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Hip-Hop History Tuesdays: 1985 LL Cool J & Cut Creator Goes To Maine To Explain Hip-Hop, Rapping and Scratching

Posted by Billyjam, December 29, 2015 02:43pm | Post a Comment

LL Cool J and his DJ Cut Creator school the young Maine audience in hip-hop (June 1985)

"I'm from New York City. I have a house in Brooklyn. I live in Queens. And I got my man Cut Creator; he lives in Manhattan," LL Cool J tells the unlikely audience at one of his early shows on June 21st, 1985. This week's Amoeblog Hip-Hop History Tuesdays rewinds back three full decades to an unlikely locale for hip-hop history -- a small college hall in Waterville, Maine. There at an all ages show the less-than-full auditorium crowd was made up of mostly young school age kids with seemingly little or no familiarity with the still young genre of hip-hop (although I bet that this show changed the musical tastes of many of those in attendance.). It was at that Maine town's Colby College that a most articulate 17-year-old LL Cool J, along with his DJ Cut Creator, brought the gospel of hip-hop to a seemingly unschooled audience. This LL did in a perfectly balanced concert meets lecture session - covering scratching and beatboxing, as well as rapping. It's important to note that at this time, it would still  be years before YO! MTV Raps would bring the Bronx-born music and culture of hip-hop directly into households across the nation.

Not only was hip-hop new to the much world at this stage in time but so too was the future superstar hip-hop artist (and actor) whose name stood for Ladies Love Cool James.  Back in the early summer of 1985 the only record by LL Cool J was his debut single "I Need A Beat."  That Def Jam rap single may have been a hit for the new rapper but, judging by the lackluster reaction of the crowd when he and his DJ performed it, most at this Maine show were unfamiliar with it and its maker.  It would be another five months before the talented teen from Queens, NY would release his huge hit debut album Radio that last month celebrated its 30 year anniversary (Radio available in LP format). But regardless of how unknown he may have been to this audience or how little most seemed to know about hip-hop, nothing deterred LL Cool J.  Young but a true professional, he meticulously broke down and explained all the components of hip-hop in a easy to follow method that was bound to make his audience curious to seek out more. And as such I think this is one of the greatest hip-hop videos from this time period.  I only recently learned of this clip when a friend of the son of concert organizer/producer Mike Starr forwarded it to me via WFMU. She did so to inform me that Starr, who went by the radio DJ name of DJ Time Bomb, had just died (Rest In peace). Reportedly the late Maine DJ/promoter had organized LL to travel to the college to perform and had paid him $500 for the show.  But because LL would be the only only rap act on the bill, the artist was concerned it would a be short performance. So Starr shrewdly suggested he use the opportunity to educate the audience in the elements of hip-hop; particularly scratching, and beatboxing in addition to rapping. This he ably did and more;  even leaving the young impressionable minds with the message of don't do drugs and stay in school! Below is the Krush Groove clip featuring LL Cool J's "I Can't Live Without My Radio" found on both the Krush Groove soundtrack and on LL Cool J's  album Radio.

Top 30 Hip-Hop 2015 Hit Albums

Posted by Billyjam, December 27, 2015 07:47pm | Post a Comment

With its number one album being the critically acclaimed Kendrick Lamar modern classic To Pimp a Butterfly, this Top 30 Hip-Hop Hit Albums in 2015 list is one of three Amoeblog hip-hop year-end lists. This list's results are compiled by drawing from various sales figures of the year's top-selling albums, while also taking into consideration overall critical response. The factors included are first week sales on the Billboard Top 100 chart, overall sales at Amoeba, plus Metacritic ratings. A lot of the time, both sales figures and critical ratings are equal, but on some occasions they were not (hence why some albums might rate higher on this chart than lists based solely on sales). Still, overall the Top 30 that made the list is reflective of the most commercially well-received albums in 2015. With a few exceptions and regardless of the order, this top 30 includes most of the top 30 best-selling albums of the year. Exceptions would include Dom Kennedy's By Dom Kennedy and Drake & Future What a Time to Be Alive because both 2015 albums were digital only and unavailable through Amoeba. The list is also reflective of a lot of the artists whose album tracks received major radio airplay in 2015.

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Christmas 2015 White House Mixtape

Posted by Billyjam, December 25, 2015 08:08am | Post a Comment

Destiny's Child "8 Days of Christmas" (2001): 1 of 14 songs on 2015 White House Holiday Mixtape


Yesterday the White House, via a published Spotify playlist, unveiled the playlist (left) chosen by the president and First Lady (The First Playlist?) for this 2015 Christmas/holiday season. Descriptively entitled Holidays with the Obamas, the virtual mixtape noticeably does not include any hip-hop by the man dubbed by many as the "first hip-hop president." Not even Run-D.M.C.'s ubiquitous holiday hit "Christmas In Hollis" (slightly devalued IMO by its use in a car commercial) that was first released in 1987 when the president was 26 and Michelle was 23 and they were both reportedly fans of hip-hop & rap. Also absent are such hip-hop friends and guests of the current White House as Common and Jay-Z. But then come think of it, neither recorded Christmas songs that I am aware of. However Hova's wife and fellow former White House performer Beyonce did make the current playlist, as part of the female trio that catapulted her to fame.

