The Jews Are Everywhere…..In Music

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There has been a spate of books written on Jews and the American music business. They were deeply entrenched in music by the turn of the 20th Century, and so much so that they owned almost all the music publishing companies. This naturally expanded out to performance where you had Jewish musicians like Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, Sophie Tucker, George and Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, and Jerome Kern melding their music with black cultural materials. This led to an exhaustive debate about the nature of the Jewish and black relationship, especially in the realm of music. Certain historians have put this as part of the longer narrative of the story of a bond that became strong through activism, but was later torn by that same notion. Historians have lumped groups together in order to convey certain ideas and patterns about their existences and extinctions. This does a great disservice to all groups, no matter how they are categorized, especially Jews. Jews have had such a long and rich history that touches almost every continent on the planet earth. Historians and scholars, especially Jews, should be careful because they are perpetuating a myth that is getting harder to ground in any reality.

When it comes to music there is the age old debate of wether it was love or theft, or a bit of both. I argue that it was an admixture of all these elements including the very DNA strung through these Jews for centuries. Jews have sung for many reasons, and there are plenty of these examples in the Torah, and the additions of the Prophets and Writings making up what Jews call the Tanach. When the hard-hearted Pharoah took up his chariots after regretting letting the Jews go he followed them with a vengeance. In a trip that took the Israelites three days, he thrust the jet packs onto his horses and gained within a day’s ride. Once the Israelites were trapped they had nowhere to go but through the water. The sea parted and the Israelites ran through, followed very closely by their Egyptian pursuers. Once they all passed through to dry land the waves crashed down, pummeling Pharoah and his men, and just to be safe G-d raised them out and threw their dead bodies in front of the Hebrew nation. So what would you do after this miraculous feat? Sing! This was a joyous occasion as all the people sang along with Miriam picking up a tamborine and playing it with the women. There are other examples like the song of the Judge Deborah, as well as one of the ways that G-d gave the Israelites the word, as it was done through song. To negate the fact that Jews have always sang is negating tradition rooted in Jewish history.

Jews have not only been very musical they have also gone through great pains to assimilate, especially after the gates of the ghettos came tumbling down. Jews have attempted to assimilate into European culture in various ways. Wether through Moses Mendelssohn’s Haskalah Movement, or through the changing of customs, and other Jewish markers most western European Jews went through the process. Out of that process the Jewish immigrants to the United States were following their own lead. This leads me to the first real encounters between European Jews and African Americans.

Jewish scholars have written about the immigrant experience as well as their initial encounters with African Americans. I’m mostly interested in the realm of the music business. Most of these scholars, most recently being Jeffrey Melnick, argue that it was more selfish than we are led to believe. Jews who exploited, and he makes sure to state that it was one-sided exploitation, these artists didn’t care at all about blacks, but only about positioning themselves as white folk.This notion would stand only if all of these Jews, and all American Jews in general, want to be white. That is not the case as been shown by many writings of Jewish artists who felt closer to blacks than whites. Some even felt closer to blacks than to other Jews mostly due to socio-economic issues, which are still very pervasive in the present. The question also begs to be asked as to why Jews continued using black cultural materials after they were considered white?

There are a few books about Jewish artists spanning past the Jazz age to the Brill Building and beyond. These Jews still felt anxiety as they didn’t fit geographically, in the cookie cutter suburbs with all the Wasps, or even musically, by eschewing the teen idol craze for greater pastures. Scholars like Michael Billig, Jon Stratton, Steven Lee Beeber and Scott Benarde have written about these iconoclastic artists like Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, Paul Simon, Mike Bloomfield, and Al Kooper to name a few who veered into the safer havens of black music. This continued on with rap music and writers like Jeff Chang, and most importantly Dan Charnas, have proved that the same goes for Hip Hop. Jews involved in Hip Hop, and this spans to all ages from the older generation who got their start at rap’s infancy, to the younger artists, still have an affinity for black culture. So much so to the point where they are very uncomfortable when asked about their whiteness.

Another reason why some of these Jewish scholars and historians are stuck is because it was of their own making. These are the scholars who wrote about American Jewish history, without taking into consideration that that history has fragmented. They never truely wrote about the entire Jewish community because there are so many labels, affiliations, movements, and sub-labels that keep being teased out every so often. Most of them also grew up in a specific background that has enriched them over the years. This means that they live in the suburbs and their children are far removed from the other side, the dark side, the poverty stricken side where plenty of Jews reside. That is why the group history idea is a farce, a sweet dream made possible by these scholars, who are mostly Ashkenazi nebbeshe middle-aged men. They, and their children, will never understand the various connections to the seedy underbelly of America. That is why they will always have this anxiety that serves no purpose for growth. Because they don’t immerse themselves, nor listen to the music, they will never fully grasp this Jewish and black connection on the street level. They are also the antithesis of a hip-hop head, especially certain Jewish rappers who are loud, abnoxious, insulting, and in your face thanks to the raw expression of rap music.

That is rap music, and Jews who participate in it, are so foreign, and dare I say threatening to these scholar Jews whole way of life. I’m not taking away credit for their work, but it’s time to give the whole entire story. These Jews who are part of the story of rap from Rick Rubin, to Bill Adler to Necro to Edan to El-P to Paul Barman to Despot, etc. etc. all know this seedy side. It is disingenuious to blanket them all in a white label because they would be insulted. They aren’t white, they aren’t black, they’re just some fucking Jews who can rap, who can make beats, who can tag, who can spin, and who can revolutionize this genre.

Besides the music world the broader question remains, how many of these Jews still remain? Unfortunately not as many as the assimilated, and that’s a problem. The assimilated Jew will act like his white friends while not identifying with his or her background. Another really disappointing trend I’ve seen, as well as read about, is the political leanings of these people. Not so much the assimilated Jews, worse but also the Modern Orthodox and ultra orthodox have adapted this insane notion of conservatism, which is partnered with a growth in racism. I hate saying this but upon hearing a DC Rabbi say that gay marriage happens more in the black community, which is what he termed “the canary in the coal mine,” I was stunned at how wrong he was and how racist he sounded. I also had another exchange with a congregant who teaches in the urban part of Baltimore. At first he chided me for not knowing how the other half, black people live, and then I lashed back at him saying not only do I know but I lived in these areas as well. He eased back, and then looked very seriously disturbed as he told me with a sad confidence that I was one of the few in the congregation. It’s sad and ridiculous how becoming more observant means becoming more conservative, which means becoming far more sexist, and racist. That’s why these people laughed me off when I told them that I studied to be a Hip-Hop scholar. However, the divide has withheld and I’m hoping that scholars like myself can demolish these notions of Jewish guilt and white supremacy I see all too often.

