Filed Under:

A 'Giant Anthology' Of Profile Records, Rap's Early Champion

Play associated audio

Before the rise of Def Jam as hip-hop's definitive record label, there was Profile, which helped shepherd in some of the genre's early shifts in sound and style. A new two-CD anthology, Giant Single: The Profile Records Rap Anthology, chronicles the label's 15-year history and legacy.

Profile never meant to get into the rap game. When Cory Robbins and Steve Plotnicki started the label in 1981, they thought they'd be releasing dance singles — a plan that quickly shriveled in the punishing heat of the anti-disco era. However, hip-hop was just beginning its rise, and Profile gambled on a New York rap duo named Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde.

In 1982, an aspiring entrepreneur named Russell Simmons was shopping a demo of his younger brother's rap group. One of the people he approached was Robbins, who liked what he heard and signed the group, a trio out of Hollis, Queens, named Run-D.M.C.

To most ears today, Run-D.M.C. is "old school," but in the early 1980s, hip-hop was anything but well-defined. All of it was new school, and Profile helped lead the class, releasing records by artists as diverse as the pioneering female duo Sweet Tee and DJ Jazzy Joyce, the dancehall-influenced Asher D, and the genre-bending rap/rock collaboration of Run-D.M.C. and Aerosmith.

Profile can even boast one of the greatest one-hit wonders in pop history — now a staple of corporate parties and Gen-X weddings alike: Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock's "It Takes Two."

Even Profile's relatively minor releases would later become major influences. The 1986 single "Drag Rap," by The Showboys, found new life a decade later as producers like Mannie Fresh began sampling the record's frenetic drum programming to create the New Orleans style known as "bounce."

The 1990s saw Profile's influence begin to fade, as it was eclipsed by Def Jam, Death Row and other labels. By 1996, it stopped recording new acts. What Profile left behind, however, was a catalog that helped usher hip-hop from what was once dismissed as a short-lived gimmick to the mainstay of global culture we know today.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Nina McLemore's Clothes Are A 'Weapon' Of Powerful Women

Nina McLemore designs clothes for powerful women: Hillary Clinton, Elizabeth Warren, Janet Yellen, Elena Kagan and others. She talks about how fashion can help women stand out in political office.
NPR

After Italy Quakes, Food World Delivers Support To Home Of Famous Pasta Dish

Amatrice was set to host the 50th celebration of pasta all'Amatriciana famously made there, but this week's earthquake devastated the town. NPR's Scott Simon speaks with food blogger Jeremy Cherfas.
NPR

What Should We Call This Kind of Presidential Campaign, Anyway?

One can easily imagine Hillary Clinton having some affinity with the "front porch" style campaign of the late 19th century, while Donald Trump personifies the "whistle stopping" style that came next.
WAMU 88.5

Want To Play Video Games Made In D.C.? Here's Your Chance.

An event called District Arcade brings together 23 locally made video games.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.