Rammellzee was an important player in the initial crossover of hip-hop culture to the mainstream. He participated in hip-hop's earliest phases, though the bizarre edge his aggressively fanciful inventions brought to the original hip-hop style has been somewhat blunted by the dominance of the gangsta pose and its supposed "reality." Though he performed and recorded as an MC, Rammellzee achieved greater fame as a visual artist, with exhibitions in fine art venues of both North America and Europe. He began his art career "bombing" New York City subway trains, but the subway system influenced more than his artwork. Dynamite D, a conductor who rhymed boasts of the superior condition of his super clean D-train over the train's intercom, is named by Rammellzee as an early rap inspiration. Partnered with MCs Shock Dell and Jamal, Rammellzee participated in early hip-hop sound system battles, where he developed the "W.C. Fields" and "Gangsta Duck" voices originated by Jamal. Rammellzee employed the "Gangsta Duck" on "Beat Bop," a dense dialogue with K-Rob, nominally produced by the late painter Jean Michel Basquiat, and released on Profile Records. "Beat Bop" was the result of some improvised role playing, with Rammellzee playing a pimp and K-Rob in the character of a schoolboy. The resulting rap is the best and most sustained example on record of Rammellzee's flights of wordplay, fantasy, and street surrealism. He also appeared in the film Wildstyle and can be heard on the soundtrack LP of the movie. Though mostly concentrating on his visual art, he has collaborated on several progressive hip-hop projects, most often with Bill Laswell.
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