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Norfleet - Hip-Hop-1

Norfleet - Hip-Hop-1 - 44 IefFMiils interview by the author...

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Unformatted text preview: 44. IefFMiils, interview by the author. 45. Alan Oldhain, interview by the author, tape recording, Detroit, Mich, Spring 1998'; 46. Mike Hines, interview by the author, tape recording, Detroit, Mich, Spring 1998 CHAPTER 14 Hip«H0p and Rap Dawn M. Norfleet Hip-hop is a creative expression, sensibility, and aesthetic that first emerged in largely African American, Afro-Caribbean, and Latino communities of the Bronx and then spread to Hariem and other sec- tions of New York City in the early 19705. It encompasses a Wide range of performance expressions: aerosol art (“graffiti”); b-boying/girling (“break dancing”); DJ—ing, or the art of using turntables, vinyl records, and mixing units as musical instruments; and MC—ing, (“rapping”), the art of verbal musical expression. The most celebrated component of hip-hop is “rap music.” This youth-oriented dance music empha- sizes styiized verbal delivery of rhymed couplets, typically performed over prerecorded accompaniment called “beats” or “tracks.” By the 19905, hip—hop had become an internationally—tracegnized cultural phenomenon largely due to the popularity of rap music. CU LTU RAL ROOTS Rap draws from the cultural and verbal traditions of the African diaspora, especially jamaica.1 It borrows from the “jive—talking” styie of African American radio personaiities of the 19405 and 19503, and the African-derived oral traditions of storytelling, “boasting” (self-aggrandizement), “toasting” (long narrative poems that some times bestow praises) and “playing the dozens” (competitive and recreational exchange of verbal insnits). jamaica had its own verbal tradition called “roasting,” and, perhaps most significantly, a tradi- tion of mobile disk jockey (DJ) units. Many of the hip—hop pioneers Afi'ican American Music 353 Were Caribbean immigrants who brought certain musical practices from their native country and adjusted them to suit local Africa American tastes. n ‘ Jamaicanmigrants to the United States were already familiar with the music ofAfrican Americans through American soldiers Sta- tioned in Jamaica during World War i1 and American radio broad- casts of swing, bebop, and rhythm and blues. African American dance muszc grew in popularity, particuiarly at “blues dances” that I took-place primarily in economically poor urban areas in the 19505 Mobile disc jockeys, caiied “Djs,” provided music for these social I events that featured rhythm and blues records. Dis enlisted a aid -' crew of assistants, who took over the speaking roles as MCS and grew -- loyai audiences.2 Often, two Djs were booked to perform ill the same space and competed for the attention and patronage of social l ers usmg large “sound systems.” Also called “sounds ’ consisted of turntables, powerfui speakers, amplifiers ’ phone. In battles of volume and carefully selected and ordered son 3 Dis sought to eiicit the maximum response from the dancers. rid most prominent figures in the early era ofthejamaican mobile disco! theques were Duke Reid and Sir Coxone. Influenced by the style of African American radio personalities I thejamaican D] spoke “rhythmically over the music, [using] his voice: as another instrument” on the microphone.3 These addresses to the crowd, known as “toasts,” complimented dancers and announced future events. Concurrent with the development of the Jamaican recorded music industry in the 19503, artists‘began to record instru— .- mental versions of popuiar songs, known as “dubs.” These versions-~- began to'appear on the “B” sides of the vocal tracks, in response to the growrng popularity of Djs toasting at social dances. One of the - most important figures of this tradition is U. Roy, the first to record 1n the dub style. .- 'I-"he mingling of Caribbean, African American, and Latino come inunities in the boroughs of New York City set the stage for the I deveiopment of what became known as hip—hop music and culture. '- Both jamaican and North American mobile DIS were pioneers of the early rapping traditions in hip-hop. As the art oij-ing crew increas? ingly complex, African American DIS hired people to ta; Eventually I those who tapped acquired the title of MC, or Master of Ceremonyl ' MCs reviled the crowd and delivered information about upcoming." I socral events. A large Caribbean community had developed in the ' Bronx, Where the earlie t ' ; by 1973' 5 tap mUSlCal dance events reportedly began The native— danc- -' ’ these units and a micro- . born African American community in New York, comprised largeiy of recent migrants from the South, had a strong. and Vibrant verbal cuiture. Their tradition of “toasting” provided a - I Afi‘ican American Music major component for the emerging “rapping” tradition. Uniike the jamaican musicai practice of toasting, the African American toasts were essentially nonmusical. They were iong, memorized, rhymed stories