On Thursday night, millions stayed up for the debut of Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s bawdy new single “WAP,” but the first voice they heard on the song was neither rap superstar but a male voice emphatically declaring, “There’s some whores in this house.” Older listeners and connoisseurs of underground hip house instantly recognized the hook from “Whores in This House,” the Baltimore club-music classic released by DJ and radio personality Frank Ski in 1992. Far fewer, however, knew that the voice was not Frank’s but instead belongs to his collaborator Al “T” McLaran. He hadn’t heard Cardi and Meg’s song yet on Thursday night, with the rest of the world, but knew something big had happened. “My daughter sent me a link. She’s so proud that her daddy has such a strong connection with the whores of the world,” he initially told me over Facebook, adding a laughing emoji.
Al “T” McLaran, 56, has been involved in music in one way or another as a performer, producer, or label employee since he was a Brooklyn teenager, emceeing with the early hip-hop crew Jam On Productions in the late ’70s. That crew evolved into the electro-rap pioneers Newcleus after he left home to enlist in the United States Army, scoring the hit “Jam on It.” McLaran’s nickname “T” is short for Tuga — what his family called him as a young child — and he eventually signed to MCA to release his own solo rap single, “Drunk Driving,” under that name in 1984.
After completing his military service, McLaran returned to New York and worked as an A&R man for the pioneering dance and hip-hop label Warlock Records, playing a role in the early careers of legendary producer Todd Terry, jazz saxophonist Kim Waters, and P.M. Dawn’s Prince Be, among others. “My love is A&R. I like putting people together, this producer with that artist, and then seeing what happens. That’s my true joy in the music business,” McLaran says.
Frank Ski, at the time a popular radio personality on Baltimore’s V-103, scored a surprise hit single in 1991 with “Doo Doo Brown,” a comedic riff on a 2 Live Crew sample that took Baltimore’s burgeoning breakbeat-club-music sound to a national audience. After the success of the song, credited to Ski and Stanley Evans Jr. under the name 2 Hyped Brothers & a Dog, they decided to capitalize on it with an album. Evans, who worked with McLaran at Warlock Records, called his friend down from New York to help finish the album, Ya Rollin’ Doo Doo.
After Frank Ski hit it off with McLaran, they decided to go into business together with a new label, Deco Records, and began to release 12-inch singles of new club tracks after the 2 Hyped Brothers album. “Whores in This House” was recorded at High Heels Studio in Baltimore in 1992 as something of a sequel to a track of shout-outs to Black frats and sororities on the 2 Hyped Brothers album, “Greeks in the House.” It combined elements from two tracks that were hot in local clubs at the time: New York rap group Runaway Slaves’ 1992 hit “Booty Mission (Yo, Yo Where the Ho’s At?)” and U.K. breakbeat producer Zone’s 1991 single “Ghosties” (its hook sampled from the title refrain of R. Dean Taylor’s 1966 Holland-Dozier-Holland R&B hit “There’s a Ghost in My House”).
Though they conceived of the song’s idea together, McLaran produced and performed “Whores in This House” largely by himself, with Frank Ski only contributing some background vocals. For the lead vocal, McLaran channeled some of his military experience when it was time to sing about the whores. “Frank always liked my voice. We used to joke around about when I was in the Army calling cadences, so he wanted that drill sergeant kind of voice,” McLaran remembers. “I was known for my voice in the Army, because even when I wasn’t supposed to be calling cadences, they would pull me out of formation to do it. I wasn’t a drill sergeant; I left the Army because they passed me over for a promotion.”
McLaran didn’t think much of “Whores in This House” when they first finished it, but the response to the song was so immediate that he knew they had something on their hands. “We played it in a parking lot that night and some kids heard it. They lost their minds and started dancing like fools. I figured, what the hell, it might work after all,” he laughs. The song was issued on a 12-inch alongside another McLaran production, “Tony’s Bitch Track,” which helped launch drag performer Anthony “Miss Tony” Boston, who died in 2003, as a popular Baltimore club vocalist and local queer icon.
Both “Whores” and “Tony’s Bitch Track” became staples of the Baltimore club scene for decades, to a greater degree than even “Doo Doo Brown.” But the single, which they’d agreed to release as “Frank Ski and Al T’s Club Trax,” ultimately came out as “Frank Ski’s Club Trax,” erasing McLaran’s contributions from the public record. McLaran had been paid for his work with Frank Ski in a small amount of cash plus the Korg M1 keyboard that they’d made some of the music with, largely because he was originally going to be a partner in Deco Records. (McLaran clarifies: “Being that we were supposed to be starting this label together, my investment into the company was my publishing.”)
McLaran moved to Florida in 2001, but he’s stayed close with his childhood friends from Newcleus, rejoining them to perform their ’80s hits around the world over the last couple decades. After the 2010 death of founding member Bob “Chilly B” Crafton, McLaran assumed a larger role in their concerts, performing Chilly B’s parts from their songs. And McLaran has remained an active producer — the night “WAP” was released, he stayed up all night working on house and jungle tracks before he got around to hearing perhaps the most high-profile song of his long career.
McLaran finally got an official songwriting credit connected to “Whores” when it was interpolated on “Fire,” a 2003 single by Joe Budden and Busta Rhymes. But he’s largely remained uncredited on the many other samples of the song, including Lil Wayne and Gucci Mane’s 2018 track “In This House.” He was credited as a performer, but not a writer, when “Whores” was featured in the 1998 film The Players Club. And McLaran didn’t even know that Big Boi referenced the song on Outkast’s 1996 song “Ova Da Wudz.”
The sound of McLaran saying “There’s some whores in this house” is looped roughly 79 times in “WAP,” in all but a few bars of the song (12 of them with his voice pitched up into a chipmunklike tone). But upon the song’s release on Friday, he was once again left out of the official writing credits. Frank Ski (under his real name, Frank Rodriguez) is one of the six credited writers, alongside Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion, the production duo Ayo & Keyz, and Cardi’s frequent co-writer Pardison Fontaine.
Despite it all, McLaran has remained friends with Frank Ski and shows little bitterness about the improper credit and payment. “I spoke to him [last night], we’re cool. We were all young then and things just weren’t handled the way they should have been handled,” he says. Ski has promised McLaran that he’ll get a cut of the profits from “WAP,” which may be substantial. Given the song’s instant viral popularity, and the performance of previous Cardi B hits, it will likely debut at or near the top of the Hot 100 next week, and eventually rack up hundreds of millions of plays on streaming services. “Big shout-out to Frank; thank you, Cardi B,” McLaran says. “I love you both. Cut the check!”