RIP to a Jewish Punk

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It was a muggy, humid August night, August 18th to be exact. The reason I’m emphasizing this particular day is because it’s also my birthday. So, on this particular day back in 2006 I headed out of my apartment to the great vast land which is New York City. Actually, I lived in Brooklyn, next to living dead stench of the Gawanus Canal, and I headed to the same drinking hall I went to at that particular era of my life. This hole was a cute spot on the outskirts of the war zone/art/ghetto colony section of the South Bronx. Don’t worry, I had to check behind my shoulder a few times when I first made the trip up to the spot. The spot, that we fondly called the Rail, is literally underneath the Bruckner expressway. For some reason on this night I began my festivities alone, as none of my friends were available just yet to drink. So I stumbled into the bar and asked for a tall glass of beer and a shot of whiskey. As I drank up my 25th birthday fears, hatred and sorrows mixed with belligerent joy I struck up a conversation with the guy sitting across the bar from me. I started talking to him about a research paper I had just completed about the historiography of Punk music. With a faint shrug he downed his shot and subtly began to divulge that he was the roadie/tour assistant to such great bands as the New York Dolls, the Ramones, and others. He was one of them!!! I couldn’t believe the luck, or at least the divine works that sat me next to this man. But he was part of the New York City Punk scene in the 1970s. He knew them all, the bands, the roadies, the drunks, the addicts, and the businessmen who made the music come to life on a piece of vinyl. I ran down a bunch of names, pretty much all Jews, and then I asked him…..”do you know Marty Thau?” and he responded in the positive. “I know him and the work he did.” Marty Thau passed away days ago, but his influence, panache, and bombastic sheer will to explore new sounds made it possible for us to understand where and how it all came about.

Marty Thau was a true blue New York Jew who grew up in the city and attended the local university. He grew up in the world of music, and being that it was so overtly Jewish, it seemed like a natural fit. Before he went into the business as an owner, manager and producer he worked for various boutique or specialty music labels. Working with Buddah Records and its bubblegum pop tune format, my parents have some Buddah Records of cute music, which became somewhat successful for its consumers. One such example is the group Ohio Express’s hit “Yummy,Yummy,Yummy.”

But he also oversaw classic renditions of sweet soul, with some Christian overtones, such as the Edwin Hawkins Singers’ “Oh Happy Day” released in 1969.

After his tenure at Buddah Records he joined on as a partner of a friend Lewis Merenstein (of course another Jew), and became part of Inherit Productions. The roster of artists for the label was so diverse, yet so dynamic that he and his partner oversaw the creation of some of the most amazing, and underrated, American music. He worked and sometimes produced artists such as Miriam Makeba, John Cale, and Van Morrison.

By 1972 their partnership had ended and Thau took a job working for Paramount Records. He admitted that it was a miserable period of time, and he was overjoyed the day he resigned. So overjoyed that he took his wife out for a scrumptious meal and then a light stroll. They happened to see a performance by what is now considered THE proto-Punk band, The New York Dolls. Thau was told about the Dolls by a friend by the name of Danny Goldberg (Another Jew who would later manage Nirvana and become president of Warner Brothers and Atlantic). After seeing the band he was very impressed and saw that this is the new sound of Rock and Roll.

The New York Dolls were needed so badly amidst the landscape of bloated, blow hard bullshit that was popular Rock at this time. They took the idea of Glam that was incarnated in the form of Bowie and Bolan, along with other groups like Slade. However, not only did they adopt the androgynous look, yet used female fashions that would be perceived as a threat to their audiences and the general American order.

Marty Thau’s credits extend to other groups as well such as the formidable and intimidating group Suicide. Suicide, consisting of two Jews – Alan Vega and Marty Rev, was such a raw and confrontational act that they are a rarity of wonderful performance that doesn’t translate that energy to the record. Still, they managed to release great material including a solid first album that was entirely produced by Thau. One example is the hard hitting “Frankie Teardrop”

And of course the opening track to the album, which is an iron clad onslaught brought on the listener with the strikes on the machines. Vega weaves the story of the “Ghost Rider” as he screeches through the narrative that America is killing its youth.

If the power synth sounds familiar it should. M.I.A. sampled it on the song “Born Free” from her third album Maya.