Peace

Top Ten Scratch Moments

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It was the Scratch that drew me to rap music. Being a wee young lad living in the soon-to-be large city of Tel-Aviv I remember that the scratch is what hit me first. When my virgin ears first heard the sounds of rap music I was amazed at the booming bass, the banging thuds of the back beat, and the intensity of the rapper, or rappers if it was a crew. However, what really drew me to the difference of this music was the cut, the scratch, the moment best translated to the rock gods as an ill guitar solo a la Eddie Van Halen or Jimi Hendrix. As an avid music lover I get the same sensation when hearing a great scratch sequence as when I hear an aria from Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.” This feeling of elation and spiritual elevation when the music hits you with that pure moment of beauty is how I feel it. I know that some don’t agree, but music lovers understand that feeling deep in your core when you hear that celestial sound coming from your favorite group. The talent of the DJ on these rap records was just as important as the rapper because it held a pristine balance that was lost when rap hit the big time in the late 1990’s. I remember it because the 1980’s, especially with the start of Def Jam, and the early 1990’s the authentic was heard through the guise of an MC, DJ, two turntables and a microphone.

The history of Hip-Hop culture surrounded the DJ. The culture began with parties in recreation centers, high school gyms, and later parks surrounded by apartment complexes. This was a natural extension of what they learned from their parents parties growing up. Who was the focus? The focus was on getting down on the dance floor, which relied on the music, which all relied on one person, The DJ. The DJ was the focal point in the start of Hip-Hop and remained the focus, even after the emergence of the early rap groups, until the music began being recorded in 1979. One of these defining moments was the recording of “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash the Furious Five. Although none of the MC’s were on the record except for Melle Mel, Flash was nowhere to be heard. Like earlier recordings Flash, the legendary DJ pioneer and innovator was pushed to the side.

This didn’t necessarily mean that the DJ was dead, because there were a few recordings that acknowledged the DJ. One of the best is Flash’s masterpiece of a record titled “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash On the Wheels of Steel” from 1981.

This was an amazing record because it was one of the first DJ records on Sugar Hill Records, and he did it all by hand. There was no digital sequencing so he had to find the time on the record and mix it all by ear and hand. Flash should get so much credit as he invented some of these techniques.He and the many DJ’s who were lost should receive plenty of accolades and honor for their innovations. So, a big ups to Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaata (who along with Flash are the founding fathers of Hip-Hop), Disco King Mario (The sound system man), Grand Wizard Theodore (Inventor, or accidental find of the scratch), Jazzy Jay (Zulu alumni and the DJ who started Def Jam), Grandmaster D.ST (Way out in outer space hanging with Herbie Hancock), Whiz Kid (parter of Caz and a funny guy, just watch him on the VH1 doc NY77: The Coolest Year in Hell), Afrika Islam (Sharp on the cut and DJ for Law & Order MC Ice-T), Breakout (who is forgotten but held down a part of the Bronx along with the founding fathers), Charlie Chase (Cold Crush fame and first of the great Latino DJ’s), AJ Scratch (down with Kenny G and Lovebug Starski, and another DJ for Cold Crush), Johnny Thunderbird (Harlem disco and R&B head), Lovebug Starski (The multifaceted entertainer who could do R&B or Hip-Hop, one of the few renaissance men of Hip-Hop), Hollywood (contemporary of the legendary Pete DJ Jones, who played in Manhattan and is another slept on pioneer. He also had one of the first MC’s, like Coke La Rock for Kool Herc, by the cool name of Eddie Cheeba), Gradmaster Flowers (The best sound system heard playing the bomb disco beats out of Brooklyn, RIP), and of course everyone’s favorite Kiss FM DJ Kool DJ Red Alert.

Without further ado, here’s my top ten list of the best tracks with the best scratch breakdown, or use of the tables in a superior manner. These are the top ten, but in no specific order as they all totally rule!!! Please be advised that it’s a bit subjective, but I don’t care.

10. “Doper Skiller” – Viktor Vaughn feat. Kool Keith off of his VV2: Venomous Villain album.

Coming off the first Viktor Vaughn album, this track from the sequal (which surprisingly banged as hard as the first album) is great. The fact that you have Doom and Kool Keith on the same track is like listening to a late night chat between Rasputin and Nostradamus. To top it all off you had this scratch down which is amazing, and done by the producer (?) by the name of DiViNCi.

9. “End to End Burners” – Company Flow, single released on the heels of their first classic Funcrusher Plus.

Great track and the DJ, Mr. Len cuts it up nice. It’s even better with the video because he swipes his hands like a wizard bubbling up something wicked.

8. “Blue Flowers” – Dr. Octagon from his masterpiece album, Dr. Octagonecologyst.

I can never get enough of Kool Keith and it’s not his fault that he’s worked with some great DJ’s. This album, produced by heavy-weight drum taster Dan the Automator, is bizarre, experimental, and far out of this world. Also, DJ Qbert, legendary scratch DJ in his own right, kills it as you can hear.

7. “Ugly People Be Quiet” – Cash Money and Marvelous, off of their Where’s the Party At? album from 1988.

DJ Cash Money should have been mentioned with the list of pioneers above. He’s an amazingly talented, and award-winning, DJ out of Philly, and this is an example of his prowess.

6. “On & On & On” – Dungeon Family, off of their seminal powerhouse of an album Even In Darkness.

Great track off the family album which includes the Goodie Mob, Outkast, and more. This track is essentially a Goodie Mob hit with Big Gipp, T-Mo, and Khujo from the MOB along with Witchdoctor and Big Boi from Outkast.

5. “Alive” – The Beastie Boys, an unreleased track that appeared on their boxed set titled, Beastie Boys Anthology: The Sounds of Science.

I know that since the Beastie Boys picked up Mixmaster Mike that you can pick other notable tracks. However, the second chorus part (at the 2 minute mark to be anally precise) where he spins KRS-ONE hollering, “Bring it back that old New York rap!!!” is my kind of anthem.

4. “Who’s Gonna Take the Weight?” – Gangstarr, from their second album titled, Step Into the Arena.

This is another dispute because the group consisting of the man, the myth, the holy legend of scratching by the name of DJ Premier, should have other picks. However, this track hits the head with the piercing beat throughout the song, and Premier just adds the singer to the song with his tables. You – Can’t – Handle – The – Whole Weight……..cut!

3. “Madness” – Deltron 3030 from the album titled 3030.

This is not so much a chop down for the breakdown, but why not veer away from categorization? Deltron, consisting of Del the Funky Homosapian, Dan the Automator on the boards, and Kid Koala on the tables, is an unconventional and criminally slept on album from the turn of the century. Kid Koala’s work is genius in the way he uses the tables as an instrument, via the sounds of the trumpet. Like the cool darkly lit rooms of Jazz, this is the same only light years away in a far off galaxy.

2. “Rebel Without a Pause” – Public Enemy from their masterpiece, that should be mandatory high school listening titled, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold us Back, circa 1988.

This is THE group, consisting of the fiery verse spitting Chuck D. and the court jestering of Flavor Flav, the S1W’s, and the hard-hitting beats of the Bomb Squad – you know they got the best DJ – Terminator X. The mysterious DJ behind the huge sunglasses cuts it the hardest on this track as Chuck screams his name he cuts it up like a funky drummer.

1. “Interview With Colored Man” – Rob Swift Feat. Supernatural & DJ Radar, from Rob Swift’s album titled, Sound Event.

This, hands down, is one of my personal favorites and I feel one of the best rap songs of all time. It has all the key ingredients with one of the best DJ’s, Rob Swift, and a helping hand with DJ Radar along with one of the most underrated battle rappers of all time, who never got his justice on wax, by the name of Supernatural. The cuts play along with the interviewers words, but they also carry the tempo while Supernatural weaves his tales of the adventures and life of the super hero known as Colored Man.

