Texas Album Hall of Fame: Project Crew
Tee Double dusts off the local release that proved Austin hip-hop worthy of his raps
Reviewed by Terrany “Tee Double” Johnson, Fri., Oct. 20, 2017
Released in 1988 when Austin hip-hop thrived on many levels, Project Crew consisted of DJ Cassanova, who took me under his wing to develop my songwriting and production chops; Clay Moe in the Gucci hat, who was a ladies' man and one of the lead rappers; and Teddy Lee, the rapid-fire lyricist of the group. They created a solid fan base in a city that wasn't as well represented in urban music as it has become over the years.
When I first heard "Army Man," I thought it was New York group Stetsasonic, who had a live band element before the Roots, but Project Crew was all drum machines and scratching. I was blown away by the depth of this song about a guy who loses his girl to someone in the Army, and it had a huge following at Fort Hood in Killeen. It was Austin's first real vinyl hip-hop release as Cassanova had come from New York where he saw Grandmaster Flash and many more. He brought that energy to Austin and started producing anyone with talent who could hold a microphone.
The A-side also held "Rap Rookie," which was just the crew rocking the party with vicious rhymes and witty wordplay, while letting everyone know they were the new voice and here to stay. Utilizing samples for hooks and steady 808 and SP 1200 drumbeats, it was another amazing view of what was to come for Austin hip-hop. "Shop Around," the closing track on the B-side, used a Smokey Robinson & the Miracles sample to fill out the story of being out on the town and meeting different ladies but not settling for the first woman you see. Use of the sample was also a first for the Austin hip-hop scene as most couldn't afford the equipment Project Crew used.
All in all, this was the release that showed me I could really do this music thing and have folks around who were already touring and selling their records on vinyl when most of us were still selling cassettes at our high schools.