Another interesting note is that Thau was also responsible in recording the first Ramones demos. He worked with them on the two songs which would be “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” and “Judy is a Punk.” He didn’t want to manage them, but the myth goes that these songs were heard by Sire records head Seymour Stein (Another charismatic music scene Jew). The recordings compelled Stein to sign the to his label, hence Thau missed a chance to work with them. However, he deserves the credit.

He was also involved in the recordings of Blondie’s great single “X-Offender.”

Although he didn’t produce the track he had some input. Of course as they say the rest is history as they rose an East Asian tour and rose to fame.

He also worked with other great and not so great bands of the Punk era, as well as what he termed (and actually coined) New Wave music. He worked with Richard Hell (Another Jewish artist) & the Voidoids.

And later with groups like the Fleshtones,

In this eulogy to the man who’s mind and sheer will made this all work. Historians speak of the agents of change, or trying to give certain people agency who were voiceless. Thau was far from voiceless, but he like others show how the Punk music scene was over saturated with Jews. Coincidence? I’m Jewish so I don’t believe in that.

RIP and Z’L to Marty Thau

Awakening your Inner Jewish self

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A rolling stone gathers no moss, or at least that is the way the expression goes. Being a life time wonderer and wayward traveler I can understand how we end up in the far out regions unknown to certain cultures, all across the planet. Jews have been traversing the great roads, passing through the sandy deserts, and pushing through the rough terrain for quite some time. Since the first expulsion from the Holy Land (first in the guise of the Israeli Kingdom’s demise in the north, and later the Kingdom of Judea in the south), The Hebrew people have been on the move, and as the great Hip hop term goes they just can’t and won’t stop.

So, guess what this leads to? Jews apparently have picked up many things along the ways including local languages, customs, ideas, fashions (be aware that the typical orthodox dress of the black hat look was adopted by the sophisticated high fashion in parts of Eastern Europe. Also note that this fashion sense was originally worn by non-Jews) and of course music. Jews have had quite a time at adapting to the world, which is why the history of Jewish diversity is so interesting. Jews define themselves in their own ways, and even define the idea of Jewish practice in many ways. Some see it as a cultural signifier where its the rituals that spark the most interest and points of pride. Others see it as a set of traditions passed down through the generations. There are many ways in defining oneself and the idea of one’s Judaism, for both men and women. This dynamism of Jewish expression has also been a large part of the arts, as I’ve been trying to convey through my past blog posts. Jews who were part of the Hip Hop generation, and active participants in the expansion of the culture, were very comfortable in surveying this uncharted territory.

This can all be traced back to the beginnings of the 20th century with the initial encounters between African Americans and Jewish Americans. This relationship flourished because, as certain scholars and artists of the time period explain, they both felt a bond through persecution. The terrible conditions heaped onto African Americans in the aftermath of the Civil War, and the regression of progress by the repealing of the Reconstruction laws in the aftermath of the election of 1876, was a mark of persecution by the white power structure. By the 1880’s large amounts of Jews were immigrating from Eastern Europe, lacking the sophistication and urban etiquette of their Western European co-Jews. Jews were also initially racialized as an inferior classification of race, hence they were black like the blacks. This cross pollination of suffering due to your identity made these people see eye to eye, and guess what? They made some of the sweetest music.

The relationship between Blacks and Jews spread into popular culture as Jews began to monopolize the trade sheets, and later songwriting craft. They were so dominant that by the 1920’s all popular music was written, made and produced in New York City, land of the Jewish immigrants. This transformed into what was termed the Tin Pan Alley songwriters. Irving Berlin and George and Ira Gershwin were composing hits as performers like Eddie Cantor and Al Jolson were performing them. However, African Americans were also being recorded, and most of these early recordings of Rhythm and Blues songs were done by Jews. This connection allowed people like Marshal Chess who along with his brother opened up a night club, which led to the opening of Chess Records. As they say the rest is history.

The recordings began to kick into full steam by the late 1940’s and into the decade of the 1950’s. Other groups of Jews were writing teenage ballads for black girl groups coming out of the Brill Building in New York City. Also, by the 1960s Jewish performers were more interested in the electric blues and its many manifestations. You can hear it in the sharp chords plucked by Mike Bloomfield, or the wails of Bob Dylan’s bluesy riffs, or in Al Kooper’s thudding strokes on the organ. There were many other jam masters of the decade who created this electric Jewish Blues.