It’s a biting commentary on how non-blacks view black men as both dangerous, mysterious and exotic beings. These images are strewn throughout popular culture, and remain in the white psyche to this day. Interestingly enough it reminds me of one of my family’s most favorite Richard Pryor albums with the same idea titled….

Enjoy the cutting and scratching and I’ll see you in the next dispatch,

Peace

#ViktorVaughn #CompanyFlow #Dr.Octagon #DJCashMoney #DungeonFamily #BeastieBoys #Gangstarr #Deltron3030 #PublicEnemy #RobSwift #MCSupernatural

 

 

 

Jews Have Horns!!! Unforgivable Jewishness

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My fiancée and I attended a lovely Friday night Kabalat Shabbat service two weeks from this past Friday. We are part of the Jewish Renewal Movement based out of Northern New Jersey. What drew us to the congregation was the spiritual ease and loving affection given to us by the Rabbi and the congregants. Their ways of devotion are beautifully connected to a more humanist message, but full of deep Jewish spiritual wisdom and meditation. Interestingly enough Saskia (my Jewish-wife-to-be) and I are the youngest congregants so we’re extra caring and observant of the elder community, as well as the elderly in general. We learn so much from our elders, yet this generation has discarded them at such speed that it’s sad to see the disconnect. Now they can bestow upon us with great wisdom due to their many experiences, love found, love lost, as well as tragedies that pulled them away from Judaism.

The Parsha for that week was the first from the second book of the Torah, Shemot or Exodus. The Rabbi decided to ask us to share our thoughts on the concept of assimilation in the United States, and asked if we ever compromised, or played down our Judaism, in this white Christian nation. Many of the congregants, being middle-aged ranging from their 50’s to their 60’s in age, had stories of being emotionally, physically, or even psychologically abused by certain classmates in their school days. Some spoke of seeing the drawn swastikas, some spoke of teachers being extra abusive due to their lack of Christian or Waspish etiquette, while others spoke of being picked on by disgruntled individuals. Then came the moment that threw me off completely shoving me into a Woody Allen scene straight out of his masterpiece film Love and Death. A congregant spoke of an incident in St. Petersburg, Florida. Apparently she was asked by a certain individual if she was Jewish, and she replied in the affirmative. As a follow-up question the person asked her, “where are your horns?”

The moment she said that I flashed back to that particular scene in Woody Allen’s film. The scene is hilarious because it exploits this stupid idea that came from a misinterpretation of the Torah, big surprise. When I came back to reality I couldn’t even fathom to think that an American Yukal would think such a primitive thought. But what annoyed me more, as well as made me immensely proud, was the fact that I NEVER compromised my Jewishness. Nor did I ever compromise my Zionism and love for Israel. This post is not a dirge into the history of Jews and horns. No, it’s much closer to your humble narrator’s love of Jews and Rap music.

In its entire history Rap music has been about an unadulterated form of expression. This form could take on many shapes from political lyrics, to braggadocio, to the more nonsensical raps coming from the far out likes of Kool Keith, Ghostface Killah, and MF Doom to name a few. But what they all have in common is the freedom to express what ever they want on record. Now we should differentiate between the corporate crap that is fed to most American teens and the many diverse underground, indie, and local rap scenes across the globe. On a whole greater scale music is that platform which allows us to shed our inhibitions and repressed feelings. Hip-Hop is the mother of all these forms as we’re striding through the beginning of the 21st Century. That is why I, and many other Jews, am so drawn to the power of rap music, and how I identify as part of the Hip-Hop Generation more than most American Jews I’ve met in my lifetime.

I was made aware of the fact that from the moment I moved to the United States, at the age of twelve, I was very different from my co-religionists. American Jews are a different breed than me and my brothers, but there are many like me out there. Some where in the far reaches of the world you’ll find half-breeds like myself who spent times in both the US and Israel. I attended an all black Middle school in New Haven, CT and then moved to the uber-suburbs of Guilford in the same blue-law state. But what struck me, from my early years all the way to today, is how others identified me as an “other.” I always got the saying that “you’re not like them” or “you’re not Jewish, you’re Israeli,” which was my acceptance card to most inner cliques and circles. It’s quite an experience, but it’s made me even more resolved to be nothing more or less than an unapologetic Jew!

Peace and watch out for the snow…daze

 

Top Ten Beatbox Moments!!!

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Viewing the urban landscape for the past two decades you will not be surprised that many youngsters equate Hip-Hop with Rap. Rap music has been at the forefront of the culture, because it was the easiest way to sell part of the culture. Unfortunately, like DJ’s once rap was put down on wax, other aspects of the culture dimmed from the mainstream lights. The art of graffiti writing has been around for centuries, but it was also, and remains, a key aspect of the culture. If it wasn’t for the tags and pieces of the 1970’s and 1980’s in New York City street art would not be what it is today. DJing has also had its ups and downs with regards to greater public exposure. However, I’m sad that the great art of the Beat Box has fallen by the wayside. Gone were the days where the street ciphers were helped by the one person who would create the beat with their mouth. Beatboxing, like the other arts, is the epitome of creating something from nothing. Once the art grew many beatboxers accompanied rappers or became rappers themselves. There are many great recordings with prominent beat boxers. This is my top ten since the genesis of Hip-Hop. Many of these artists have multiple tracks of beatboxing gold, but these tracks are my personal gems to the masses. Although it’s a personal list, feel free to enjoy and put your mouths together and blow

#1 – Biz Markie – Beatboxing on the track titled “Mr. Large” from Prince Paul’s seminal A Prince Among Thieves, and accompanied by the great MC, Chubb Rock. Biz has been part of the history of Hip-Hop and a cultural maven of many trades. He still performs by DJing while keeping his title of crowned clown of Hip-Hop. He has many beatboxing tracks including a great rendition of “Def Fresh Crew” alongside Roxanne Shante from the newly released Dutch documentary from 1986 titled Big Fun in the Big Town.

#2 – Click the Supa Latin – Beatboxing on the track titled “Click Beat Box” from the group Styles of Beyond’s debut, 2000 Fold. In a past blog of albums you never heard I wrote about this album. This short segment is amazing and he’s also a rapper along with his wife who is also a performance artist.

#3 – Davey DMX – Beatboxing on the track titled “Kool and Deadly” from Just-Ice’s album of the same name. Davey DMX use to beatbox for the group Mantronix who produced Just-Ice’s debut album Back to the Old School. DMX got his name from the beat making machine of the same name, and later another beatboxer turned rapper took the name, hence we have DMX.

#4 – Scratch – Beatboxing on the track titled “3rd Acts/ Quest vs. Scratch …Electric Boogaloo.” He was part of the Roots crew so it was on their fourth album titled Things Fall Apart. No so much emphasizing the beat, Scratch uses his mouth to manipulate the sounds of scratches from a record played on a turn table. The Roots crew at one time had him and the grandmaster of beatboxers Rahzel.

#5 – Buff Love, AKA The Human Beat Box from the Fat Boys on the track aptly titled “Human Beat Box.” The track is from their self-titled debut album release in 1984. Buffy is undisputedly the original grandmaster Beat boxing king! He uses the sounds along with his girth in order to complement his two compatriots, while always carrying a sense of humor, like the Biz! RIP.

