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Whodini performing at Fresh Fest in 2009
|Origin||New York City, U.S.|
Drew "Grandmaster Dee" Carter
Whodini is an American hip hop group that was formed in 1982. The Brooklyn, New York-based trio consisted of vocalist and main lyricist Jalil Hutchins; co-vocalist John Fletcher, a.k.a. Ecstasy (who wore a Zorro-style hat as his trademark); and turntable artist DJ Drew Carter, a.k.a. Grandmaster Dee.
Coming out of the fertile New York rap scene of the early '80s, Whodini was one of the first rap groups to add a R&B twist to their music, thus laying the foundation for a new genre - new jack swing. The group made its name with good-humored songs such as "Magic's Wand" (the first rap song accompanied by a video), "The Haunted House of Rock", "Friends", "Five Minutes of Funk" and "Freaks Come Out at Night". Live performances of the group were the first rap concerts with the participation of breakdance dancers from the group UTFO. Russell Simmons was the manager of the group in the '80s.
The group has released six studio albums. 14 singles of the group hit the charts of the American magazine Billboard. 4 albums of the group were certified Platinum by RIAA, due to their loud single "Friends" that hit Billboard Hot 100.
Whodini was among the first hip hop groups to cultivate a high-profile national following for hip hop music and made significant inroads on urban radio. They were contemporaries of other hip hop groups such as Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, Afrika Bambaataa, Run-D.M.C., The Fat Boys and Warp 9. The group signed with London-based independent record label Jive Records in 1982; they enjoyed a string of hits for several years, mostly charting on urban and R&B radio stations. The bulk of production on their releases was done by Larry Smith, a bass player who also handled much of Run-D.M.C.'s early work.
In 1982, Whodini made a rap story with their debut single "Magic's Wand", an ode to rap radio pioneer Mr. Magic, which became the first rap song to receive a music video. Synthpop and electro pioneer Thomas Dolby helped produce this single. "Magic's Wand" also has the distinction of being one of Whodini's most-sampled songs.
On July 8, 1983, the group released the self-titled album Whodini on vinyl and audio cassettes. The album was produced by influential German pioneer Conny Plank at his own studio near Cologne, Germany. On CD, the album was released in the United States only in 2010. The second single, "Haunted House of Rock", was released in time for Halloween, 1983. Whodini combined the goofy fun of The Fat Boys with the virtuosity of Run-D.M.C. to create what is the rap equivalent of horror movies. Heavy on the sound effects, the song is full of references to various famous monsters and boogymen - Dracula, Bloody Mary and the Invisible Man all show up.
In 1984, the group released the second album Escape. The entire album was fully produced by Larry Smith. From the laid back groove titled "Five Minutes of Funk" to "Friends", a cynical story of betrayal sampled everywhere from Nas' "If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)" to 2Pac's "Troublesome '96", to harder edged singles "Freaks Come Out at Nite" and "Big Mouth".
Many of these songs were also groundbreaking in hip hop culture, as each one of the songs told a unique story from the urban perspective. The album ended up being certified for platinum-level sales by the RIAA, selling over one million albums upon its release.
The vinyl album is long out of print and the CD (only released twice, once in 1992 and again in 2002) is also out of print and any copies of either of them are valuable to collectors.
On May 17, 2011, a deluxe version of Escape was released on CD with nine bonus tracks.
Back in Black
In 1986, the group released a third album Back in Black fully produced by Larry Smith. A number of songs from the album received heavy local New York airplay, such as "Funky Beat" and the controversial “I’m a Ho”. “Fugitive” was guitar-driven funk and "Last Night (I Had a Long Talk With...)" was introspective. Paul Kodish, drummer of Pendulum, was featured on the album.
From 1982 to 1986, the group was at its most productive; they toured with the more successful bands such as Run-D.M.C., LL Cool J, The Fat Boys, and other prominent hip hop, R&B and funk bands. The group was involved in the first Fresh Fest tour, which was the first hip hop tour to play large coliseums nationwide. In July 1986 they appeared at Philadelphia's Spectrum Stadium in front of an audience of 18,000. They were the first Rap Act and Break Dance troop to Tour in the UK and Europe, with UTFO also appearing with them as their break dance act. They played all over Europe to full venues as no one had seen this kind of music before.
Open Sesame and the New School
By 1987, the group had earned its share of gold singles and albums. With the fourth album Open Sesame, its final release of the 1980s, the group had turned away from their once-playful simple beats and catchy rhymes of the old school and instead became vocally harder and more instrument-driven, with guitars and horns and bells. They even began to sample, as a snippet of Cheryl Lynn's "Got to be Real" is heard on the song "Now That Whodini's Inside the Joint". Larry Smith produced the entire album except for two tracks, "Be Yourself" and "I'm Def (Jump Back And Kiss Myself)", produced by Sinester.
This new school style had been similarly done almost a year previously on the multi-million selling debut albums by L.L. Cool J and the Beastie Boys, as many groups had already turned to the kind of rap and rock music that crossed over easily, and Open Sesame failed to produce any real hits.
