Das EFX (Contemporary Musicians)
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Das EFX appeared on the rap scene in 1992 with their platinum-selling album Dead Serious, which combined elements of hip-hop and hardcore rap with a novel, stammering vocal style and quickly established the East Coast group as versatile, freewheeling, and original. Their "diggity" stylen which they infused lyrics with the words "iggity," "diggity," or "wiggity"as unique to the band and was relentlessly mimicked by other hip-hop musicians hoping to cash in on Das EFX's early success. The lyrics in Das EFX's first album have a whimsical, imaginative sound to them that is further underscored by heavy bass lines, unpredictable pauses, and a playful delivery.
Das EFX is comprised of Skoob and Krazy Drayz. The duo released their debut album in the spring of 1992 and expanded the delivery of words to stuttering triple-time syllables. Dead Serious went platinum in 1992, a fortuitous milestone for a debut. Their second album, Straight Up Sewaside, was released in November of 1993 and featured a more traditional hip-hop sound with unexpected breaks and stops.
Skoob, or Books, was born Willie Hines and was raised in the middle-class section of Brooklyn known as Crown Heights. Drayz, born Andrew Weston, grew up in Tea Neck, New Jersey. The two met at Virginia State University while both were studying English literature. The duo later attributed their flippant, bouncy hip-hop sound to the fact that they were in Virginia, far from the musical influences of either New York City or Los Angeles.
While at Virginia State University, Skoob and Drayz entered a rap contest in 1991 in Richmond that was judged by members of the East Coast hip-hop group EPMD. Skoob and Drayz, who looked to EPMD as role models, felt confident they would win the contest's $100 first prize. Though they lost the contest, Skoob and Drayz were offered an EPMD-brokered record label deal with EastWest. They accepted on the spot and chose the name Das EFX, a shortened version of "Drayz and Skoob Effects." Drayz and Skoob both left Virginia State University and started working on their first album, Dead Serious, never suspecting the LP would blossom into one of 1992's best-selling rap and hip-hop records and go platinum.
In 1993, a year after Skoob and Drayz moved out of their Virginia State University dormitory and released their first album, they bought a house together in suburban Long Island with a pool, gym, music preproduction studio, and basketball court. They felt they would rather live together than apart, which was a testament to their solid friendship. Although two young bachelors with an enormous house in Long Island would be expected to host massive parties, the twos a ruleever threw parties in their home. They shunned crowds in favor of close friends, their production crew, current films, television, video games, and a peaceful, reflective solitude.
Das EFX's unique style was immediately imitated by other hip-hop bands who had heard the Das EFX demo tape long before Dead Serious was released. When the debut album turned out to be wildly successful, even more imitators cropped up, stuttering in the jerky manner invented by Das EFX. Discouragednd as a result of this blatant pilferingas EFX dropped their signature "diggity" sound after their first album. Straight Up Sewaside, their second album, was less groundbreaking in terms of style and more heavily focused on clear narrative.
True to Tradition
After the release of Das EFX's second album, Spin magazine's Dream Hampton wrote, "Das definitely packs ... plenty of West Coast bass, [but] they're East Coast hip hop junkies first, keepers and lovers of the tradition." The duo's emphasis on narrative style on their second album is a choice usually associated with hardcore, L.A.-based rap musicians. This focus is generally less important to traditional East Coast hip-hop artists, who favor a novel, freestyle presentation and a unique lyrical signature. Although Das EFX experimented with the heavier bass notes and emphasized the narrative of the hardcore hip-hop sound, they remained close to their creative freestyle roots.
Jim Färber of the New York Daily News wrote of Das EFX's second album: "Confronting a hip-hop world crammed with too many fake gangstas, glitzy sellouts and flimsy gimmick acts, Das means to unearth old-school traditions."The Boston Globe's Ken Capobianco noted of the duo on Straight Up Sewaside: "They don't break new ground here. Rather, rappers Krazy Drayz and Books firm up the foundation they laid down on their debut."
Das EFX is also true to longstanding, faithful friends: their production team, Silent Scheme, which consists of Derrick Lynch and Chris Charity, was with them when they started out in 1992. Their road manager, Anthony "Blitz" Butler, is a former Virginia State University student, and their original manager, Dennis Wade, has been with the duo since they first set out to record an album. Das EFX remain close to former EPMD members and other hip-hop musiciansuch as KRS-Oneho had been role models for the duo.
Skoob and Drayz are inspired by a wide range of music beyond the hip-hop and rap realm and cull their riffs from favorite rhythm and blues, jazz, reggae, dancehall, and classical music pieces. Some of the other recording acts sampled in Das EFX songs include Kool & the Gang, James Brown, and the Beastie Boys. Das EFX eventually founded their own music management company, the Young & the Restless, and handle an assortment of new talent, including a group of female rappers from New Jersey called Twice the Flava.
Das EFX often explores pop culture and television in a lighthearted, loose manner, alluding to television icons, memorable commercials, quirky consumer products, serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, actor and filmmaker Woody Allen, and cartoon character Woody Woodpecker. Their single "Kaught in Da Ak" is a dark, vivid narrative about a gas pump attendant who becomes a robber. Another single on their second album that describes a tale of crime and deceit is "Undaground Rapper." Creem magazine's Marie Elsie St. Leger commented, "Das EFX has learned that the most important thing is musical integrity. And fat beats."
Das EFX has managed to recreate the English language in their music in a jubilant, tongue-twisting, seamless style, avoiding the bitterness or harshness associated with hardcore rap. Their reference to "sewaside" simply meant they did not stray far from the traditional underground hip-hop movement after the success of Dead Serioussewa" is a term for the underground. The duo also chose the single "Freakit" to introduce their second album because "freakin' styles" means to experiment in every direction; this is precisely what they intended to do on their second album to dispel the notion that they were a one-style ("diggity") wonder.
Das EFX toured 16 cities in late 1993 and traveled from east to west to remain visible. They also appeared on NBC's Late Night With Conan O'Brien, Black Entertainment Television's Video Soul and Video LP, and the Arsenio Hall Show.
Dead Serious, EastWest, 1992.
Straight Up Sewaside, EastWest, 1993.
Billboard, January 11, 1992; February 5, 1993; February 15, 1994.
Boston Globe, November 25, 1993.
Creem, March 1994.
Details, February 1994.
East Coast Rocker, March 18, 1992.
Entertainment Weekly, July 17, 1992.
New York Daily News, December 12, 1993.
New York Newsday, November 29, 1993.
Rap Masters, June 1992.
Request, May 1992; February 1994.
Rolling Stone, May 28, 1992.
Slap, March 1994.
Source, November 1992; January 1994.
Spin, May 1992, February 1994.
B. Kimberly Taylor