#6 – Doug E Fresh giving a live demonstration in the streets of Harlem in 1983, footage is from the Dutch documentary listed above. We’re all familiar with his work with his Get Fresh Crew, and his work backing Slick Rick when he was called MC Rickey D. However, this opening segment is a perfect example of his skills. It should be noted that he lived next door to Spoonie Gee, and ran up to him one day to show his skills. The rest is history.

#7 – Rahzel from the Roots crew, and the track is titled “Quest vs. Rahzel” from their amazing sophomore effort titled Do You Want More?!!!?!. Rahzel’s main talent is how he can manipulate sounds from either a voice or instrument, and then he reinterprets it with his mouth. These albums that had both him and Scratch remain the pinnacle for the Roots that has since set.

#8 – Boogie Down Productions – “Breath Control” from their third album titled Ghetto Music: The Blueprint of Hip Hop. This is not so much highlighting a specific beatboxer, as I’m not sure if it was D-Nice or a stand-in who did the beatboxing, but it’s on point. The track is even greater due to the domineering presence of one of the greatest rappers of all time, KRS-ONE!

#9 – Run-D.M.C. – “Son of Byford” from one of my personal favorites of theirs, Tougher Than Leather. It’s a simple 30-second snippet about D.M.C.’s family tree with a strong beatbox for quite the emphasis.

#10 – Edan The Humble Magnificent – The track is titled “Primitive Plus” from his debut album with the same title. It makes sense to loop the circle with a rapper who draws on the treasure trove of beats and lyrics from rap’s obscure corners. Keep em coming.

 

Honorable Mentions

#11 – Eazy-E – We don’t hear much beatboxing from the West Side of the country, but this is a great song about what we love best, a “Fat Girl.” It’s also funny as an ode with similar sounds from the Fat Boys’ “Human Beat Box.”

#12 – Bad Boys Featuring K-Love – on the track titled “veronica,” which might sound kitschy and dated, but you gotta love it.

#13 – The two ladies from the Club Scene from one of the greatest movies of all time, Coming to America. In this scene Eddie and Arsenio are looking for Eddie’s ideal mate. Fast Forward to the 1:17 mark and you’ll see and hear the best rhyme and beatboxing by some of the finest ladies of Queens!!!

Who could rock a rhyme like, “My name is Peaches, and I’m the best, all the Dj’s want, to feel my breasts,” followed by a great roll.

Enjoy

#BizMarkie #ClickTheSupaLatin #Scratch #Rahzel #TheRoots #DougEFresh #BDP #Eazy-E #ComingToAmerica

 

 

 

The Top Ten of 1994

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The rain is falling outside, and the Internets is busting out the seams with the year-end best of lists for 2014. However, let us glide back to the past, when we cared little for politics and more for music that spoke to us. Twenty years ago I was thirteen years old, fresh off the flight from Israel, and green around the ears when it came to the spoonful of American pop culture. I heard the music before, but in Israel seeing the cover to 2 Live Crew’s seminal “As Nasty As they Wanna Be” still made me feel a world, shit a universe removed from the pulse. Then we moved to the United States, to the lovely pastures of New Haven, Connecticut. After that the indoctrination began, and I was hellbent on hearing all the new music coming from the greatest artists in the world, American musicians. So, it is a pleasure for me to take you all by the hand and leap-frog back to the year 1994, as I focus on the later part of the year, go back to my two blog posts about the record releases of 1994. Here’s the top ten, and it’s all in chronological order so no real favorites to outdo the last entry.

The mid-1990’s saw an explosion in the popularity of techno, house, trance, and anything industrial and in-between. One the best is the group Prodigy, and this was before their critically acclaimed release Fat of the Land, which had the hit “Firestarter” and “Smack My Bitch Up.” This album came out before and was, along with most of the music and instrumentation, the work of the genius named Liam Howlett. The major theme of the album is a call for protest in part due to the government crackdown on the rave scene in England, as well as its corrupt bloated state in 1994. One of the best songs to exemplify this is “Their Law,”

Interestingly, as the past informs the present, the song is an anti-police chant, which is personified by the sampled chorus saying “Fuck em and their law.” That was the idea at the time, but in recent interviews Howlett plays down the political rhetoric. Howlett has a keen ear for detail by using samples from the most bizarre and outlandish recordings of days past. I remember hearing the album, which was played by a close friend in my early high school days. However, what really struck me was the video for their song “Voodoo People” on the late night techno show on MTV called Amp.

The video is rather eerie with members of the group running away from this Papa Legba specter. What struck me instantaneously was the opening guitar riffs to this track. They are the same, either sampled or re-played by a guitar player, of the opening riffs of the song “Very Ape” by Nirvana. We can hear the musical connection, but it resonated and remains a great rack to this day. The album also shows the talent of the music maker without the use of overt perverse of gross overtures. These overtures were overused on the next album, which might have propelled them to stardom, but hurt their core purist fan base.

The Gravediggaz first album, as I wrote in a past blog post, is one of the best rap albums of all time. How can you go wrong with the production of a genius like Prince Paul? How can you go wrong with two seasoned veterans from the classic rap outfit Stetsasonic, and two rookies? The album carries an amazing theme of death and horror, which was created parallel to the reality of life in the streets. These themes converge into Prince Paul’s mental plain, and is then interpreted by the three MC’s, Fuitkwan, Too Poetic, and the RZA. Also, like the Ramones, and other rap pseudonyms they all used aliases that worked well with the world of death. The Undertaker, the Gatekeeper, The Rzarector, and the Grim Reaper formed what the press junkie jumped to label as horror-core. Because of that the album didn’t get the attention it deserved and was released nearly two years after its completion. The album has some amazing hits that, as I wrote about Prodigy, speak volumes on the issues of race and how the narrative of race relations has barely changed in the year 2014.

In the video for their song “Nowhere to Run” they show how black males literally cannot run from their past. The Gravediggaz are the menace as well, using the horror slant, but the worst is the ghosts of the past where the black man running through the urban landscape is transformed back as a slave running from the white menace.

Prince Paul, for those of you who don’t know, produced many rap artists including De La Soul. On their albums he expanded the concept of a rap album, making it far more experimental by using unused samples from obscure recordings. He also has a talent for making an operatic narrative with a story, images, and a great sense of drama. This was perfectly captured in the track for “Diary of a Madman.”

The video gives it little justice as it cuts the opening court room frenzy, where the drama is winding up until the first verse is uttered. Along with the Gravediggaz are two Staten Island rappers who will become known later through the Wu-Tang world, known as Shabazz the Disciple and Killah Priest. We have to keep it in mind that this was before the Wu, or for that matter before work began on 36 Chambers. Most importantly, and is further detailed in a great Oral History at Hiphopsite:

http://www.hiphopsite.com/2013/07/25/exclusive-prince-paul-breaks-down-gravediggaz-6-feet-deep-track-by-track/

is that this is where you can hear the faint echoes of the Wu-Tang production, due to the fact that the RZA learned a lot from Prince Paul. So big ups to the man, the myth, the Prince….Paul.