Although the group was still obligated to Jive Records, for the next few years the band eked out its tenure by occasionally only releasing singles, including “Anyway I Gotta Swing It” for the A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child movie soundtrack.
The 1990s to present
In the 1990s, the band made an attempt at a comeback, and in that same year the group signed with MCA Records and released the fifth album Bag-A-Trix in 1991, which failed to have commercial impact, as it tried again to reinvent using the then-current sound of new jack swing. Larry Smith produced 6 tracks on the album, two of which co-authored with the band Major Jam Productions, which separately produced the other 4 tracks, and Fresh Gordon made music for other 4 songs.
Talks with Def Jam Recordings for a new deal stalled, and in 1996, the group was signed by Jermaine Dupri (mentor-producer of Kris Kross and Li'l Bow Wow) to his then Columbia Records-distributed So So Def Recordings imprint. As a child in the 1980s, Dupri did a brief stint as a dancer for the group.
Their sixth album Six produced one single, "Keep Running Back", and appeared briefly on the R&B chart. The album was fully produced by Jermaine Dupri, except for three tracks, which were created by Dave Atkinson and Andy "Red Spyda" Thelusma.
Since the Six album, the group has not released any new music, but its older songs have been featured in many various old school compilations and three greatest-hits collections have been released: The Jive Collection, Vol. 1 in 1995, Rap Attack in 2003, and Funky Beat: The Best of Whodini in 2006, which featured the seven-minute "Whodini Mega Mix", which was a medley of some of the biggest hits.
In recent years, Whodini still tours occasionally, and its old records still surface on pop and R&B radio, especially during old-school mix shows. The group's records have now become sample sources for contemporary emcees such as Nas, Master P, Prodigy, and MF Doom.
In August 2012, Whodini was presented with the Icon Award by the Underground Music Awards.
In October 2012, Whodini was inducted into the 4th annual Long Island Music Hall of Fame.
On December 23, 2020, Fletcher died at the age of 56.
|Title||Album details||Peak chart positions||Certifications|
Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums (Billboard)
|Back in Black||35||4||Gold|
|Year||Single||Peak chart positions||Album|
Billboard Hot 100
Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs
Hot Dance Club Songs
Hot Rap Songs
R&B/Hip-Hop Streaming Songs
|"The Haunted House Of Rock"||—||55||27||—||—|
|1984||"Friends"/"Five Minutes Of Funk"||87||4||25||—||—||Escape|
|1985||"Freaks Come Out At Night"||104||43||25||—||—|
|"Escape (I Need A Break)"||—||—||31||—||—|
|1986||"Funky Beat"||—||19||—||—||—||Back in Black|
|"Funky Beat (Remix)"/"Whodini Megamix"||—||—||30||—||—|
|1987||"Be Yourself"||—||20||—||—||—||Open Sesame|
|1996||"Keep Running Back"||—||69||—||27||70||Six|
|1985||The Jewel of the Nile||"Freaks Come Out at Night"||December 11, 1985|
|1986||Trick or Treat||"The Haunted House Of Rock"||October 24, 1986|
|1997||Chasing Amy||"Be Yourself"||April 18, 1997|
|1999||The Wood||"Freaks Come Out at Night"||July 16, 1999|
|2000||Juggalo Championshxt Wrestling Volume 1||"Devil Without a Cause"||May 9, 2000|
|2001||Glitter||"Freaks Come Out at Night"||September 21, 2001|
|2002||Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (video game)||"Magic's Wand", "Freaks Come Out at Night"||October 29, 2002|
|2005||Cursed||"Freaks Come Out at Night"||March 3, 2005|
|2005||Everybody Hates Chris (TV Series),|
episode "Everybody Hates Halloween"
|"Freaks Come Out at Night"||October 27, 2005|
|2005||Everybody Hates Chris (TV Series),|
episode "Everybody Hates Greg"
|"Friends"||November 24, 2005|
|2006||El cantante||"Five Minutes of Funk"||September 12, 2006|
|2006||Everybody Hates Chris (TV Series),|
episode "Everybody Hates Rejection"
|"Five Minutes of Funk"||October 1, 2006|
|2006||Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories (video game)||"Freaks Come Out at Night"||October 31, 2006|
|2006||Blood Diamond||"From tha Streetz"||December 8, 2006|
|2007||Illegal Tender||"Friends"||August 24, 2007|
|2014||Ping Pong Summer||"Friends"||June 6, 2014|
|2014||Red Oaks (TV Series),|
|"Freaks Come Out at Night"||August 28, 2014|
|2015||Black-ish (TV Series),|
episode "Jacked o' Lantern"
|"Freaks Come Out at Night"||October 28, 2015|
- 1990 – Rapmania: The Roots of Rap (TV Movie documentary)
- 2004 – And You Don't Stop: 30 Years of Hip-Hop (October 4, 2004)
- 2012 – Unsung: The Story of Whodini (by TV One) (March 12, 2012)
- 1987 - It's Showtime at the Apollo (TV Series) ("One Love") (October 10, 1987)
- 1987 - Video Soul (TV Series) ("Be Yourself")
- 1987 - Invisible Thread (TV Movie)
- 1988 - 1988 Soul Train Music Awards (TV Special) (March 30, 1988)
- 1987 - Soul Train (TV Series) - episode "Freddie Jackson/Lace/Whodini" ("Be Yourself", "Life Is Like A Dance") (November 14, 1987)
- 1994 - In the Mix (TV Series) - episode "Hip Hop: Then & Now" (April 24, 1994)
- 2007 - 4th Annual VH1 Hip-Hop Honors (TV Special) (October 8, 2007)
- 2018 - 3rd Annual Black Music Honors (TV Special) (September 8, 2018)
- 1986 - Back In Black (RCA / Columbia Pictures Home Video)
- 1990 - Greatest Rap Video Hits (BMG Video / Zomba Video / Jive)
|1984||"Freaks Come out at Night"|
|1984||"Escape (I Need a Break)"|
|1986||"King Holiday" (King Dream Chorus and Holiday Crew)|
|1987||"Rock You Again (Again & Again)"|
|1996||"Keep Running Back"|
Samples and remixes
- The drum beat from "Friends" is sampled in Public Enemy's "Sophisticated Bitch" from the album "Yo Bum Rush The Show".
