Sunday, November 20, 2011

JAZZ MEETS HIPHOP

Of course it was only a matter of time. But when Jazz met HIPHOP they rocked it.
Check out this live gig by Jazz legend Herby Hancock and Hiphop DJ Grandmaster DST performing the first great Jazz-Hiphip crossover track. ROCKIT! A 1984 worldwide Hit.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

LL COOL J - OLD SKOOL

An early inspiration to pursue the art of rapping is LL. Cool J. As a kid I saved up to buy his first 3 LP's. When I saw this VPRO interview for Dutch television I was impressed with LL's rap at 1.40 min. This was some inspirational shizzle for a 15 yr old aspiring rappers. LL started his career at age 15 and is the longest running HIPHOP superstar. Enjoy the interview.

 

Friday, November 18, 2011

CLASSIC OLD SKOOL BATTLE - 1985

Roxanne Shante was only 14 years old when her ad lib free style was first put on wax. This young girl became one of the first HIPHOP underground superstars and could stand her ground in any battle. Here she battles rapper Busy Bee, the Chief Rocker during the NY 'New Music Seminar' in 1985.

In 1985 this audio track of relatively good quality was available on bootleg casette tapes even in the Netherlands. I got the tape in Holland via Aruban friends that got the music from the States. It was one of the recordings that inspired me to get into street corner rap battles at the tender age of 15. HIPHOP was alive and worldwide.



    

DJ SCRATCH STORY

Bambaataa's DJ telling it like it is. The invention of scratching.


How HIPHOP DJ ing moved into Turntablism.

Monday, November 14, 2011

HIPHOP HISTORY part III


ICE T's gangsta rap was taken to a rauncier level by a HIPHOP group from LA´s most dangerous and underprivileged urban area, Compton. By the end of the 80´s NWA (Nigga´s With Attitude) brought HIPHOP the ghetto street lingo in all its brutal harshness. After NWA´s rise to infamous celebrity Niggas and Bitches remained part of raps vocabulary. After NWA split up in the early 90´s three of its members started successful careers based on their individual talent.

Former drug dealer Eazy E was to my mind the most skilful rapper of the three and unofficial leader of NWA. He released a dope album called ´Eazy Duz It´. But unfortunately his career ended when he died of AIDS at age 31. Ice Cube also kept representing. Influenced by Chuck D. his lyrics became more self-conscious. He threw down a number of hits and was blown into stardom when he played the unforgettable role of Doughboy in the classic movie ´Boyz in da Hood´. Last but not least Dr. Dre eventually became the hottest thing on the HIPHOP plate and changed the industry.

Dr.Dre´s greatest skill was on the production side making G-Funk the HIPHOP sound of the 90´s. His highly influential debut solo album was ´The Chronic´ which introduced Marihuana as a popular rap topic and a truely dope rapper named Snoop Doggy Dogg. Even more importantly Dre also introduced a new funky and melodic gangsta rap production. Dre´s G-Funk stilo influenced HIPHOP productions for years to come and was clearly featured on G-Funk landmark classic ´Regulators´ by his halfbrother Warren G. Dre is also wellknown for his cooperation with the legendary Tupac. Dre´s eye for rap talent serviced again when he more recently introduced Eminem to the scene, who can be considered the Elvis of HIPHOP.      

Let me take a step back again. When white conservative America was being shocked by Public Enemy´s radical political messages and NWA´s unpolished street language, another fresh HIPHOP flavour was emerging, soon to be called Hippie Hop. Yet another reaction to the New School was De La Soul. De la Soul, from the soul, black medallions, no gold. Being part of the Afrika Bambaataa inspired Native Tongues family they also profiled an afrocentric black consiesness. Doing away with the standard HIPHOP look (Sport outfits and goldchains) and sound, De la Soul looked like misfits and spoke in riddels. Other Native Tongue members were: A Tribe Called Quest, the Jungle Brothers and Black Sheep.     

A Tribe Called Called Quest was among the first to inject a big dose of Jazz into their music. One of the HIPHOP albums that also catered to the Jazz lover in me is their second album ´The Low End Theory´ (´91). Q-Tip being one of my favorite rappers surprised me once again in ´99 with his brilliant solo album ´Amplified´. Although The Native Tongues were frontrunners in integrating Jazz, which was taken to the next level by Guru´s (Gangstarr) Jazzmatazz, they did not maintain the commercial success of their early days as most of the 90´s was dominated by the Gangsta sound. 
  
