Amoeblog

Hip-Hop History Tuesdays: Public Enemy and X-Clan's Role As Part of NYC's Revolutionary Rap Soundtrack of Unrest of 1989/1990

Posted by Billyjam, March 8, 2016 11:50pm | Post a Comment

In 1989 Public Enemy's raw rebellious rap anthem "Fight The Power" reigned supreme. An across the board hit, it was the theme driving the soundtrack of Spike Lee's classic movie Do The Right Thing. Public Enemy performing live and the striking imagery of an emotionally charged political rally set the tone for the accompanying music video. Spike Lee directed the music video, which included clips from his film Do The Right Thing. Perfect and perfectly complimentary, the Brooklyn set video captured both PE and Spike Lee at their respective creative peaks. Each used their art to reflect life in a pitch-perfect way. 

Meanwhile, in real life Brooklyn of 1989, thousands of agitated protesters took to the Brooklyn Bridge. The September protest that upset traffic and authorities ended in riot cops going against protesters. "A mile-long protest march against racism and the recent killing of a black youth…a predominantly black crowd of 7,500 demonstrators breached the police lines in an attempt to cross the bridge and carry the protest into Manhattan," reported the New York Times on this "Day Of Outrage" protest. Led in part by the late X-Clan member Professor X under his Blackwatch political organization, the protest was designed to bring the city to a halt and bring attention to injustices. As well as protesting the August 23rd murder of 16-year-old Bensonhurst resident Yusef Hawkins by a gang of white youths, the protest was also about the August 22nd slaying of Huey P. Newton. The shooting of the 47-year-old former Black Panther leader occurred in Oakland, CA. Hawkins was shot and killed near his home by a bat-wielding white mob who believed he was dating a local white girl.

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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.

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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Hip-Hop History Tuesdays: Early 1990's Record Label Promo Postcards [Outkast, Artifacts, Willie D, Insane Poetry, The Legion]

Posted by Billyjam, September 22, 2015 08:16pm | Post a Comment

Above and below are the two sides of the promo postcard from Big Beat Records from 1994 that was part of the Atlantic Records distributed label's big promotional push for The Artifacts' 12" single/maxi-cassette/CD release "Wrong Side Of The Tracks." That five star track was released in advance of and taken off the NJ duo's act's album, that was reissued on vinyl two years ago by Fat Beats, Between A Rock And A Hard Place. The postcard is one of several 1990's promo postcards featured in this Hip-Hop History Amoeblog that includes postcards from two decades ago from the first half of the nineties - the
golden era of rap/hip-hop label promotions. While indeed in the 1980's, record labels were releasing a good deal hip-hop singles (and to a lesser extent hip-hop albums) publicity and promotional departments had not yet been fully developed at most labels. The promotional push for '80's hip-hop, while certainly in existence, was sparse and limited to the select few major labels with rap acts and the larger majority of the field filled with smaller indie record labels. These small often regionalized rap labels typically released 12" singles only and as their respective promo pushes typically targeted retail outlets or their distributors, or the record pools that DJs were members of. The promo/publicity was usually advertisements in select trade publications while their promotional pushes would be aimed at DJs via record pools or sometimes radio stations. By the time 80's ended and 1990's decade began, the marketplace had changed dramatically with promo campaigns directed at retail, radio, and other media (print, video) becoming more commonplace. 

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Hip-Hop History Tuesdays: When Bay Area Political Rapper Paris Got Dropped By His Record Label Over Content

Posted by Billyjam, September 15, 2015 11:51pm | Post a Comment

25 years ago outspoken San Francisco rapper Paris burst onto the national rap scene with his politically charged debut single for New York's prestigious Tommy Boy Records - "The Devil Made Me Do It." (see the accompanying music video that was banned by MTV at the time). The Devil Made Me Do It was also the title of the politically charged debut album that the single was taken from by the self-described "Black Panther of hip-hop." Continuing that no-holds-barred angry rebellion rap music was Paris' follow album, Sleeping With The Enemy that was slated for a 1992 release on Tommy Boy. But then the record label suddenly dropped him from their roster.  Tommy Boy Records you see was distributed by Warner Brothers who were already getting heat and feeling pressured over Ice-T/Body Count's highly controversial 1992 song "Cop Killer."  So when they got wind of what was to be on the forthcoming Paris album (songs about killing cops - "Coffee, Donuts, & Death" as well as none other than the president himself Dubya's dad - "Bush Killa") you can bet they (and their shareholders) wanted to distance themselves as far as possible from this outspoken and out-of-control militant (in their eyes) Bay Area hip-hop artist. So they sent him packing with a nice payoff check that the artist born Oscar Jackson Jr. took to invest in his own (already established) label Scarface Records. With new offices in Oakland and a locally hired staff from the community, he released the album himself.  And in the years since - and the various distribution deals and all through his own independently owned record labels including Guerrilla Funk Recordings - Paris has not stopped nor ever once toned down his message or caved into pressure to stop speaking what he believes via his music. The latest example is recommended just released latest 2CD album Pistol Politics (also avail as download) that arrived in Amoeba last Friday, September 11th, and features the powerful, anti-police violence single "Night Of The Long Knives." The album, that will be featured here in an upcoming Amoeblog indepth interview with Paris, was the inspiration for this Hip-Hop History Amoeblog on Paris from that includes a selection of rare press and publicity clips from those early 90's years of his first two well publicized albums.

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