Rewind: The Wind, Rain & (New Jill) Swing Of Kopper's 'Hurricane'

A long time ago, I gravitated towards a song called "Hurricane" by a singer simply known as Kopper. It was a sharp, funky cut that drove hard, swinging well into its New Jack pedigree. From the outset it sounded like a massive hit record, something that received heavy rotation in its prime --- I couldn't have been more wrong.

Kopper, whoever she is and wherever she came from, is a mystery. Google can only provide the information that in the mid-'80s Kopper dropped two albums, and then like a South Texas cool front evaporated into thin air. Poof. Gone. Spotify (surprisingly) has her lone two albums, 1986's Purple Passion, and 1988's Hot Water ready and available to stream, but those are the only links to her existence.

In a way it's kind of fun not knowing who Kopper is, but still, when you drop a song that is as hot as "Hurricane", it's criminal that the how's and the why's aren't readily available. Gathering from the sounds that come out of her albums and the lone blurred photo that floats around the net, she was supposed to be what Janet Jackson and Paula Abdul became --- this, a wild guess, as there also isn't any visual representation of Kopper, but with a funky teased coif, a tune like "Hurricane", and a pouty stare, I can only connect the dots in the dark of what the intent was.

Hot Water is what prompted my curiosity. I stumbled across the album via one of those old-school R&B/Funk album hubs, you know the ones that provide "listening links" to obscure and out-of-print albums. Sadly, those sites have gone by the wayside now due to the domination of streaming services and the pitchfork raised high in the name of piracy abuse, but I always liked the 'feel' of those sites as it felt like I was digging in the crates at a record store, uncovering unappreciated treasures. Hot Water just kind of jumped out at me one day and I just downloaded --- the beauty of it being that if it blew, all I had to do was drag it to the recycle bin icon. Fortunately, the album hasn't warranted that fate, as it made all my New Jill dreams come true and then some as not only is "Hurricane" a stand-out, but other tracks like "Critical Condition", "He Sweeps Me", and "Takin' It To The Stage" often find their way in my music rotations.

Still "Hurricane" is the song that haunts me, and endures the longest. I often have strategically placed "Hurricane" on many mixes, and always I get inquires about it, as it funks so damn hard. An unquenchable vibe it has as it blows in with a bluster of synths and thunderclaps of electric drum work familiar to the New Jack aesthetic. Die-hard Prince fans might be familiar with the interesting octave changes the vocals take on the track, as the vocals dip low and then spike up to shrill helium heights. This 'pre-chopped n' screwed' technique winks in a similar direction as Prince's elusive Camille project. There is even a special "Camille" mix that exemplifies this technique:

The only well-known factoid attached to this track is that Chuckii Booker produced it. At this time, Booker was well-known as a solo artist (let's pause to give thanks for his New Jack classic, "Turned Away") who would later go on to become the musical director for Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation Tour in 1990. Booker's work is probably why this song sounds the most polished of the bunch on Hot Water and why it would be easy to salvage for another artist as Booker would soon recycle the track for another misbegotten singer named Dupont for a 1990 single. Maybe my bias is showing, but Dupont's version pales in comparison's to Kopper's as Dupont decides to go  "full-tilt Prince" whilst Kopper kept it tight without all the theatrics and emulations.

Kopper may be an unsolved mystery lost in obscurity, but "Hurricane" is undeniable evidence that New Jack Swing was one of the best things to happen to R&B, and why this misbegotten gem is worth another look.
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