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Check The Technique – Gang Starr
Givin’ Up Food For Funk – The JB’s
Good Thing We’re Rappin’ – Digital Underground
You Gots To Chill EPMD
Do You Remember When – Crusaders
Hollywood – Rufus, f. Chaka Khan
House of Beauty – Isaac Hayes
We The People – The Soul Searchers
Fate – Chaka Khan
Getting Nasty – Ike Turner’s Kings of Rhythm
Light My Fire – Shirley Bassey
? – Outkast
Puffin’ – Mobile Blue
Can’t Wait – Redman
Paul Scott wonders if hip-hop can save Black America. I can answer that real succintly. No. Hip-hop couldn’t save Black America, even if it wanted to, number one. And even if it could, the reasons he describes probably would have nothing to do with it.
In some ways, hip-hop seems to be like the miracle tonics of yesteryear that could cure everything — or at least, that’s what the salesmen wanted you to believe. In reality, they could do nothing of the sort. In this case, the salesmen are not the rappers themselves, but the people who would argue that hip-hop has some transformative power; people who would convince us that if “our” musical genre could get itself together, it would become a clarion call for us to mobilize and defeat our racist foes. Ain’t gonna happen.
Number one, Hip-hop is a genre of music. Like rock. Or jazz. Or funk. Nobody is asking any other genre of music to save anybody. Nobody is suggesting that any other genre could. What’s more, even more than most other genres, there is no real sense of history intrinsic to hip-hop. I’m fairly sure that the recording companies treated it as if it were disposable right from the door, but anything that’s not making profit is disposable to the record companies. More disturbing is that it’s disposable to us. For most other genres, there is a certain level of respect for the acts within that genre that have come before. There are classic rock stations, whose whole format is dedicated to playing songs from across the decades. A jazz show is going to play almost as many songs from before 1965 as after. Hip-hop? There might be a lunch hour mix of songs from the last decade or so, but that’s about as far as it’s gonna go. Many younger listeners have no idea of the seminal voices of the genre because they’re old, and therefore, in the minds of the young, wack. If there are no elder statesmen of the form, then there is nobody to pull the lens from the immediacy of the me…and that’s assuming that the elder statesmen are even that aware themselves.
Thing is, being that hip-hop is a form of popular music, if it’s not popular, it’s nothing. Meaning this: I’m sure there are artists who are making exactly the type of music Mr. Scott is talking about. I’d lay a dollar to a donut that Chuck D himself has a song or two recorded. But they’re probably not gonna be on the air any time soon, unless Chuck plays them on his Air America show. (Is there still such a thing as Air America?)
The part about Mr. Scott’s piece that really killed me was this:
Perhaps ,most important, is the Hip Hop vernacular. Just as the Right Wing folks are able to use code words such as “illegals,” “inner city youth” and “states rights” to galvanize their base, rappers also have slang terms to mobilize their fans toward political action right under the noses of unsuspecting Republicans.
“Waka Flaka what?”
“Gosh darnit, Jim Bob. I can’t understand a thing that they’re saying!”
F’real, though? The demographics of who actually buys hip-hop records kinda defeat this argument before we can even get to critique the rest.
Album sales aside, as a form of popular entertainment, I maintain that hip-hop ain’t built for that. Is it possible for the artists to include some thought-provoking content in their lyrics? Absolutely. And I agree with Mr. Scott that they should, by all means necessary. However, as Mos Def said 10+ years ago, there’s no sense in talking about hip-hop as if it’s some giant living off in the woods. Hip-hop is the output of the people, so whatever the people are doing, that’s what hip-hop is gonna do.
Besides, if hip-hop could save us, I’d be more pressed to have it save us from our internal problems than whatever threats “they” pose.
The Mothership is in Prince George’s County. Probably within walking distance from were I live. But I’m not gonna find it, though. Not even gonna try.
Reputed funk scholar, Thomas Stanley supposedly knows where it is, but won’t tell. He says, “It is very important, I think, that we not seek truth at expense of myth. Music and Myth are, after all, P-Funk’s most enduring legacy.”
Thinking beyond P-Funk a little bit, I don’t think that’s always a bad approach to take. Certainly, in most cases, it’s important to get to the truth behind the myth, but this is one of those cases in which finding out the truth really can’t improve anything. It’s much better to imagine that the Mothership really went back to…wherever it came from than to think that it’s somewhere rusted out, covered in detrius in some field in Suitland.
We know there are other myths that persevere in spite of the truth. I can think of several that surround the topics du jour. In those cases, I think we’re poorly served by not having the truth to shine the light on the situation. But what are some other myths that need to remain mystical?
Really? confederate History Month? Seriously? Followed by a second-day mention of slavery? Say word. Well, just to show that I’m really back doing this blogging thing again, and to prove that I’m ready for any eventuality, I’m celebratin’ too.
