Suggested Audio 8-Ball:
Today my fellow B-Boys and Girls, I have decided to speak a little about hip hop. For anyone unfamiliar with this, please allow me to elaborate. I said a hip hop, the hippie, the hippie, to the hip, hip hop, and you don’t stop, a rock it to the bang-bang boogie, say, up jump the boogie, to the rhythm of the boogie, the beat. Sounding familiar now? Actually, I ordinarily refer to it as plain old rap. Any of you that know me well should be aware of my fondness for this particular style of music. Originating in The Bronx, New York during the 1970s, rap took off in no time, even though many regarded it as a flash in the pan at the time.
Forty years later and it is still going strong, albeit a far cry from its origins. Being a child of the eighties, rap was on the incline around the time of my first pubic hair emerging and, by the time I had a whole bunch of them, it had soundly won me over. My interest has waned in recent years but there was a period in the late eighties and early nineties that it had me by my short and curlies, and this will be my focus here. So I guess the best thing to do would be to rewind and spin this vinyl from the top right?
Okay, so it all started when I was still darting around in my father’s scrotum without a solitary care in the world. Granted, my memory banks don’t actually stretch back that far, but some of my fellow sperms wrote a rap about it and tied it to my tail as I prepared to wriggle off to Wombsville. I think I may have it on me, bear with me one moment. Yes, here it is.
I wish we were cool like that other sperm, Keeper
Is it just me or is his voice a bit deeper
I’m not quite sure what he’s expecting to gain
From swimming around in a dope fat gold chain
If you ask me I think that it’s all a bit much
strutting his stuff while he fondles his crotch
He’s certainly confident I will give him that
and seems to enjoy being labelled as phat
Last week he revealed his intentions to me
said none of us bitches would ever break free
he taunted and teased us he called us all names
while bragging about some dumb blueprint for fame
I’m telling you lads that this simply must stop
you can turn up your noses but I won’t let it drop
If he should break free there’ll be chaos no less
and where it should end will be anyone’s guess
I’m sick of his cockiness and ill-informed swagger
he things he’s all king when he’s just carpetbagger
when night falls I say that we all bust some caps
so what do you say are you feeling me chaps
I see I’m alone as you’ve all switched allegiance
I won’t point the finger as I’m sure you have reasons
I’ll do it myself if it’s courage you lack
but I’m telling you guys you’re all nothing but wack
Guess which sperm won? Anyhoots, the likes of Sugarhill Gang, Afrika Bambaataa, Melle Mel and Coke La Rock were all popping and locking before I was out of diapers, putting Brooklyn and the Boogie Down Bronx on the map with their narrated tales told over sparse 4/4 beat arrangements. The whole of America started to sit up and take notice, although nobody gave the movement a chance of being any more than a flash in the pan. Gradually that attitude began to change as rap spread even faster than schoolyard cooties and proved it had long-term game. My awakening didn’t come until the mid-eighties and the personnel had changed considerably by that point.
Run D.M.C. had risen to fame with their melodic three-pronged flavor, LL Cool J was busting out his Kangol and reminding us all how bad he was, and Flavor Flav was desperately attempting to overcome his timekeeping problems by taking it perhaps a tad too literally. Def Jam Records became the rap equivalent of Skynet, acting as stable for a fair share of the thoroughbreds ripping up the circuit globally. With a roster of talent reminiscent of the cast to Gosford Park (only black), they dominated the scene and began to achieve great crossover success while they were at it.
One such glory came in the shape of The Beastie Boys. They had every white-collared American fearing for their Volkswagen and BMW fenders as they set a trend for donning their emblems around their necks on makeshift chains. However, nobody thought they would last and many regarded them as little more than a novelty act. How wrong can you possibly be? I was one such naysayer as my love affair with the Beasties wasn’t an overnight thing.
In truth, I found their pitch too whiny for my personal tastes initially and, while their first album License To Ill was a commercial success, it was all a bit too trite for me. However, they pulled their necks in and came up with a follow-up, Paul’s Boutique (my favorite album of theirs) and showed they meant business. The untimely death of MCA may have ultimately stopped them in their tracks but they still enjoyed a career spanning nearly thirty years, proving a lot of purists wrong in the process, myself inclusive. I believe kudos are in order.
