Boomkat Product Review:
Been a while since PAN threw a curveball, but here’s a proper mad one - a new tape from Memphis rap legend DJ Spanish Fly, with an A-side bursting with new joints, and a flipside dubbed from baked vintage tapes. Strictly limited edition - you know it’s gonna fly.
There's no sense talking about Memphis rap without acknowledging the outsize influence of DJ Spanish Fly, the pioneering DJ, rapper and producer who paved the way for Three 6 Mafia, 8Ball & MJG, Tommy Wright III, and the later ascent of crunk and trap.'The Godfather Of Memphis Rap Mixtape Vol 1’ is more than just a history lesson, packaging a remastered suite of established classix with a selection of completely new material, refusing to let DJ Spanish Fly's legacy languish in nostalgia. It paints an illuminating picture of an artist who's always kept his ear to the ground, acting as a connecting node for his city, DJing regularly, and still laying down bars on any number of local mixtapes. There's no Denzel Curry, Spaceghostpurrp or Lil Ugly Mane without DJ Spanish Fly!
There are few officially sanctioned releases of his work either, despite well over a decade of rumors that something was coming. He cut his teeth DJing and rapping in South Memphis in the early 1980s, and quickly transitioned from winning events to hawking mixtapes to his local legion of fans. These cassettes swiftly became the stuff of legend, and while he recalls only selling "around 100" of each edition, bootlegs began turning up throughout the city - as his reputation grew, those mixtapes rolled through the South like snowballs, inspiring seemingly every young DJ, rapper or producer who heard them.
There was one song in particular that hoisted Fly's star skyward: a quirky "Dragnet"-inspired belter by Queens duo Showboys called 'Drag Rap', a track that gained notoriety in the South as 'Triggerman'. Fly bought the 12" before hearing it, but was stunned by the booming 808 sequence and made it a central point of his routine, using it again and again in his own productions. Soon, a dance craze had assembled around 'Triggerman': the gangsta walk. The track became so widely recognisable, and so popular, it was banned from local events for inciting violence; years later, 'Drag Rap' is one of the most sampled tracks in rap, having singlehandedly informed the direction of New Orleans' regional style, bounce.
Fly's ear for booming 808 sequences and looped movie samples gave his sets and productions a distinctive flavour that made Southern rap so particular in the '80s and through the '90s. Its influence can still be felt in the globally popular trap sound - even Drake has sung the praises of Memphis rap, sampling 'Drag Rap' on 2018's 'Nice For What'. Fly gives a firm nod to his part in this on 'Buckdance/G Walk Jukin' and 'Triggamanzz Revenge', allowing the brickwall 808 bass to marinate after a run of fresh material mapped out his contemporary flex. Hearing the Memphis God on slippery contemporary productions like 'Alarm' and 'Remember' just shows how ahead of his time Fly actually was - his rubbery drawl spreads across doomy, sparse synths and sub-heavy 808 kicks like butter. At 50+ DJ Spanish Fly has more swagger than rappers half his age.
Flexing attitude and raw low-end power from beginning to end, it's the tape's contextual uniqueness that pushes this one into the musical vortex. Each side helps draw out a story that's still being told, and being able to hear Fly's development through the decades in this way allows time to melt away into sub-bass, eerie riffs and gloopy rhymes.
Respect the godfather - it doesn't get heavier.