I should also mention that the media’s labeling of this sub-genre of rap music as horrorcore so the release of another album in the same year by a group calling themselves the Flatlinerz. The album titled U.S.A. (Under Satan’s Authority) was controversial and of course was released through the mega house of rap, Def Jam in the same year. It was a lackluster attempt, but some of their videos were hardly played due to religious sensitivities. Just check out the video for “Satanic Verses,”

It’s some morbidly dark stuff and it didn’t last long as they were dropped a year after the release.

Another banger that I mostly remember thanks to my older brother’s playing it non-stop, is the Queens duo known as Organized Confusion and their second album titled Stress: The Extinction Agenda. Their self-titled debut album was a solid foray into battle rhymes. Group members Prince Po and Pharaoh Monch cut right through the ether with a knife by using razor-sharp and super fast rhyme schemes. Unlike their first album they relied on the production of the then unknown duo of Buckwild and Rockwilder, who are responsible for some classic beats. The album is much darker, as we can see with the title and the album cover art, done by the late Matt Reid AKA Matt Doo of Dooable Arts. The range of stress varies, but it all explodes from the very beginning right after the intro with the first song, “Stress.”

This is another one of those classic rap albums that is littered throughout all the underground rapper’s iPod track listings. Also, besides the stress there are very poignant themes strung throughout the album using the nostalgia of past church ventures, “Black Sunday,” to the more politically inclined “Let’s Organize.” This is a personal best for me, my older brother, and the rest of you Hip-Hop heads who remember the sheer energy of rap music, circa 1994.

I’ve read a great thought piece about the 20 year anniversary of this album, thanks to the Hip-Hop historian and curator DJ Pizzo;

View story at Medium.com

Portishead, another British outfit of electronic and Hip-Hop lovers who came out with a seminal debut album. The band, and their work, was labeled Trip-Hop due to its influences coming from Hip-Hop and the electronic scene in the UK, and in this case Bristol specifically. The album is awash with the sounds of pain, anguish and desperation. If you read the track listing you realize that they were focusing on the darker side of life. The album spawned two powerful singles, along with the EP that brought up the great single “Numb.”

The video blends the images of the innocence of children with a hopeless singer calling for those days of fun and joy. Another perfect example of the Portishead sound is the song, and the video, for “Glory Box.”

It’s a beautiful slow song where the chanteuse is flailing around as the band plays on, while the drones on the dance floor keep moving, and for what reason no one knows. The most popular song on the album is “Sour Times.”

Just watching the beauty as the story unfolds encapsulates the feel of my generation, Gen X.

The same month as Portishead’s album dropped another debut came out by another UK outfit, or English. Oasis has been seen as both the saviors of English rock while others saw them as a 1990’s shameless rip-off of the Beatles. Also, when we think of Oasis we think of the first hit you all heard by the name of “Wonderwall.” However, that was a little later, as the main songs on this album were rougher and far more original. This album, along with Blur’s album Parklife were an English rebuttal to the growing popularity of grunge music, and its nihilistic attitudes, in the United States. It is very important to note that they were signed to the independent record label Creation Records. The company rose to stardom on the backs of groups like Jesus and the Mary Chain and Primal Scream. Now they had reached the top of the mountain with the success of Oasis. This is all chronicled in the great documentary about the label called Upside Down: The Creation Records Story;

The early hits like “Supersonic,”

“Live Forever,”

And “Shakermaker,”

are great examples of the growing Brit-pop scene in England personified by their stardom and other groups like Blur. We take it for granted but the scene grew greatly with the sounds of Brit-pop or the techno scene. This album re-opened the world’s ears to British guitars that were silenced for many reasons. The band broke out certain groups including Blur, and it’s leader Damon Albarn’s work as well as the current crop of Brits like Coldplay.

In the summer of 1993 I attended the local New Haven JCC (Jewish Community Center) summer camp. I met plenty of putzes, including one of my best friends to this very day – Big Ups Sars Lips!, as well as many new sounds and music released. That summer one of the kids gave me the cassette single, yup we had them sold as singles with a nice cardboard like cover, of The Notorious BIG’s single for “Juicy.” The song was an instant classic, but I wasn’t such a fan of his second single “Big Poppa” as well as the mushy R&B tinged “One More Chance.” This all changed when he dropped his full length album Ready to Die in September of 1994. The album was an instant classic, and was the genesis of the myth of the king of New York City known as Biggie Smalls. From the very start of the album you hear a series of famous black songs as the backdrop to his life. It glides from Curtis Mayfield, to Audio Two to the most recent Snoop Dogg. It then breaks into “Things Done Changed,” which is a poignant indictment of the state of rap music, and the poverty-stricken black community circa 1994.

This is revolutionary as it’s a time capsule depicting the changing themes of rap music. Gone were the days of fashion, bragging rights, and other superficial topics that were predominant in rap music in the 1980s. By the end of the 1980’s and into the decade of the 1990’s the tone became much darker as Biggie, along with other greats like Nas, Tupac, Mobb Deep, the Wu-Tang Clan, Dr. Dre and his collective community on The Chronic, lamented that the situation was far crueller as the older generation is being dogged, both psychologically and physically by the younger anarchic and apathetic youths in the ghettos of America. The album was laced with the smooth tunes I mentioned above, but it also cut like a knife with sobering discussion such as on Suicide on his last song on the album titled “suicidal Thoughts,”

There is also an amazing back and forth, with himself, on the song “Gimme The Loot” where he’s speaks about jacking in the most sinister ways possible. The track is full of energy as he sneers out his frustrations by hitting up anyone possible, and not caring if she’s pregnant, which caused the record to censor the line to this very day!

And of course the paranoia creeping in his veins once he became famous, fearing armed intruders. He raps about what he’ll do to these intruders in his great song “Warning,” which has a great companion video as well.

His singles were heard all over New Haven CT, as that was my stomping ground in 1994, but the album would be heard throughout the state for the next year. It was part of the soundtrack to our youth, and unfortunately it will be encapsulated close to his obituary, which was only written three years later, RIP BIG!

I was never a big REM fan per se, but I remember rocking to “Losing my Religion,” which was a huge hit in Israel. However, again I was never that big into their music, but more into one or two songs from each album. This would change with the release of their ninth album in 1994 titled Monster. Unlike their previous two albums, 1991’s Out of Time and 1992’s Automatic for the People, this one was louder and full of distorted guitars, feedback, and lyrics for the downtrodden. The first time I heard anything from this album was on MTV with the video for their first single, which is also the opening track to the album, titled “What’s the Frequency, Kenneth?”

Being what most critics called a “rock” album, there were plenty of examples of the bombastic playing with the penetrating lyrics by Michael Stipe. Other songs like the second track titled “Crushed with Eyeliner” kept the theme, along with a guest from the great band Sonic Youth, thanks Thurston Moore!

The album had to be put on hold for a number of reasons, but one of the main reasons was the deaths of two close friends of the band, Kurt Cobain and River Phoenix. The band wrote the song “Let Me In” in tribute to Kurt,

and the dedicated the album to River, whose sister Rain sang background vocals on the song “Bang and Blame.”

which was insanely popular, and remains to be a recognizable REM song. The album was great upon release, and being their ninth they keep it going until very recently.

