Young M.C. is at peace with himself today. He knows he had his day in the radio sun eight years ago with the platinum-selling “Bust a Move.”
He can’t top it, he admits. There’s no way.
That aside, now he’s able to concentrate on making better music, without all the distractions that consumed his early career.
The wit and insight that sparked the 30-year-old Grammy Award winner’s “Bust a Move” remains intact, even when drawing up an analogy for his career.
“If Roger Clemens throws a 100 mph fastball on Earth,” Young M.C., a k a Marvin Young, said recently, “and then you take him into outer space with no gravity and he’s able to throw 200 mph, then you put him back on Earth and he knows he’ll be on Earth from here on in, he knows he’ll never throw another 200 mph fastball.
“The analogy being that the time where the public was, where the music was and where rap was, I’ll never be back there. Topping it artistically is one thing, but topping it in terms of notoriety, I know it will never happen again. I just don’t see it. I’m just worried about making better music in my own eyes.”
In a way, Young sees himself as a new artist with his recently released Overall Records album “Return of the 1 Hit Wonder,” a tongue-in-cheek reference to his rocket ride to fame. Success happened so quickly, it made his head spin.
In 1988, he co-wrote Tone Loc’s “Wild Thing” and “Funky Cold Medina,” two of the most successful rap songs of the decade, and then his debut album, “Stone Cold Rhymin’,” featuring the infectious “Bust a Move,” sold more than 2 million a year later; he won the Grammy and American Music Awards for best rap artist. He rapped in Pepsi commercials. His follow-up album, “Brainstorm,” was certified gold in 1991.
Then the hits dried up.
“It would’ve been nice if I could have had a three-, four-, five-year career, something like that, and then come out with something so big,” Young said. “I would have learned more in the process and I would’ve been able to handle it better. I think I handled it well, but you always look back and wonder if you could’ve done it differently.
“What I will say, not a lot of people can relate to this, but ’87, ’88, ’89 was a different time, in terms of rap, in terms of how people responded to music, to musicians and careers. Today, I don’t think any record could have the impact on people that ‘Bust a Move’ had. People are too jaded, there’s too much material out there, there’s too much politicism with radio and retail. The focus isn’t into breaking a new artist or a record, it’s in playing what you know is popular.”
That’s why Young went with fledgling Overall and not a major label. A smaller label gives him the undivided attention he needs to stay visible in the crowded rap field.
“To an extent, that’s the tightrope I have to walk,” he said. “You want to be approached as brand new, but you don’t want to reinvent yourself so much that someone who had heard you years ago won’t recognize what it is.”
His first single, “On & Poppin’,” charted briefly on Billboard’s R&B chart and fared well on the rap chart. “Mr. Right Now” is up next and looks to be more competitive.
“Early in my career, I think I may have learned too much,” Young said. “Mostly, you overthink things and you try everything you know into making the music and promoting it and dealing with the public and the press. At some point you have to step back and say, ‘I want to have fun and make records.’ That’s what I’ve done with this album.
“Previously, I was so concerned with how everybody construed ‘Bust a Move’ and thought of me then and try to ride on that and then try to avoid that too much. Now I haven’t even thought about it. I’m just making the best record I can, and if people hear it and have heard me, fine. If they didn’t hear me, fine. I know I’ve done my best.”
BWF (before we forget): The Young M.C. album discography – “Stone Cold Rhymin’ ” (Delicious Vinyl, 1989); “Brainstorm” (Capitol, 1991); “What’s the Flavor?” (1993); “Return of the 1 Hit Wonder” (Overall, 1997); “Ain’t Going Out Like That” (Young Man, 2000); “Engage the Enzyme” (Stimulus, 2002).