Amoeblog

Hip-Hop History Tuesdays: The Native Tongues

Posted by Billyjam, April 28, 2015 11:45am | Post a Comment
Upon digging in the golden era hip-hop LP crates recently I uncovered an amazing album that I had not listened to in full in some time - the Jungle Brothers' 1988 debut album Straight Out The Jungle on Idlers/Warlock - that reminded me of how, upon its release, that was the record that introduced hip-hop fans like myself to the Native Tongues - as well as to Q-Tip who guested on the album tracks "Black Is Black" and "The Promo."

Centered in New York City and with direct ties to the Universal Zulu Nation, the Native Tongues were not a crew but rather a collective of different crews and acts that came together as a loose knit movement bonded by Afrocentric rooted hip-hop with uplifting lyrics focus on positivity and with a musical / production focus on jazzy grooves and eclectic samples (along with jazz, funk, and soul samples, the aforementioned Jungle Brothers album title track sampled Cameroon, Central Africa artist Manu Dibango). In addition to its leading act The Jungle Brothers (aka the JBs), the Native Tongues also included De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest (its core members), as well as such artists as Queen Latifah, Black Sheep, and Monie Love as among its many members. Other Native Tongue members - albeit to a much lesser and/or later degree of involvement - have said to have included Chi-Ali, Fu-Schnickens, The Beatnuts, Brand Nubian, Leaders of the New School, Common, and Da Bush Babees. However while these hip-hop acts continued for many years - some up until the present - the actual Native Tongues collective slowly disintegrated and became no more by the early nineties - many correctly correlating the demise of Afrocentric hip-hop with that of the Native Tongues movement. 

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Hip-Hop History Tuesdays: The D.O.C.

Posted by Billyjam, April 21, 2015 06:00pm | Post a Comment
A key contributor to both Ruthless and Death Row Records' most significant releases, The D.O.C. is best known for his own landmark 1989 Dr. Dre-produced debut album No One Can Do It Better whose success, due to a tragic accident that destroyed his larynx, he would never be able to replicate. But that album remains a true hip-hop classic. The D.O.C. was born Tracy Curry (aka Tray) in Houston,TX but moved to Dallas where in 1986 he became a member of the hip-hop trio Fila Fresh Crew along with Fresh K and Dr. Rock.  Originally he went by the rap name Dr. T but later switched it to Doc T.  The Fila Fresh Crew relocated to the Compton area of LA where, through Dr Rock's World Class Wreckin Cru era affiliations with Dr. Dre, landed several of the trio's tracks on the 1987 album  N.W.A. and the Posse. This Macola/Ruthless release was essentially a compilation showcasing the talents of extended N.W.A. family (including Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, MC Ren, Yella, and the Arabian Prince) plus the Fila Fresh Crew whose own poorly-received album, titled "Tuffest Man Alive" - featuring the same songs,  would be released on Macola a year later. Neither that album nor the single from it, "Dunk The Funk" would experience much success and the act soon disintegrated.  By this stage the D.O.C., a skilled battle emcee who displayed a superior lyrical finesse and a knack for writing memorable rhymes, had already moved on to work with the members of N.W.A. In no time he had proved himself an invaluable part of the Ruthless creative team.  In tandem with the young and talented Ice Cube (the main writer) he ghost-wrote a good deal of Eazy-E's 1988 debut album Eazy-Duz-It (the two also guested on the opening prelude track "Still Talkin'" ). Not long afterwards he got busy both ghost-writing for and contributing vocals to N.W.A.'s landmark 1988 Straight Outta Compton album on which he appeared on the track "Parental Discretion Iz Advised."  By this time he had changed his name to "The D.O.C." - apparently abbreviating "Doc" to  D.O.C. as a direct influence of N.W.A.'s use of periods between each abbreviated letter of their name.

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Hip Hop History Tuesdays: Young MC

Posted by Billyjam, April 14, 2015 12:04pm | Post a Comment

Scoring a top ten hit single might seem like any recording artist's greatest fantasy come to life. However the reality is that a hit single can become a stigma for an artist, particularly if it is the only hit single that an artist scores in their career since it will relegate them to that "one hit wonder" pile. Such, unfortunately, was the case for late-80's rap star Young MC whose 1989 breakout crossover single "Bust A Move" was his only big hit - one that has been featured on VH1's "100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders." But even before that, eight years after his hit had topped the charts, Young MC himself seemed resigned to the fact that he was indeed already a one-hit wonder. That was in 1997 when he released the poorly received comeback-attempt album unapologetically entitled Return of the 1 Hit Wonder.  Too bad since Young MC was a good rapper whose career deserved to go further than that one hit.

