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Perhaps the most enduring legacy of Blowfly's long, hilarious and underrated career is this: Had he never lived, there'd be a hell of a lot fewer parental advisory warnings on albums today.
From his 1962 oddity "Odd Balls," a proto-rap song about "gay hippies," to his current politically themed album Fahrenheit 69 -- on which he advises a black homosexual Republican, "You've Got Your Dick on Backwards" -- Blowfly has consistently showed an industry how to be as nasty as it wants to be.
But it's hard to imagine how, at age 60, this deservedly named Original Dirty Rapper can have any shock value left in his repertoire. Then, out of the blue, he delivers four a cappella minutes of a new composition, "My Niggarogative." And you realize he's still adept at pissing off the PC.
The targets of the song are low-hanging fruit: Jacko, R. Kelly, Mike Tyson, Kobe Bryant and, of course, "My Prerogative" singer Bobby Brown. And if you're familiar with the scatological parodies upon which Blowfly has built a 40-plus-year career, you probably won't be stunned by lines like "You say my career's doomed / Fuckin' bitches that ain't out the womb" (sung from the perspective of Kelly).
But it's the song's larger theme that will get some folks riled: the misbehavior of so many prominent black celebrities and why their "Niggarogative" attracts so many defenders. "I hate to get emotional about this, but Jesse Jackson and Louis Farrakhan are assholes," says Blowfly. "Nine out of every 11 Negroes in America killed by guns ain't killed by cops or rednecks or Ku Klux Klansmen. They're killed by other young niggers. If niggers wasn't killin' each other, they'd rule the world by 2010!"
Under his sequined mask and cape, then, Blowfly turns out to be Bill Cosby, which isn't as surprising at it might seem. Cosby might not share Blowfly's casual attitude toward the N-word -- "I used to love it when people would call me nigger. I'd say, 'If you're gonna call me nigger, do it right. Call me the World's Baddest Nigger' " -- but both men are old-school entertainers, with no use for anyone's "Niggarogative."
And in fact, despite his pussy-chasin' persona, Blowfly has lived an even cleaner life than the Cos. His alter ego, Clarence Reid, is a successful R&B singer and songwriter -- he penned the huge hits "Clean Up Woman" for Betty Wright and "Rocking Chair" for Gwen McRae, and helped develop Miami's influential disco-era sound. Reid is also a teetotaler, a devoted husband and father, and a minister.
That's a juxtaposition that people have spent years trying to figure out, but to Blowfly it's simple: Do not as I say, but as I do. "You want me to be like MC Hammer, who's a preacher now? But the motherfucker had, like, 16 illegitimate babies. So he's a preacher. Who gives a fuck?" says Blowfly, beginning to chuckle. "Who gonna pray for all them girls?"
When he was growing up on a Georgia farm in the '40s, the question was this: Who's gonna pray for Clarence? Allegedly a third-grade dropout who left school to help plow the fields with the family mule, Reid began amusing himself at work by singing X-rated parodies of "redneck songs" like Ernest Tubb's "I'm Walking the Floor Over You" (it became "I'm Jerking My Dick Over You").
His grandmother was aghast, telling him, "You oughta have your ass stomped. You ain't no better than a blowfly" (an insect that lays its eggs in flesh). "But the little white girls loved it," Blowfly recalls.
It was a lesson he'd draw on years later, after he'd left home and made a name for himself as Clarence Reid on the South Florida music scene. He began dropping nastier material into his sets, creating another identity, as Blowfly, in the process. "Girls would say, 'I'm leavin'! Clarence, how can you be so nasty?' And I'd say, 'Clarence? Where the fuck is Clarence? I don't even like that motherfucker!' "
Reid pressed some of that material himself for release on his own Blowfly label, since nobody else would touch it. But in 1973, Reid's boss, label owner Henry Stone, heard his Otis Redding parody, "Shittin' on the Dock of the Bay," and ordered Reid into the studio. Four hours later, Blowfly was reborn, with a debut album (The Weird World of Blowfly) that featured classics like "Spermy Night in Georgia" and a masked, caped, rubber-chicken-toting Reid on the cover.
That effort and subsequent releases became huge hits on the underground "party record" circuit and inspired innumerable hip-hop admirers and imitators, some of whom (P. Diddy, the Wu-Tang Clan) have sampled Blowfly. He's not particularly impressed, disdaining sampling and claiming that freestyling is for "grandmammies who got no rhythm."
However, Fahrenheit 69, released last year on Alternative Tentacles, does feature some current hip-hop collaborations -- a couple with "Because I Got High" rapper Afroman (an obvious Blowfly disciple) as well as a funny but less expected cameo from Atmosphere front man Slug. The album also features Blowfly's new group, led by drummer and occasional Press contributor Tom Bowker, who wrote about Reid in 2003 and then offered to assemble a band for his South Florida dates.
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