Wednesday, August 27, 2008


What can I say, I'm in a speech mood thanks to the DNC.

I know this is gonna come off as some seriously elitist prickery, but I'm tired of this ish. It's just garbage. Let me set the mood.

(puts on Black Sheep's A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing...on vinyl, bitches)

Heads are sleeping like crazy these days. It's been that way for about, uh, let's say about ten years. Kiddies don't even know anything about hip hop anymore. They're quick to shake their asses to it, but they don't know. Listen to this garbage on the radio. Geez, just listen to LL's new record. It ain't nothing but keyboards and beat machines. We've moved from the gooshy, organic, elemental art form of hip hop to the stripped down beat-hook-chant formula that, let me tell you, just ain't working. You can start by blaming the labels, A&Rs and the artists. I mean, let's face it, we're just moving from what hot hook to another and, if there ain't nothing going, there ain't nothing selling. Labels are sniffing like hound dogs for the next quick buck because, honestly, in a day when the economy's in the comode and there's no relief in sight, labels are looking to more with less. They really just want a hit single. Record? Like full length? Only if. But give them a single first...then we'll see. There are no artists anymore because the labels have preached this short-term, hand-to-mouth bull-ish for years now. And to some cat coming from the block with visions of luxury and riches, he ain't about to shoot for artistry, he just wants to give what the label wants. If the label said they wanted two minutes of a dude rhyming while vomiting through his nose, dudes would run to the store for a cases of ipecac. They're just stupid. But then again, they don't have any reverance because the industry they serve don't have any either. Sampling laws ended that. Greedy muddahs decided that they didn't like these hip hop cats making money off of their recordings so they protected them by strict sampling laws which reduced hip hop heads to, well, generating from nothing.

The nature of hip hop is to loot. I mean, let's be real, it was born on James Brown records that were sampled with no clearance and no penalty. Heads would just sample the crap out of "Funky President" and "Funky Drummer" because those were the best breaks. Do the knowledge, kid. It's all there. Take "Sing a Simple Song" from Sly and Family Stone. That drum break was the framework for hundreds of hip hop classics. That's CLASSICS. Undisputed. You think any of these cats care about those old hip hop songs? Hell naw. Moreover, you think any of them know who the hell Sly and Family Stone is? Shheeeeeeeesh. Aight.

Hip hop was born on the notion that "borrowing for the greater good" is where it's at. I'm not stealing...I'm turning water into wine. Listen again to "Take Me to Mardi Gras" by Bob James and then "Peter Piper" by Run DMC. Jam Master Jay did Bob James better than Bob James himself did Bob James. It's alright to admit it. No one even knew who Bob James was until Run DMC sampled "Nautilus." Bob was one of the few saavy enough to recognize what Run DMC was doing, but then the Turtles sued De La, Biz got busted and almost lost everything and then labels got scared.

(Tucker leaves to the backyard on the intro of "Similak Child")

Twenty years later, hip hop has been reduced to almost nothing. Don't get me wrong, I like some Clipse, some Lil Wayne, but because I'm an elitist, I'll say this, "It's only because I understand where it came from." Watching kids bob their heads mindlessly to hip hop these days makes me think what these punk asses were listening to before they heard the new Soulja Boy. Probably the old Soulja Boy. More likely, probably whatever the urban radio station played before the new Soulja Boy. That's a dangerous trend for hip hop.

In my age, as dorky as it might sound, I've become obsessed (absolutely obsessed) with sampling. With the origin of a sound, a beat, a bass line, a trumpet, a vocal shout. I think about records like Black Moon's Enta da Stage or Black Sheep's aforementioned Wolf in Sheep's Clothing. Beastie's Paul's Boutique. De La Soul Three Feet. Take Public Enemy's second and third record. They were sampling James Brown and Slayer on the same side. Sonically, nothing can touch that. These days, not only can nothing touch, ain't no one even hearing it. It might as well not even exist because it doesn't mean anything in 2008.

It's almost a ritual my hunt for the breaks and the original samples. The second I hear something dope from 1991, I'm looking for the samples. I'm looking for the original breaks. I wanna know where it came from, how it was altered, how it was changed to fit a need. I'm come across some incredible recordings that, at times, I end up enjoying much more than the records that sampled them. Do you think that Root Down shirt was an original? C'mon now.

I had it too good coming up. I'm thankful for it. I had records that would end entire careers of these nincompoops these days.

