Context rules everything around me. Long before I knew anything of Davy DMX's sundry contributions to hip-hop, I found his Davy's Ride LP in the creepy vinyl section at my neighborhood Goodwill. Mostly dusty junk bequeathed by dead and ancient emigres, the shelf had apparently been visited by the baddest local DJ of the Jheri Curl Era. Along with 12"s for "Clear" and "Follow The Leader," there was an LP by Davy D, featuring DJ Hurricane, called Davy's Ride. I'd never heard of it, but the year and label were right (1987, Def Jam), Hurricane looked like he'd just stepped off the Raising Hell tour bus, and Glen E. Friedman's righteous flicks of Davy & 'Cane pressed up against a police cruiser's hood had me amped for some N.W.A.-style cop bashing. Could it be I'd found a lost gem?
By the time "Ohh Girl" came on I'd probably thrown the sleeve across the room. Davy's Ride is not really a rap album. I decided I'd played myself, like the time I bought that terrible Arkansaw Man EP just 'cause it came out on Subterranean in '82, and forgot about it for the next decade. Until last night! Curious about the disappointing record I'd plucked from the Goodwill grime back in my schoolboy daze, I dialed up the deets and eventually discovered Davy D and Davy DMX are one and the same. I understand SEO wasn't a priority at the time, but I can't understand why Davy would ditch the brand recognition of the DMX handle. IDK. Is there a marketer in the house?
Unfortunately, some tweakers stole my turntable years ago, and I have no intention of buying a new one. I embrace the immateriality and hyper-acquisitiveness of the filesharing era, and eagerly await shedding this inefficient flesh when the singularity arrives. Thankfully, there is YouTube. Fairly or not, I find myself being more generous now that I know who's behind the electro R&B crooning that so disgusted me as a young'n. A frame of reference can work wonders. It's a producer album, so obviously it's going to be scatterbrained and wanky at times - a slab of unchecked self-indulgence where there's no collaborator to push back against the knobtwiddler's dumbest ideas.
It goes without saying that the production is impeccable. In particular, "Keep Your Distance" and "Bring It" showcase the sample 'n' scratch collage style that - at least for '80s Ivory Tower types tryin to come to terms with this rap shit - seemed to share a grammar with the institutional avant-garde. Hurricane handles most of the rapping duties, and his lack of presence as a makes today's model of feature-driven producer albums seem attractive by comparison, even tho most of those still suck anyway. As an avowed rap chauvinist, I can't critique the proto-New Jack Swing/quasi-freestyle numbers objectively, but I will say that Davy's Ride would have benefited from some organizing structure. It's a baffling listen for someone who doesn't know the name Davy DMX: a mixed bag of instrumentals, rudimentary raps, and syrupy R&B, all doled out without any pretense of unity. Like a double feature playing Fried Green Tomatoes next to The Driller Killer, Davy's Ride can't decide which demographic it wants to please. At times it seems like an excuse for Davy to try on different costumes: loverman with the baby oil, king of rock, dance-floor facilitator. It's the best part of the album, but also its greatest weakness.
Although not one of my favorite songs, the "Ohh Girl" video is a classic of the '80s form. There are a lot of great moments - Davy, Hurricane, and the gang clocking studio time, preening and mugging like Rick James and Eddie in the "My Girl" video; the love interest sleeping with a framed copy of Davy's publicity shot by her bed - but my favorite part has to be the shabby cabdriver look Davy rocks as he ferries his girl around a park. The mainstream wasn't ready for Davy, but maybe Davy wasn't ready for the mainstream either.