Turn Back The Clock
Swing Batta Swing
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
The other day, I was searching through my cassette tapes for something to listen to on my way to work. For those of you from the CD and digital age, a cassette tape is a rectangular thing with two spools that plays music if you put it into a tape deck. Yup, I even have those circular things made of vinyl called records. Anyways, my car is old enough to come from an era where only tape decks were offered and so, I was searching for a cool tape to start my workday off right. Suddenly, from out of the huge assortment, one tape catches my eye. “K7!” I yell. It was, of course, the perfect choice.
For those of you who don’t know who K7 is, let me give you a little background information about the group. Lead vocalist K7 is none other than Harlem, New York native, Louis Ramon Sharpe. Freestyle fans would know him as Kayel from the freestyle group TKA. While with TKA, Kayel penned such classics as Louder Than Love, Maria, Scars of Love, and more. In 1991, Kayel left the group, seeking to break free of the stereotypical music expectations. Re-inventing himself as K7 in 1992, he hooked up with vocalists L.O.S., Prophet, Tre Deuce, and DJ Non-Stop, a hip-hop DJ from Chicago, thus creating K7 and the Swing Kids. The music the group produced was an instant hit in the 1990s and their live performances were energetic, each member showcasing their dance skills while providing back-up vocals for the lead singer.
Popping this cassette into my radio brought back terrific memories of the days when freestyle was all the rage. When K7 came on the scene, much of the music found in the freestyle genre had the same kind of sound. If not for the lyrics, many of the songs were interchangeable. K7 brought something different to the mix. Their album, Swing Batta Swing, contains twelve songs that display incredible diversity for a hip-hop freestyle band. K7’s style was like nothing we had heard of in the days of freestyle mania and the response was incredible.
What made K7’s style so different from all of the other groups out there? The mix of dance hall music incorporated with rap and freestyle that set the body in motion in an instant. The first seven tracks of Swing Batta Swing, from their signature song, Come Baby Come to Move It Like This, feature incredible dance beats and lyrics that are easy to learn and sing along with. The infusion of dance hall music and scat into the songs Zunga Zang and Hi De Ho add new flavor to an already enjoyable sound. With the eighth track of the album, Hang On In There Baby, the group slows things down a bit. The song is a love ballad in the style of Marvin Gaye and displays the band’s diversity. It’s a far cry from the ballads lead singer K7 created with the group TKA – this is pure R&B. Beep Me and Hotel Motel, the ninth and tenth track, serve to bring the album back to its “pump it up” course. Hotel Motel is especially fun to sing along with, though I caught some folks staring at me as I sang and moved my body to the hook – “Hotel Motel / If you don’t tell, I won’t tell / About the Hotel Motel / To the Hotel! / To the Motel!” Yeah, I got some strange looks, but I was definitely having fun! A Little Help From My Friends brings things down a notch, showcasing the group’s harmony and again, the ease with which they can slip into any genre. The final track is an alternate mix of the steamy reggae-like song, Move It Like This.There was something else that made Swing Batta Swing such a popular album back in the ‘90s…something more than the exciting beats and cool hooks. That something was the risqué lyrics. Risqué for that time anyway. The lyrics of songs like Come Baby Come - “I can hear the (ring ring ring) / The telephone goes ring (hello hello) / But we're still getting busy (pump pump pump huh) / Now you're getting dizzy / I can slow it down / So you can pump it (pump it) / Then I can move it fast / So you can pump it (pump it) / Two balls and a bat / The pitchers wears a hat / Sliding into home base / Trying to hit a home run / Swing batta batta batta / Batta batta swing” – are tame in comparison to today’s music. Back then, however, listening to K7’s music was the ultimate form of rebellion against the uptight over-the-hill generation.
Listening to the album now, you recognize snippets of songs from other groups in the background music – the Backstreet Boys and Cynthia come to mind. (Of course, Love Me Tonight by Cynthia came out a year ahead of Swing Batta Swing, so I’m sure K7 borrowed the hook from Cynthia.) What you come to realize is that the music of K7 is timeless. The era of freestyle is pretty much over, but with its unique pop / hip-hop sound, the music of K7 is still playable. That means that as you pass people in the street with your car radio blaring, people won’t make the “L” sign at you.
Not only is the album a great way to jump start any work day, but the pure energy created by the music makes it great for any workout regiment. You can’t help wanting to dance when the album is played, so Swing Batta Swing makes for a great workout tape. By the last song of Swing Batta Swing, I, for one am ready to take on the world. But don’t take my word for it! Check out the album yourself and see if you’re not dancing and singing along with it by the second song.