My maternal grandmother, Minnie Lee Martin-Pinder aka Grandma Lee, passed away on January 1, 2010. A few weeks later, my uncle Donald made the eight-hundred-mile drive from her home in the Fordham section of the west Bronx to Chicago with a U-Haul cargo trailer packed with her old belongings. Among the items were hundreds of records that I unofficially inherited. I say “unofficially” because Grandma Lee never specifically bequeathed them to me; the rest of the family most likely reasoned that “Mother sure had a lot of records…we could probably get rid of these by giving them to Ronnie.”
It was appreciated. I like records—especially ones with a drawing of a maniacal bulldog wearing a dookie chain and shell-toes on the cover. From the menacing name and look of the crew—San Diego duo DJ Candyman and Superslim, with MC Deb B, DBX, Marvee V, and DJ Gill—one would think the Vicious Beat Posse actually made vicious music. Then you notice the tagline running along the bottom of the jacket that reads “LEGALIZED…to make legal… DOPE…our term meaning knowledge… POSSE…A force of people having legal authority” and realize it’s a “just say no” track in the vein of Ice-T’s “I’m Your Pusher,” where rappers substitute a symbol of positivity for drugs in hopes of keeping both streets and minds clear of that narcotic. Producer DJ Gill uses a heaping helping of Maceo and the Macks’ “Soul Power ’74” for his stock, mixing in ESG’s ubiquitous “UFO” while the posse comes quite nicely on the lyrical tip, giving “Legalized Dope” some real flavor. This was, after all, a period in hip-hop when even gimmicks were quality productions, and with the late Louil Silas Jr.—MCA architect of the New Edition and Bobby Brown solo sound—among the executive producers, it’s surprising that things didn’t take off for the VBP. Then again, it wasn’t real dope.
How this record got into my grandmother’s collection, I will never know. The same goes for her “Low Down” 12-inch from B.O.X./Beyond Ordinary X-istence, which features one of Battlecat’s earliest productions—“B a Real G”—on the B-side. We’re talking about a woman who was in her late sixties when these records were first released. My Bronx family has always been a little more gully than the rest, but needless to say, I have a lot of questions that will never be answered. But perhaps that’s the way it should be. So, rest in peace, Grandma Lee. And thank you for that legalized dope.