I’ve heard jokers who claim confederate allegiance/alliance talk some talk about reasonable people being able to disagree about the causes of the Civil War and whatnot — meaning that they think the cause wasn’t the physical enslavement of my people — but I’m gonna say no on that. True enough, I can disagree reasonably, and I’m reasonably sure that the reason they propose is neither reasonable nor factual (if slavery wasn’t a critical element, then why would it be in the state constitution of each of the confederate states?), but to deny the big, gray elephant in the room stretches me so far beyond my reason that it renders me unable to reason reasonably with one so bereft of reason.
But while arguing about history is sometimes entertaining, ultimately, life is about wha’chu gon do now. And I recognize that not all supporters of the confederacy are racist. But to those people I’d ask this: what about the confederacy are you looking to preserve? And given the fact that that imagery carries such baggage — terrorists flew that flag as their own! — what could you possibly hope to achieve by using it?
I really don’t think there’s a valid answer for that one. And if that’s just my prejudice speaking, then so be it.
Yo…on The Amen, Corner I stood lookin at my former hood
Felt the spirit in the wind, knew my friend was gone for good
Threw dirt on the casket, the hurt, I couldn’t mask it
Mixin down emotions, struggle I hadn’t mastered
I choreograph seven steps to heaven
And hell, waiting to exhale and make the bread leavened
Veteran of a cold war It’s Chica-I-go for
What I know or, what’s known
So some days I take the bus home, just to touch home
From the crib I spend months gone
Sat by the window with a clutched dome listenin to shorties cuss long
Young girls with weak minds, but they butt strong
Tried to call, or at least beep the Lord, but didn’t have a touch-tone
It’s a dog-eat-dog world, you gotta mush on
Some of this land I must own
Outta the city, they want us gone
Tearin down the ‘jects creatin plush homes
My circumstance is between Cabrini and Love Jones
Surrounded by hate, yet I love home
Asked my God how he thought travellin the world sound
Found it hard to imagine he hadn’t been past downtown
It’s deep, I heard the city breathe in its sleep
Of reality I touch, but for me it’s hard to keep
Deep, I heard my man breathe in his sleep
Of reality I touch, but for me it’s hard to keep
Either of the three verses on Respiration could have made my all-time list, but Common gets it for one reason: word play. One of my favorite things about Common’s style is his use of homophones. The “hey man corner” is simply among my all-time favorites. All things being equal, and in this case, they are, that’s about enough to make the difference.
With a couple days’ perspective, I can look at the McNabb trade more rationally. It’s hard, because McNabb was probably my favorite player in the League. Probably second behind Dawkins, but they were neck-and-neck, at worst. Deep in my heart of hearts, I wanted him to win a chip with the Eagles. That dream is dead.
I think the Eagles are gonna be okay by the time a couple years pass, if not before. The only question mark on the offense is Kolb, and honestly, his skill set may play a little better in Andy Reid’s system than Dono’s did. Moreover, Reid might continue his trend of actually using some semblance of a running game when he as a quarterback not named McNabb. If he sends Kolb back to pass 45-50 times a game, he’s gonna catch the beating of life. The bigger challenge for the Eagles this year is gonna come from their defense, or the lack thereof. That defense is gonna be as suspect as OJ in 95 (and thereafter…).
As far as McNabb and the Redskins go, this is a curious match. Going way back, I’ve said that McNabb was gonna be like Elway. Now he’s with Elway’s old coach. On a team with a solid defense. With the potential to have a decent running game. The big limitation of the Redskins is the line. If (and that’s a big if) they can get their line together, the addition of McNabb might give them a two-year window to put a winning product on the field.
I don’t know what I’m gonna do now. I don’t know if it’s physically possible for me to root for the Redskins, especially not against the Eagles. But I’m also sure I can’t root against Dono. I guess the rooting order is now:
Black head coach and/or starting QB.
Summer Soft – Stevie Wonder
Spasmodic Movements – Earth, Wind, and Fire
Superman Lover – Johnny “Guitar” Watson
Sign O’ The Times – Prince
Shut the Eff Up (Hoe)! – MC Lyte
Slow Down – Brand Nubian
Solid – Mandrill
Soon As I Get Home – Faith Evans
Slam Pit – Beatnuts, f. Common
Sometimes I Rhyme Slow – Nice & Smooth
Soul Power – James Brown
Steve Biko – A Tribe Called Quest
I don’t even know how to approach this. My original intent was to add whatever team Donovan got traded to into the rooting matrix. But with Donovan being traded within the division, I just don’t know what to do. Am I supposed to start rooting for the Redskins? Ugh.
And I’m not particularly thrilled with the Eagles right now.