While rap music is the most prominent aspect of hip hop music people rarely realize that a) there are 4 elements of hip-hop and b) there were many great rappers before Biggie and Tupac. So with that in mind I'll attempt to show you that Ice Cube hasn't always been a kids movie star and the middle aged women aren't the only ones who paid attention to LL Cool J's career. These are some good tracks to listen to if you want to get a good sense of where hip hop began.
1) The Message - Grandmaster Flash & The Furious 5 - First it is important to understand that Grandmaster Flash was the DJ of the group not the rapper. In the earlier days of hip-hop the DJ was the most important part of the music. With out him, the rapper had no beat so he get's his name first. The massive importance of this record was that it was one of the first songs to directly tackle the plight of those living in the impoverished Bronx. Melly Mel talks about how he "can't walk throught the park cuz it's crazy after dark" or how his son doesn't want to go to school because "the teacher's a jerk and he think's I'm a fool". They also touch on the issues of unemployment and the rough living conditions of the bronx in the early 80's. The song focused more on the "message" of the lyrics than making it all about a party beat like rappers before. They still dressed like the Village People but no one is perfect. Run-DMC would soon come along and change that with a pair of Adidas.
2) Paid In Full - Eric B. & Rakim - See I told you, the DJ's name came first. This song is a total hit because of Eric B's production and the slick lyrics of Rakim. "A nice big plate of/ Fish which is my favorite dish/ But without no money it's still a wish". Rakim is arguably on of the best MC's to have ever picked up his mic. People have actualy learned the english language by listening to Rakim rap. In this song the duo is looking to make some money for themselves and by getting "paid in full" aren't going to let their record company screw them over like so many black performers had happen to them before notably Chuck Berry and Little Richard.
3) It Was A Good Day - Ice Cube. Way before he ran a barbershop or was facing off with Coors Light cans, Ice Cube sounded like a stone cold killer with a "criminal record like Charles Manson" and challenged New York City for hip hop supremecy. With a phenomenal sample of the Isley Brother's "Footsteps in the Dark" Cube weaves a narrative of his day which is oddly absent of the violence and police presence that characterised his gangster lifestyle. The sing gives us the best basketball reference ever with "messed around and got a triple double". It is a great narrative of what west coast life was like and things turned out pretty well for Cube on that day. He made some money, played some basketball and eat a fatburger which is all ever want to do. If you're looking to see where gangsta rap was started, Ice Cube was an originator.
For a good read chronicling the early days, see "Hip Hop Planet", National Geographic, April 2007. It is generally agreed that hip hop was born in the summer of '73 by the kids in the South Bronx and Harlem. But it wasn't until 1979 that "Rapper's Delight" by the Sugarhill Gang broke the genre onto radio. This and other early tunes - including "The Message" - can be found on a compilation 3CD set released on Sequel label in 1992 titled "The Sugar Hill Story Old School Rap - To The Beat Y'all". DJFrank
Monday, November 21, 2011 01:38 PM
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