The 1980s were a curious time. With much of the United States drenched in neon and gripped by the fear of a nuclear nightmare, pop culture became a haven for those who unenthused by the emergence of the “new-Right”.
Black music however, was reaching (another) renaissance. Dubbed the Golden Age of hip-hop, the sounds once relegated to block parties were evolving, sonically and commercially, with disparate acts paving new musical lanes. While Public Enemy was trying to “Fight the power!” Eric B. and Rakim were busy getting “Paid in Full”.
But off in another lane, Brooklyn rap troupe Stetsasonic was keeping black positivism alive. A crew of seven, rappers turned entrepreneurs, tv hosts and more, Stetsasonic is best known for the thirteenth song on their second studio album In Full Gear.
“Talkin’ All That Jazz” was simultaneously as much a groovy posse cut as it was a commentary on sampling in the world of hip-hop. “You see, you misunderstood, a sample’s just a tactic” is just one of the bars the group raps, assuring that flipping an old, beloved tune into something new is just an expression of creativity.
Beyond reverence for their musical forefathers, Stetsasonic traversed other musical landscapes as well. On their 1986 debut LP On Fire, the crew hosted an impromptu cypher on the track “Go Stetsa I”. Earlier in the track list, the gang collectively dates a woman named “Faye” while Wise beatboxes in the background.
Though the group didn’t last past their third and final album, 1991s Blood, Sweat & No Tears, they left their mark on love and sensuality before their exit. Teaming up with the Staten Island group the Force MDs, Stetsasonic penned a set of quiet storm verses that play like an auditory dating profile.
Over the MDs crooning, one by one each of the group’s rapping members introduces himself.
Thus begins one of hip-hop’s most honest love ballads. Realizing Faye’s adoration left them unsatisfied, Stetsasonic decides to spit their most heartfelt game in hopes of wooing that special someone.
“Scorpio, and my name is Delite/ And the lady that I like/ Is one with a classy feel of warmth and sensitivity,” Delite raps, exchanging his rhyming sensibilities for an up-front approach at attracting love.
Frukwan (also credited as FruitKwan) glides in much the same. “Peace/ My name is Fruitkwan/ And my sign is Virgo/ Now what I love in a woman/ Is treatin’ you in a royal manner.” Playing up their zodiac signs and other compatibility traits is a lesson known all too well to peruses of the myriad of dating sites. Had Stetsasonic tossed in a Myers-Briggs personality rating, and “Float On” would be fit just as well in 2018 as it did in 1988.
Line after line is filled with references to all manner of feminine beauty, though none physical, as each member tries his luck only to end the seven-minute long track unresolved. Did Daddy-O ever take his beloved on a cruise to lands unknown?
Regardless of the cliffhanging ending, Stetsasonic’s stylistic departure on this track is asynchronous within the confines of their discography. Known for their fun-loving approach to rhymes, “Float On” isn’t some image-resuscitating cut meant to revive the group from the jaws of a scandal. Nor is it a cry to a waning audience or jump to a more fruitful genre.
In fact, the track might fit with Stetasonic’s M.O. after all. It’s just a song made by some guys who like making music.
Listen to “Float On” and the rest of In Full Gear below, or on your favorite music streaming platform.