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The Fat Boys’ “Wipeout”: East coast rap and West coast surf rock battle it out in a memorable 1987 video
Summer’s officially here, and the temperatures are soaring, and so we thought we’d put you in the mood for a day at the beach by offering up “Wipe Out,” a surf rap video which Night Flight’s voiceover queen Pat Prescott intros this way: “East meets west, when the Beach Boys trade coasts with Brooklyn’s own Fat Boys.” This novelty vid was featured in Night Flight’s “Take Off to Progressive Rap,” which originally aired on May 21, 1988, but you can watch it right now on Night Flight Plus!
The Fat Boys — Mark Morales, a.k.a. Prince Markie Dee, Damon Wimbley a.k.a. Kool Rock Ski, and last but not least, 400 lb. Darren Robinson a.k.a. Buff Love… better known as “The Human Beat Box” — had all grown up in the same Brooklyn neighborhood, originally forming as The Disco 3, and it was under that name that they won their first recording contract at a rap contest, held at Radio City Music Hall.
Their new name came about during an early European tour, when an angry promoter got a $350 room service bill from their hotel rooms and saw that they’d all ordered extra breakfasts. He’s said to have suggested their new name to their manager, who agreed that the trio — who had a combined weight of 750 lbs. — were a buncha fat boys.
The Fat Boys were initially thought of as an early 80s novelty act, even though they managed to score quite a few legit charting hits — “Jail House Rap” in ’84, “Sex Machine” in ’86 — as one of the top second-generation rap acts (along with Run D.M.C., and L.L. Cool J).
In 1987, the Fat Boys’ recording of “The Twist” — with added vocals by the original 1960’s song’s singer Chubby Checker — was an instant hit, and garnered huge airplay, and that same year the hefty rappers recorded the Surfaris’ song “Wipeout,” with vocal help from the Beach Boys. Both songs appeared on their fourth album, Crushin’, released on August 14th.
At the time, 60s-style surfing and SoCal beach culture were experiencing something of a revival, even in NYC, and the Fat Boys may have been hip-hop’s earliest acknowledgment of SoCal beach culture.
An article in the New York Times (published October 21, 1987) said:
“As the title of the summer movie Back to the Beach indicated, surfing is turning up everywhere, from theme bars like Big Kahuna and Lucy’s Surfeteria in Manhattan to MTV.”
The video for “Wipeout” takes the familiar concept of two tribes battling each other for dominance, but instead of surfers fighting for primo positioning on a breaking wave, or rappers bragging and boasting content throwin’ down heavy rhymes in a playground battle rap setting, this one pits the west coast legends of Sixties surf rock, the Beach Boys, against the Fat Boys, representin’ the east coast straight outta Brooklyn.
Somewhat curiously the video begins in a boxing ring, where two 80s lightweight legends who “need no introduction to boxing enthusiasts” – Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini and Héctor “Macho” Camacho — are seen taking verbal jabs at each other in a pre-fight smackdown, with the Fat Boys backing their boy Boom Boom and Mike Love, Bruce Johnston and Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys backing Macho.
Then, as the verbal attacks escalate, the Fat Boys and Beach Boys also begin to go up against each other, with Mike Love sayin’ “I’d like to see YOU in a bathing suit” to Prince Markie Dee, who fires back, “I’d like to see YOU in New York.”
Then it all spins out of control while we hear someone’s iffy attempt at the famous Surfaris cackle that kicks off the original tune (“ha ha ha ha….Wipeout!”), followed by a scene of the Fat Boys packing up a car with swimsuits and summer stuff and driving off, presumably westward toward the Southern California coastline, which is intercut with the three Beach Boys doing the same, only they presumably are heading east in a red lifeguard jeep, which we see then driving through the streets of NYC.
There are (sorta) humorous scenes showing one of the Fat Boys trying to lift a heavy barbell at the beach in Cali, while another attempts to hit a volleyball and the third tries his hand at catching a wave, which a couple of beach babes (sorta) find high-larious.
Meanwhile, the Beach Boys (still wearing their Hawaiian shirts and shorts, of course) try their hand at scratching vinyl LPs and rapping, before the whole thing evolves into a summer night beach party, where everyone’s cooking up smores and dancing around fire pits.
Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys apparently didn’t want to have anything to do with this video, however, and so his photo was included (it appears on a surfboard) against his consent, and this was apparently something that bothered him for the rest of his life.
The video was directed by Steve Rechtschaffner, who had worked with the Fat Boys as early as 1983 when their manager, Charlie Stettler, a Swiss national who loved American hip-hop acts, contacted the Swatch watch company’s American office marketing group (headed up by Rechtschaffner and Nancy Kadner) and offered them his brand new rap trio.
At the time, Swatch was beginning to do offbeat ad campaigns, and Rechtschaffner ended up putting the Fat Boys in one of MTV’s first TV commercials, which was somewhat remarkable because MTV weren’t playing any black artists, and no hip-hop acts, at the time. The Fat Boys received no fee for appearing in the commercial but got a ton of free exposure on MTV, and by the time they appeared in MTV’s 1985 Christmas commercial, they were well known to the audience watching at home.
“Wipeout” peaked at #12 on the Billboard chart, #10 on the R&B chart, and even scored an impressive #2 spot on the UK’s single charts.
By the end of the Eighties, the Fat Boys would be moving towards the popularity of this new style of rap, leaving behind their lighthearted oversized fun personalities and affecting gangsta rap personas for their On And On album, but their audience weren’t buying it from their beloved big boy trio.
Even more problematic was the fact that Robinson (a.k.a. Buff Love) was facing charges for being an accomplice to an under-age sexual liaison, and his legal troubles ultimately led to their dissolution in 1992.