- Dr. Dre used the beat of "I'm a Ho" for the Eazy-E song "Boyz-n-the-Hood (Remix)".
- Bone Thugs N Harmony re-recorded "Friends" and remixed it on The Art of War.
- The Firm's song "5 Minutes to Flush" samples "5 Minutes Of Funk," and quotes its chorus.
- Jermaine Dupri's verse in "Welcome to Atlanta" samples the intro to "Five Minutes of Funk".
- Will Smith's song "Potnas", about friendship, samples "Friends," and quotes its chorus at the beginning.
- The bassline from "Friends" is sampled in Tupac Shakur's "Troublesome '96". In his unreleased song "Let's Be Friends," he also used the theme of "Friends".
- "Friends" is sampled in MF DOOM's "Deep Fried Frenz," from the album Mm.. Food.
- Pastor Troy remixed "Friends" into a song entitled "Benz".
- Nas used the chorus of the song "One Love" for his song of the same name.
- The bassline and chorus from "Friends" is sampled in Nas' "If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)".
- In the movie Next Friday, Day-Day and Roach were singing the song "Friends" while being held captive.
- Ice Cube & Master P's song "You Know I'm a Ho" from The Players Club (soundtrack) is a remake of "I'm a Ho".
- Beck sampled "Five Minutes of Funk" in his song "Gold Chains"
- Meshell Ndegeocello covers “Friends” into her song entitled "Come To Me" on her 11th Album "Comet".
- Frank Tortorici (2000-06-06). "Whodini's Ecstasy". MTV News. Retrieved 2019-12-04.
- Connolly, John. "Whodini Headlines Peace Hip Hop '09: August 1st". Cityofboston.gov. Retrieved 7 September 2016.
- "Russell Simmons and Rush Productions". rmc.library.cornell.edu. Retrieved 2019-03-02.
- "The Best Rap Albums of the '80s (by ROB KENNER, AL SHIPLEY, CRAIG JENKINS, DAVE BRY, DAVID DRAKE, LARRY HESTER, MICHAEL A. GONZALES) October 4, 2018". complex.com. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
- John Fletcher Of Whodini Music Group Has Passed Away
- "The Haunted House Of Rock by Whodini". songfacts.com. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
- "Video Music Box (1983– )". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2016-01-10.
- Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 420. CN 5585.
- "Hip-Hop Gem: Jermaine Dupri Started Out As A Dancer For Whodini (by HAO NGUYEN) September 6, 2014". stopthebreaks.com. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
- "Whodini". The-breaks.com. Retrieved 2016-01-10.
- "Highlights From the 2018 Black Music Honors (by Cherie Saundersposted) September 9, 2018". ifclapboardscouldtalk.com. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
- Aswad, Jem (December 23, 2020). "John 'Ecstasy' Fletcher, of the Pioneering Rap Group Whodini, Dies at 56". Variety. Retrieved December 24, 2020.
- "Whodini — Chart History: Billboard 200". billboard.com. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
- "Whodini — Chart History: Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums". billboard.com. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
- "Whodini on RIAA". riaa.com. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
- "Whodini - Escape on RIAA". riaa.com. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
- "Whodini - Back in Black on RIAA". riaa.com. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
- "Whodini - Open Sesame on RIAA". riaa.com. Retrieved 2019-03-01.
- "Whodini — Chart History: Billboard Hot 100". billboard.com. Retrieved 2019-03-02.
- "Whodini — Chart History: Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs". billboard.com. Retrieved 2019-03-02.
- "Whodini — Chart History: Hot Dance Club Songs". billboard.com. Retrieved 2019-03-02.
- "Whodini — Chart History: Hot Rap Songs". billboard.com. Retrieved 2019-03-02.
- "Whodini — Chart History: R&B/Hip-Hop Streaming Songs". billboard.com. Retrieved 2019-03-02.
- "Premiere: Meshell Ndegeocello Covers Whodini's "Friends"". Vibe. 2014-05-07. Retrieved 2019-02-09.
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