The connection and relationship between African Americans and Jews is an interesting issue in and of itself. Scholars have noted these moments of encounter and cooperation, yet they also emphasize a perceived “breakdown” of the relationship. Apparently key events like the Teacher’s Union strike, “Hymie Town,” and the Crown Heights Riots are seen as points of complete dissolution. Certain points should be made about these key events. However, I think that’s a bit too simplistic because we are not defined as specific groups. As I wrote earlier, Jews have been all over the globe so they would naturally co-habitate with the locals.

I wanted to lay the ground work in order to tell you that Jews come in all shapes and sizes. We also have many influences, and the Hip Hop influence is nothing new. This is not veering but rather right on target when it comes to this pattern of movement and adaptation. I thought about this because I saw a wonderfully engaging spoken word artist a few days ago. The Hebrew Mamita, who’s real name is Vanessa Hidary hails from the mixed universe of the upper-west side in the borough of Manhattan, from the city where all life forms were born and remain to develop. She started with an amazing spoken word piece on identity, as the opening lines confess to a pick up line gone sour. When a man is confounded by the fact that she is Jewish, as his eye brows furl upwards and his nostrils flair with WASPish air.

http://www.hebrewmamita.com/videos/viewvideo/27/performances/hebrew-mamita

I feel her, and although I was never picked up at a bar with that line following, I remember going to a bar with family members and getting the question. I walked into the bar with my big-ass crochet Kippah straight from Jerusalem and I sat down with my brothers. As I glanced to my right I saw a guy and his friend giggle and then he belts it out in a drunken frat boy like way…”Is that a…? My Italian, Israeli, New Yorker macho selves were all bubbling to fight at this point. I leapt out of my chair and went straight up to him and said, Yeah, “It’s kippah….what’s the problem?” He was taken aback, as we were both sauced up, and then he apologized and asked if he could buy me a beer. Conative or not, I think we’re on guard at some point. However, we’re also so into the location of New York City as the ground Zero (No pun intended) for being “different.”

Us Jews are very different, and the women we date (as well as the guys you ladies date) are also a mark of our evolution both in the mundane and in the spiritual sense. As I sat down seeing her glide using New York City speak, and my favorite being that she was fucked like Brooklyn!!!! Represent!! My entire fam is Brooklyn bred, except for us Israelis, she used her vitriol towards men and I more than agreed that she shouldn’t wear shorts in the summer. She was great and of course being her own self, she spoke of certain backlash. The specific backlash came from a Jew who asked her not to date the “Shvartzes,” which is a derogatory term in Yiddish for a black person. She belted out at his hypocrisy of calling himself a liberal, but only to a certain extent. I think this is a wider issue as Jew, we can be our best or our very worst critics. We should uplift the people in order to keep on climbing to the new mountain tops.

Like my work, the Hebrew Mamita is showing both Jews and non-Jews how it is to be a Jew in the modern sense. She also gives a great conveyance of being comfortable with that identity. We should all strive to be the best Jews, but we should never side step the amazing culture coming from the various people all across the world, or the world of New York City.

Much Love and Shabbat Shalom,

For all those interested you should check out her website:

http://www.hebrewmamita.com/ and her book

http://www.hebrewmamita.com/store/product/32-the-last-kaiser-roll-in-the-bodega

Have some videos wit that:

Edan on DJ Format’s track “SpaceShip Earth”

My man Eprhyme’s track “PUNKLEZMERAP”

And, a funked up classic from Eric B. and Rakim – “Juice (Know the Ledge)” from the movie soundtrack to the flick Juice.

Shabbat Shalom, and don’t sleep

#HebrewMamita #Edan #Eprhyme #EricBandRakim

Hip Hop Snow Daze

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Looking outside at the onslaught of snow covering us, like being under the big heavy blankets on our parents bed. Snow days are great for relaxation and a time to play catch up. However, we can also gaze out in anxious pain, waiting to run out and let our limbs flail in the outside world.

