i have a pending request. i did some research and mulled over how to fullfill this request. there would have been an easy way out (two links, some uploads), but this request seemed a good occassion to revisit some other stuff and make actually a couple of posts out of it. i just felt uneasy to go straight to the point – i rather try to give some context and try to seduce you into discovering a lot more – but then that’s what this blog is about, too, anyway.
so i will open up an undercurrent on this blog (another one? aaargh) – to make it not too complicated all the posts relating to that particular thread will have “et hop!” at the beginning of the headline. so let’s get started.
hip hop. yeah, hip hop is not a favourite genre of the lgbt-crowd, although this slowly changes, since the youth of today grew up with it. furthermore quite some hip hop artists have been (rightly) accused of being homophobic – but then i still divide between particular artists and a musical genre, and i encountered homophobia in many musical scenes (from punk concerts to house parties – while a gay dj was spinning). that hip hop can be controversial concerning many topics i am well aware of – some reasons as to why we might touch upon in the course of this mini-series.
what follows is the highly personal history of hip hop according to sunbathinglizard. i’m not interested in being a hip hop specialist – if you want a really good history of hip hop i recommend you start by reading david toop‘s rap attack. hip hop has also never been my main musical interest – there were times i listened to quite a lot of hip hop (or was forced to by having a (not only) hip hop-dj as flatmate – hi, a!), then there were times i kind of forgot about it. oh – and don’t forget: this is from an european perspective. but of course you are also welcome to leave comments with stories from your perspective, telling your memories and experciences. so let me take you on a stroll down my memory lane…
it starts rather classical: in retrospect i have to say like so many others that grandmaster flash‘s the message (see video above) was the first hip hop track i ever heard. just that to my recollection nobody called it hip hop – it was called rap. somehow it was new music, but then it was new especially through its vocal delivery, yep, the rapping. but then you heard somewhat similar styles also elsewhere – talking over music was in pop music maybe rare, but not never heard of. and something similar was already done in african music and especially in jamaican music: toasting. and using voice as an instrument in more a rhytmic way was also known in jazz: scat. what i found new at the time was the flow, grandmaster flash’s style to talk over music. but somehow rap was just one of many new styles of music emerging at the time – styles that were also somehow connected. the more electronic side of things with early electro, the influences of european electronic music and new wave, the influence of funk and soul – mixed with a lot of other influences and then adding this urban angst feeling to it. at the time i classified grandmaster flash, as well as the sugar hill gang with rapper’s delight, as something belonging to that bunch of artists doing new and exciting stuff like talking heads, blondie, klaus nomi, and so on… and (although i found that out only later) a lot of these people were actually connected to each other. so early hip hop was just another aspect of a very creative and exciting music scene. if i remember correctly people had no problem to listen to joy division, grandmaster flash, kraftwerk, sugarhill gang, man parrish, the cure, yello and so on in one evening.
then the other early american hip hop artist that has to be mentioned was of course africa bambaataa.
the video above is planet rock – the über-classic for hip hop, electro and techno alike. as a little aside: the track uses samples of tracks by the german band kraftwerk – and as the story goes, kraftwerk first wanted to sue afrika bambaataa for the unauthorized use of their music (not the only reason to be critical of kraftwerk – but that is another story altogether). i heard his stuff definitly later then grandmaster flash and sugarhill gang. but then i registered him rather through the zulu nation: one nation under a groove. (one nation under a groove is referring to the album of the same name by the funk band funkadelic). by forming the zulu nation, afrika bambaataa actually first put that new music in a certain social context:
“the universal zulu nation: international hip hop awareness movement. knowledge, wisdom, understanding, freedom, justice, equality, peace unity, love, respect, work fun, overcoming the negative to the positive, economics, mathematics, science, life, truth, facts, faith” – from the zulu nation website.
and now, to give you something to listen to i put up a mixtape from africa bambaataa i found a while ago somewhere on the net (thanks to the original uploader!). it’s obviously a tape-rip, and the tape is a recording from a german radio station. from a german radio station? but of course – do not forget that west-germany (since it was separated at the time) had a huge amount of american soldiers based there – and they had to be entertained with some american culture… so they also had their american radio. and obviously grandmaster flash was there mixing some tunes. i do have no information on the date it was recorded – but by the tracklisting it must be somethin like early to mid-eighties.
the tracklist of the tape reads as follows:
01 Trouble Funk – Trouble Funk express
02 Fab 5 Freddy ft. B-Side – Change the beat
03 Phase 2 – The rock beat(?)
04 Don Henley – Dirty laundry
05 D-Train – D-Train
06 Planet Patrol – Play at your own risk
07 Soul Sonic Force – Planet rock
08 Bar-Kays – Do it
09 Instant Funk – No stoppin’ that rockin’
10 Man Parrish – Six super synthesizers
11 Soul Sonic Force – Looking for the perfect beat
12 Mr. Biggs & IKC (maybe Keith from Funky Four) – Rap attack
01 Mr. Biggs & IKC (maybe Keith from Funky Four) – Rap attack
02 Falco – Der Kommissar
03 DeBarge Family – All this love
04 Nicodemus – Bone man connection
05 Michigan & Smiley – Diseases
07 Malcolm McLaren & World Supreme Team – Buffalo gals
08 Trouble Funk – Drop the bomb
09 Parliament – Flashlight
11 Smurf that body – unknown
13 Sly & the Family Stone – If you want me to stay
get it here.
so far so good – these are about my very early recollections of what got latter called early hip hop. the two points for me here are: i was (and i guess many others were) unaware that this was the birth of a musical genre that would be years later a dominating force in the musical mainstream. and that this music would influence different genres that had yet to emerge. electro, of course, but also house and techno. and the second point is that at that time (by not yet being a musical genre) it was very open, and also the attitudes of other people towards this type of music was very open. both changed…
other early stuff that comes to mind is of course falco with his huge hit der komissar. BIG hit. hey, don’t wrinkle your nose and say it’s pop: of course it’s pop, but it was also considered rap-music. and falco was way ahead of the game: he came across as very arrogant and did not shy away to draw parallels between him and mozart. but then he never shied away from some controversy. and just to get things right: he was not german, but austrian.
then there was malcom mclaren (ex-manager of the sex pistols) with buffalo gals, another quite big hit at the time.
there have been a couple of others (when did musical youth come out?), but then i do not remember all of that.
other artists picked of course up that something new was happening and were experimenting with that new style. and as early “rap-oddities” two examples come to mind: the german punk-rock band die toten hosen made a track called bommerlunder with a rap on it, and in switzerland the band züri west had one song, called hans peter, on their first 4track-ep kirchberg from 1986 that could be considered a rap over a kind of rockabilly beat – at least that was the kind of joke at the time. but i guess here i’m stretching it a little bit…
but why don’t you decide for yourself? it’s a very nice record anyway, and it has a great cover, and it has a coverversion of är hett uf sim chopf… by mani matter, and you have the occasion to hear that guttural, allemanic language they call shwiitzertütsh – and if it helps to radically re-contextualize music…
get it here.
züri west official homepage.