Ivan over at HHIR hipped me to the fact The World Famous Wake Up Show recently had it’s last broadcast. As a European, the joy of tuning to one of these broadcasts live has unfortunately never been an option to me, but the cultural significance of this iconic show wasn’t lost on me. Reading Dan Charnas his excellent book on the history on the business of hip-hop ‘The Big Payback’ made it’s pivotal role in rap history abundantly clear.
While it may have provided proper context but a book wasn’t necessary to evoke my own memories of it’s impact though. At the tail-end of the 90s The Wake Up Show team even released an album on Interscope resembling the show’s format. With DJ Revolution providing mix duties Sway & Tech’s This Or That was a compilation of original tracks, favourite classics and a truckload of guest appearances by the cream of the crop from that era in rap. Back in the day my backpack was loaded with discs for my discman (it’s a portable cd-player, 90s babies) and I was always extra careful packing this one since the casing had this effect where you got a different cover photo if you moved the casing in your hand. It couldn’t be replaced by a regular casing without loosing the effect and feared for breaking it still lugged it around many a time. The dealmaker however was of course the music, and lead single ‘The Anthem’ was certainly not just a hyperbolic title.
But even more than the official CD they released, it’s the yearly semi-official ‘Best Of The Wake Up Show’ compilations that bring back the most fond memories. They contained the best studio performances by emcees that visited the show, Sway & Tech threw on instrumentals and dudes freestyled like there lives depended on it. In a way, at least their livelihoods did, since you simply could not come wack in one of those sessions. You couldn’t bring your Blackberry with your notes in it when ‘freestyling’ either, for several obvious reasons. On top of that, the opening cut was the yearly version of ‘The Anthem,’ the best spitters in the game recording a posse track was worth the price of the disc by itself. The compilations were never officially released in Europe, and the release in the US was done low profile as well, with the back covers telling you to send a ‘self stamped envelope’ to a PO box if you wanted to receive a catalog of available releases. Probably because serious moolah would be needed to clear all the artist appearances for a major release. But Sway & Tech couldn’t just sit on all these incredible recordings, right?
Well, I’m glad they didn’t because a lot of these freestyle sessions became the stuff of legend (like the Big L & Jay-Z freestyle). Mom ‘n pop stores might’ve stacked these releases and some of them even found their way across the Atlantic. Here in The Netherlands, you needed a connect to get a CD like this (or huge amounts of luck in a used records store like yours truly, who’s still grateful for the schmuck that sold his), and when you did, you felt like you were inundated into a secret realm of boombap none of your homies ever heard yet. Since these records were already treading the line of legality and this one hasn’t been available for years anyway I thought they probably wouldn’t mind me sharing my favourite, straight outta the golden era, volume 3 (1996). Wether you’re feeling nostalgic or never heard any of these before, it’s worth your time, because there is some serious dope among these. Peep the tracklist and download-link below, and raise a glass to Sway & King Tech. Salud!
DOWNLOAD: Wake Up Show Freestyles Volume 3