When I was living in the stronghold of American culture, Brooklyn  in the county of Kings!!! I loved trudging through the snow, making my way to my boy’s cribs, either Shad in Manhattan or Paul up in the Bronx. No matter the place, once I got there I dropped my shit, settled and lit one up while watching, or listening to the best Hip Hop tunes.

In season with the snow I want to hook up some of the videos I enjoyed with that specific white out theme of snow galore…

Check out Redman trooping down the snowy steps of his crib, hearing the cool wind blow, as a sample of an Indian sounding horn coming from the Mary Jane Girls’s song “All Night Long,” and then blam…..it hits with his first words.

He belts out “Mic check, I can get smooth to any groove,” and is then checked  by Hurricane G (making her on screen and rap debut) telling him to fuck the smooth shit. He then belts out that he walks around the street with a tech nine tucked into his waistline!!! It’s a great video, as Redman and his crew roll through the snowy terrain of Brick City, known to the census bureau as Newark, NJ!!!

Another great cold one, I was put on by my older brother, is the video for Organized Konfusion’s heavy hitter, “Stress.”

It’s great as you hear the start of the bass line, sampled from the Paul Butterfield Band’s song “Last Hope’s Gone.” It slowly spirals up and out of control as they both belt out “Stress, Kill, Destroy, Stress!!!” as they trudge through feet of snow. It’s great commentary seeing blurred images of the city juxtaposed with Prince Poetry and Pharoahe Monch walking through feet of snow, expounding their stress living in America. The thickness of the snow presents the hard walk in the life of African American men. Snow and New York City’s looming buildings close down on our commentators, who hail from Queens, as they convey the stress agenda.

Who can forget the great Gangstar video for the great “Mass Appeal” track from their album Hard To Earn.

In the third verse the segment of the video takes us to the cold, snowy shores of Brooklyn. As Guru, one of the greatest MC’s and a sad loss too all of us, recounts join through tough times by prevailing, and he did that just like the seashore – being calm.

Who can forget the faint sounds of the piano keys hitting soft as the beat dropped in for the “C.R.E.A.M.” video by the Wu-Tang Clan?

Deck and Raekwon kick the truth to the young black youth, and the greater white audiences soaking in the visions of ghetto life and urban decay. The coldness of the video with the snow strewn around as the Wu both celebrates and its laments its successes and setbacks. For better or for worse, C.R.E.A.M. painted the mixed messages of living large while sacrificing their lives to the man in blue or the bullet or the graveyard.

We also get the cold, snowy streets of Queens in the Lost Boyz’ video for the bittersweet love song titled “Renee.”

The video progresses through the growing ghetto love between Renee and Mr. Cheeks. Recounting the tale, with the sample of Janet Jackson’s song “Funny How Time Flies (When You’re Having Fun),” Cheeks shouts out to his lost shorty asking why is fate so cruel? The most poignant part of the video is its conclusion where Mr. Cheeks corners the guy who shot his shorty, pointing a gun at him and ready to meet out justice. However, he recoils as the guy shout that this is the “game,” this is the “ghetto” as he pulls out a gun, Cheeks turns around and then……..that’s the life.

#Redman #OrganizedKonfusion #Gangstar #WuTangClan #TheLostBoyz

The Hip Hop Family Tree

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Hip Hop culture has been chronicled in various ways over its four decades of existence. Many scholars have attempted, and some very successfully, to write or compile works on the culture, and its most popular form – rap music. One of the most recent history lessons has come, not from a prominent scholar, but from a young, devoted, and very talented comic artist. Ed Piskor’s comic history chronicling the early years of Hop Hop, titled Hip Hop Family Tree, 1970s-1981, is a perfect example of the new methods of historicizing Hip Hop. Hip Hop as an art form came out of the iconoclastic breaking down of sounds and new use of technology. It is a defiant voice, a master brush stroke of an aerosol can, a scratch cut precise by the DJ, which can form layers of flavors and colors. Through the use of artistry Piskor manages to bridge the gap between a popular work and a scholarly work. It is a great resource because this is what Hip Hop is in its true sense. The comic weaves the story lines of the charismatic personalities, and their environment, and how the early years were ramshackle and littered with amateurs who took a chance on this music. In a sense the book creates the myth in its surreal view further solidifying Hip Hop’s creation myth. Although the origins of Hip Hop culture are finely traced to the urban streets of New York City in the early 1970’s, it still gives a whiff of magic that created this art form. It also goes without saying that it was key moments and events, which brought Hip Hop culture, through the sheer popularity of rap music to the masses.

