Amoeblog

Hip-Hop History Tuesdays: Los Angeles Rap/Hip-Hop, The First Decade (Pt. I)

Posted by Billyjam, October 8, 2013 10:14am | Post a Comment
Back at the time of their release, hip-hop's earliest major hit records by New York City rappers the Sugarhill Gang (“Rapper’s Delight”  in 1979) and Kurtis Blow (“The Breaks” in 1980) were considered novelty records by some with the genre itself similarly dismissed by many as merely a passing fad in music. But at the same time those records were taken seriously by both fans of this new genre and aspiring rappers across the land including out on the West Coast where the seeds were being sown for what, over the following decades, would blossom into today's vibrant, prolific, and diverse West Coast hip-hop scene.  This new wave of pioneering rappers up and down the Left coast, from Seattle to Oakland, to Los Angeles, were instantly bitten by the rap bug and inspired to get busy recording their own interpretation of this New York City born  urban youth music (and culture) that, like punk rock, offered an accessible DIY approach. You didn't need to know how to play an instrument or how to sing. All you needed was records and a mic to DJ and MC respectively. Similarly all you needed was a spray can to do graffiti, or a strip of cardboard to break (dance) on.

The first wave of West Coast rappers  drew influence from what they had heard out of the East Coast: adapting its style but infusing their own flavor. As a fan/collector of West Coast hip-hop from its inception and also as a part of the compilation series - West Coast  Rap Volumes 1,2,& 3 compilation series of 80's rap on Excello/Rhino that was produced by D.J. Flash and released in the early 90's with research and interviews and liner notes done by me - I became familiar with a lot of this great early West Coast rap (note that the music was called "rap" more than "hip-hop" back then). So for this Hip Hop History Tuesday installment I am going to retrace that first decade in Los Angeles rap that began at the beginning of the 1980's. This is part one of the two-parter on the first decade of LA rap. Next week's second half will include more history of 1980's LA rap artists/releases plus an interview, conducted recently, with both DJ Flash and fellow West Coast hip-hop pioneer Captain Rapp.

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Hip-Hop History Tuesdays: The Roxanne Wars and Battle Raps On Record

Posted by Billyjam, October 1, 2013 09:26am | Post a Comment

UTFO "Roxanne, Roxanne"

With so much mean-spirited dissing between rappers these days on social media websites like Twitter I am reminded of a simpler (pre Digital Age) era in hip-hop when one rapper had a beef with another he/she took it to the mic and did something creative and musical about it - keeping it real, real hip-hop, in other words. Hence for today's installment in the weekly Hip-Hop History Tuesdays Amoeblog I return to the 80's to the battle rap on record era and specifically the Roxanne battles/wars which pretty much kick-started and shaped the form on record. This approach to ironing out differences between individuals in hip-hop has never been restricted to just rappers/emcees. Indeed hip-hop's four elements - b-boying, graffiti, DJ'ing, and MC'ing - each have healthy histories of traditionally been rooted in non-violent forms of battle between rivals. Since the 70's graffiti crews have traditionally challenged one another via their vibrant street art. Hip-hop DJs / turntablists have long fought with one another via displaying their respective skills in DJ battles. Hip-hop dance b-boy/b-girl crews have gone head to head poppin, lockin, and breakin' etc. in celebrated dance battles. And, of course, MC's have battled one another in freestyle rhyme, whether on the street corner in a cipher, on stage, or on record UTFO Roxanne Roxannesince the beginnings of hip-hop forty years ago. They still do to this day. However many are too lazy to do so in person with their opponent but willing to do so from the comfort of their iPhone via a typed up diss of 140 characters or less .

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Hip-Hop History Tuesdays: Tracing Hip-Hop's Timeline Via Select Video Clips

Posted by Billyjam, September 17, 2013 10:30am | Post a Comment
      

With the recent recognition of August 11th 1973 as the official birth date of hip-hop music and culture when DJ Kool Herc threw a party for his sister in a Bronx building rec center in August of '73 that would spark an unstoppable global movement, hip-hop scholars, fans, and DJs have all been celebrating the landmark anniversary in their own ways. UK based DMC DJ champion turntablist DJ Woody, who uses both audio and video in his live sets, has come up with his own full performance that traces the four decade history of his beloved genre. Above is a trailer of DJ Woody's Hip Hop is 40 audio/visual mix that is a nice sequel to his last major mix Big Phat 90's that was presented here with an interview with Woody on the Amoeblog a year ago. Since Woody, who you can follow on Twitter and Facebook, only offers an abbreviated teaser of his full length mix in the clip above for this Hip-Hop History Tuesdays Amoeblog I have compiled a select mix of six key hip-hop videos that span the years 1977 to 1999 in the ever evolving and shifting genre's illustrious life.