The influence of Jazz in HIPHOP also accelerated the use of live music in HIPHOP, which is of particular interest to me. Check other Jazz related landmark albums by Stetsasonic, Spearhead, Digable Planets and of course Miles Davis last album Doo Wop, which actually is a HIPHOP influenced Jazz album. Live HIPHOP bands include The Roots and dutch band Relax. Other HIPHOP acts that reach back to Native Tongue roots are the Black Eyed Peas and Outkast.
   
Since those early days HIPHOP music has become bigger and bigger, crossing over from underground to mainstream acceptance. Succesfully fusing different urban music styles and being a billion dollar industry. It was my intention to illustrate where HIPHOP music originated from and how it developed in the 80´s and early 90´s. Why? Just ´cause I was there. Sure, there´s more to tell. Cypress Hill taking the Latin flavours of Kid Frost to the next level. The Fugees (again emigrant Hiphoppers) entering the scene. And so on. And so on...

The other elements of HIPHOP culture are also very much alive. Since the days  the Rock Steady Crew inspired us old skoolers to bust our electric boogie moves on streetcorners nothing much has changed. B-boys are still batling at parties and practising their moves on the very same street corners. Since the days I was putting pieces on rooftops, Graffiti is still an influential artform.

Todays HIPHOP superstars are known to most. The beef between West coast and East coast rappers. The death of Tupac and Biggie. The total commercialisation of Rap by Puff Daddy. The rise of new HIPHOP superstars like Jay-Z and Eminem opening up to even bigger international audiences. The new kids on the block: 50cent, Nelly, Ludacris, etc. The future is now. Maybe you will write the next chapter 10 years from now.

The story continues.    

T.B.C.

HIPHOP HISTORY part II

Another leader of the New School was the young LL Cool J, who released classics like ´My Radio´ and of course the first love rap ´I need Love´, which became one of the main benchmark songs for the many RnB crossover tracks that feature the charts to this day. LL Cool J was only 15 years old when he was discovered by the Beasty Boys and now is the longest active HIPHOP superstar. Mama said knock you out...

The other legendary leaders of the New school are of course the Beasty Boys. Beyond the gimmicks (Many early HIPHOP heads remember ripping Volkswagen signs to wear on our necklaces like the Beasties) of their bad boy image was a foundation of true HIPHOP skills, innovative qualities and a masterful DJ in the ´back´ground. The first white Hiphoppers that commanded respect from the pre-dominantly coloured HIPHOP community. These three rowdy Jewish kids from Brooklyn paved the way for the skilful (Eminem) and less skilful (Vanilla Ice) white MC´s that followed in their tracks. Standards on their classic album ´License to Ill` are ´Fight for your right to Party´ and ´No sleep till Brooklyn´.

In the transition of the 80´s to the 90´s, while the original New school was slowly fading, another act on the Def Jam label turned HIPHOP into a literally revolutionary direction. Tapping into the post-Black Panter rage of the afro-american community and bringing the noise, Public Enemy brought HIPHOP political consciousness and a hard hitting, psychadelic, heavy metal musical style. The fierce and controversial lyrics, by the well educated and extremely literate frontman Chuck D., were blasted through the speakers on a dense and fierce soundtrack constructed by DJ Terminator X. There has not been a more intense HIPHOP act since. Their second and third album are mandatory for every true HIPHOP head. (It takes a nation of millions to hold us back (´88), Fear of a Black Planet (´90).

The Rotterdam HIPHOP scene was already very active at the time. But Rotterdam was also known for its very own niggas with attitude. Visiting HIPHOP acts had a hard time getting the crowd to participate. Many of the crews and gangs in the audience were too pre-occupied with being ´cooler´ then Ice. But when Public Enemy brought the noise to the AHOY stadium in Rotterdam everybody went absolutely mental. PE commended total respect. The pit in front of the stage was wilder then any pit at a rock concert (I had the bruises to prove it). Chuck D. even had to chill down some of the dogs that started fighting...                         
            
Developments in MC skills continued. The pretty hard core rap style of the new school was being challenged by a new stilo of a rapper that combined his dark voice with an incredibly smooth flow unheard of at the time. Without a doubt the most skilled and influential MC of the early days is the legendary Rakim. My personal number one favourite of all times. Every Rap fan should listen to classic tracks like ´Follow the Leader´ and ´Microphone Fiend´. Both produced by Eric B.