The book flows wonderfully, gliding as if you’re listening to a mix tape littered with the past masters and pioneers of the rap game. Each DJ, rapper, and crew gets his or her own colorful spread, while each innovative rhyme and word couplet is acknowledged. He portrays the evolution of the performance aspect from Kool Herc to Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five,

and all the other groups who formed at that point in time. He also shows the technological aspect and the many little tid bits of historical facts about the eccentricities of these performers. The drama, the battles, the successes, and the failures are all in picture format in front of us. He manages to make these historical situations blare out at us in a fantastically large format. One of these examples is the battle between Busy Bee Starski and Kool Moe Dee. The dark red hue in each panel creates this tension in the air. Starski is brash and full of himself as he parades in, declaring himself champion before the contest begins. He then goes into his routine with his patented call-and-response verses, and then he belts out his key signature with his “baw-witta-baw-dang-di-dang-say-the-boogie-to-the-bang-bang.” He then heads out and Kool Moe Dee hits the stage where he rips right into Busy Bee’s routine, and person.

The sheer magnitude of the battle could only be done this good through comic art. It is unfortunate that most of these battles, and the bootlegs of them, are all long gone. However, there is an emphasis that Hip Hop began with the parties and naturally progressed to these immense gatherings, which gathered steam through word of mouth and flyers. This tension building was in part a hoax in order to shore up more emotion, and more money due to the large crowds gathering at the venues. Piskor depicts this in his stills with the mythological battle, which was hyped by the crews themselves, between The Cold Crush Brothers and the Fantastic Romantics. All these little facts and tiny morsels of information are important to history. Whether it’s a young Ted Demme telling his friends that Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five broke up, or that Russell Simmons Smoked dust and has a very heavy lisp, this is all great information for the history books.

In the closing section of the book, Piskor explains his understanding of how comics and Hip Hop drew many similar comparisons. He points out that they both portray the back-story of a hero coming from a depressed urban landscape. They would then come up against an adversary and they would battle it out. This is very similar to the early days of Hip Hop where crews, such as the Cold Crush Brothers or the Funky Four Plus One More, would battle it out on the stage in front of the audience, who judged them on their strengths. He also points to the many alter egos created by rap artists and how they would collaborate as well. This is all fully drawn and in front of our eyes when picking up his comic book.

Academic scholars have written on Hip Hop, but most if not all of their work is anti-linear. Works by Tricia Rose, Michael Eric Dyson, Nelson George, Michael Forman, Michael Neal, and others have chronicled the culture using theory and both ethnomusicological and cultural analysis. However, none of their works give a concise chronological history of Hip Hop. These types of works on the history of Hip Hop did not proliferate until the past decade. These works fill in the gaps while focusing on specific themes such as culture and sociological concerns, such as with Jeff Chang’s work, or economic as with Dan Charnas’s work. However, it should be noted that they are not classically trained scholars. Rather they are Hip Hop insiders who painted a picture of the progression of Hip Hop while being very close to their subject. Ed Piskor’s book belongs in this latter category where he is contributing a popular form of history to the masses, while scholars should also take note of the work. Not only should historians applaud the work, they should also use it as a source to bridge the chasm between popular and scholarly work.

With regards to the Jews, the Jewish personalities are ridden all through the book. You can see a young Rick Rubin, who is depicted as a Tin Tin look-a-like with a penchant for damage.

And of course his male chauvinist pig side…..

As well as the other cast of Jewish personalities like Tom  “Tommy Boy” Silverman, Bill Adler, Cory Robbins, Steve Plotnicki, and of course the Beastie Boys….

During their Punk phase, and in their Hip Hop phase…

This is only volume one, as volume two will be coming out in book format in the summer. In the meantime you can check out more panels of Hip Hop history at the website: http://boingboing.net/tag/hip-hop-family-tree.

