Words by Jesse Serwer—
Credibility in hip-hop didn’t always come as easy as it does now. Just ask Vanilla Ice. A pre-Hollywood Mark Wahlberg, then known as Marky Mark, was no exception—even though the native of Boston’s hard-knock Dorchester neighborhood entered the business with a rap sheet (which included attempted murder) as extensive and horrible as any of his day’s gulliest gangster rappers.
The Funky Bunch leader (and younger brother of New Kids on the Block’s Donnie Wahlberg) was a huge hit with MTV-watching tweens and dance-music stations when he showed up with the feelgood hip-house smash “Good Vibrations” in 1991, but his rhymes didn’t exactly earn the respect— or attention, even—of rap fans at the time.
Chances are you might not recall Wahlberg’s second act as an artist, alongside Rastafarian deejay Prince Ital Joe. A native of Roseau, Dominica, Joe was a well-known club promoter in Hollywood when he teamed with Marky Mark for the future Oscar winner’s third LP, Life in the Streets, in 1994. (A remix LP, Mark’s last as an artist, followed one year later). Though little known in the States, singles such as “Happy People” (which reached No. 1 in Germany) and “Unity” were huge hits in Europe thanks to a Benetton ad-like mixture of rap, reggae and cheesy house and techno.
Joe would later take a more hardcore turn after signing to Suge Knight’s Death Row Records, appearing on such pivotal gangster rap releases as The Dogg Pound’s Dogg Food and 2pac’s The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory—he’s the very last voice you hear on ‘Pac’s classic “Hail Mary.” Though he never released any music of his own through Death Row, this unearthed snippet of a track with Jodeci’s K-Ci offers a taste of what that might have sounded like.
If Ital Joe looks more familiar than any of this sounds, you might just recognize his face from Steven Seagal’s 1990 Dreadsploitation film Marked for Death, in which he played the role of “Rasta with hostage.”
Sadly, Joe was killed in 2001 in a car accident outside of Phoenix, Arizona. In honor of this enigmatic figure—arguably one of the most internationally visible recording artists to hail from tiny Dominica— we’ve dug up some highlights of the surprisingly extensive catalog of videos from his partnership with Marky Mark.
First up is the Salaam Remi-produced “Can’t Stop We,” a harder-edged track which gave Joe the chance to showcase his raggamuffin deejay style. And then there’s “Babylon.” Yep, Dirk Diggler himself chanting down Babylon. Watch the cheese-tastic video below: you’ll need to see it to believe it.