Amoeblog

(Wherein our hero looks back - and sees so much bleached denim.)

Posted by Job O Brother, June 2, 2014 12:21pm | Post a Comment

LOWS 1989
It's 1989 and things are lookin' up... side-down.


The final year of junior high was heavy for my 8th grade class at Live Oak Waldorf School.

We’d bonded unusually deep; our eccentric education, overseen by the same, stern woman annually and paid for by unconventional, often dysfunctional parents, made us peers not just of age and fads, but in isolation: we weren’t represented in popular culture – there weren’t Cosby kids too poor to afford clothes or dental work; INXS wasn’t singing about the world of antiquity, accompanied by recorder ensemble; the cast on Facts of Life never gathered in a bi-monthly circle to share from their hearts until everyone wept and atoned and affirmed admiration for each other – then broke for their next class on American folk dancing.

blair jo
"I'm afraid being raised without an understanding of more mainstream, cultural norms
is going to handicap my trajectory in life, Tootie."

The final months of that semester were strange; our lessons became devoted to one, final project: a run of Shakespeare’s As You Like It, barely edited, performed for the public by either of two casts, each featuring the same students in alternate roles.

It was our teacher’s idea this would avoid certain students having all the glory of lead parts. While well-intended, it instead ensured that shier kids who’d have preferred to skip the spotlight, couldn’t; it meant everyone had two characters to memorize – quite a task, considering this was most pupils’ introduction to iambic pentameter – and made what would have been the natural, unfriendly phenomena of critical comparison between kids’ acting skills even more impossible to avoid.

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The 20 Best 1980's Hip-Hop Albums

Posted by Billyjam, May 26, 2014 12:00pm | Post a Comment

When fellow Amoeblogger Billy Gil, who has done a number of Best Of lists in various genres, invited me to do some hip-hop best-of lists I had mixed feelings about the task. While I love drawing up lists of my favorite hip-hop releases from different eras and regions, I know that no matter what I include or how I position/rate it, later I will feel some kind of regret thinking that maybe I should have included or excluded a release or not ranked it as high on the list. And I am sure there will be commenters who will have the same critical thoughts (a la "I can't believe you didn't include ______ or that you ranked____ as number one," etc.). Simply put, it is difficult to narrow down Best Of lists because firstly it's personal and subjective, and secondly because a list I (or you) may draw up today will be different from one we might compile in a year's time. Musical tastes and opinions, especially in retrospect, are constantly in flux for me anyway.

Furthermore, sometimes an album or a single will rate high on one list (depending on the category) but not so on another. An example from this list would be Too $hort who would rank up the top of a Bay Area list but lower on an overall hip-hop album list of the 80's. Then there are all of those amazing hip-hop singles that were only singles, non-album cuts, or were culled from albums that otherwise were not as strong overall. Or in the case of Malcolm McLaren's 1983 album Duck Rock, which technically is a diverse genre album with hip-hop content and packaged in a hip-hop fashion from its cover art to how it is meshed together by the Worlds Famous Supreme Team radio show, it doesn't technically qualify as a hip-hop album. Add to my not included on the list 80's albums: such compilations as Mr Magic's Rap Attack series since I tried to focus purely on artist (vs. compilation) releases with the exception of one soundtrack on the list. Anyway, to combat all of this, I plan on doing many more best-of hip-hop lists with the goal being to include as many titles of great records as possible overall.
 

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Music History Monday: November 18

Posted by Jeff Harris, November 18, 2013 11:35am | Post a Comment

To read more Behind The Grooves, go to http://behindthegrooves.tumblr.com.

On this day in music history: November 18, 1972 - "If You Don't Know Me By Now" by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for two weeks, also peaking at #3 on the Hot 100 on December 9, 1972. Written and produced by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, it is the first major hit for the Philadelphia vocal quintet. Lead singer Teddy Pendergrass will initially join The Blue Notes as their drummer, but will move front and center when Harold Melvin discovers that he can sing. Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes will be among the first acts signed to Gamble & Huff's Philadelphia International Records in 1971. "If You Don't Know Me By Now" is originally written for the Chicago-based R&B group The Dells, but will not recording it when they can't reach a deal with their record label. Instead, it is given to The Blue Notes and is released as their second single, becoming an immediate smash on both pop and R&B radio. "If You Don't Know Me By Now" is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
 