I was a huge Wu-Tang fan from the very first time I heard the Wu’s first album. Then in November of 1994 the first Wu member to drop his solo was the most charismatic of them all, the Method Man. When my older brother bought his copy and brought it home I couldn’t stop staring at the mysterious cover. It looked like the side profile of Meth’s face, and then another full face picture of him on the bottom exhaling plumes of smoke. The best part was the sheer ingenuity in how they flipped over the “W,” which stood for the Wu-Tang Clan, to an “M” for the solo insignia of the Method Man. So, after my investigation I had to listen to it from start to finish. I won’t lie when I admit that I listened to this album over and over to the point where I memorized every lyric, and was familiar with every beat and sample. This saga begins with the sounds of the Tubulour Bells!!!

And then he delves right into the track that sounds so raw, uncut, unvarnished, un-anything you might expect from a tightly produced and cleaned up sound. No my friends, you were getting a swipe of dirt thrown at your face for good measure. The RZA, who produced the album, made sure to give it that flavor while allowing Meth to stretch out his talents and performance skills. The gruffness of the album is visually embodied in the video to the track “Bring the Pain.”

This is a video with Meth and his posse rolling around in a beat up public bus, while spitting these non-sensical rhymes. This is the type of crew you see in your nightmares, and Meth sporting the white eye lens makes it all the more creepier. I should also mention the fact that Meth later bragged that he wanted the video shoot to be extra hardcore. In order to convey that message I made sure to smoke some dust before the shoot.

Not only is it full of dirt, it’s also full of introspection and love in the guise of the track titled “All I Need,” which was far more basic than it remix version we know well, that also won him a Grammy.

He also spotlights his lyrical prowess with a real Wu-Tang spitting showdown. On the track “Meth Vs. Chef” Meth and fellow clan member Raekwon the Chef lyrically joust for that number one spot. Interestingly enough Meth gets the upper hand as you can hear Raekwon slip up in the part of his execution.

Of course my personal favorite was the track titled “Mr. Sandman.”

I love it because of the strength of every MC on this posse cut. The RZA, Inspectah Deck, Streetlife, Carlton Fisk, and Blue Raspberry pad the song while Meth peppers his words on the track, all on the back of three samples, most prominently being “Mr.” Sandman” by the Chordettes. The fluidity of the song, like the album itself, kept my mind working by cognitively devouring every morsel until the very end with a remix to one of the best songs on the Wu-Tang’s debut album.

The entire album is flawless from back to front, and unfortunately he hasn’t surpassed it with anything he’s released in the past twenty years. Too bad, but today I am still an M.E.T.H.O.D. Man!!!

I’ve always been a big fan of Nirvana, and I was turned on the moment I first heard “Lithium,” which was a single off their second album Nevermind. After their fourth album’s release there were rumours about the self-destructive behavior of Kurt Cobain, along with the fear of the imminent demise of the band. The last recorded treasure we have of the band is their recorded performance for MTV’s Unplugged series. Although it was recorded in 1993 the album itself wasn’t released until November of 1994. The set up and the sings all conveyed the beauty of Kurt’s songwriting as well as Dave and Krist’s masterful playing. This was also the first time I, and most people, saw Curt Kirkwood who fronted the group the Meat Puppets. He joined them playing songs he wrote ten songs into the performance. They performed great acoustic versions of “Plateau,” “Oh, Me,” and my personal favorite which outdid the original version, “Lake of Fire.”

They also veered away from the played out singles that made them immense save for one version of “Come as you Are.”

They chose to play lesser-known songs like “About a Girl” from their first album and cover versions of songs by the Vaselines, Meat Puppets as noted above, David Bowie in such a memorable performance of his song “The Man Who Sold the World,”

breathing new air into the lungs of this nearly thirty year old song. They also covered a Leadbelly song that was left for the bitter end of the performance.

He breathes a new life of pain and suffering into this plea, beckoning his girl to explain, “where did you sleep last night.” Hearing Kurt sing makes us feel the desolation and pain of the wait, and the torture of knowing that you are not that girl’s main man. Many music critics, and pop culture mavens, have dissected this last scene as Kurt’s last gasp of life. This album was not released until after his death sealing his legacy with one last posthumous kiss. RIP Kurt Cobain.

I’m an avid Beatles fan, and have been connected to their tunes since I was in my mother’s womb. I could feel the vibrations of Rubber Soul, experience the range of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band, and wipe my tears away while listening to their last masterpiece Abbey Road. My parents are great music lovers and had quite an expansive collection playing while we were growing up. However, my mother made sure to make it plain that she always hated “white music,” except for the Beatles. To this day their catalogue remains pulsating through my veins, and like heroin I’m always ready for that instant shot of satisfaction. I like the bluesiness of the Rolling Stones, the noise of the Who, but to me the masters, and the group that everyone imitates to this very day, including Nirvana.

1994 marked twenty-four years since they broke up, but it was a monumental year for the fab four. The year saw the release of the monumental documentary on the Beatles, The Beatles Anthology, with hours of interviews, images, music, and information that wet my appetite. They also released this time capsule of performances from the BBC spanning radio shows from 1963 to 1965. The interviews are telling, and the song selection is very important to both Beatles fans and music history lovers in general. The songs are a mixture of never before released performances of songs from their early repertoire. The selections vary, but most are R&B songs that directly influenced them, and all the English kids hearing this music in the 1950’s. This is a perfect example of American culture being exported to the U.K., explored by the locals, and then reinterpreted and brought back to the United States, which was suffering from a creative glut and a series of waspish teen idol/idle putzes.

And so we move on to the next year, so keep you eyes open for my best of 1995!!!

Peace

 

 

 

 

 

 

It Was 20 Years Ago Today Part 2

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The tide of time turns quickly as we watch the clock, slowly, achingly wait for our time. It’s funny how in our younger days we crave to be just a little bit older. We want to be older because then we’ll have the cred to hang with our older brother’s friends, passing along the party favors with no hassles because you’re just too young. Once we get older the gears keep cranking and it just flies by. That is why we must assess and even flip the script by flipping time over onto itself. One way to experience this flip-over is to look back at the songs and albums that made us move twenty years ago.

For all you who slept on part 1, check it out in the back pages of my blog history, I began with the January releases and spanned out to the beginning of May, 1994. Let us keep it moving with the sounds we heard after a long day of Middle School, or High School, and sitting down in front of the MTV and BET!

On May 10th, 1994 I sat down in front of the tube and was introduced to Weezer and their many videos of grunge angst filled poetry in motion. They lamented the olden days with “Buddy Holly” and they sang of love lost on “Say It Ain’t So,” all beaming from their self-titled debut, also known as the Blue Album. Of course one of my favorites, and yours, is the song and video for the song “Undone – The Sweater Song.”

It’s a great song in the way it steadily rises to its peak by the end of its coda. Apparently the song was supposed to be a sad song, but fans took it to be a funny take on an inanimate abject, your sweater. The video works very well as its sweater-less and all done in one unbroken take, by a young video-maker by the name of Spike Jonze.

