Archive for the ‘dj shadow’ Category

et hop! meanwhile, on the other side of the channel…

January 29, 2008

don’t be afraid: i will not do “hip hop by country” now. i just decided to present in a very short way what happened in france and now, partly as a contrast, what happened in the u.k. to raise some awareness of different ways a musical style got adpoted, ingested, digested. and these two countries seemed for my purposes pretty good – and then it is also my very personal view on some hip hop sounds i listened to at the time and still listen to today.

so what happened in the u.k.? they got to know hip hop quite early on – for example public enemy toured there already early on – and one would have expected that hip hop would catch on quite quickly – on top of it they understood all the lyrics. but then having (nearly) the same language might have been also an obstacle. the french mc’s could take over and make it their own already by rapping in their own language. but i do remember that way into the nineties many complained that a lot of british mc’s just sounded silly, since they tried to imitate the accent of the bronx or compton, but came from manchester or edinburgh. yeah – realness clashing with realness… not that there would not have been a lot of hip hop in the u.k. at the time – but it seemed that it never became a big thing. one could actually argue that the first mc to make it big emerged only a couple of years ago: mike skinner, better known as the streets. well, let’s have an earfull then. from his debut the song has it come to this.

this track especially shows something quite interesting: you can file the streets definitly under hip hop, but there are other heavy, very british influences, too. in this case two step.

so compared to france it seemed that hip hop took on only very slowly. reasons for that could be, beside the language, that the independent scene might did not welcome hip hop as open-armed as in france. then there seemed a lesser need on part of the youth to find their expression in this kind of music. and connected to that hip hop had a big rival: the rise of electronic dance music in its many different forms. and if we look again at france: they needed years “to get” electronic dance music (despite laurent garnier). outdoor rave parties in france started to show up as late as in the late nineties (including the bad press of pillpopping youth – quite a déja vu, compared to the u.k. or germany). so the u.k. seemed less in need, or had less space for yet another musical genre. allright, all that might be true – but it is also quite wrong. it is true if we are looking for hip hop that sounds close enough to american hip hop with the flavour of “ghetto youth”. but that is a rather limited point of view. expecting to see a british public enemy seemed to me always rather silly – especially since in the eighties the u.k. had already so much political music in many styles.

and in a way hip hop took on very well in england – it just looked different. in the early nineties there were quite a lot of sucessfull artists taking the hip hop influence (well, one of the first was malcolm mclaren – but then he was living in new york at the time). one of the first hits on this more pop side of hip hop was certainly neneh cherry‘s buffalo stance. so have a trip down memory lane and enjoy the video:

quite a number of other artists started not only to use similar beats, although then quite often rather in the context of dance music, but rapping got rather popular, too. if you want to stretch it a little bit, you could even file neil tennant’s talking on west end girls under “influenced by hip hop”. and since i do like the pet shop boys and their first hit, here we go:

and then there was one band that was considered hip hop at the time, although not by everybody: the stereo mc’s. they made a fantastic debut record and had a huge hit with connected. still a great song. and one of their concerts i’ve seen was one of the great moments in the history of live music. the dj playing before played for more then half an hour connected in different versions, hyping the crowd to the max. so when they came onstage, they were confronted to an audience which was already boiling like usually at the end of a show. i’ve rarely seen a band greeted with such a high level of energy just by getting on stage. and yes, they were rather puzzled in the beginning. big fun.

but let’s get even more, hm, hip hop again. what people forgot when complaining that there was no “real” hip hop in the u.k. was that hip hop is more then the big selling american artists made you believe. and if they would have looked again, they would have seen that hip hop was very quickly part of the u.k. musical landscape. more obvious under names like abstract or instrumental hip hop, maybe a little bit less obvious under the name beat science or even electronica. i guess what irritated people at the time was that that these differet forms of hip hop were published within the electronic music scene. and that it left to a big degree the mc outside the door. so hip hop got actually ingested into the young electronic scene – and it bred many offsprings with many other styles.

the better known ones coming out of “the bristol scene”: mixing entre autre hip hop with reggae, dub, electronica, bands like massive attack and portishead emerged, later on tricky – and then some important players of the drum ‘n’ bass scene (dj krust, for example). let’s not forget that a lot of the music mentioned was called for a while trip hop (sorry, tricky). and let’s also not forget that the mc actually did show up again in drum ‘n’ bass. so this is a good occassion to show one of the best videos of a band that made a lot of very nice videos. here unfinished sympathy by massive attack:

rapping also showed up in other, maybe unexpected places – quite a number of bands that were at the time filed under acid jazz like for example galliano had mc’s. so it seemed that in the u.k. hip hop got actually taken apart and different parts have been used in combination with different styles.

