The story of Hip Hop and Rap Music is a fascinating one to say the least. Various individuals have contributed to the look and sound of our great but complex culture. There are also those who somehow fell beneath the cracks and crevices of our consciousness. When we think about popularity, success is automatically associated with a name or brand. When you think of Producers and Music Moguls, they became stars in their own right by the mid to late 90’s. Do you remember the 1995 Source Awards?
“If you don’t want your producer all in the video, dancing…..come to Death Row” – Suge Knight
I’m sure you’ve seen this clip of Suge Knight taking a shot at Sean “Puffy” Combs. This was during the beginning stages of the East Coast vs West Coast Rap War. Of course we found out that none of this was really about music and unfortunately Biggie and Tupac died within 2 years of this Award Show. At any rate, during the late 90’s Suge Knight, Master P, Sean Combs, Jermaine Dupri and Dr. Dre were the names that most people recognized as the face of movements and various sounds of Hip Hop in Executive roles. A generation before them, you heard Rick Rubin, Russell Simmons, J. Prince and a few others but for some reason, Hurby “Luv Bug” Azor is never properly recognized.
I can honestly say with a straight look on my face that Luv Bug is just as important as any of the individuals previous mentioned and listed in this article. You see, Puffy is not the first Executive Producer in the video with his artists. Jermaine Dupri is not the first Writer for his Artists who participated in video’s and played a major role visually. Dr. Dre is not the first person to push artist development and guide the early stages of careers. Yes, Dr. Dre was introduced to Snoop Dogg and DOC assisted him with the art of writing songs in 1991. Hurby Luv Bug did each of these things masterfully and set the stage for many who followed in the mid to late 80’s. As I always say on Da Dome, lets take a quick trip down memory lane.
In 1985, Hip Hop was still in the stage of “response records”. For those who aren’t familiar with this terminology I will give a brief description. Back in the day an artist would make a song and another artist would reply to the song either in a diss or some type of acknowledgement. Often times, this was a way to get the artist who created the response some attention or literally get them a record deal. Doug E. Fresh & The Get Fresh Crew recorded a legendary song you might have heard of called “The Show”. Luv Bug had a new group called Super Nature (later famously known as Salt-n-Pepa) who released the response song “The Show Stoppa”. Hurby would eventually send the song to Marley Marl which would assist in getting a record deal. Needless to say, Hip Hop Culture and Rap Music would never be the same.
With the notoriety of “The Show Stoppa”, Salt-n-Pepa reign began. Just for perspective Salt-n-Pepa and Hurby Luv Bug were co-workers at SEARS. During this time Hurby was studying record production at the Center of Media Arts in New York. At any rate, a year following “The Show Stoppa” and the track reaching top 50 on the billboards, Super Nature released their debut album Hot, Cool & Vicious (1986)with DJ Latoya Hanson as Salt-n-Pepa. Luv Bug would handle the production and writing. The album spawned the Hip Hop Classic “Push It” as the lead single along with “Tramp”. The album was the first by a female rap group to gain Gold or Platinum Status. As for Salt-n-Pepa, Luv Bug would go on to produce and write A Salt with a Deadly Pepa (1988) and Black Magic (1990) with his production team The Invincibles. There is a long list of hits that Luv Bug wrote for Salt-n-Pepa and during a 5 year stretch Luv Bug and Salt were in a relationship and had a child. Luv Bug can be seen in all of the early videos playing instruments, singing hooks and being visible like Puffy would be known for a few years later.
During this era, Hurby Luv Bug would also Executive Produce and along with his team, create the sound for Dana Dane’s amazing debut album Dana Dane with Fame (1987). When you think of the tracks “Dana Dane with Fame”, “Cinderfella”, “Nightmares” and “Delancey Street”, that is the creation of Hurby Luv Bug. Oh yeah, Luv Bug also produced a debut album by this group you might have heard of that goes by the name Kid ‘n Play. The album 2 Hype was released in 1988 to a great reception (Gold Album and 3 singles that charted) that spawned an amazing career for the duo. Who can forget growing up and doing the Kid ‘n Play dance at parties, school and in the neighborhood? When you had a good time to “Rollin’ with Kid ‘n Play”, “2 Hype” and “Getting’ Funky”, you can thank Hurby Luv Bug and the Invincibles for the sound. Luv Bug would go on to produce the groups second album and work on the third project as well. Hurby would also produce for Sweet Tee, Snow, E.U., Antoinette & Super Lovers but there was one more genius who was molded by Hurby Luv Bug.
On January 31, 1989 Kwame’ released his debut album Kwame’ the Boy Genius: Featuring a New Beginning. I remember thinking how large this kid was going to be. I mean, we were basically the same age. Kwame’ was a child prodigy in Hip Hop like LL Cool J before him and his peer Special Ed. Hurby Luv Bug was the driving force behind the production and the tracks “The Man We All Know and Love”, “The Rhythm”, and “Swing Thing”. One note to remember is Hurby “Luv Bug” Azor and The Invincibles had a sound. Production teams in the 80’s would work with select artists and create a song and a movement. If the sound was transcending enough, fans would gravitate towards it for generations.
If you go to an Old School Party or hear an Old School “Set” at a party you will hear songs from Salt-n-Pepa, Kid ‘n Play, Dana Dane and Kwame’. The impact of Salt-n-Pepa in regard to females in Hip Hop going global can’t be ignored. The success of Kid ‘n Play in Hollywood (House Party Franchise, Class Act and Cartoons) is legendary within itself. Hurby “Luv Bug” made it cool for the producer to be “All up in the video”. Hurby “Luv Bug” made it cool for the producer to dance and sing “All up in the video”. Hurby “Luv Bug” made it cool to have your own vision, be yourself and put out the music you enjoy and not compromise your creativity. To this day I don’t know why he disappeared from the public eye or why he isn’t appreciated in the manner that he should. I would like to say job well done to a low key guy born on September 26,1964 in Port-de-Paix. Haiti.
Sources: www.unkut.com, Wikipedia, www.allmusic.com