B-Versatile: Demos [1994-1995]

May 27, 2009 – 8:52 pm

Amongst my stack o’ tapes I have a good number of homemade demos. A few of those people went on to do big things, but most were just tracks made on a cassette 4-track in someone’s bedroom. Remember, back in the early-to-mid 90’s, you couldn’t make a track in a bedroom studio that sounded like a professional production.

I haven’t featured many of those demos on Normal Bias, so I thought I’d start sharing some.

The first is a set of songs by Honolulu, Hawaii-born B-Versatile.

I met B-Versatile in 1994, I think on the alt.rap Usenet newsgroup, where all the hip-hop nerds hung out back in the pre-web days. We decided to collaborate on a track. He was going to school at the University of Pennsylvania, so he took the bus across state lines and joined me and my DJ in New Jersey for a day of bedroom studio recording. The result was a track called “So Damn Tough” (featured below). B-Versatile’s smooth, bassy voice was a good compliment for my all-over-the-place flow. I’m still proud of this track 15 years later, even with all its imperfections.

Early the following year, he put out a three song demo featuring three tracks, “Do You Understand” and two versions of “Put It In Ya Ear.” Here’s a review I wrote for HardC.O.R.E. 3.03 (the first online hip-hop magazine started all the way back in 1993 by OHHLA‘s Flash):

B-VERSATILE, “3 Song Demo”
(Demo Review)

I had the pleasure of working with B-Versatile, the MC out of Honolulu, on the last Lyrical Prophets album, DIG THIS on a track called “So Damn Tough.” He was surprised me with his nice lyrics, ease of delivery, and low tone. After a while, he’s finally completed a 3-song demo on which he handled production as well as lyrics.

The first cut is “Do Ya Understand,” an upbeat, horn and bass tinged track featuring his very laid back flow. The break makes good use of a Lord Finesse sample. As with the following two tracks, some of the lyrics are recognizable from “So Damn Tough.”

The other two cuts are different versions of “Put It In Ya Ear” (’94 and ’95). The ’95 version is far superior. The ’94 version has an overused drum pattern, an overly plain piano loop, and though the break samples (from Wu-Tang and Audio Two) are appropriate, they slip off beat a couple of times. The horns are nice, though.

The ’95 version makes several changes. My personal favorite is the change in the last line of the verse where he gives “Shouts to the Lazy”, but he also switched the samples up and added a beautiful bassline. This is the top track on the tape.

It’s hard to rank a short demo such as this one, but I’ll give it a shot anyway. B-Versatile has got talent and a great ear for music and just needs to work on a few small things here and there. I look forward to hearing more from him and perhaps collaborating with him again soon.

pH Level – 4/pHine [out of 6]

Later in the year, he sent along another demo with three more tracks: “Down to Earth,” “That’s Where My Heart’s At,” and “Freestyle at My House” (which he informs me didn’t actually have a title and made up one on the spot, in 2009).

B-Versatile and his friend Kenny did the productgion production and engineering on these tracks using an old Gemini sampler and a reel-to-reel 8-track. The beats are dope, if occasionally slipping off (such was the curse of cheap samplers back in the day) and there’s a lot of hiss in the recording, but hey — that’s part of the appeal of old demos like this, right?

These days, B-Versatile is working in the camera department on CSI:NY and still dabbles in hip-hop. I’m looking forward to hearing what he’s up to and who knows — perhaps we’ll collaborate a second time, a decade-and-a-half later.

Download all seven tracks in a zip file, or check them out individually:

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