(I guess I should also thank them for providing the name of this column.)
To most folks, the duo of P.M. Dawn were but a blip on the radar screen of music. If you remember them, you do for one of several reasons:
*A couple of their major hits used fairly obvious samples of major pop hits – Set Adrift on Memory Bliss sampled Spandau Ballet’s True and Looking Through Patient Eyes relied heavily on George Michael’s Father Figure (Michael returned the favor by allowing them to remix his 1993 mashup of Seal’s Killer with The Temptations’ Papa Was a Rolling Stone). This was a few years before Puff Daddy made wholesale jacking cool and at least PM Dawn had the talent to structure new melodies and choruses out of the pre-existing songs.
*Prince Be (Attrell Cordes, the duo’s rapping half) was a big dude.
*KRS-ONE notoriously tossed Be off a stage at a 1992 party for MTV’s T-Money in retaliation for a comment made in Details magazine (“KRS-ONE says he is a teacher, but a teacher of what?”)
However, a simple listen to P.M. Dawn’s music reveals an adventurous spirit and an ear for melody that goes far beyond the reach of the average hip-hop act and even reaches beyond most pop acts. Be wasn’t a bad emcee, but he was just as good-if not better-as a singer. Even if his reposeful vocal stylings (he was like a hip-hop Bob Ross, utilizing a sleepy near-monotone when rapping that got slightly more animated when singing) didn’t sit well with you, songs like 1995’s Downtown Venus , 1992’s I’d Die Without You (one of the decade’s best songs, unjustly buried on the soundtrack to the Eddie Murphy flick Boomerang) and 1993’s More Than Likely (a ballsy duet with Boy George) proved him to be a very good pop craftsman, even if his stuff was just a little too left-of-center to keep the duo in the mainstream limelight.
The duo (Attrell’s little brother Jarrett served as the duo’s DJ) recorded four increasingly interesting albums over an eight year period, culminating in the truly bizarre semi-concept father-to-son album Dearest Christian, I’m So Very Sorry for Bringing You Here, Love Dad. As weird as the concept is, it’s an excellent pop album, with a chilled out tone that presaged (and would fit perfectly next to) acts like Zero 7.
While I think only a Greatest Hits album is available on record store shelves these days, their entire four album discography is available digitally, and the New Jersey-based Prince Be still performs across the country, most recently opening for fellow 90s sensations Boyz II Men. Not sure whether any new music is on the horizon, but PM Dawn’s pop smarts and experimental leanings made them one of the best artists you weren’t paying attention to (at least beyond their hits) during the decade.
(The video for “I’d Die Without You”, one of the best singles of the Nineties)
1995’s Fantasia’s Confidential Ghetto is an extremely weird mashup of Prince’s 1999, Once in a Lifetime by The Talking Heads, and Harry Nilsson’s Coconut. Whoever thought of jamming these songs together deserves a medal of some sort.
“I’ll Be Waiting for You” is from the same album (1995’s “Jesus Wept”)…good stuff.