#hiphopfamilytree #edpiskor #oldschoolhiphop

The second coming of Def Jam’s Jews

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The marriage between Def Jam Recordings and the Beastie Boys did not last that long. After the release of their debut blast of an album Licensed to Ill, and a terribly stressful tour promoting the album, friendships began to sour. The Beastie Boys claimed that Russell Simmons did not pay them their just dues and earnings from the album and tour proceeds. They also became tired of their outlandish personas and nihilistic live show performances. They wanted to evolve, yet they were not allowed as the powers that be at the label prodded them to remain sloppy, ugly, and provocative. This spurned their relationship with the label, which remained for quite some time as heard through the various name drops they used in various lyrics. One example is from their song “B-Boys Makin’ With the Freak Freak” from their fourth album, Ill Communication. In the opening salvo of the first verse Mike D. belts out that they “Got fat bass lines like Russell Simmons steals money,” showing that they held the grudge for some time. So, who’ next for Def Jam besides their roster of black MC’s? Let’s turn to the second Jewish crew to blow up on the label. Or actually, two Jews and a black man.

3rd Bass, consisting of MC Serch (Michael Berrin), Prime MInister Pete Nice (Peter J. Nash), and DJ Richie Rich (Richard Lawson) became the next big thing on the label. This came in the guise of two Jews, Serch and Nice, and an African American, being Richie Rich. MC Serch performed solo before getting together with Nice and Rich, honing his MC skills and getting the street fred he needed to sound authentic as he could. Like the Beastie Boys, these guys were Jewish so they lived on the fence. They performed a black art form while refusing to compromise their true passions for the art. They were also courageous enough to be the minority in a majority black art, and that at this point in the late 1980’s became far more political. Hip Hop acts of the late 1980’s were far more hard hitting capturing the mood of the black communities from the Bronx to Compton and as far out from Kingston, Jamaica to Johannesburg, South Africa. 3rd Bass came together amidst all that, and solidified their stance by creating a video that gave them the street fred they so desired, “The Gas Face.”

The visual open with a guy who makes sure that his name is not mistaken with Tracy Chapman. In the background we see a black  militant fatigue wearing crew, which is an imitation of their label mates, Public Enemy’s the S1W’s crew. We then hear the opening piano hits from Aretha Franklin’s hit, “Think,” thanks to the almighty producer, Prince Paul. The video is full of celebrities including the cream of the crop in the game such as EPMD, Salt-N-Pepa, and Flavor Flav from Public Enemy. They also cut MC Hammer down to size, making fun of him and his perceived inauthentic performance style. In order for them to be viewed as a legitimate Hip Hop group they had to do two things in the video. First, they had to show their hate for what was deemed manufactured rap music, in the guise of Hammer and Vanilla Ice at the time. Second, they needed to show their credibility by using many African American artists and actors in order to show that they officially “down.”

This is another video from their debut album. The track is “Steppin’ to the A.M.”

The interesting side note to this is that MC Serch actually tried to join the Beastie Boys crew, but was refused entry. They were signed to Def Jam at the same time as the Beastie Boys departure from the label. They broke their contract and fled to Capitol records, which made certain people at Def Jam rather upset. Hence, 3rd Bass not only dissed Hammer both in their song and in the liner notes (calling him “M.C. Household Tool”), they also dissed the Beastie Boys. It seems that this feud was manufactured, but 3rd Bass did not want to be seen as the replacement Beasties, so they fought back. On their debut album they took a few pot shots at the Beasties, such as on the song “Sons of 3rd Bass” where Serch rhymes:

“Swarm to the lyrics cause search is your father screaming “Hey Ladies,” why bother?”

Here’s a link to the whole track:

they were taking dead aim at the Beasties and their song “Hey Ladies” off of their critically acclaimed masterpiece, Paul’s Boutique. They continue the salvo on the song, but the battle was rather one-sided as the Beasties didn’t care enough to reply. At least they didn’t reply until they tried to get the last word in. They replied on their song “Professor Booty” from their slept on third album, Check Your Head. In it they make fun of Serch and 3rd Bass being all up on TV, dancing and acting the fool.

Here’s a link to their song: 

It should also be mentioned that the special guest MC is non other than Zev Love X, from the group KMD. We all know him now as the illustrious and mysterious under-indie- and beyond MC with many names, but we commonly call him MF Doom!