that celebrated the feats of such cultural heroes as “Staggolee” and “Signifying Monkey.” These verbai narratives were passed orally from generation to generation and became popular in both spoken and sung forms. I In the 19605 and 19705, the term “rapping” referred to the art of verbal engagement intended to impress or persuade the listener. This style of rapping became broadiy popular through the 19705~era blaxploitation gangster films. Featuring largely African American casts, these films utilized stereotypically street-oriented themes, which many considered as exploitative of Black cuitute. One such example, The Math (1973), ceiebrated the pimp’s seductiveness: “To ‘mack’ meant to seduce a woman with talk, as did mp before it finally came to signify rhyming in rhythm.”“ Popular rhythm and blues artists like Isaac Hayes and Barry White introduced their iove songs with extended rapped sections as illustrated in Hot Buttered Soul (1969) and The Isaac Hayes Movement (1970); and Can’t Get Enough (1974) and Stone Gon’ (1973), respectively. Maurice White, frontman of the versatile funk group Earth, Wind 5?. Fire, announced to his lis- teners: “i’m gonna tap to you” as he expounded on the topic of de~ veloping inner beauty and self—respect in the song “All About Love” (i975). Rhythm and blues singer Millie jackson was known for her X-rated raps about love and relationships, as performed in her 1974 release Caught Up. Rapping also encompassed spoken political and so- cial commentary that characterized 1960s activists, such as H, “Rap” Brown (laterJamil Abdullah Al~Amin). Many well-known poets such as Nikki Giovanni, Gil Scott Heron, the Last Poets, and the Watts Prophets deiivered their politically inspired poems over instrumental accompaniment during the 19603 and 19705. Socioeconomic conditions in parts of the Bronx and Harlem in the 19605 and 1970s profoundly shaped the aesthetics and activities of early hip—hop. Youth gangs proliferated and gang violence became common to daily life in the 19603 and early 19705. Responding to these conditions, Bronx youths, particuiarly male, developed nonvio- ient but intensely competitive means of creative expressions. The first of these expressions primarily consisted ofgraffiti and the competitive dance, later known as break dancing, performed to music provided by the DJ. Eventually, MC-ing was incorporated into hip-hOp culture—a culture that became a powerful symboi of urban youth. 'ihe primary mode of early rap musical expression was live perfoe mance. Rap shows and hip-hop events took place in parks, community centers, school gymnasiums, neighborhood clubs, and private basements. MCs established their reputations in these settings through “battles” HipHop and Rap 355 between MC “crews” and through “freestyling,” 01' rapped improvisa. many Djs rhymed over the microphone at these events, Kool Herc was Eton. Attendees passed along privately audiotaped ShOWS and. bought or known more for his musical choices and sound system, rather than shared locally pressed records. Tapes of rap music Were sold from the ' his rhyming ability. Later he hired assistants to form his unit, the trunks ofcars and briefcases for as much as $15.00 per cassette. These Herculords (also spelled “Herculoids”).just as in the earlier Jamaican tapes, which were further duplicated and passed on, contributed to the '_ mobile D] party scene, battling for the attention of dancers became a popularity of such acts as The Cold Crush Brothers, the Funky 4 + 1 ' feature of early hip-hop. and K001 Moe Dee and the Treacherous Three beYOfld the boundaries, Afrika Bambaataa, also of West Indian heritage, began as an of the New York City hip-hop community. As youths from the South informal student of Kool Herc’s style and by the mid~19705 emerged Visited relatives and friends in New York, and northern youths spent 2 as his former mentor’s competitor. He established his reputation as summers With Southern relatives, hip-hop gained new 1iSteners. ' a D} by mixing obscure and unusual records for his Bronx audiences, ' including rock, cartoon theme songs, and even excerpts from Western 19705: The Era of the Hap~Hop D35 art music in his “mix.” Once the leader of a tautorious gang in the DIS Were the focal points in the eariy Stages thip-hop, PrOVidiflg the . 