Just out of college in 1989, Young MC (Marvin Young), elevated rap’s appeal to mainstream audiences with the crossover hit “Bust a Move.” The undeniably catchy track pushed sales of his debut album, “Stone Cold Rhymin’” past the 2-million mark. In 1990, Young MC was winning Grammy awards and partying with Bono and Bruce Springsteen. The Boss offered congratulations and some prophetic words: He felt sorry for the new star because there was nowhere to go but down after selling so many records on his first attempt.
Two unsuccessful follow-up albums failed to recapture the momentum of “Bust a Move” and proved Mr. Springsteen right. But 13 years later, Young MC, 35, continues to write music for himself and other artists. He’s transitioned from pop-culture phenom to a sage chronicler of the industry that made him a star and then dumped him when record buyers’ tastes changed.
As comfortable discussing the intricacies of the music business as penning a complex rhyme scheme, the University of Southern California graduate knows it’s the nostalgia of “Bust a Move,” the instantly recognizable tale about a shy guy’s woes with women, that lands him concert dates. He’s performing at two of the area’s expensive New Year’s Eve parties: first from 9 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at the Wyndham Inner Harbor in Baltimore, then from 11 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. at the Grand Hyatt in the District.
Young MC promises a mix of vintage material and songs from his new album, “Engage the Enzyme,” released in early October.
“Artistically, it was a real breakthrough for me because I stopped listening to the forces inside of me and outside of me” that pressed for a “Bust a Move” retread, he says during a phone interview from his home in Los Angeles.
The 14 tracks showcase Young MC’s varied tastes: Parliament-style bass lines, radio-friendly dance beats and smoothed-out R&B. “One Time for Your Mind” melds old and new influences: Riding over a slick club groove, the rapper unleashes his lucid rhymes with the speed of a world-class sprinter, pausing only for an Isaac Hayes-inspired chorus. Unencumbered by record-label pressure, he felt comfortable enough to sing quite respectably on such songs as “Babe” and “Easier.”
“Thirty-plus years gives you wisdom/To let you know what you want” refers to his passion for a female companion on “Easier,” but the lines represent a theme that’s woven throughout “Engage the Enzyme.” The album’s standout tracks, “Stress Test” and “In Case,” position Young MC as a veteran of the rap game and mentor to today’s hip-hop artists.
He’s no fan of the violence, cursing and misogyny that flows through so much of the music. Mr. Young the businessman doesn’t begrudge the musicians for trying to make a living; he lashes out against the major-label system and its money-first, artists-second system.
His views were formed from first-hand experiences, listening to the stinging words of harder-edged rappers who attacked his credibility for releasing “Bust a Move,” and failing to remain a top-selling act. But Young MC is too self-motivated to be mired in bitterness.
“I put out records because I like to,” says Mr. Young. “All I want to do is put my talents out there and let the public decide.”
One of the area’s most respected punk bands, Dismemberment Plan, wraps up a successful 2002 with two shows at the Black Cat tomorrow and Saturday. The group toured extensively in the United States and overseas throughout the year in support of “Change,” a spirited and confident confirmation of the Plan’s expansive musical range.
The Black Cat gigs may feature some new material. The band is writing songs for its next full-length project, which could arrive in stores next fall. It’s unclear which label will release the album; the band’s former label, DeSoto Records, announced in August that it will no longer issue new music.
Richmond’s Engine Down, which plays on the first night’s bill along with Gloria Deluxe, faces a similar situation: The four-member group is pulling together new songs and fielding offers from labels.
Hip-hop and R&B radio station WPGC 95.5 FM doesn’t want any excuses from listeners who adore the stars of its second annual Jingle Jam. The Lanham, Md., station scheduled for Monday at Constitution Hall a 4 p.m. set and another performance at 8 p.m.
B2K, the hottest R&B act in the United States, headlines the event with support from IMX and Kim Scott. The station might need a third show, based on the overwhelming fan support for B2K.
The teenagers in this band Boog, Lil Fizz, Raz-B and Omarion have been bringing the goods like Santa Claus to fanatical fans since the March 2002 release of “B2K,” their self-titled debut. And they’ve kept the buzz going by releasing two additional discs, a follow LP, “Pandemonium!” and a holiday CD called “Santa Hooked Me Up.”