They made many banging videos for their debut album, including the remix to the first album titled The Cactus Album Revisited. Another great anthem to all the Brooklyn/Queens heads is their great ode to the place where the planet began….and ended.

You gotta love how they drop through all the great spots in Brooklyn while using stock footage of Brooklyn’s past days.

Another great tune from their first album is the track titled “Product of the Environment.”

This is another ode to the place they call home, Queens and Brooklyn in good ol’ New York City. Rhyming about their upbringing while streaming it along with the inner city narrative is what made this song so poignant. As you hear in each chorus section the words, “Here it is, black and white” you get a sense that they are akin to other minorities in their environment.

They followed up their remix EP with their second album, Derelicts of Dialect, dropping in 1991. This time they devoted a good amount of the album to attack Vanilla Ice. It’s very interesting seeing their videos and hearing their lyrics accosting Ice as a cultural thief. The Jewish guys were dissing the waspish white guy who apparently stole the soul of rap music. He was accused of watering down the rap sound in order to pander to all the teenage white girls buying his music. The most scathing visual beat down came in the form of their video for the song, “Pop Goes the Weasel.” In the video they show themselves as the legit, authentic and respectful rap act, while beating on Ice both verbally and physically. In the video ex-Black Flag member, and all around town documentary sweet heart, Henry Rollins dressed up as Ice, and proceeded to get beat down by the group.

It’s funny how they literally condemn Ice by going pop and weaseling out of the process of performing, and becoming legitimate in the eyes of the Hip Hop gods. Another irony is that at this point Vanilla Ice was getting a lot of flack from music and cultural critics for sounding inauthentic. The video, and in turn their album, was hugely successful as it rode the wave of hating on Ice. The All Music Guide reads that this was a “Much-needed damage control” because this was a white rap group who were “openly distancing themselves from one of their peers.” I think this is a bit wrong as race seems to be the glue, yet MC’s and rap groups come in all shapes, ideas, and sizes. 3rd Bass and Vanilla Ice were never in the same league, let alone the same sport.

The group broke up in 1992, seeing Serch go off on his own to release a hard hitting and very underrated solo album, Return of the Product. One of the most notable tracks on the album is a group effort with Serch leading the helm alongside Chubb Rock, The Red Hot Lover Tone, and the very young Nas who went by the name Nasty Nas.

The other two members also formed their own group, but it didn’t last long. They are in their own worlds at this point as Pete Nice is a writer, he wrote a book on Baseball in the 19th century in Brooklyn, and MC Serch is a talk show host a la Steve Wilkes.

No matter what, they are still very important due to their role in Hip Hop history, and folk lore. They replaced the Beastie Boys, and took the burden of stepping out of their shadow at Def Jam and recording some solid rap albums. Two Jews and an African American formed the group and were able to make it work. We should all hope to see the reunion for the 25th anniversary!!! coming soon to a bodega production near you.

Peace

#3rdBass #MCSerch #BeastieBoys #DefJam

Snow Daze

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Living up here in the Northeast coast we see our share of snow, depending on the climate. When I moved to the US in 1992 I experienced some of the worst snow storms living in New Haven, Connecticut. My mom had to work so we were always sent to school, trudging through the snow. Mom would give us a ride if we all pitched in to get the Oldsmobile dug out of the backyard. Once I arrived at Sheridan Middle School, big ups to the school that taught me the blind side of the back streets of New Haven, the few who made the trip would be brought into a big classroom. We were then entertained with movies and other lore to watch. They used to put on episodes of Martin or In Living Color so we could re-watch last week’s episodes. I also remember a gamut of films ranging from Kid n Play’s House Party to the Fugitive. Once the school day was over my friends and I would lug ourselves home, and of course when I got home my older brother was bumping some tunes or going back and forth between MTV, this was when it was only music videos back to back, and BET’s Rap City. The videos came as a barrage of tastes swirling in your mouths. I enjoyed it much, and of course years later would enjoy it with friends amidst the plumes of smoke…if you catch the hint.

