Monday, January 5, 2009

Dr. Octagon / Handsome Boy Modeling School / Dan the Automator - "Bear Witness I, II, III" (forgotten song)

Is it really a "forgotten song" if very few people heard it to begin with? In this segment, I step away from obscure videos I recall from the early days of MTV to bring to your attention what is really three songs that are apparently by three different artists, span seven years yet share a single title: "Bear Witness", parts I, II and III.

"Bear Witness" is on the 1996 release "Dr. Octagonecologyst" by Dr. Octagon (aka Kool Keith). "Holy Calamity (Bear Witness II)" is from the 1999 release "So... How's Your Girl?" by Handsome Boy Modeling School. "Bear Witness III" is (as far as I can determine) a 2002 12" only release by Dan the Automator.

The common thread is Dan the Automator. He's the producer on the Dr. Octagon LP and he's 1/2 of HBMS (on the left in the photo above; the other 1/2 is De La Soul affiliate Prince Paul). The Dr. Octagon LP is critically acclaimed. I don't have a copy, but in the few samples I've found online it appears to be an extended joke that I don't find very funny. Perhaps if I listened to it start to finish, but I doubt it. The HBMS LP is also critically acclaimed; it's on my list to get but I just haven't done it yet.

Since I have none of the associated LPs, I "discovered" this song because "Bear Witness II" is featured on DJ Shadow's "Live! In Tune and On Time" LP. Dan the Automator and DJ Shadow are frequent collaborators; in fact DJ Shadow guests on "Bear Witness II" (see also: "Bombay the Hard Way: Guns, Cars, and Sitars").

Ok, so that was a confusing and possibly unnecessary explanation of the pedigree of this song cycle. They represent some of the best in largely instrumental hip hop: big beats, hooks, great samples, fun vocal fills ("create rap music cuz I never dug disco"), etc. I guess they're old enough to qualify as "forgotten", so give them a listen whether it is for the 1st time or not.

Links: All three songs nicely edited into a single track: YouTube.
Bear Witness I: YouTube.
Bear Witness II: YouTube.
Bear Wtiness III: YouTube.

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