Wednesday, April 7, 2021

"Turn Off the Lights" by World Class Wreckin' Cru

Song#:  3456
Date:  03/26/1988
Debut:  93
Peak:  84
Weeks:  11
Genre:  Electro, Hip-Hop

Pop Bits:  This DJ collective had a bit of a confusing history. In the 70s, a popular L.A. DJ named Alonzo Williams developed an act called Disco Construction that performed around the city. The act became enough of a draw that William was able to open up his own night club, Eve After Dark, in '79. However, around that time the musical landscape was changing and Williams decided to develop another act that incorporated electro-funk and old school hip-hop/rap. Initially called the Wreckin' Cru, Williams hired on a pair of DJs along with a female vocalist and other musicians to make up the group. As they became a popular act, Williams got them in the studio to record tracks for his own label, Kru-Cut. Now called the World Class Wreckin' Cru, they released a debut album titled World Class in 1985. It became popular enough for the group to get signed to Epic Records. A second album, Rapped in Romance, was issued out, but neither it nor its singles made any impact and the group lost their deal. Still, the group soldiered on and after personnel changes, they recorded a few more tunes including the slow jam "Turn Off the Lights." It got pushed out on the Kru-Cut label and it started to catch on. It eventually made the R&B chart and would peak at #30. It then crossed over to Pop and although it stayed on the chart for nearly three months, it could only manage a #84 peak. A second single, "Lay Your Body Down," would get to #54 R&B. However, as the Wreckin' Cru were breaking on a more national level, the various members were going off to do their own projects. Williams tried to keep the Wreckin' Cru name alive and recorded the 1990 album Phases of Life mostly on his own, but it failed to do anything. With that result, the Cru project came to an end.

ReduxReview:  I wasn't sure where this song was going when it first started. It sounded a little eerie and mysterious before the vocals came in. Then there was the slow intro rap that was more like a recitation than a rap. It was an unusual, yet interesting start that got my attention, but the song truly came alive when Michel'le came in on the chorus. Wow. Apparently, she was 16 when she did this vocal. She just totally wailed and crushed it. She sounded like a seasoned vet who had been singing for decades. The raps done by each member are fine, but it was Michel'le that truly sold the song. She was pure fire. She went on to have a hit song and gold debut album, but then her career went south most likely due to horrible, abusive relationships with Dr. Dre and Suge Knight along with a period of substance abuse. It was too bad as she was very talented and had a killer voice. She should have had a much bigger career. This song got things kicked off for her and she knocked it out of the park.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  The World Class Wreckin' Cru basically became the launching pad for a trio of artists that would go on to much greater success. When Williams was forming the group, he hired on a couple of popular local DJs, Andre Young and Antoine Carraby, aka Dr. Dre and DJ Yella, respectively. Prior to this song getting on the charts, Dr. Dre had begun working with rapper Eazy-E on some tracks. In addition, another rapper by the name of Ice Cube was penning material for the Wreckin' Cru. At some point, Dr. Dre ended up in jail due to traffic tickets. Having apparently bailed him out before, Williams refused to do it again. Eazy-E then stepped in and got Dr. Dre out on the condition that Dre would jump ship and join his Ruthless Records as a producer. Dre did and it wasn't long before he, Eazy-E, DJ Yella, and Ice Cube, along with the Arabian Prince, formed the iconic rap group N.W.A. Their seminal debut album Straight Outta Compton would be released in August of '88. Aside from Dr. Dre and DJ Yella, the other person from the Wreckin' Cru to have success was Dre's girlfriend at the time Michel'le. She would sign up with Ruthless Records and issue out a self-titled debut album in '89. It would be a gold seller thanks to the gold #7 Pop/#2 R&B hit "No More Lies."


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