I saw some great videos, but for the sake of today’s snow day I wanted to include some of the most entertaining and yes funny videos of past Hip Hop artists. This is a mishmash of fun, and it should be said that Hip Hop was created as an escape. This escapism would mean that the party experience and the music had to be fun. Fun loving and humorous gigs elated the crowd, and created a fantasy space for the local teens. These local teens were living amidst horrid conditions, so the best medicine was some fun and laughter. Public Enemy labels Hip Hop as the CNN of Black people, yet this makes the music too rigid and political. Many great political acts thrived, but there were also plenty of fun loving crews who emphasized the brighter, and lighter side of the music!!! Enjoy…..

This first dish on today’s menu is the video for “Ya Mama” by the Pharcyde. This crew, straight out of Cali, has an extensive humorous rap sheet, as you can see plainly in their music, especially their amazingly classic debut album, Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde. This is a great song as their rhyming consists of diss jokes about mamas, which we all partook in at some point during Middle School. This is also a perfect example of the continuation of African culture in the African American musical mode. Playing the dozens is traced by many historians back to the African continent, and trace it straight to modern day African American culture. The dozens were basically insults hurled at each other, which is akin to dissing your mama, who’s got a wooden leg with a kick stand, haha.

Next up is Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s video for “Girls Ain’t Nothing But Trouble,” from their 1988 album, He’s the DJ, I’m the Rapper. We can all rank on good ol’ Will the superstar, but it should be noted that their albums, especially the first two, were solid in their entertaining ways. The video is funny cause it shows Will Smith’s catchy rhyme schemes about scheming females.

The next up is the almighty BIZ!!! All of his videos are hilarious for all the right, wrong, or a mixture of both reasons. It’s not so much funny as the entire routine is ludicrously funny in its set up and the many inspirations for the video from the Wizard of Oz to Coach, to chilling with Ronald Reagan!

Thank G-d for the entity of amazement we know by many names, but mostly by the nom de guerre – Kool Keith. Dr. Doom, Dr. Octagon, Black Elvis, and the rest of those guys are all living in Keith’s inner mental sanctum. Anything he offers holds its weight in porn loads of gold. This idea comes from one of the funniest shows at the moment, It‘s Alway Sunny in Philadelphia. In one of the episodes one of the member’s of the group creates the idea for the “dick towel.” Call Kool Keith and the legend is born. I should note though that he has many more videos along these lines and other streaks found on the bathroom walls.

Reggie Noble’s the name and Doc’s the game. Living in Jersey I can respect and laugh even more while listening to Redman. My lady used to live up right next to Newark so now I’ve seen the spots Redman name checks on his albums. Every one of Red’s albums have that humor that breaks the seriousness of the message. Yes, he’s from the projects, brick city it nothing to joke about, yet he maintains a distinct balance in his lyrics. His music is a fine example of that dark humor of jacking you while hazed out on the best weed while driving down the wrong side of the road while running from the meter maids. This track is a great mixture of pop culture gone wild, thanks to Redman. Like the rest of the artists on the list, every video has plenty of jokes and entertainment.

Humor and jokes are very subjective as certain jokes are hilarious to some but offensive to others. I’m a big fan of the former, yet there are those who push to the point of discomfort. Who is the master of this art, my man El-P. This video for the song “Stay Down” from his most recent master – classic – piece Cancer For Cure. In the true sense of the morbidity of his humor we’re transplanted to a grimy prom party. The beat hits as El takes the stage to the disgust of all the trendy bopper ladies out there in the wilderness of young, used flesh. They simmer in their hatred until Jaleel Bunton’s (from TV on the Radio) soothing chorus cuts through them like a sweet buttery knife. It all swelters into a frenzy of pushing, hitting and sloppy kissing and reaching its climax with an assault on Mr. Killums the stuffed squirrel. Dark Indeed!

The next offering is from another hip hop head, rhyme conductor, and all around great entertainer. Every time Busta Rhymes gets on the mic he rips it to the point where we feel his fire belting out. His videos, like his rhymes, are high powered and chock full of entertainment. This became far more apparent once he put on his brother and the rest of the Flipmode Squad. Like Busta his younger brother Spliff Star has the  same dynamism in performance entertainment. The video for “Gimme Some More” from his classic Extinction Level Event album is one of those gems. As you hear the opening strings from the tune to the movie Psycho the narrative of Busta’s genesis of insanity unfolds.

Enjoy…..and Peace