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The Rise of Profile Records and the Dawn of Hip-Hop Culture in America

30 years since Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde’s ground-breaking “Genius Rap” in 1981 
Available everywhere starting January 31, 2012 – in advance of 
Black History Month in February – through Profile/Legacy

At the peak of its success and influence during the 1980s and ’90s, New York-based indie label Profile Records boasted an artist roster that read like the Who’s Who of hip-hop and rap stars – from Run-D.M.C., Dana Dane, Special Ed and Rob Base, to DJ Quik, Nine, Poor Righteous Teachers, and Onyx, to name just a few. The Profile logo was a familiar symbol to fans on the street, as the company shipped hundreds of thousands of records every month, billed tens of millions of dollars in its best years, and stacked up more RIAA gold and platinum plaques than they could count.

The Rise of Profile Records and the Dawn of Hip-Hop Culture in America

Thirty years after Profile’s life-saving signature hit record in 1981 (“Genius Rap” by Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde),GIANT SINGLE: THE PROFILE RECORDS RAP ANTHOLOGY puts a spotlight on the story of one of hip-hop’s true super-powered indie labels. The chrono­logically-arranged, 31-song double-CD will be available at all physical and digital retail outlets starting January 31, 2012 – in advance of Black History Month in February – through Profile/Legacy, a division of SONY MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT.

“Profile Records wasn’t the first successful rap label,” writes hip-hop authority Dan Charnas in his definitive liner notes essay. “But Profile’s openness to this new form of music made the company a pioneer in so many other vital ways: The first record label to produce true rap ‘stars’ who crossed over to the mainstream. The first to earn gold, platinum and multi-platinum rap albums. The first to get rap videos on MTV. The first to treat rap with the dignity accorded other genres of music.” Charnas, who began his career in the mail­room of Profile Records, and was one of the first writers for The Source magazine, is the author of the critically acclaimed The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop (New American Library/Penguin, 2010).

The writer’s admiration for Profile Records is echoed by nearly a dozen hip-hop heavyweights whose tributes appear in the CD booklet. Says Brian Coleman (author of Check the Technique: Liner Notes for Hip-Hop Junkies and Rakim Told Me : Hip-Hop Wax Facts, Straight from the Original Artists of the 80’s): “There are only a handful of ’80s dance and hip-hop labels that a connoisseur could truly depend on for consistent freshness, and Profile ranks near – if not at – the top of that list. They made bold choices in what artists they signed, never taking the easy road. Don’t forget – Run-D.M.C. was far from a sure thing in 1983. And there are countless other examples of chances taken and amazing music that never would have had a chance of seeing the light of day without them. If Profile never existed, hip-hop as we know it today would have undeniably been different. They changed the game. How many other labels can say that?”

Coleman is joined by an impressive list of tastemakers who wax rhapsodic and eloquently over their Profile faves and what the label meant to them: radio’s DJ Riz (extolling Run-D.M.C.’s “Here We Go”); fellow radio star DJ P Fine (Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock’s “It Takes Two”); DJ Rob Swift (“Fresh 3 MC’s”); DJ Jazzy Jeff; Freddy Fresh; Lord Finesse; Dante Ross; Peanut Butter Wolf; and of course, Russell Simmons (“They were the best independent company…”).

Of course there is much more to the Profile story than “just” Run-D.M.C. Profile began with two young Jewish New York record guys, Cory Robbins and Steve Plotnicki, who were products of the disco ‘boom.’ By 1979, when the disco ‘crash’ was looming, they were looking for a new venture and famously borrowed $34k from their folks to start Profile as a 12-inch dance singles operation. Their first two years were uneventful.

Now, the big bang of hip-hop is well-chronicled. It goes back to 1979, and the sound-system block parties in the South Bronx that emulated similar innovations in Kingston and other Caribbean destinations. That summer, the Fatback Band’s “King Tim III (Personality Jock)” was the first chart record to have recognizable rapped vocals. At the same moment, the Sugar Hill Gang scored a major hit (#4 on theBillboard R&B chart) with “Rapper’s Delight” (which sampled Chic’s “Good Times”).

Though the record industry was widely skeptical, even dismissive of this rap development, Robbins and Plotnicki understood and supported the music. Down to their last $2,000 in 1981, they learned a lesson from Sugar Hill’s success (“where MCs rapped over replayed versions of current dance hits,” as Charnas writes). They hired a producer to re-work the Tom Tom Club’s “Genius of Love,” and recruited rapper Alonzo Brown who brought along his partner to the session, Andre Harrell (future founder of Uptown Records and future CEO of Motown).