Another MC that busted a smoother flow was non other then Ice T who, who in 1987, released one of my all time favourite rap records ´Rhyme Pays´. His cool rap style and intelligent street lyrics made him the frontrunner of the Gangsta Rap. Ice T can be considered the real O.G., Original Gangsta. On his albums he busted funny party raps and did hilarious skits. But the best stuff was his gangster stories. He was keeping it real and in the meantime able to give social commentary and show an intelligent inside into streetlife.

Ice T at one point was extremely popular on American College radio stations, bringing rap, which at the time was still mainly catering to a black audience, to a wider white audience. Ice T´s music was aimed at the hard core rap fan but kept on gathering a bigger following. Ice´s popularity showed how the general taste of the public slowly started appreciating the HIPHOP flavours. Before Ice T was swept away into mainstream television and movies he once again sparked controversy (Copkiller) with his Metal HIPHOP band Bodycount.

HIPHOP HISTORY part I

HIPHOP culture originated in the Big Apple (NY) of the mid 70´s. It all started as a groundbreaking expression of black american street culture. Although many of the frontrunners of HIPHOP were actually emigrants. Much of the defining elements of HIPHOP can therefore be traced back to Jamaican Dancehall characteristics.  

In the mid 80´s the DJ´s slowly took a backseat to the MC´s. While the Masters of Ceremony were originally brought to the spotlight to support the DJ, many rappers started performing over DAT tracks and drum computers. Major labels were also more interested to sign rappers without the DJ. Some of the most famous MC´s of the time were Sugarhill Gang, Kuris Blow, Fat boys, Whodini and of course the legendary girl MC Roxanne Shante.

But even in the mid 80´s DJ´s remained an important element of HIPHOP and most HIPHOP productions evolved around samples that obviously link back to the HIPHOP DJ stilo. Also many of the early HIPHOP producers were original DJ´s. For example (Run DMC and) Grandmaster Jay, Eric B (and Rakim) or Mantronix. 

Looking back over the last decades of HIPHOP history many claim that it is the DJ element that has developed the most from the early old skool days. The HIPHOP DJ stilo evolved from the basic skill of mixing, blending and scratching to what is now called turntablism. A term that was invented by DJ Babu another emigrant HIPHOP innovator (Filipino). Grandmasters of today include DJ Qbert, DJ Craze (threefold DMC world champion DJ) and DJ Mike D.

MCing and Rapmusic however is still the most eye- and earcatching element of HIPHOP culture. No serious music critic ever imagined that Rappers would once rule the music charts. Most did not even consider Rap to be a serious form of music. Quotes:´They dont play any instruments and they cant even sing.´  ´Rap is just a trend that will never last.´ How wrong they were... HIPHOP music never died and turned into the Neo-Funk of the new millennium.

In my mind the main reason HIPHOP is here to stay and will never fade away is that all elements of HIPHOP adhere to the same basic rule. The rule of Battle. The DJ´s battle, the MC´s battle and the B-boys battle. Even the Grafitti artists battle for hoods and street corners. Always developing skills in the process. HIPHOP in it´s core is fiercely competitive. The fact that HIPHOP is so very competitive guarantees it´s innovative quality. HIPHOP never stands still. Its always developing itself. It is exactly this quality that keeps HIPHOP culture vibrant.

The battle is always about being FRESH. Survival of the Freshest! There is always someone around the corner to take your crown. Because HIPHOP evolves so quickly New school is considered Old school quite fast. Run DMC for instance are now considered Old school while in fact they were the front runners of the New school rappers of the mid 80´s. In the beginning the tongue twister raps by DMC were even considered too complex by Def Jam owner Russel Simmons. But of course the legendary Def Jam label signed most of the New School superstars.       

Run DMC took rapmusic to a new level with their now classic album ´Raising Hell´ from which rap standards like ´Walk this Way´ and ´My Adidas´ (Due to commercial success of this song and their image enhancing outfits they became the first HIPHOP group that acquired commercial sponsoring on a large scale.) were released. ´Walk this Way´ to this day is one of the earliest and most successful Rap-Rock cross overs, paving the way for home-grown Urban Dance Squad who in turn influenced acts like Rage against the Machine, Limp Bizkit and even the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Boom!, thats the circle of life for ya.

Run DMC reserviced in ´98 when they featured on Jason Nevins B-Boy productions. DJ Jammaster Jay was lost to the HIPHOP community when he was shot in 2003, just when he was busy working with rapper 50cent. Run DMC with support act Beasty Boys performing in de Jaap Edenhal, Amsterdam was the very first live concert I ever went to. It was 1987 and it was the first major HIPHOP gig in the Netherlands.