and we also come back to the problem that hip hop suddenly seemed to mean “mc rapping over broken beats”. that hip hop also ment and means scratching and turntablism (using the turntable as an instrument), graffiti and breakdancing got a little bit forgotten. and especially on the front of experimental, abstract, instrumental hip hop and breakscience there were and are a number of labels publishing amazing stuff in england. it even seems that for a time they were actually the only ones to publish records of this kind of hip hop even for american artists.

one of the experimental labels, one still going strong, is coldcut‘s label ninja tune. more on the side of beatscience and always interested in experimentation and especially also sampling and cut-ip methods they published a wide array of exciting and genre defying music. and coldcut have been quite successfull quite early on, too. especially their track timber and the accompanying video was not only a success, but also something at the time unheard and unseen.

if you are interested to see / hear / read what ninja tune are up to these days i recommend you visit their website.

another label that was at the time one of my favourites was james lavelle‘s (yes, the one from unkle) mo’ wax. definitly ecclectic, but always interesting. from the experimental hip hop of dr. octagon to the electronic experimentation of autechre they published a lot of great stuff. and yes, since it is time for some music now, i recommend you get now one of my “fetish-12″”. under the catalogue number mw024 they published a split-maxi with on one side dj shadow (lost and found) and on the other side dj krush (kemuri). interesting to note that these two are big names up to this day in instrumental hip hop / turntablism – and that dj shadow is american and dj krush is japanese. and i would like to mention that it is great stuff. get it here (ripped from vinyl@224).

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if you would like an overview of what mo’ wax had to offer (it seems that the label is now defunct) i propose you head over to geez back ma heid! and get the headz-compilation. enjoy!

so while we’re at it i have the pleasure to present you something of..eerrr…well, something special. what always gets mentioned when talking about mo’ wax is the great cover art. the visual style of mo’ wax was to a big degree getting such a lot of attention thanks to especially one artist: futura 2000. he has an interesting website – go and have a look! he was definitly an early adopter and started very early on with graffiti. but back in 1982 he tried his hands on – rapping. yes, there is a maxi-single by mister futura2000 called and his escapades. so this is really early hip hop. it’s not a reason to wish that he would have stopped with his visual art, but it is actually quite sweet. and what is really interesting: the people that collaborated. so the lyrics and the vocals (yep, on the cover it says “vocals”) are by futura2000. the music is – tadah! – by the clash. and for backing vocals responsible are: fab 5 freddy and dondi. amazing, huh? if you want a listen to the escapades of futura2000 (including the dub-mix) get it here (again, ripped from vinyl@224). quite an interesting historic document.

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so what i basically observed at the time with hip hop in england was that there was a very underground hip hop scene modelled according to the american role model. but far more interesting to me was the influence of hip hop as described in this post. that there were / are no reservations between artists working rather on the hip hop side of things and others working in the different fields of electronic music. even a label like warp (best known for its output of experimental electronica) published quite a number of hip hop records.

yeah, what i want to get at is that focussing on the music and less on the construction of your ego will overcome boundaries and make things more interesting. and if we compare it to france: there the overcoming of musical genre-boundaries was partly possible by constructing identity not as some bling bling-ego, but as an political identity. this enables alliances with a number of people that might choose different forms of expression. so both examples show ways out of this selfsufficient, egomaniac musical genre (in this example hip hop)-cliché (and yes, i know i am over-simplifying).

then i also wanted to show that musical genres are helpful as an orientation. but the downside is when they harden into judgments of what is good or bad and what something should sound like. i never forget being at a concert of the fantastic turntablists the x-ecutioners and had these dumb people complaining that this could never be real hip hop since nobody is rapping. ugly.

but i want to finish this post in beauty and propose you a gem from a man from brighton, known for his graffiti and not well enough known for his unique music. a record that seemed to me always very hip hop – and at the same time having a very “electronica sensibility” (well, he also published on warp) – something to do with the work on the textures, i guess. so a record for fans of hip hop as well for fans of electronic sounds – as well as for fans of late night records. and of course for everybody who likes good music.

the man is called req and the record is called one. you can get req::one here. ripped from vinyl as two mp3 files (side a/side b), tracklist included. do enjoy!

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