A week later my older brother showed me that he got the new Beastie Boys tape, their fourth album and one of their best, Ill Communication. This was a new take on the 1990’s sound for the Beasties as they went back from the instrumentation laden sound of Check Your Head, The new album was a return to the old school Hip-Hop flavor with more beats and samples, some very obscure samples at that. There were many great songs, and videos made, from the album that would spin your audio tunes. We have the great hard rock hitting “Sabotage,” which was the biggest hit from  the album, “Sure Shot,” which was a break from the past with their lyrics while using the old school crew formula of the back-and-forth call and response lyrical delivery.

Although we heard the Beastie Boys party debauchery of License to Ill, to the mind expanding experimentation of Paul’s Boutique, it was Ill Communication that solidified my fanfare towards the group. It was this album that really put me onto the Beastie Boys. It was also funny that the green tape might hint at an Irish background, when all of them are New York City Jews. Gotta love Hip-Hop, and RIP MCA.

I was never such a huge fan of the late great Heavy D. but one his best singles, among many in the past, came out in May of 1994.

Heavy made sure to use his big frame to make it clear that he had nothing but love for the ladies. The video, with a young Chris Tucker, and chock full of models, shows that fun and playful side of that New Jack Swing era of rap music. It sad that rap music has lost its sense of humor cause we need it. Thanks Heavy D RIP, we got nothing but love for you. The same day that Heavy D.’s album dropped another debut album dropped that was disparately different from the new jack style.

Jeru the Damaja had been on the scene already being part of Gangstarr’s foundation crew along with Group Home, Big Shug, and Freddie Fox. He dropped some crazy guest rhymes on Gangstarr’s albums Daily Operation and Hard to Earn, as well as a gust spot on Digable Planets’ Blowout Comb. Jeru then stepped out on his own, and gave the world this amazing classic, with the masterful help of DJ Premier who produced the entire album. The album is a call for the purity while swinging through the various spheres jumping through the various planes of existence. I was floored, and remained as I kept listening to it over and over again. Every song had its theme whether it was the pride of Brooklyn, or a metaphoric run through the borough battling ignorance and other forms of negative manifestations. Here’s the video for that song titled Can’t Stop the Prophet.”

There are other great videos for songs like “D. Original” and “Come Clean,” which are great historical documents depicting the disheveled parts of Brooklyn. Great stuff, and the next album tried to save Hip-Hop music, but that was 1996.

Summer vacation was fun as I was ready to move on to the next grade and the crop of great music. On June 7th one group that was eaten up as a fake Pearl Jam dropped their second album. I don’t care of the opinions because I loved Stone Temple Pilots, and this is their best album. Their first album, Core, had some great tunes including “Plush,” the song we all heard and still hear over and over again.However, it was the second album Purple that expanded their sound into a greater alternative swirls with psychedelic flair. The album’s singles were pushed one right after the other at a breakneck speed. Songs like “Vasoline,” “Pretty Penny,” and “Unglued” are examples of that depth and evolution from their last album. The song “Big Empty,” which has a great bluesy riff, which rises up to its great peaks as the waves crash by the end of the song. The song will forever be imprinted in my mind with scenes from the film The Crow, which used the song. It was a dark song for a dark film, so 1994.

That same day also saw the release of the full album by Warren G, on the Def Jam label. This was one of the biggest disappointments of that year, because the single for the song “Regulate” dropped months earlier.

The second single for the song “This DJ” was also pretty good, but the delay and the trite material on the album was too little too late.

Although I shied away from the R&B tip in the 1990’s, eschewing it for the harder and far more authentic sounding rap music. But it should be said that in June a young and talented singer by the name of Aaliyah dropped her debut album aptly titled Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number.

It should not be lost that the man in the background is her producer/husband, R. Kelly. I wasn’t much of a fan, but it was a bit controversial because she was under the age of 18 when they tied the know. However, she rose over the years and made a name for herself, that unfortunately will never be forgotten due to her untimely death. RIP Aaliyah.

On June 21st a great EP dropped by a rap crew from Cincinnati, Ohio and promoted by an ex-member of N.W.A., Eazy-E.

This was my first exposure to the group, and they have such a distinct rhyme style. Each member glides at the speed of light past his lyrics and then they sing the chorus, which was not common in rap music in the past. The best song on the EP, and video, was for their seminal track titled “Thuggish Ruggish Bone.”

The template is put down when you hear in the beginning of the track the sound of an authoritarian voice saying, “We are not against rap, we are not against rappers, but we are against those thugs.” They are the thugs beaming the street signs like E. 99 as we take a quick three-minute ride down memory lane.

Let’s not forget the throwaway artists and videos we watched on our music television. Let’s never forget MC. 900 Ft. Jesus and his great video for the song “If I Only Had a Brain.” Here’s the Beavis and Butthead Treatment.

These are the May and June days, so stay tuned as we glide through the Summer and into the Fall of 1994.

Peace

 

 

Hip-Hop and the Police

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As we all know oh so well, Hip-Hop is the life lived and chronicled in various ways. In its infancy its pioneers felt both the neglect and abuse coming from police officers in New York City. Hence, the history of rap music has always chided and criticized the boys in blue. The fact that rap music was created by poor young blacks in low-income neighborhoods further solidifies this notion. Hence throughout the past few decades rap music has released many songs about the police and the negative aspects of being abused, harassed, and hassle by police officers. It’s amazing how poignant these songs remain, and how most of mainstream white America has ignored these calls for justice and peace. Ice Cube was interviewed shortly after the L.A. riots and was asked about his opinions for the initial spark. He said that you should have listened to his music, and his cohorts in California, and the entire country. Once you heard the songs you’ll get an idea why African-American males both fear and hate the police. Here are a few examples of the fire burning from within and how it was put into music.

The history of the early rap recordings are rather sparse when it comes to voicing opinions on police brutality. Most of the politically inclined songs, and there were very few, spoke about the decline of the quality of life, and the disheveled ghetto living conditions. Most of these tracks began to proliferate in the West Coast, and one of the earliest rap songs to lament police tactics is the legendary song “Batterram” by Toddy Tee.

The song, which was circulating first through tapes and later through pressed records, along with Ice-T’s “6 in the Mornin'” is one of the first so-called West Coast Gangsta tracks. Released in 1985 before the coming of N.W.A., it spoke about the tactics used by the Los Angeles Police Department at the time. The Batterram was basically a tank with a flat batterram propped on the tip of the canon. The batterram was used during the height of the crack epidemic. The police would drive it, or actually ram it, into suspected crack houses in order to deter the dealers from running away or flushing their wares. This was the new normal, and the experience further solidified this rage and anger, which festered over into the LA riots in 1991.

The same year, that saw “Betterram” proliferate through the ghettos and later into the mainstream, another track coming from the east coast spoke about the brutality and contradictions of the slogans and the realities.

The track titled “The Beast Within” by King of Chill & The Alliance of MC’s has many strong points of contention when talking about the NYPD. The MC drops lines like “Brutality is against the law, but that’s not according to what I saw.” This is a perfect example of the diametric opposite of being a young black man in the city and being a white man in the suburbs. Each is privy to their local realities, hence the white man would not see or experience the same brutality that the black man would.

