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The Writer Turned Rapper: Young M.C.

October 14, 1989|STEVE HOCHMAN | STEVE HOCHMAN,

The pop music world is full of professional songwriters who have stepped into the spotlight to star as performers in their own right: Neil Sedaka, Carole King and Neil Diamond are among the better-known names.

But in rap, generally a producer's and performer's medium where there is no Tin Pan Alley or Brill Building tradition, there's just one: Young M.C.

True, Marvin Young (his real name) only penned two songs for another artist before recording his own album. But what a pair of songs. "Wild Thing," recorded by Tone-Loc, stands as the first hard-core rap song ever to reach No. 1 on Billboard's pop singles chart, and its follow-up, "Funky Cold Medina," rose nearly as high.

Not bad for less than two hours' work.

"I'd never written for anyone before Loc," Young, 22, said, sitting in a West Hollywood hotel conference room as a television crew from the weekly syndicated "America's Top 10" TV show set up their equipment around him. The presence of the cameras is a testament to the fact that his own "Bust a Move" single and "Stone Cold Rhymin' " album are the hottest things in rap right now. Both are also among the year's biggest hits in the pop field. The single this week is No. 9, while the album is No. 22 and climbing.

"(Producers and Delicious vinyl owners) Matt Dike and Michael Ross came to me with a title and an instrumental track and said write a song called 'Wild Thing.' I'm not lying--I wrote it in 35 minutes. 'Funky Cold Medina' took a little over an hour."

If his interest in productivity sounds like something you'd expect from an economics major, that's what he is. Young, born in London and raised in Hollis, Queens, New York, graduated from USC last spring with a B.A. in economics.

"I was intending to get a 9-to-5 if I didn't get signed," said Young who opens for Boogie Down Productions on Friday at the Celebrity Theatre in Anaheim and Oct. 23 at the Palace. "I probably would have gone to Wall Street."

That's also reflected in his attitude toward his album, a boisterous collection of breezy narratives and good-natured boasting, including "Principal's Office," the best teen misadventure tale since Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince's "Parents Just Don't Understand." It's a sharp contrast with the mature, low-key young man present for the interview. In economic terms, Young utilizes distinctly laissez-faire and prime-the-pump philosophies.

"The direction I want to go in is more political, not so happy-go-lucky," he said. "But I have to be that way at the beginning to have people listen to me."

On the album, only the anti-drug "Just Say No" even touches on Young's serious side. (For more of that, check out his two hard-hitting contributions to the upcoming album, "Silent Assassin," by Sly and Robbie and produced by Boogie Down Productions' KRS-One.)

"Matt and Mike did the music," he said. "I have no interest in it. The less I know the better--if we have a sampling (dispute), Marvin doesn't know where it came from. He's safe."

But Young doesn't underestimate the impact the success of the record could have on the rap world.

"The thing is rap is in an early stage now," he said. "Where you've got great writers of pop, it's because they've written songs that have sold across the board. That hadn't happened in rap yet. But now with 'Funky Cold Medina' and 'Bust a Move,' you have one entity that is behind a bunch of material."

LIVE ACTION: Barry Manilow is bringing his Broadway show to the Universal Amphitheatre for a six-night stand, Dec. 26-31. Tickets go on sale Sunday. . . . Also on sale Sunday for the Universal is Jethro Tull, Dec. 5. . . . The Wiltern Theatre has added Mercedes Sosa and Holly Near (Nov. 9) and the Alarm (Nov. 14).

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