19705, Bambaataa is credited with having redirected the gangs activ~ musical baderOP for the other forms Of hip-hop expression. They ity toward creative competition. Rather than violent confrontation, served as the fOundation and unifying element Of‘1’1i13d‘10p cultures - rival groups competed through b—boying/girling and graffiti—writing. hi rip mUSiC’ Djs were crucial in daflfling musical features that . In 1973, he founded the “Zulu Nation,” which promoted peaceful dIStmgUiShEd rapping from poetry recitation and other types of oral 1 hip~hop expression. This organization helped promote the hip—hop performance, Even though they PrOVidEd music from prerecorded I aesthetic of competition through MC, D], and b«hoy/girl battles. discs, DIS uSEd various 5“ ate-3135 to make this musical practice equiv- ' 3 Dis Kooi Herc and Bambaataa Were known primarily for their mu- aim: to a live event. Using complex EEChniCE-l maneuvers, hip-hop I sical choicesandblendingofonesong into another, ratherthan for the DIS (known as “turntabiists” in the 19905) transformed their phono¥ ' 5 complex turntable maneuverings, techniques, and tricks that marked graphs, turntables, and mixing units into musical instruments. '. later DIS. The Barbados-born, south Bronx resident Grandmasrer Three Bronx Djs—Kooi DJ Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, and Grand- :' ' Flash was one of several Bronx 1333 who developed the act of turn— master Flash—are most frequently credited with the development of -- table manipulations into a distinct musical practice. Flash combined hip-hep. his training in electronics with his interest in music to become one . Having arrived in the west Bronx from Jamaica as an adolescent of the most influential figures in hip—hop. He introduced the elec- in the late 19608’ KOOE DJ Herc brought With hilll his 6Xperience with .' tronic percussion system known as the “beat-box,” which eventually “Its musical practices; Jamaican-styled 170359113: mobile D] units, and ' ' characterized the 19805 hip~hop sound. Grandwizard Theodore and highenergy compatitions that established one’s PIOWGSS- BY 1973, he ' I Grandmixer DST. (later, DXT) were among other influential Bronx began providing music at social events in homes (“house parties”) ' . Djs ofthe 19703 and early 19805. public outdoor spaces (‘lbIOCk par ties”), and community centers. By Cross—influence occurred among the DJs, as each established the «disco era” Ofthe 19708] he became known “0’5 only for his 86160» ' his reputation among local patrons through informal apprentice- tion of records ranging from funk and Roth to Latin, but also for ship or by adapting practices iearned from watching established his method Of Playing the music. Using two turntables with identi- . Djs. Grandmaster Flash said of Grandwizard Theodore, “What ca; records, he selected the mos: 199351155”e or rhythmically aPpealing [Grandwizard] Theodore did for scratching is...[rnal<ing] it more sections (“the breakdown”) that often featured Latin insrruments Such ' I [rhythmicl He had a way ofrhythmicaliy taking a scratch and making as COflgaS, timbales, and COWbeHS' Then he SWitChEd back and fetch - ' [it] sound musical.”6 Grandmixer DST. collaborated 'with innovative betWeen the two turntables, 919(3ng the needle on the approximate . jazz legend Herbie Hancock on the pianist’s 1982 recording, “Rockit,” spot where the section began. This resulted in an extended “break” ' which helped bring hip~hop to new listeners. ’ section, to which the dancers responded energetically. Consequently, ‘ hip-hop dancing, or h-hoying/girling, became known in popuiar cul— 1979—1985: Rap MUSEC Enters the Mame-”ear“ ture as “break dancing.” ' Although iocally distributed recordings of rap predated commer- Kool Herc was also recognized for his sound system with its sig— ' cial releases by several years, numerous events starting in the late nature bass-heavy, massive speakers. His mobile unit had a reputa~ ' 1970s thrust hip-hop into the consciousness of urban and nonurhan tron for overpowering competitors with its high volume capabilities. ' America. Rap music’s first commercial hit’ “Rappers Delight,” was One such rival included feliow pioneer, Afrika Bambaataa. Although recorded in 1979 by the Newjerseyw-based group the Sugar Hill Gang Afi'ican American Music I Hip—Hop and Rap 357 Figure 14.1 Transcription from Kraftwerk’s “Planet Rock” (1982). on Sugar Hill Records, an independent label owned by former Recs vocaiist, Sylvia Robinson, and her husband joe. The song used as - I its accompaniment a repeated founbat musical phrase from Chic’s ClISCO hit “Good Times” released that year. A year iater, the White “new—wave” hand Blondie helped broaden the audience for rap mainstream listeners with its hit song, “Rapture.” Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s 1981 song, “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel” was one of the earirest songs to feature the distinctive turntablisr technique of among scratching. The scratch is the percussive, whooping sound produced I by manually moving a very short section of a record back and forth under the record needle. “Adventures” is also an example of a new type pfrecprding that was popular with disco club dancers, known as the mix. A mix was a “new” song that the D} (or producer) assembled from brief sections of current hits. The D} often excised individual words or phrases from popular songs and included them in the mix in “Adventures,” Grandmaster Flash selects the phrase “Flash is fast’; (from Blondie’s “Rapture”), which references himself; this was a common turntablist trick. In a mix, instead of splicing together the same sections of two identicai records to extend the effect of a single I- -- phrase through repetition (a “loop”),' the ‘ D) assembles together. sections