A live version of Destiny Child's "8 Days Of Christmas" (video above) from the 2001 album of the same name ranks along with such other soul-fueled holiday classics as Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” (just reissued on 10" picture disc), and Stevie Wonder’s “Someday At Christmas.”  Also here is The Jackson 5’s “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” (audio below), which was initially released on the 1970 full-length Jackson 5 Christmas Album (one of three albums released by the group that year). Released a decade before they were even born, but remaining a Christmas classic ever since, is Eartha Kitt's 1953 recording "Santa Baby." The song has been covered over the decades since by other artists such as Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Taylor Swift, and Ariana Grande.

New Orleans-born Bay Area soulstress/actress Ledisi's version of "Silent Night" is included as are Brian McKnight and Boyz II Men’s “Let It Snow,” and the late great Luther Vandross' 1995 recording "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" (audio below).  As with any music list compiled by any person (especially POTUS), people will find fault and question why such a song was included or why another was not. My critique was, why no rap?, while another's was how come "Santa Claus Goes Straight to the Ghetto" by James Brown was not included? It's all subjective so we can wonder all we want. However, more telling will be future Barack Obama Christmas playlists after he no longer holds the office of president and will be free to really let loose and include anything he truly wants. I'm visualizing a hardcore rap Xmas playlist featuring songs like the recently reissued Eazy-E "Merry Muthafukin Xmas." But we'll just have to wait and see.

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Hip-Hop History Tuesdays: 1984 KECG 88.1FM, El Cerrrito High Radio Station feat. Talented DJs like Rhymeo Rob & Special One (RIP)

Posted by Billyjam, December 22, 2015 10:57pm | Post a Comment

"Jam to the sound of the Bay town; K - E - C - G" announces in rhythm over an electro beat one of the young professional sounding KECG DJs. The year was 1984 and the El Cerrito High School radio station was a place to find hip-hop on the FM dial when choices were limited on the radio dial in the Bay Area. The low powered signal (10 to 17 watts) radio station that had miraculously snagged a coveted FCC license in the Bay Area, was located all the way to the far left of the dial at 88.1FM.

You could tune in if you were in El Cerrito or some neighboring parts of Richmond, Berkeley, or North Oakland. KECG only broadcast during school hours and during the school year, but if you caught it when on the air odds are that you would be treated to some great live hip-hop mixes presented an amazingly talented crew of young DJs. In the mid-eighties I was a listener. I got to hear young mic & turntable talents such as Special K, DJ  Rhymeo Rob, and Debonair Pierre who each got involved by taking the rewarding class on their high school curriculum. Not only did these young KECG hip-hop DJ students, who displayed a raw talent and effortless affinity for mixing and scratching as well as announcing, get to learn a new skill that would stay with them forever, but they had a hell of a lot of fun in the process.

I was reminded of KECG radio recently after finding some dusty cassette recordings I had made of KECG back in 1984. With enthusiastic young hip-hop DJs growing up on the then new art form, KECG offered a great example of real hip-hop radio of the day -- whenever school was in session.  Back in that era in the Bay Area, the other limited options to hear hip-hop on the radio included community San Francisco radio KPOO, commercial radio outlet KSOL that featured lunchtime daily mixes and other slots, plus the college stations like KALX and KZSU, which would typically program blocks of hip-hop Sundays or weekends. In contrast, KECG bumped hip-hop during the weekdays. The May and October airchecks I just unearthed featured DJ playlists that included records like "What Is A DJ If He Can't Scratch" by The Egyptian Lover (plus everything else off that "Egypt Egypt" 12" single got a lot of play on KECG!), Knights Of The Turntables' "Techno Scratch," Run-D.M.C.'s self-titled debut album and all their singles up to that point, Ice-T's "The Coldest Rap," Hashim's "Al-Naafiysh (The Soul)" (aka "It's Time"), and funny man Russ Parr as Bobby Jimmy And The Critters' "Big Butt." Like other hip-hop DJs at the that point in music history, the KECG DJs also played lots of similarly BPM driven, funky music. Hence you would also hear such records as Prince's "Erotic City," or (from his movie Purple RainMorris Day & The Time's "The Bird," Chaka Khan's "Chaka Khan," and Shannon's breakout freestyle hit "Let The Music Play."

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Best of 2015 Hip-Hop: Top Ten Collaborative Projects

Posted by Billyjam, December 20, 2015 03:44pm | Post a Comment

The ease with which hip-hop artists dotted around the globe can instantly connect with one another, along with the current music industry model, are two key contributing factors to the wealth of collaborative projects between artists these days. Compared to the old music model, the average artist today is no longer  beholden to any one record label, hence giving them freedom to act more like free agents. For the recent collaborative project between Aesop Rock and Homeboy Sandmanthe promo of the free release was shared by Rhymesayers who handled the video side and Stones Throw who handled audio promo via their Soundcloud of the recording given to fans for free. The project is the five-song EP Lice with various contributing producers including Optiks and Blockhead.

In 2016, Stones Throw will do a limited run vinyl pressing. Stones Throw is the home to another excellent collaboration, Anderson Paak with Knxwledge as NxWorries . Their six-song EP Link Up & Suede is an amazing musical melding of the two talents. Fresh from collaborating on six tracks off Dr. Dre's 2015 hit album Compton, Anderson Paak joined forces with NJ to LA super-gifted prolific producer Knxwledge who got wide attention from his contribution to Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly, and whose May 2015 Stones Throw release Hud Dreems (also avail in 2LP format) ranks as the best instrumental hip-hop album of the year.

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