After they severed ties with Def Jam, label-mates 3rd Bass started to gain ground. Their seminal Cactus Album was of the highest order and even took a few sly digs at the Beasties in the process. “Swarm to the lyrics cause Serch is your father, Screaming “Hey Ladies”, why bother?” read a line from Sons of 3rd Bass, one of numerous standouts on a faultless rap album. I often wondered what happened to 3rd Bass as they were truly going somewhere before seemingly dropping off the planet.
Speaking of perfection, Public Enemy followed their barnstorming opener Yo! Bum Rush The Show with It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back. To this very day it is one of the very best LPs I have ever been privileged enough to own, period! They became known for their shrill musical hooks and, of course, the wonderfully incoherent ramblings of loveable court jester Flavor Flav. Their third album Fear of A Black Planet was a masterful piece of vinyl but it started to go swiftly downhill from there.
Where Big Daddy Kane was stealing all the bitches and forcing them into feeding him forest fruits while he sat in his throne, Flav and fellow jester Humpty from Digital Underground were more than content with acting the clowns (Humpty hiding his elongated snuffer under a Marx Brothers disguise). Both had bags of personality and unbounded verve, affording them solo spots on various album tracks. Meanwhile, De La Soul enjoyed massive crossover success with their enigmatic long player 3 Feet High & Rising, while buddies Jungle Brothers & A Tribe Called Quest admirably brought up the rear.
Eric B & Rakim became known for Paid in Full and I Know You Got Soul whereas, for me, their pièce de résistance was the magnificent Follow the Leader. No need for a pistol poking in my temple to name this as my all-time number one rap lick. Rakim’s gravelly tones perfectly complimented Eric B’s gruff bass ruptures, while sinister soundbites wove through its core. Utterly, utterly transcendent.
EPMD were another brace of personal Jesuses with similarly earthy laid back verse sitting pretty alongside some memorable audio. You Gots to Chill, Strictly Business, So Wat Cha Sayin’ and Golddigger ripped up dance halls for the sheer hell of it and one of Keeper’s finest achievements comes in the form of guessing the titles for their second, third and fourth albums before even conceived. Truth!
I must conclude with Keeper’s Rap Dietary Plan for any newcomer to the old-skool artists listed above and a few lesser known delights. This is, in no way, definitive. Just firing rounds.
Eric B & Rakim: Follow The Leader, Lyrics of Fury, Paid in Full
EPMD: You Gots to Chill, I’m Housin, The Big Payback
Big Daddy Kane: Set it Off, Ain’t No Half Steppin’, Wrath of Kane Pt II
LL Cool J: Mama Said Knock You Out, I’m Bad, Goin’ Back to Cali
3rd Bass: Wordz of Wisdom, Sons of 3rd Bass, The Gas Face
Run DMC: Run’s House, What’s It All About?, Beats to The Rhyme
Public Enemy: Fight The Power, Don’t Believe The Hype, Rightstarter (Message To A Black Man)
Digital Underground: Doowutchalike, The Humpty Hump, Same Song
De La Soul: Me, Myself & I, Say No Go, Buddy (Remix)
A Tribe Called Quest: Bonita Applebum, Award Tour, Luck of Lucien
Jungle Brothers: What “U” Waitin’ 4, Black Is Black (Remix), Straight Out The Jungle
Paradox ‘Soul Feels Free’
London Rhyme Syndicate ‘Hard to The Core’
Roxanne Shanté ‘Go On Girl’
Silver Bullet ‘Bring Forth the Guillotine’
True Mathematics ‘After Dark’
Hijack ‘The Badman is Robbin’
Tuff Crew ‘My Part of Town’
Black Rock & Ron ‘Stop The World’
Professor Griff & The Last Asiatic Disciples ‘Pawns In The Game’
Mantronix ‘Sing A Song (Break It Down)’
Ten of The Best