Monday, September 29, 2008

Don't Believe The Hype!

[For those that might be interested, I have a feature in the new issue of Sketch Magazine #36]

I didn't think my last post would spark that much interest but I see I've touched a nerve, both for good and bad.

Today's post will continue the idea that I started and maybe give a more clear view of my thoughts.  

"I GOT A LETTER FROM THE GOVERNMENT THE OTHER DAY.  I OPENED IT, READ IT, IT SAID THEY WAS SUCKAS!"

Public Enemy changed my world.  I was a very young white kid living in a very small town in the midwest so while I didn't connect with the some of the ideas of PE's first few albums (It takes a Nation, Fear of the Black Planet),  the music and passion that bled out of every track rocked my world.  I was 12 years old when "Do the Right Thing" came out on video and I can't even tell you how many times I rented that movie. "Fight the Power" was forever burned into my brain after memorizing that film which is still one of my favorite movies of all time.

My love for hip hop was already at an all time high when I was was in 8th grade (now living in a bigger city in Tennessee) and on a school field trip to Washington D.C. when it was taken to the next level.  We were taken to a little shopping and eating area some where and set free to get some food.  I however broke away from the group hunting for the music store.  I found it and spent my lunch money on cassette sitting in the new release section.  

Apocalypse 91... The Enemy Strikes Black

HOLY SHIT!  While I might have been starving from spending my food money on a tape (which has been a trend thru out my life), my mind was blown by the music I was hearing.  I dare anyone to say that there is a beat in the world better than "Shut Em Down".  You will grow old searching for one.  "By the Time I get to Arizona" not only had a very powerful message that helped teach me what the southern TN school system wasn't, it had an infectious groove that didn't leave my head for years following.  

"HERE COMES THE DRUMS... BASS IN YOUR FACE, NOT AN EIGHT TRACK GETTIN' GOOD TO THE WOOD, SO THE PEOPLE GIVE YOU SOME OF THAT REACTIN' TO FACTS THAT I KICK, AND A  STICK, UNDERSTAND WHEN I POINT TO THE JOINT... PUT THE BUDDAH DOWN."

I think people familiar with what videos they see on TV today would be shocked to know that "Can't Trust It" (like many other PE videos) were in heavy rotation in '91.  This leads me to what I mentioned in my last post about the difference between then and now.  Let's take the Jester-like hype man of Public Enemy.

Flavor Flav was the softener that made PE's message an easier pill to swallow.  An intentional farse in some ways.  I would never think that 19 years later I would be seeing people look like him but taking themselves serious.  Flav was a clown that knew he was being a clown.  When I see some soon-to-be-has-been with his hat on tilt still dawning the stickers and tag, a giant chain supporting a cartoon size diamond encrusted pendant all while mean muggin' like you better show him respect, I can't help but chuckle.  Clowns.

Now, I know that there was bad hip hop then, just like there is great hip hop now.  I'm not that tunnel visioned.  The difference is that the mainstream was played out much more even back in the day.  Let's take Serious Sat. Radio for example.  Every genre of music on there has 5 -10 channels.  Rock has oldies, classic, moderan, metal, 90's, 80's, and the list goes on.  Hip Hop has 3 (I'm not counting the "R&B" Beyonce playing station as Hip Hop)  One is old school.  And the other 2 play exactly the same playlists of modern "Ring Tone" rap.  

The DJ that backs up the MC is gone and replaced whatever "producer" of the moment quickly taps whatever transposed vocal sample is hot at the moment.  Again, I know it's not really gone, but it's gone to kids only exposed to the mainstream.  

As I grew up, my music tastes expanded to just about every genre there is, so I stopped worrying about if any type of music is "dead".  Hip Hop isn't dead.  The kind of life Hip Hop enjoyed in the mainstream may be dead and replaced by the "killers" and the "gangstas" (it's funny to think about it in those terms isn't it?  They're entertainers that pretend to really be what they're character is.  Imagine that after Tom Cruise starred in The Last Samurai he started walked around with a sword and and Samurai garb talking about the Bushido Code.) There are great artists out there pushing the genre in new directions just like there are clowns out there dumbing it down.  (we'll talk some of those names in a future post)

For now, we'll end on another PE quote.  

"SEE THE TV, LISTEN TO ME, DOUBLE TROUBLE/I OVERHAUL AND I'M COMIN' FROM THE LOWER LEVEL" 

p.s.  Guys, I know "good" is subjective and all about tastes.  But 50 cent is probably one of the worst rappers in the history of it.  I'm not even talking about what he raps about.  He could rap about saving homeless babies and protecting the planet and he would still be terrible.  

23 comments:

Lenny said...

Sweet piece man. Oh, and I totally dropped $6 bucks on the Sketch magazine solely because it featured you. Gotta support the cause, right?
And i'm with you. I'm totally frustrated with music today. I'm more of an old school and indie listener (Aesop Rock, Atmosphere, etc.,) and all this commercial stuff boggles my mind. And regarding 50 Cent, at one point, he was GOOD. Shocking, i know. But before he became mainstream, the man put out mean underground mixtapes.
Were/are you a fan of LL Cool J?