of different songs for a horizontally collaged effect. Various vorces of guest rappers and friends of the artists are recorded into the song to Simulate the live “party” atmosphere. The earliest recordings ' of rap music often presented a rap artist rhyming over an instrumental version of a popuiar song played by alive band (“Rappers Delight”) or a combination of live and programmed instruments (Grandmaster: Flash and the Furious Five, “The Message,” 1982). Similar to the jamarcan dub tracks, rappers formed new songs by adding their voices- to the layer of live recorded instruments or to instrumeriial versions. . Bambaataa’s group, The Soul Sonic Force, helped redefine the hip~hop aesthetic into one that placed a premium on electroni- cally produced percussion and keyboards, steering rapmusic away from the live band and dance party sound that characterized its first phase. Bambaataa’s “Planet Rock” (1982) used a short, angular melodic phrase from “Trans‘Europe Express” (1977) by the German proto—techno group, Kraftwerk. The new style of dance music that . u ' In ‘ a ' ,. tihzed programmable synthes1zers and drums was called “electro ' (funk’fitit was-popular among b-boys/girls, who now preferred the I eiectric boogie” over the older break dancing. “Planet Rock” also laid the foundation for “sampling,” the use of snippets of prerecorded song material as the foundation of a new song or as a short thematic reference (Figure 14.1).7 Sampling and other new MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) technology of the 19803 allowed for a faster and more economical way to produce hip—hop music, prior to Stringent copy- right laws that later restricted sample use. Sampling essentially accomplishes digitally what live Dj—ing does manuaiiy; both processes use phrases of prerecorded songs that the D} creatively reassembles to form a new song. Sampiemweiectronic units that record phrases digitally—maliow for the efficient recording of a “loop,” a short recorded phrase programmed to repeat indefinitely or for a designated length of time. Prior to sampling, hip~hop accompaniment was achieved by recording a band that played a popular song phrase repeatedly live, or a D} who switched back and forth magually between two identi— cai records containing the phrase on two turntables. Bambaataa and Soul Sonic force were the first to use prerecorded samples in their 1983 recording, “Looking for the PerfeCt Beat.” By the mid-19803, sampled sounds were used almost exclusively, taking the place of elec— trwaunk’s synthesized beats. “Funky Drummer,” a 1970 recording by james Brown that featured the work of drummer Ciyde Stubblefield, contains the most widely used sampled phrase. Popular songs that used this drum “loop” (sampled, repeated phrase) included “Rebel without a Pause” by Public Enemy (1990) and “Mama Said Knock You Out” by LL Cool J (1990). Further thrusting the electronic hip—hop sound into the public was the Hancock/Grandmixer EST. 1982 collaboration “Rockit.” Unusual by iater hip~hop standards, the instrumental song featured no rapped vocals. The eiectro-funk single featured scratching and was the first recorded collaboration between a jazz and hip-hop artist. “Rockit” also won a Grammy for Best R868 Instrumental Performance in 1983. This was the first hip-hop—infiuenced record to win a Grammy Award, and its video was one of the first by a Black musician to be aired on MTV. These two events helped propel the new sound into the mainstream. 1985—4 988: Hip‘Hop Meets the Corporate World Rap music in the mid— to late 19803 experienced a stylistic and economic shift as its distribution moved from local, predominately Black-owned labels to international conglomerates with much larg— er markets. Rap’s entry into the corporate world was largely due to the efforts of Russell Simmons (the firsr hip-hop business icon) and his (then) business partner, Rick Rubin. Simmons grew up in mid- die~class Queens, a suburban neighborhood of New York City. After seeing the market potential of hip—hop as a college student, he formed a hip-hop business, Rush Management. His first major client was Run-D.M.C., a hipwhop trio comprised of his brother joseph “Run” Simmons, Darryl “D.M.C.” McDanieis, and D] Jam Master Jay. After releasing Run-D.M.C.’s album King ofRocle (1985) on independent Hip-Hop and Rap label Profile Records, Simmons formed a business partnership with I. a young White New York University student named Rick Rubin. The partnership resulted in the founding ofDefjarn Records in 1984. Def jam’s first act was a then-15 -year~old rapper named LL Cool ,1, which _ stood for “Ladies Love Cool James.” Simmons’ partner. Rubin, jewish and from Long Island, did not have a firsthand familiarity with hip-hop; he had grown up listen~ ing to hard rock. Nevertheless, he shared Simmons keen interest and _ '- confidence in the potential profitability of hip~hop. While Simmons handled the business matters of Defjam, Rubin was in charge of artists and repert...
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