hit that was as appealing on the dance floor as in the headphones of your Walkman. Unfortunately the overnight success of "It Takes Two" and the album of the same name went to their heads and fractured the group down the middle. Rob continued as a soloist with limited success, an an ill-fated 1990's reunion met with even less success.

If you thought of Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock as your prototypical "one hit wonder" of pop or even hip-hop music you could hardly be blamed. The very fact "It Takes Two" is one of the most sampled and quoted songs in rap history speaks volumes. Base's distinctive high pitched voice is as memorable as it is reusable - much like Queensbridge's own MC Shan. The song is ubiquitous to the point that VH1 put it their top 100 of greatest rap songs of all time - and I wouldn't argue the point. The shocking announcement of DJ E-Z Rock's death at the age of 46 this weekend made me want to go back, reflect and reexamine the album as a whole. First though I want to say my condolences to Robert Ginyard, not just on E-Z Rock's passing but on that of his wife April's passing last October. That's a rough six month stretch for anyone to go through.

Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock may have not have found success with their 1994 reunion "Break of Dawn," but it at least gives us some feeling they had reconciled their differences and were on good terms. In that respect Rob Base can look back on what the two accomplished on "It Takes Two" and be proud, because it did indeed take two to make a thing go right. In fact it took more than two - it also took Donald 'O' Bowden and Thomas Dean contributing on production, it took Profile Records promoting the duo, and it took a mainstream whose dawning awareness of hip-hop was largely limited to labelmates Run-D.M.C. to blow this album up. Four singles were released out of 10 total tracks, but even non-single releases like "Times Are Gettin' Ill" are enjoyable:

"Just last week I had a good thing goin'...
The money was flowin
I had a notion, I made a motion
to get a girl with love and devotion
I went to a disco...
Ordered a bottle of Cisco
I took a seat, then I looked around
boppin my head to the sounds
of the deejay, okay
This is what I'm tryin to say
I heard a scream (AHHH!) then a shot rang out
That's when I got the hell out"

Rob Base's verbiage doesn't always strike one as impressive in print, but if you press play on an audio clip and listen, it's often what he DIDN'T say that makes him a dope emcee. Base displays excellent breath control and timing on songs like "Times Are Gettin' Ill," pausing for dramatic effect and letting lines take their full impact. He doesn't do so because he can't flip a fast flow, because on the very next song "Keep It Going Now" he's stringing words together at the same pace as "It Takes Two" - which also proves that wasn't a fluke. "Joy and Pain" may have been the most broadly successful single other than "It Takes Two" in terms of chart position, but "Get on the Dance Floor" went to #1 on the US Dance charts - even higher than "It Takes Two."

The only song on the album I can't stand is "Crush," because it's an unbearably dead-on rip-off of LL Cool J's "I Need Love." You could mix the two songs together without breaking tempo. Rob Base's soft and breathy delivery mimics James Todd Smith to the point you could actually confuse the two for each other. It's embarrassing. The only reasonable conclusion one can draw is that somebody at Profile Records realized Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock were quickly going pop and pressured them to make a quiet storm style LL song to cash in on their new popularity. It's telling though that this is the only single released off the album that did not chart - everybody involved could tell it was complete bullshit. The rest of the album is a nostalgic throwback for those of us who grew up around that era. Vintage 1980's style sounds and samples are found all over songs like "Check This Out" and "Make It Hot." Rest in peace to Rodney Bryce. Check out this 1980's rap classic for yourself to honor Bryce and to salute his rap partner Rob Base.

Music Vibes: 7 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7 of 10

Originally posted: April 29th, 2014