Words by Richard “Treats” Dryden—
Richard “Treats” Dryden is a New York-based DJ and journalist, and a contributing editor for Mass Appeal and Complex magazines. Kris Kross was his favorite group in 1992.
“The day seemed nice and bright and everything feels alright.” So began May 1st, and also the lead verse by Chris Kelly of Kris Kross on 1993’s “Alright.” It was that kind of day in New York yesterday. To hear Kris Kross’ anthem would conjure up nostalgia, cuing that good times were upon us. Those feelings of optimism have even more sentimental value now with its author and poet, Chris Kelly passing on. When I got wind of Kelly’s death through Twitter, the sun had already set. Darkness had fallen with the tragic loss of a man who gave my generation words to live by on hit songs like “Jump” (which still gets play at Madison Square Garden whenever referees call a jump ball) and “Warm It Up.”
Kris Kross became my favorite group in 1992 when the video for “Jump” was all over MTV, especially Yo! MTV Raps. By the time their second album Da Bomb came out with “Alright” as the lead single, I was proud to have been a fan from day one. They had stopped wearing their clothes backwards, but never forgot where they came from. Keeping true to their musical roots, they enlisted Supercat—who had made a wicked appearance on the remix to “Jump” from Totally Crossed Out—on their sophomore opus.
Hearing him on the original and the remix of “Alright” was so cool to me. The production was cross-generational, and multi-genre before such mash-ups became commonplace. You had the bassline of Slave’s “Just A Touch of Love” in the forefront; the Lafayette Afro Rock Band’s kick and snare drums setting the tempo (as it did for many hip-hop classics like Mary J. Blige’s “Real Love” and “Nobody Beats the Biz” by Biz Markie). Marley Marl’s “just kick a little something for them cars that be bumpin'” drop from LL Cool J’s “Boomin’ System” primed it to be blasted at high volume, preferably with the sunroof down, through a residential neighborhood. Oh, and Supercat got double billing; along with his guest appearance, the record sampled “Ghetto Red Hot.”
If you bump the remix, Supercat’s verse is extended, arguably stealing the show from the young’n’s. You’d expect that though from the deejay, who was bubbling in hip-hop around the same time. Remember a very green Notorious B.I.G., Puff Daddy and 3rd Eye shined on the remix to “Dolly My Baby.” Supercat was in his prime. DJs like Bobby Konders or Dahved Levy would run a whole set of Supercat bangers on Kiss FM and WBLS, respectively. You could expect to hear “Alright” at some point during their set with my favorite record “Mud Up,” “Coke Don,” or “Cabin Stabbin’.” What did I know, about gun talk, sex, and the little bit of consciousness peppered throughout the Supercat dancehall records of the ’90s. But it was “Alright” that put a lot of the more raw material to the side and was all about feel good vibes.
In the video, Chris Kelly and Chris Smith were as laid back as can be, enjoying their youth riding around in classic, big bodied cars that I learned about by watching Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg videos. But these cats were from Atlanta. They rode like that down in The A? Chris Kelly rapped about the happy feeling of the last day of school! Who needs to sing “no more pencils no more books,” when “Alright” is the soundtrack to the months between June and August? I don’t even think I ever had Da Bomb, but I know I had the maxi-single so I could play side A and B front to back.
The more familiar elements to the “Alright” video though were the dance moves. Everybody was doing the Bogle back in ’93. Two fingers in the air—above your head, or in front of your chest—cranking them forward in a circle as if you were cycling in slow motion, while your upper body is relaxed, moving in its own wave form. Dudes like Supercat made it look cool because the two fingers were gangster; girls made it sultry arching their back like they were playing a game of limbo.
“Alright” should be remembered as Kris Kross’ greatest collaboration. (For the record, their second best collab was with Redman on the remix of “Tonight’s Da Night.”) Their sound matured as they did between albums. Linking with Supercat gave them credibility with one of dancehall’s superstars. In return, Supercat became more relevant beyond the Caribbean community, especially among young teens.
I definitely knew Supercat’s verse better than I did “Cabin Stabbin.'” Rightfully so, and I have Kris Kross to thank for helping me not to grow up too fast.