Egyptian Lover (Greg James Broussard)
b. Los Angeles, California, 1963.
1983: Breaking & Entering OST (w/ The Radio Crew: Ice-T, The Glove, Super AJ). 1984: "Dial-A-Freak" Single (Uncle Jamm's Army). 1984: Egypt, Egypt EP. 1984: On the Nile. 1986: "The Alezby Inn" Single. 1986: One Track Mind. 1988: Filthy Album. 1988: "Let's Get It On" Single. 1990: Get Into It. 1995: Back From the Tomb. 1996: Pyramix. 2005: Platinum Pyramids.
Every DJ's schtick is that they’re the greatest or the best at what they do, but Egypytian Lover’s self-obsession act went a step further. Side Two of his debut ‘On the Nile’ begins with a shortened version of his hit “Egypt, Egypt” and then, instead of keeping the party going, it’s followed by “I Cry (Night after Night)”. “I Cry” is a confessional, electro jam that’s less “slow-song for the ladies” album concession and more like, a song that makes explicit the implicit, depressive feeling that underscores most, if not all dance music.
If you listened hard enough, those 808s-of-death breakdowns on “Egypt Egypt”—especially the 12-inch version—stopped sounding fun and got a little creepy and it just kind of made sense that the party would stop or take a break for a song, so that the Lover can announce, over top snapping drums and watery synths, how he goes to bed every night in tears.
That confessional side probably owes a lot Prince, who had plenty of sad-sack electro-funk for the Lover and others to digest and spit back out into electro-hop. Electro pretty much directly stems from P-Funk and Prince, and while Clinton and company have totally embraced their connection to hip-hop, Prince’s influence is severely under-discussed. In part, because Prince himself isn’t exactly kind to hip-hop—see “Dead On It” from his “lost” but not-really ‘Black Album-‘ for but one of many examples—and in part, because critics love to frame Prince as disconnected from rap, the only black music that still makes them uncomfortable and rattles their rockist values. But the “Prince” persona, the electro-funk, the focus on frank sexuality that could be funny and fucked-up too, and mix of egomaniacal fuck-fiend hard-ness and weirdo outcast insularity, still influence hip-hop, but those L.A electro dudes especially.
But it was only Egyptian Lover who took it to a level close to Prince’s knowing sexuality where like, the intent was as much to look all come-hither as it was to look absurd; purposefully courting the feel of that lame dude at the end of the bar who tries really hard to sell himself as sexy and does it by like, offering to buy you some ribs or something. This persona or part of his persona allowed the Lover to age better and a little more gracefully than other hip-hop and proto-hip-hop legends. Now aged and chubby (still), it just sort of makes sense that he’d still being shaking his ass and calling-out freaks to crowds of nostalgics and Europeans.
That totally uncool side is sort of what separates him from other L.A electro-rap pioneers and exposes a “darker side” of the scene that’s emotional instead of social. Not the oft-talked about gang-violence-that-destroyed-the-scene cliché but stuffing some rough-hewn emotionality into a scene particularly intent on strictly partying. Egyptian Lover’s earliest work was with Ice-T on the ‘Breaking and Entering’ soundtrack—super-rare but easy to find bootlegs of—and his 80s production work spread to other West Coast musicians, including some work for Bobby Jimmy & the Critters—Bobby James was now super-famous hip-hop morning show host Russ Parr’s LA radio persona.
Electro’s a weird genre anyway because it was such an incestuous genre—same region, same artists, same relatively simple technology--that all the music sounds very similar or similar enough. It's probably why you can stumble across stuff that mixes-up or confuses Egyptian Lover and Arabian Prince (or thinks Jamie Jupitor and Egyptian are the same person; they’re not). Ultimately though, the overt similarities in the genre are good because what sets Egyptian Lover apart is the subtler details—exactly how his 808s bounce off one another, just how trebly his beats can get, that outside of later Detroit Techno gurus, he perfectly ingested Kraftwerk’s influence beyond strings-sounding synths and “Trans-Europe”-like melodies—or those times when he wasn’t doing electro at all and you know, sticking Prince guitar approximations over-top his beats or singing about how lonely he felt.
Still, his best work’s the best-known stuff. The “Egypt, Egypt” EP because it does what electro’s supposed to do. Side A is just “Egypt, Egypt” stretched-out to dance-friendly length with one of the most exciting and dramatic breakdowns ever, and a second side of songs that keep the energy at the same level. ‘On the Nile’s fascinating for the weird, sad-bastard wanderings away while later works like ‘One Track Mind’, a bunch of his singles from the 80s, and ‘Filthy’ are consistent and fun. 1990’s ‘Get Into It’ thinks it’s a rap album and it’s just sort of weird. One feels too cynical or too critic-like dismissing his post 80s output because if anything, it’s as impressive for the way it pretty much doesn’t change as it is unimpressive for the way it shoe-horns in rave, house, or hip-hop trends where they don’t belong. There’s some interview where Egyptian Lover brags that he can make an Egyptian Lover beat on Fruity Loops in less than a minute and he probably can. That's not so much a sign of the music's simplicity as it is a testament to that underrated, early 80s scene’s futurism: it took twenty years for everyone else to catch-up.