On this date, September 19th, five years ago the hip-hop world was shocked to learn the tragic news that super-talented DJ Grand Master Roc Raida had died from cardiac arrest at age 37. The totally unexpected death, following a week of being hospitalized, was due to medical complications relating to an accident that the DJ encountered a few weeks previously while training in the contact combat self-defense system known as Krav Maga. Later today on my weekly hip-hop radio show on WFMU I will be honoring the legacy of the DMC world champion DJ who most got to know via his membership of the X-Men/X-Ecutioners but who, over his illustrious prolific career, worked with a wide array of artists that included MF Grimm, Big Pun, Pink, Linkin Park, Jungle Brothers, Nelly, Opio, The Beatnuts, Mike Patton, and Dilated Peoples.
My name is Leroy Franklin Moore Jr. I was born in New York in 1967 and was born with a physical disability (cerebral palsy). Being both Black and disabled, I’ve always had questions about race and disability.
I grew up in an activist family and became active in issues that faced my Black and disabled communities. At an early age I realized that both of my communities, Black and disabled, did not recognize each other and because of this fact I continued to search for some kind of balance with my two identities.
In school I found out that very few professors or students knew about Black disabled people in history -- from slavery, to the music industry, to activism. Outside of the educational system and my communities, I started to educate myself on the rich history of Black disabled people.
Because my father was into Black music, I started my research on Black disabled people in music and found out that most of the early blues artists were Black and blind or had other types of disabilities that forced them to make a living from singing on street corners all over the South and North: artists like Cripple Clarence Lofton who had polio but used to dance and was known as one of the creators of boogie-woogie piano.
A lot of these Black disabled musicians didn’t get their dues and were discriminated against. The story of Cortelia Clark, who was a blind blues singer, singing on the streets of Nashville, is one of many true stories of Black blind/disabled artists in the early stages of the development of the music industry. Although Clark won a Grammy for his 1967 song, the appropriately titled "Blues in the Streets," he couldn’t attend the ceremony because he couldn’t afford to buy a ticket. The following day he was back on the streets trying to earn money to pay rent.
Like a lot of longtime, old school fans of the genre, I am pretty much disgusted with what passes as "hip-hop" these days. You know, that boringly predictable, cliched crap that is dumbed-down, bling & sexist heavy lyrical fodder delivered over a carefully researched radio & club ready beat. Fortunately though, there still are many good producers and emcees making new music today. It's just that you have to dig for them. And while most are underground or indie artists, just because an artist is some underground indie hip-hop loving emcee doesn't always guarantee that he or she will shine. Below are several of the recent or about to drop releases that, as a DJ, I have been really feeling and playing. All should be available at Amoeba Music. Just ask if you can't find them.
Madlib Beatkonducta Vol. 3-4: India (Stones Throw)
Like 2006's Beatkonducta Vol 1-2 CD release, this collection was also originally released on vinyl only -- now offering many a chance to catch up on the brilliance that is the production of Madlib. For this collection he effortlessly melds Bollywood soundtracks (mostly instrumental, but about 15% with vocals and spoken word soundbites mixed in, usually at beginning) with hip-hop beats -- generally looped into hypnotic patterns. The 34 tracks are mostly short (2 minutes or less) in length.
Z-Trip All-Pro Soundtrack (Decon)
Like its series predecessor -- Dan The Automator presents 2K7 on Decon for 2K Sports, which was also a DJ produced collection featuring guest emcees and turntablists -- this is another video game soundtrack. And it rocks, thanks to Z-Trip's perfect choice of collaborators (mostly West Coast), including Chali 2na, Aceyalone, Quannum's Lateef and Gift of Gab, Hiero's Pep Love and Casual, plus LA turntablist duo Backyard Bangers. Also includes a track from longtime collaborator of Z-Trip's DJ Faust (of Faust & Shortee fame), plus Z-Trip's inspired turntable remix of Rush's "Tom Sawyer."