They called themselves Dr. Jeckyll (Harrell) and Mr. Hyde (Brown), the perfect moniker for “Genius Rap,” which quickly sold 150,000 copies and rose to #31 on the R&B chart. (Billboard did not publish a separate Rap chart until 1989, and then it was based strictly on sales. The Hot R&B Singles chart was ultimately renamed Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles in 1999, and in 2001, the new [current] Hot Rap Songs chart was introduced, combining sales and airplay.) “Genius Rap” occupies a special place in rap history, and opens GIANT SINGLE: THE PROFILE RECORDS RAP ANTHOLOGY.

After a few more entries (most notably, the Disco Four’s “Whip Rap,” which reworked the Dazz Band’s “Let It Whip”), the anthology presents Run-D.M.C. The trio was brought to Profile by manager Russell Simmons (whose younger brother Joseph was nicknamed ‘Run’). Robbins liked the demo tape he heard, and Run-D.M.C. was signed to Profile on a $3,000 advance. Their debut hit single, 1983’s “It’s Like That” b/w “Sucker M.C.’s (Krush-Groove 1)” raised the curtain on rap’s most important group. Within two years, Run-D.M.C. would become “the first true hip-hop pop stars when Profile made the first rap video to ever air on MTV,” as Charnas notes.

The popularity of Profile’s Dana Dane (“Nightmares,” 1985; and “Cinderfella Dana Dane,” 1987) rivaled that of Run-D.M.C., as Brooklyn-born Dana McLeese captured the rap novelty market with his toney British accent. Profile was also the home of two early female MC’s (or rappers), Pebblee-Poo of the Masterdon Committee with “A Fly Guy” (1985), and Jazzy Joyce, who teamed with rapper Sweet Tee on “It’s My Beat” (1986).

Volumes have been written about the socio-cultural revolution that happened in 1986, when Run-D.M.C. took up producer Rick Rubin’s idea to rework Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” and invited Steve Tyler and Joe Perry to join in the fun. The RIAA gold, #8 R&B/ #4 pop single collabo­ration forever changed America’s – and the world’s – attitude to hip-hop. It also skyrocketed Profile’s status as an indie label.

GIANT SINGLE presents the famous and not-so-famous MC’s who strode through Profile’s front doors, sometimes with tracks that won widespread popularity, and sometimes with tracks that merely won over the owners and the pop music press that looked to Profile for the next big thing. The anthology follows the label year by year through the ’80s and ’90s. Highlights are traced through 1996, when Profile and its catalog – including the first six seminal albums by Run-D.M.C. – were sold to Arista.

“But their embrace of rap,” Charnas concludes, “for its commercial merits was just what hip-hop needed to survive the jump to records, and made the two Jewish-American entrepreneurs the unlikely financiers of an artistic revolution, paving the way for all who followed.”

(Profile/Legacy 88697 49751 2)
CD 1:
 1. Genius Rap – Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde (1981) 
 2. Whip Rap – Disco Four (1982) 
 3. Beat Bop – Rammelzee VS K-Rob (1983) 
 4. Fresh – Fresh 3 MC’s (1983) 
 5. Here Comes That Beat! – Pumpkin & The Profile All-Stars (1984) 
 6. King Kut – Word Of Mouth (1985) 
 7. Sucker M.C.’s (Krush-Groove 1) – Run-D.M.C. (1983) 
 8. A Fly Guy – Pebblee Poo (1985) 
 9. Nightmares – Dana Dane (1985) 
10. Get Off My Tip! – The Masterdon Committee (1986) 
11. Lies. Lies – Rap-O-Matic Ltd. (1986) 
12. I Can’t Wait (To Rock The Mike) – Spyder D (1986) 
13. Drag Rap – The Showboys (1986) 
14. It’s My Beat – Sweet Tee & Jazzy Joyce (1986) 
15. Ragamuffin Hip-Hop – Asher D & Daddy Freddy (1987) 

CD 2:
 1. Walk This Way – Run-D.M.C. (1986) 
 2. Cinderfella Dana Dane – Dana Dane (1987) 
 3. It Takes Two – Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock (1988) 
 4. Beats To The Rhyme – Run-D.M.C. (1988) 
 5. Give ‘Em A Sample – Too Kool Posse (1988) 
 6. I Got It Made – Special Ed (1989) 
 7. Do It To The Crowd – Twin Hype (1989) 
 8. Hey Love – King Sun (1989) 
 9. Ah, And We Do It Like This – Onyx (1990) 
10. Rock Dis Funky Joint – Poor Righteous Teachers (1990) 
11. Born And Raised In Compton – DJ Quik (1991) 
12. Be True To Yourself – 2nd II None (1991) 
13. Zulu War Chant – Time Zone (1993) 
14. Whutcha Want? – Nine (1994) 
15. Broken Language – Smoth Da Hustler (1995) 
16. Luchini AKA This Is It – Camp Lo (1996)