A pioneering figure in the development of hip-hop music, rapper-beatboxer Doug E. Fresh recorded two early classics of the genre with 1985's "The Show" and "La Di Da Di," both in collaboration with fe...
Christ Church, BB
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Born Douglas E. Davis on Sept. 17, 1966 in Christ Church, Barbados, Doug E. Fresh relocated to New York City, where he began contributing his unique beatboxing talents to early rap tracks like "Pass the Buddha," a 1983 collaboration with Spoonie G and DJ Spivey. A show-stopping turn in the feature "Beat Street" (1984), in which he performed "Santa's Rap" with the Treacherous Three, served as his official breakthrough moment, after which he waxed singles for Vintertainment and the legendary Enjoy Records, home to such iconic figures as Grandmaster Flash. Fresh later joined forces in 1985 with DJs Barry Bee and Chill Will and an up-and-coming rapper named Ricky D to record two bona fide hip-hop classics: "The Show" and "La Di Da Di." Both songs featured Fresh's astonishing talent for mimicking drums and electronic effects using only his voice, which in turn boosted the Get Fresh Crew's profile on the New York rap scene. However, Ricky D would leave the group in 1986, after which he would adopt the moniker of Slick Rick and record one of hip-hop's most well-regarded albums, The Great Adventures of Slick Rick (1988).
Fresh and the Get Fresh Crew would release their own debut album, Oh My God! in 1986. A Top 30 hit on the Hip-Hop/R&B charts, it featured a remix of "The Show" as well as two of Fresh's signature tunes, "Play This Only At Night" and "All The Way To Heaven." Its follow-up, The World's Greatest Entertainer (1988), had an even stronger showing on the charts, with its lead single, "Keep Risin' to the Top" reaching No. 4 on the rap charts. But its release was largely overwhelmed by Slick Rick's record, which minted him as the breakout star from the Get Fresh Crew and not Fresh. A lengthy fallow period preceded his return to recording with Doin' What I Gotta Do (1992), which marked his debut on MC Hammer's Bust It label. The album failed to attract an audience, sending Fresh to the Island Records subsidiary Gee Street for the singles "I-ight (Alright") and "Freaks," one of the best showcases for his beatboxing talents in years. The former single turned up on his 1995 album Play, which stalled at No. 81 on the R&B/Hip-Hop albums chart despite a nostalgic tone that evoked Fresh's 1980s-era work.
Fresh flirted with acting during the 1990s, turning up in little-seen features like "Let Get Bizzee" (1993) and "Whiteboyz" (1999) while contributing to a variety of soundtracks, including "Ghostbusters II" (1989) and "Who's the Man" (1997). He also remained active on the old-school hip-hop concert circuit, where he dutifully performed his biggest hits while proving that his beatboxing skills remained intact. In 2007, he gave the first hip-hop performance on "American Idol" (Fox, 2002- ), trading verses of "The Show" with finalist Blake Lewis. The appearance was followed by a curious rise in popularity due to a dance craze called "The Dougie," which was based on his stage moves. The dance began in Texas as part of a single by rapper Lil' Wil, who broke into the Rap Top 20 with the single "My Dougie." Two years later, the dance traveled to California, where an act called Cali Swag District further popularized it with their single "Teach Me How to Dougie" in 2009. The song rose to No. 28 on the Billboard Hot 100 while spurring a host of famous figures, from singer Chris Brown and news journalist Wolf Blitzer to First Lady Michelle Obama to perform the dance in a variety of public forums. Fresh gamely associated himself with the dance craze by judging various versions on a variety of news programs. He also branched out into the business field by opening his own restaurant, Doug E.'s Chicken and Waffles, while associating with several philanthropic organizations, including the Hip-Hop Public Health Education Center and the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation.
By Paul Gaita
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