British by birth, Marvin Young  was born in the Wimbledon suburb of South West London, England before his family crossed the Atlantic to where he would be raised in Queens, New York City. There he graduated from Hunter College, soon-after moving west across the States to attend the University of Southern California.  It was at USC where he not only earned a bachelors degree in economics but also earned the friendship of two students with a bright music biz future ahead of them. Michael Ross and Matt Dike were the founders of the then fledgling Delicious Vinyl Records label. The meeting of these two and Young MC would be a most important one. Thanks to signing the unknown but soon to be hugely successful Young MC to their new upstart label as Delicious Vinyl's first artist - they made a grand entrance into the rap music business. The signing would also in turn launch the career of their next crossover pop rap artist Tone-Loc for whom Young MC co-write both the 1989 top-ten, Tone-Loc mega hit  "Wild Thing"  as well as Loc's hit "Funky Cold Medina" - both from Tone-Loc's debut hit album Loc-ed After Dark. Many have rightfully noted that Young had pershaps foolheartedly given away some of his best material to Tone-Loc.

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Hip-Hop History Tuesdays: The Bay Area's Dangerous Dame

Posted by Billyjam, March 31, 2015 02:00pm | Post a Comment

This week's Hip-Hop History Tuesdays Amoeblog celebrates veteran Oakland rapper Dangerous Dame. The East Bay hip-hop, born Damon Edwards, ranks up there amidst the select early Bay Area hip-hop era artists to make it in terms of putting out records in the 80's, getting commercial radio airplay, and landing a major label record deal - and all while still a teenager! However, as is often the case in the ever-fickle music biz, that success was relatively short-lived despite affiliations throughout his career with such high profile artists as Too $hort, Master P, and Mac Dre. Nonetheless Dangerous Dame is a very important figure in the history of Bay Area hip-hop whose career was most notable from the late 80's through the late 90's with the first few years being the most significant. He was also an artist that grabbed rap fans attention with his unique flow and penchant for forever shouting out his hometown of Oakland, CA  born and proud rapper.

Dangerous Dame got into rap early in life, kick-starting his career while barely into his teens. At the young age of thirteen he was writing his own rhymes and within two years was onstage performing them at local talent shows.  Not long after that the talented teen was teaching himself how to make beats and produce his own music; thanks to his always supportive father James who purchased him his first drum machine along with some other basic recording equipment, and who would later fund and personally release his son's debut "Jumpin" (featuring DJ Dopecut on the scratches). Hence why the label name incorporated his pops' name; James Edwards Sr. Enterprise.  Released at the beginning of 1989 this underground, cassette-only release was truly a homegrown, low-budget affair. It's cover art,  a low-grade photo of Dame and his DJ posing by an Oakland city sign with their two names scribbled on with a sharpie and the album title oddly appearing in quotes, looked like it was sloppily slapped together as an afterthought.  Regardless the tape inside offered seven powerful tracks that showcased both the young Dame's solid writing skills and his unique delivery; a rough & rugged but shrill vocal style that was distinctly Oakland and somewhat derivative of Too $hort but never duplicating him in either flow or content.

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Hip-Hop History Tuesdays: Number One Hip-Hop Singles of 1990

Posted by Billyjam, March 24, 2015 09:31pm | Post a Comment
The following list of number one hip-hop singles from 25 years ago is based on a combination of sales and radio airplay and comes care of Billboard magazine who calculated the initially published charts throughout 1990 in the weekly music magazine. Some were culled from albums released in 1989 but all singles charted in '90 with Salt-N-Pepa's "Expression" (remembered by many by its repeated catchy hook "express yourself") holding down the number one slot for the longest at eight consecutive weeks from mid January through mid March that year. Meanwhile Candyman's pop rap single "Knockin' Boots" spent five weeks at number one. Interestingly Vanilla Ice's ever-popular mega hit "Ice Ice Baby" only spent one week at number one on the hip-hop charts in 1990. However it soon crossed over to the separate pop singles chart where it enjoyed much more success going to number one for 13 weeks. The East Bay based, Tommy Boy act Digital Underground's biggest hit single of their career "The Humpty Dance" was number one for five straight weeks beginning on St. Patrick's Day, 1990. BDP artist D-Nice's "They Call Me D-Nice" spent four weeks at number one as did "We're All In The Same Gang" by the appropriately named West Coast Rap All-Stars, featuring Ice-T, Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, MC Ren, Young MC, Digital Underground, MC Hammer, King Tee, Body & Soul, Def Jef, Michel'le, Tone-Loc, and Above The Law's Cold 187um & KMG, which spent a month at number starting on July 21st. Meanwhile Ice Cube, with his debut solo post N.W.A. single "AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted" from the album of the same name, spent three straight weeks at number one beginning on June 9th, 1990 - but never had an official video made for it.  Most of the others spent one or two weeks at number one. For exact number of corresponding weeks at number one to individual hip-hop single see number in brackets following title of song, all below in video format in chronological order of release as singles.

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