(flip over to Side C of Black Sheep)

I encourage these kids coming up to dig back into hip hop's history. Let's be real, here. Hip hop lives in the origin. You're only as good as what you sample. And listeners, remember this: you don't know jack if you don't know where it came from. Someone said that knowledge of the samples is like learning the language. Hip hop speaks through sampling. If you don't speak sampling or beakbeats, you don't speak the language. And if you don't speak the language, then what are you really doing, pupil? And no offense to the emcees out there, but muddahs like to nod their head. You take away the beat, you can't nod that head. Go to a poetry reading and count the nodding heads. I like beats. I like samples. I like the elements. An emcee is an accessory. I know that sounds a little harsh, but I'm a beat kid. Scarface is dope. Pos is hella nice. I like me some KRS One, but I ain't about to listen to an acapella. I'm into the days when the emcee was really the ribbon on a good beat. Shotcalling. Hyping the crowd up. Good when you can find a nice one, but I'm just as good without one if you're sampling the Tom Tom Club. I have very few favorite emcees, but I gotta long list of favorite producers. The Shocklees. El-P. Prince Paul. RZA. Marley Marl. Premier. Ant. Madlib. On and on and on. Emcees? Uh, Del. Pos. Jeru. I'm stretching at that point. Jeru ain't squat without Primo. Pos ain't half the emcee I think he is without Pawl. You put a dude out there that emcees and produces and they're potentially my favorite ever. That's why I like dudes like El-P, MF Doom, RZA, the Beatnuts.

But it's all about the beat. The backbone. Without it, you're just listening to clever poetry. Take the Experience away from Jimi Hendrix, you still have a bad ass. Unplug Bob Dylan, it's still Bob Dylan and ain't no one touching Freewheelin'. Take Prince Paul out of De La Soul is Dead and De La ain't playing Rock the Bells last weekend--some fifteen to twenty years later. That's the absolute truth.

The other day, George brought a collection of dub-reggae over and I was captured by the Dillinger track, "Kokane On My Brain" because I was hypnotized by the bass line. I've heard this ish before. It's on the tip of my tongue. I sit there humming the bass line after it's over thinking, "Who sampled that?!" Ol' Dirty Bastard. Nah, Mobb Deep. Wait, was it Pharcyde? I thought for three hours about that, humming it over and over again. I never landed on it, but I know, given my collection, I'm soon to come across it.

I'm lucky in that way. I never take it for granted.

My mother is an accomplished pianist and organist (among many other things). While working on her doctorate, she studied this phrasing in organ music from the 1600's. That phrasing, in traditional religious compositions would be the bed rock for everything that would come later. My mother found some insane number of compositions that borrowed this sequence of notes. It originally began as a chant and then, over centuries, morphed and changed and transformed. Hip hop's the same way. You hear "Funky Drummer" in everything these days. It might not be the original sample, but it's sequences of drum hits that sounds exactly like the break in "Funky Drummer." Those eight bars or so lit the world on fire...back in 1987.

Sadly, I guess, what's wrong with hip hop is that no one knows what the hell I'm talking about. I might as well be Bob James crying, "Run DMC sampled me!" The obvious question follows: "Who in the hell is Run DMC?"


K-Fleet said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
K-Fleet said...

Well put, homie. Time and time again I find myself diggin in the crates to find something relevant, something that will take me back to a time I can remember and appreciate, a time when hip-hop ruled my life, which sadly now is not the case. I'm still a head, but hip-hop's in a sad state, and there's less than a handful of artists that can take me back today. Some may call them posers, but Cool Kids was able to do it, and maybe The Knux can too, heck, even some tracks from J. Holiday took me back to a simpler time. Nas is no longer Nasty, Houston rap is dead, and I can only hope that Missy Elliott can bring it back on her next album without letting Timbaland destroy it. Hip-hop isn't dead, but it's a crippled old man living in a retirement home reminiscing on the days of way back.

daunda said...

It is a process all art must go through brother. You have the birth of an art form (everything is pure), then the life of an art form which just like a human being will have it’s high’s and low’s (I used to lover her) then you have that art forms death. (I just heard somebody say that Hip Hop died a long time ago) Then there is the resurrection, the scrolls of our fore fathers will be unearth by a new generation of individuals who long for what is “TRUE AND LIVING” and then Hip Hop will shine once again brighter than the sun. Hold tight brother I know it’s hard, but our time will come again.

Your brother from another mother DAUNDA.

j3 said...

Broham! Where you been? Hope things are well.