Mark said...

That drawing of Flav is awesome and I'm not really into hip hop.

jason quinones said...

on point on all counts on your last two hip hop posts man!

awesome pics as well. epmd one's dope but that flavor flav one is Alots of energy!

met flavor flav in person in a bodega in manahttan one day. he was really cool and i shook his hand. he was there buying a carton of smokes.

some cool hip hop i'm listening too:

j-live and el-p are my current faves. clutchy hopkins is really mellow but he's got great beats to draw too.

Chase March said...

There's no accounting for some taste. I have no idea why 50 is so popular. I agree that he is lacking in talent.

I like your thought provoking entry. Good job!

DAN-VAN-COOL said...

Yeeeeeeaaahh Boooyyyy!

"911 is a Joke" Fave song of P.E.

evan said...

I was a very young yella fella living in Delaware, so I can't fully understand the struggle either. But, Apocalypse 91 was a none stop in my tape player. Even though I always felt like I was taking part in something I wasn't a part of. But, I enjoyed the beats and the energy in the tracks. Now a days, I don't listen to much more than the beat. As long as there's a good beat, I'll run it in the background as I'm pushing the pencil.

Nice energy on the Flav!

Jon said...

I gotta thank you for these posts man, I love old school hip-hop, thanks to my Dad ( I'm relatively young, only 22) and I gotta thank you for turning me onto Mac Lethal and P.O.S through your myspace a while back.

Zach Erwin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zach said...

I'm down with these posts man. The GZA of the Wu-Tang Clan (best rap group of all time) has a new song out taking about how bad 50 cent is. It's called paper plates you should check it out.

Neftali said...

I totally agree with you Skottie.
It's about TIME someone brought this up!!!

Jason Moore said...

Wow you expressed exactly how I feel about old school rap...PE was a HUGE influence on me as well growing up as a white kid in Flint, Michigan and all of the rap of that generation as a matter of fact. But I was heavily into the 'political' rap of the time by the likes of PE, Paris, X-Clan, etc.
You also touch lightly on my feelings of 50 cent....man let me bite my tongue concerning that waste of airwaves and CD's.
Anyway...great posts!!! keep them up :)

Simon Mac Donald said...

Man it's amazing how much influence PE had on white kids growing up from all over the place. I'm from Nova Scotia, Canada and you couldn't get farther away from the means streets it you tried.

Flav was the hook that got you wondering who is this clown jumping around then Chuck comes in a drops science on your head. Love that band ever since they release Yo! Bum Rush the Show.

Fabian said...

Excellent work again!
I enjoyed Terminator X :)

Anonymous said...

i love the last two topics. your not alone. i remeber listining to eric b and rakim just flow. it was so smooth. i remember staying up late and rushing home to watch yo mtv rap. this was a simpiler time when i could sit back and enjoy music. look forward to new groups, and fall in love with hip hop.

frank

Kyle said...

FLAVA FLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAVE Wow your gesture work and conceptual design is amazing, freaking amazing. Props, "taps chest" "drops the mic."

Omar "OX" Rodriguez said...

I like the way his mouth came out...and the lean....awesome.

Nick said...

Check Out some Fortywater, ya Smell me! I miss good hip hop so much. A few years ago I went to go see J-live out here in SF and I swear there was only like 15 people in the crowd. I think that year KRS-one stopped making his yearly birthday stop here too. I do love some E-40, he's hilarious. I think he's in on the joke too. I just don't think you can be as ridiculous as he is with out knowing it's funny.

Kenney said...

I completely agree with you about 50. When everyone was going crazy for "In Da Club" I was thinking -- are you all serious? I really don't get it.

I've been listening to a lot of older stuff to get it on lately too. The difference between then and now is that the radio was diverse and because so much quality was getting put out, the DJ's job was easy. They just had to reach and grab for a record and there was a good chance it was going to be good. Even the lighter pop-ier tunes by the likes of Kid and Play, Salt n Pepa, and Heavy D were good.

Also, where is the dude like Chuck D, KRS, or Cube that has that commanding voice, that doesn't ask, but demands that you listen to what they're going to say in today's scene? There is good stuff coming out now for sure, but this kind of voice is sadly lacking IMHO.

Go here for some good HipHop mixes - broken up by year. You'll thank me.

http://www.itstherub.com/radio.htm#history

Matt Christ said...

Haha, dead on about the music stuff. It is how all the genres seem to be going. Growing up with punk bands of 80s and 90s its always funny seeing who is on MTv claiming the title with their eye shadow, ties over shirts, and other random crap to stand out.

Haha, 50 cent... he is popular because eminem and mtv told people to make him popular. I don't know who I hate more though; Lil wayne or 50...

samax said...

"It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back" is the GREATEST record of all time! i don't really care what other people listen to anymore, i just rock my shit! i definitely think mainstream rap has lost its edge... hip hop was never meant to be popular...

i rocks the underground stuff!

Malik Ali said...

still...you words are true and deep.

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