With advances in technology - plus wide access to it - being a lot more advanced in the second, third, and fourth decades of hip-hop's timeline there are a lot more videos and film footage of hip-hop from the early 1980's onwards than in its first decade. For example tragically there is absolutely no film or video footage (or even photos) of the fateful day back in August 1973 that Kool Herc kick started hip-hop.  The first video below is of New York in 1977 - a time when the city was in total economic ruin - and when hip-hop was slowly growing and expanding from beyond the Bronx. The clip is part of a VH1 retrospective on NYC and hip-hop. The other selected video clips include Kurtis Blow on SoulTrain in 1980 performing his hit of that year "The Breaks," the music video for Afrika Bambaataa's classic 1983 single "Looking for the Perfect Beat," andEric B. & Rakim's "Paid In Full" single from 1987 when (even only four years later than Bam's "Perfect Beat" electro fueled record) the genre had totally shifted in style and presentation with a different emphasis on lyrical presentation, and beat-wise much slower BPMs. The other two clips I selected are both from the 90's when hip-hop had subtly shifted a bit more. They are Gang Starr's "DWYCK" featuring Nice & Smooth and Dead Prez's "Hip-Hop" - both hip-hop songs that I believe are truly timeless and will always sound amazing.

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Hip-Hop History Tuesdays: What Ever Happened To Hip Hop?

Posted by Billyjam, August 27, 2013 03:10pm | Post a Comment
       

The above Sonali Aggarwal directed documentary with the self-explanatory title What Ever Happened to Hip Hop? poses that eternal question among diehard hip-hop followers about however did hip-hop get from point A (IE the more conscious, thought-provoking and lyrically loaded music of decades bygone) to point B (today's more hook driven popular rap). Even though the little viewed documentary was made a few years ago and on a limited budget it is well worth watching and raises some important points especially on the topic of the commodification of the music by major corporations. Most intriguing are the revelation about the artist no-play list that exists at BET, and the points raised about the consumption of popular rap via exposure to airplay with the theory that what we think we like is what is familiar and recognizable - something repetitive airplay will result in.

Also impressive with this documentary is its list of interviewees including KRS-One, Jean Grae, MC Lyte, Afrika Bambaataa, Busy Bee, Slick Rick, and Kool Keith who jokes about coming up with the basis of a pop rap hit. Although, as with many interviews with well-meaning longtime hip-hop fans on their beloved subject, the conversation sometimes takes on an elitist tone with some old school heads dismissing everything new as "shit-hop" or "hip-pop." I hear where they are coming from but cannot fully agree as the state of hip-hop - now or anytime before in its 40 year history - is not just black and white issue. It's a lot more complex than that with a lot of grey in between with hip-hop continually evolving and incorporating new elements and nuances.

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The Future Is In Our Hands: NAMM 2013 Report by Shing02, Exclusive to The Amoeblog

Posted by Billyjam, January 29, 2013 05:46am | Post a Comment

Shing02's Amoeblog Video Report from NAMM 2013

Once again my man Hip Hop Slam correspondent Shing02 graces the Amoeblog with another in his ever informative digests in the ongoing exclusive Amoeblog reports (video above, text and pics below) from NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) - the annual DJ/producer/music-tech trade show that happens each January at the Anaheim Convention Center. This year's was held over the past week/weekend: from January 24th to 27th, 2013. Thanks to Shing02 and all of the folks he talked to for their contributions to this piece including DJ Q-bert, OP-1, Yoga Frog, DJ Platurn, DJ Quest, Mista B, DJ P-Trix, DJ A-1, Vestax Spin2, PDJ, Numark Orbit, Apogee Quartet McDSP, Stylophone, Elektron AnalogFour, Gittler Guitar, Chord Dice, Wheel Harp, and Koichi Sanchez aka Nightshift.





Shing02's Amoeblog Report on NAMM 2013

The NAMM Convention in Anaheim, CA proved to be on par with previous years as it featured hundreds of exhibitors showcasing digital and analog instruments,    complete with colorful participants who packed the convention floor. Despite the cloudiness for most of the days, the feverishly festive mood is an annual destination for music industry heads worldwide.

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