Born This Way

Cookie Crew Born This Way Cover

These chicks compliment each other and come together like yin and yang. UK duo Cookie Crew’s first album Born this Way, produced by Daddy-O, was released by FFRR Records in 1989. The project starts with a smooth and directly-sonic rhythmic staple that accurately represents what positive-minded individuals standing up for equal credit in the craft looked like in the 80’s rap scene. But let’s go back for a second…

Hailing from South London, these two young MC’s (known in school as Susie Banfield and Debbie Pryce) bodied every beat with a bass and a drum they were face with. In a world where hip-hop culture was slim but growing and definitely male dominated, these two melodic, fresh female rappers ripped on so many instrumentals. From straight hip-hop tracks to house-party type, funky get-up-and-move jams, these ladies went back and forth over all styles of beats during their careers. Together, Susie and & Debbie were unstoppable, rapping competitively and rising to the top of their game.

Debbie (MC Remedee) and Susie (Susie Q) ran the streets freestyling since they were youngins. By 1983 they’d come across enough like-minded creatives that they were able to form a 13-piece collective that went by the name Warm Milk & The Cookie Crew. The collective was short lived, but it did help the girls generate buzz in the mainstream music industry. Susie Q & MC Remedee split from Warm Milk and signed a deal with Rhythm King Record, based in London.  The label recognized the artists’ flawless delivery, flow versatility, and authentic content on the tracks they’d cut.

The Beatmasters, a British electronic/house group, helped produce a track called Rok Da House which went onto be the girls first hit and was used in an advertisement for a UK soft drink. “Rock Da” is now largely considered to be the first ‘hip-house’ record. By 1987, Cookie Crew’s lyricism was renowned and before long, they were drafted to FFRR Records, a new label founded only a year earlier. This fresh business endeavour led to Cookie Crew’s debut studio album, Born This Way, releasing in 1989.

Born this Way was an entire, razor-sharp, debut studio album from 2 young, insightful, and active British MC’s. Susie Q & MC Remedee not only assisted each other over various beats, but they assisted multiple producers from overseas in the US as well. Once signed with FFRR, the duo proceeded to really do their thing and worked with producers like GangStarr, DJ Premier, Black Sheep, Daddy-O, and DJs Maxine (DJ Max) and Dazzle.

The third track on the album, Come On and Get Some, proved not only that Cookie Cookie Crew could rhyme, but that they were willing to perform, experiment with their sound, and battle anyone who came their way. Off the bat, track after track, they smoothly explain how they’re meant for this rap shit. The statement track Pick Up on This samples James Brown’s I’m a Greedy Man and lets them boast and do their thing while giving shout-outs to all their influences and respected affiliates, peers and friends.  There’s even time at the end of the track for their DJ to scratch a couple good moves and then it spins out and perfectly transitions to a song called Feelin’ Proud. Just like James Brown, these girls are black, proud, and and say it loud. Preaching positivity, racial equality, and basic appreciation for one’s self, the track reminds everyone to be proud for who they are – a great message if we listen to it and let it be true. “Practice, it always makes perfect… Rhyme for rhyme, and it’s superb,” as they say on this track. I get such a good vibe off the intentions of this album.

As I move through the project, I get the idea that these two MC’s meant business way before their hobbie-turned-lifestyle became a revenue stream. I’m amazed to see how talented and diverse Cookie Crew is because 1) I’m not familiar with many artist outside of the country—I’m ashamed to say it now cause the world is such a huge place and music is universal— and 2) being young and female they must have, without a doubt, been groundbreaking artists that shook the earth when they emerged. I learned a lot from this album: persistence mixed with passion, confidence, and non-stop dedication can drive you all the way to where you need to be. I just Got to Keep On like they say on track 7, with Daddy-O on the 1’s ‘n 2’s.

Midway through the 14-track album is the title track, Born this Way. This song smacks and comes with a fire video that really take me back to what life must have been like at the time  Parties, flutes, drums, crashes, high-velocity noise, city vibes, extreme energy, back-and-forth, stanza after stanza, bar after bar, Susie Q & MC Remedee rip through a unique and original song with a solid groove and live instrumentals. I was writing when this song first came on and it stole my attention. I was like, “Oh, it makes sense!” If you can take yourself to this time somehow (or let the music take you there), you’ll definitely start to move to the beat.

Just a little later comes track 10, Places and Spaces.  The two use this song to rap about growing up together and why they write what they do. With the purest possible lyrics – no cursing, just straight smooth lingo – they give prime examples of childhood stories, boys, travel, battle experiences, and keeping balance through it all. Of all the tracks on this album, “Places and Spaces” caught my ear the most. Susie Q & MC Remedee have tons of notable verses that sum up the energy and background of their career on this track:

Raised and born south side of London
Never making trouble, just having fun
Me and D made a pact, put our minds to rap
Turned words to cash cos we got it like that
See, we grew up together, it’s a family thing
Some families dance, other families sing
But this family talked about what we write
One other thing: we don’t fight
In school we chase the boys home
Of course the boys wouldn’t leave us alone
Wanted to carry our books and be our ho’s
But when the boys tried to get too close
We said nay and told them to step off
And a little after that we told them to get lost
Cos at that time boys could only be friends
In the places and spaces I’ve been

I remember one night we were doing a show
When this other rap group (You mean..?) (Yeah, you know)
Tried to cause a little friction, robbing us wrong
Started yelling and shouting during one of our songs
It was a nasty move, sort of got out of hand
Cos this kind of move was contrary to plans
The Cooks had a result to our favourite sport
Adjusted our mikes and we went off
The crew that were shouting – we pointed them out
Made an example by taking them out
And it was a prime example then
Of the place and spaces I’ve been

One last highlight is the rightfully named Dazzle’s Theme, a solo track rom the dangerous duo’s dj, DJ Dazzle. Aside from mastering the girls’ tracks live, he samples short snippets of conversation from the studio and goes in on em with remixed electronics and hip-hop dance music.

The honesty and humbleness from this duo is what I admire most on Born This Way. Decades later, I feel like I can attest to this project’s quality.  These artists must have been pioneers in their time with their wild, unique flows, endless creative expression, and versatility. All in all, I respect these MC’s and have grown more fond of the era thanks to them breaking the ice. I’m now looking deeper into the roots of the hip-hop music industry.