Picks and Pans Review: Pump Up the Jam
Take a producer of slick European disco. Mix in two Belgian female singers of Zairian descent and a British male who specializes in rap music. Pump up the volume, shake all over and—voilà!—it's the debut album by Technotronic.
As if it were carefully concocted by that kind of recipe, this is a mass-market product that might set an international trend or two in the early '90s. The album epitomizes a new genre called "hip house," a mixture of rap with house music. (For those who missed it in the '80s, house music sounds to untrained ears like old-fashioned disco with an extra electric kick.)
The fusion creates sparks. Morsels of rap become highly palatable for the masses because of the dance beat, and the dance music sounds less monotonous and wimpy than usual because of the rap. The title song, an instant dance-chart hit, is so enticing, the production so crisp and precise, that most people would have to put on a straitjacket to keep from bouncing around to the beat.
Producer-synthesizer player Jo Bogaert obviously took great care in mixing Technotronic's ingredients. Lead singer Ya Kid K and her British cohort MC Eric balance each other nicely as they trade vocals. While he effectively mimics tough, streetwise American rappers, she plays the disco diva, coolly delivering such lines as "Get your booty on the floor tonight/ Make my day." Backup harmonizer Felly seems to have been recruited at least in part to pose for the album cover wearing her trademark blue lipstick.
Bogaert's decision to repeat the same bass lines and synthesizer chords gives many of the songs a Technotronic trademark, but it also makes them sound an awful lot like the same song. Most of the band's lyrics are as inane as the worst disco and never as clever as the best rap.
A steady diet of this stuff might lead to musical malnutrition. Then again, when it comes to a short energy rush, this cross-cultural conglomeration sometimes satisfies like, say, a peanut butter cup. Technotronic's jam melds two good flavors—rap and dance music—into a lip-smacking treat. (SBK)