Once we reach the later part of the 1980’s and the early 1990’s we have to focus on two groups whom fundamentally changed this equation of calling out cops on record. N.W.A. and Public Enemy called out these injustices, but in very different ways. N.W.A.’s response is the epitome of what most white establishment types dread, black rage. This is all encapsulated in their classic ode to the boys in blue, “Fuck the Police.”

This is the unadulterated version of black rage, aiming their vitriol at the source of their pain and anguish, the police. They hit the ground running with Ice Cube rapping “Fuck the police coming straight from the underground, a nigga got it bad cause I’m brown” and “They have the authority to kill a minority.” These lines are not coming from a vacuum, but from deep-rooted anger at the abuse coming from the LAPD and disproportionately towards young black men. By unleashing the beast they are using the only means they have of protest, which is a call to violence. The track was so dangerous to the police that they feared the repercussions, and eventually targeted the group even though they were protected by the first amendment.

Ice Cube continued on after leaving the group with his call to arms against the powers that be. One of the best is from his album The Predator, and it’s another call for handing out some beatdowns.

Getting stopped by some punk cops, being harassed, being blamed, and blasting some shots are all in Cube’s day’s work.

N.W.A. actually made a sequel to the track “Fuck the Police” on their following EP 100 Miles and Runnin titled “Sa Prize (Fuck the Police – Part. 2).”

Public Enemy’s members were far more cerebral when it came to their attacks on the corruption, and the long history of abuse heaped on African-Americans by the progenitors of justice.

The track titled “Get the Fuck Out of Dodge” is Public Enemy’s stance on feeling the stress of being dogged by the police. Chuck D tells us about his ride through New York and an unprovoked stop by the police, which leads to a stern warning by a police officer, and in the video the officer is black. It’s very poignant, but the most penetrating lines are in the last verse, which are uttered by the cop. The officer identifies himself and says this to Chuck and the crew;

“Sgt. Hawkes and I’m down wit’ the cop scene

I’m a rookie and I’m rollin’ wit’ a swat team

Packin’ a nine can’t wait to use it

Crooked cop yeah that’s my music

Up against the wall don’t gimme no lip son

A bank is robbed and you fit the description

And I ain’t your mama and I ain’t your pops

Keep your music down or you might get shot

This is a warning so watch your tail

Or I’m a have to put your ass in jail

I’m the police and I’m in charge

You don’t like it get the f— outta Dodge”

They perfectly portray the nervousness and frustration felt in public by young black men, where they are constantly on egg shells when it comes to interactions with the police.

There were many more rappers and rap groups in the 1990’s who dropped some cop killing gems. They spanned the gamut of content, but most detailed lived experiences where they project first person accounts. Another great west coast staple in Hip-Hop is the greatly underrated Cypress Hill. They dropped many songs detailing the corrupt cops with a sly wit and sense of humor. One great example is the song “Pigs,” which is the opening track to their debut self-titled album.

It is very interesting in how they give each police officer a stereotypical character, in the same vain that police lump people together. They also penetrate the storyline withe sound effects like oinks and other pig sounds, giving the song moments of levity and humor amidst a serious topic.

They dropped another great critique of police officers on their fourth album with the track “Looking Through the Eye of a Pig.”

The vitriol continues as many artists rapped about their hatred for corrupt abusive police officers. Tupac Shakur has been prolific in his criticisms of the unjust system, and he comments on this with his second parter of his Souljah’s saga.

On this track titled “Souljah’s Revenge” he gives a screed on the stress of being black and harassed by cops. Other west coast artists made sure to let it be known that the way to fight back is through their music. Wether it was from the late great Mac Dre’s track titled “Punk Police”

Who in reality was hassle repeatedly by the police because they believed that he committed crimes and then rapped about them on his records. This scary precedent has made it to the judicial system, showing how racist the courts have become when it comes to using rap lyrics as criminal evidence.

Artists from the deep south also voiced their frustration with the police, and voicing the nation wide rage and disproportionate abuse towards black men. Wether it’s the great duo of Bun B and Pimp C (RIP), also known as UGK, doing the song “Protect & Serve”

Or Houston’s own legendary Geto Boys depiction of corrupt cops on their track titled “Crooked Officer”

It’s the same story, only in a different predominantly black neighborhood.

Rappers have never shied away from the critical issues, and one of these issues is black police officers. Black filmmakers coming of age in the early 1990’s depicted these scenes of black teenagers being harassed by cops, and treated the worst by black cops. There are scenes from films like Boyz in the Hood and Menace II Society where the black police officer is the most unrelenting and unjust. This was parodied in the film Don’t be a Menace to South Central Without Drinking Your Juice in the Hood, Phew!!! where the great late Bernie Mack goes on a tirade about his black self-loathing issues. Rappers dropped this image as well with groups like Brand Nubian calling these so-called cops out. On their track “Black and Blue”

They chide these wannabe officers and their corrupt tendencies. Sadat X even jabs at the main character by saying he was a “black Bull Conor,” which is far from a compliment. KRS-ONE also chided the black cop with his immortal track titled “Black Cop.”

He laments the fact that these cops take orders and perpetuate the black on black violence. He also notes that this is a new fad as there were no black cops 30 years ago. In the present they were trained, according to KRS, for nefarious reasons. He raps that,”

“Recently police trained black cop,

To stand on the corner, and take gunshot,

This type of warfare isn’t new or a shock.”

Black cops are used as targets in order to save more white cops. KRS-ONE also links the case nationally by saying that black kids are dying in the west and in the east. He then raises the issues into the international spectrum by saying that its “black cops killing black kids in Johannesburg.” From New York City, to California to South Africa black cops should not be used as pawns in the game. It’s all nonsense to KRS as he ends it with the chant of “don’t be the sucker coming into my face.”

There’s also a disconnect as most Americans don’t connect the historical dots. However, if you trace enslaved members in your family tree you might feel a sense of animosity and hate towards the powers that be. There were a few great rap songs that connected these dots and one of the greatest to me is Public Enemy’s classic track off their fourth album titled “Can’t Trust It.”

Both the song and the video are powerful in how they portray the connection from the slave master to the police officer. The connection is even more direct when comparing the officers to the overseers whipping slaves in the fields. This is a direct connection, that is not only felt by the group but by the greater African-American community. KRS-ONE also rapped about crooked cops, but one of his best tracks is “Sound of Da Police”

The lyrics to the song refer to New York City cops and their use of excessive violent force. It’s a protest song against institutionalized racism, oppression and violence against the national black community. The song is also very historically grounded as he uses allusions to the past that are intimately connected to the Blastmaster. These moments are made clear when he compares the word “Overseer” and “Officer” and how they sound very much alike. He then raps out the connection by saying that,

“The overseer rode around the plantation,

the officer is off, patrolling all the nation,

The overseer could stop you what you doing,

The officer will pull you over just when he’s pursuing,

The overseer had a right to get ill,

And if you fight back they put a hole in your chest.”

He continues on by personalizing these accounts by rapping that it was something he, and his family, experienced. He solidifies it by rapping that,

“My grandfather had to deal with the cops,

My great-grandfather dealt with the cops,

My great-great-grandfather had to deal with the cops,

And then my great, great, great, great….when it’s gonna stop.”

That is the question black people are asking, and if listened to the music we might get the message.

Peace and Justice to all