On this day in music history: November 18, 1974The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, the sixth album by Genesis is released. Produced by Genesis and John Burns, it is recorded at Island Mobile Studios in Wales, UK from August - October 1974. The 23-track double LP is a concept album centering around the character Rael and his surreal odyssey while searching for his brother John. The majority of the songs are written by the band with the exception of Peter Gabriel who is largely absent from the writing and rehearsal sessions due to his wife experiencing major complications while having their first child. When Gabriel returns, he'll insist on writing and in some cases re-writing lyrics to certain songs, which will create friction between band members during the recording sessions. It will become their most successful release to date in the US and is regarded as one of the best progressive rock albums of all time. It will also be the final album to feature original lead vocalist Peter Gabriel, who will leave the band following the subsequent tour in support of the record. The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway will peak at #10 on the UK album chart, peaking at #41 on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA. Check out the 7" single!
 

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Hip-Hop History Tuesdays: Big Fun In The Big Town

Posted by Billyjam, August 20, 2013 01:13am | Post a Comment

      

"It's a shame what they did to it," says Schoolly D in the above mid 80's hip-hop documentary Big Fun In The Big Town in reference to how rock & roll had become soft and watered down. "I hope that rap don't go that same route,? where they take the rawness away and just then make it too pretty," said the renowned Philly rapper (who is considered the original gangsta rapper) three decades ago, predicting how hip-hop would get co-opted, commodified, and flipped into marketable pop. 

Welcome to the first in the new weekly Hip-Hop History Tuesday Amoeblog series. What better way to start than with the above Dutch TV documentary from 1986, which resurfaced recently after being unavailable for 25 years. Last month, it was released on DVD with lots of bonus material. Broadcast in 1986 for television viewers in Holland with Dutch sub-titles, the Bram Van Splunteren directed Big Fun In The Big Town offers a brief history of hip-hop up until that point in time as well as a general state of the art to those unaware of what hip-hop/rap was all about. Additionally, it acts as a time capsule of New York City at that gritty point, offering some insights into its financially challenged state that was reflected in the music.

At that time, most of hip-hop on the radar was still being made on the East Coast in NYC and nearby urban areas like New Jersey and Philadelphia where the aforementioned Schoolly D and his DJ Code Money, captured on film in the infamous NYC Latin Quarter club, hailed from. Other key players of the genre at this point in time that are profiled include Grandmaster Flash, MC Shan, Roxanne Shanté, Biz Markie, Run DMC, and the young newcomer L.L. Cool J.  Dutch documentary director Van Splunteren was a music journalist who was clearly a big hip-hop fan. With his film crew he spent a week in New York filming artists to try to get a handle on the relatively new genre of music for his viewers back home in Europe. By that stage in its history hip-hop had bypassed the "it's a fad" stage and proven that it was an unstoppable force - but Van Splunteren, nor anyone for that matter, could have projected just how far it would go as a global culture. This film is a documentary in the most literal sense; he documented his subjects in their own environments, allowing them to speak at length without editorializing. A short but comprehensive documentary, that shows hip-hop as seen through the eyes of an outsider, Big Fun In The Big Town, has some great performances and interviews and is a must-watch for any fan of hip-hop's history.

DJ Woody's Excellent New Video Mix Shows His Love of '90's Hip-Hop & Pop Culture

Posted by Billyjam, September 4, 2012 10:03am | Post a Comment
          

           Big Phat 90's Mixtape from DJ Woody on Vimeo.

DJ Woody  is an amazingly gifted DJ who works in both audio and  video formats - and expertly in each. The UK DJ, who came to fame as an accomplished battle DJ (ITF, DMC, Vestax), not only impressively utilizes the the video scratch/mix format in the hip-hop DJ turntable tradition but this this gifted guy manages to take it  to a whole other next level. This skill he instantly demonstrates in his latest mind-blowing audio/video production above, Big Phat 90's Mixtape which is a pleasing flashback to the highlights (hip-hop and pop culture) of that bygone decade's years with many featured tracks from the first part of the decade - aka the latter half of hip-hop's much heralded Golden Era.

The instantly engaging, brand new, intricately assembled 45-minute, audio visual production is made in "video mixtape" format and, as such, is equally enjoyable to just listen to or watch and listen. Big Phat 90's Mixtape is also the 35 year DJ's salute to his favorite decade: the 1990's - hip-hop and beyond.  Fresh back in the UK from some doing some gigs in Russia over the weekend I caught up with the British talent born Lee Woodbine to ask him a few questions on hip-hop in the 90's,  and also what went into making this impressive video music mix.

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