When Tone Lõc’s single “Wild Thing” was released in 1988, it became the second biggest-selling single since “We Are The World” at over 2.5 million copies — and that was before streaming. Some people may not realize Young MC is credited as a co-writer on the song alongside Delicious Vinyl co-founder Matt Dike, Michael Ross and Tone Lõc.
Young MC was almost like the label’s secret weapon. Much like J.J. Fad did for N.W.A, he was able to make Tone’s music more digestible for a mainstream audience. But Tone, who was already signed to Delicious Vinyl when Young MC came aboard, didn’t initially know that was the plan. During a rare interview with both Tone Lōc and Young MC backstage at Fiddler’s Green in Denver last month, HipHopDX had the opportunity to discuss their rise to rap infamy, which included “Wild Thing.”
“I was in college when I got signed to the label,” Young MC tells DX. “Tone had put out, what? What records did you put out first? It’s so long ago.” Tone jumps in, “‘On Fire’ and Lōc-ed After Dark, something like that. So I never thought ‘Wild Thing’ would like blow up as big as it did, because my version of it was totally different. And they asked Young to come in.”
Young MC continues, “He had written a version, and it was just too racy for them in terms of radio. They knew I wrote clean stuff. So they said, ‘Well Marvin how ’bout you do a version?’ They didn’t have Tone come to me. In fact, Tone didn’t even know they had me doing it. And they told Tone because they were worried Tone would be offended by it. They told Tone they did it, initially. There’s till certain things that are his that really make the song his and edgy and then stuff that’s mine, that kind of makes it kind of catchy and cute.”
“Wild Thing” was a huge success much to the credit of Los Angeles alternative radio station K-ROCK, which actually broke the single. They’d play The Cure, The Cult and Tone Lōc.
“That’s like a punk rock, rock-and-roll type station,” Tone explains. “I think the guitar is what honestly drew them to it, because I never heard it before, but a lot of people were very familiar with it. I think the guy who probably made that beat, probably knew because he had worked with Beastie Boys and Outkast.”
In a 1989 interview with Arsenio Hall, Young MC was asked why he gave the song to Tone. He has a simple answer for that —it was solely written for his voice.
“I wrote it for his voice, and I wrote the cadence for him,” he says. “A classic conversation that him and I had was , ‘Tone, if this blows up, what do you think?’ He said, ‘Oh man, if I can just get money to get a car, 30 grand to get a car’ — that’s all we wanted. And I said, if I could just pay off my student loans, and this was before it even went gold. Let alone, quadruple platinum. He wanted a car. I wanted to pay off my student loans and then we’ll see what happens after that.”
Tone adds, “We weren’t that concerned on having big records. We were basically concerned on the little stuff. I wasn’t expecting to be a star. Not a star, excuse me, let me collaborate to me a high rank type of entertainment. I mean, that was out of the question. I didn’t even think about. We still had our Plan B basically together.”
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Young MC eventually paid of his student debt and Tone Lōc got a car, but they weren’t swimming in gold like Scrooge McDuck.
“In all fairness, the opening contracts for anybody are not that great,” Young MC explains. “You’re talking about a label that’s reporting to another label, that’s reporting to a distributor. So at the time, Delicious was getting paid from Island, who’s getting paid for Warners or Polygram.
“Polygram and Warners will have a six to nine month wait on their money to get it to Island and that will have a six to nine month wait on their money to get it to Delicious. So I’m 18 months out and I don’t have anywhere near the money for the records I’ve sold.”
“It’s not like Delicious Vinyl came to me and said, ‘Boom, here you go,'” Tone says. “They never gave me any money out of their pocket like that. So, I mean, I’ll be real with you, bottom line. They never said, ‘Tone, go get you a car. Boom, boom.’ No, not anything like that.”
Young MC and Tone Lōc moved ahead with the release of “Funky Cold Medina” in March 1989, another bona fide platinum-selling hit. The song peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and became the second ever platinum-certified rap single after “Wild Thing.” The two rappers were on fire, and two months later, Young MC nabbed a solo smash with the Grammy Award-winning “Bust-A-Move.”
With Young MC’s career skyrocketing, he took his show on the road and learned to adjust to his newfound notoriety. Although, as he explains, fame then is different from fame now.
“Not everybody had cable in the house,” he says. “I didn’t have cable. I was all over MTV, but I didn’t have cable to watch myself on MTV. The internet was almost nonexistent. Mobile phones were like bricks. So I’d land in the city and be like, ‘Oh, they know my record here. And they know Tone’s record.’ Land in another city and they don’t. But the idea of having a big national record, you’d have to learn that from Rolling Stone or something.
“So the idea of having a big record of being famous everywhere, I wouldn’t realize I was famous in a place until I landed there, whereas now you could have a big record and you know that you’re pretty much famous everywhere.”
To this day, he still can’t figure out who washed his underwear on tour, another perk he chalks up to being famous. He says with a laugh, “I made sure I never went to movies on Friday and Saturday nights. I go to stores when they open. I like doing my own shopping. I never had anybody buy groceries for me. The one weird thing is like, I still don’t know how my underwear got washed on the road. I’m thinking somebody did it, but I still truly don’t know how my underwear got washed.”
Check back with HipHopDX soon for Part II of the Tone Lõc and Young MC interview where they’ll talk about rapping over 50, their broke days and their friendship today.