Happy Born Day to my beloved Hip Hop! August 11, 1973 (when I was just a little, okay, big tyke of three years old) is the recognized and celebrated date that Hip Hop had its fledgling genesis. 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, just like urban addresses throughout metropolitan areas throughout the nation, housed young, creative souls looking for an outlet to party and bullshit. Clive Campbell, known to the Hip Hop universe at Kool Herc, along with his sister Cindy, set the stage and template for what we are now celebrating, forty years later.
A DJ Kool Herc Party/Back To School Jam is how the nondescript index card and makeshift flyer labeled this West Bronx gathering in the recreation room of the high-rise that Herc and sister Cindy called home. As The Notorious B.I.G. so aptly stated, "never thought that Hip Hop would take it this far". But it did. With DJ Kool Herc taking his Jamaican, dancehall-tinged roots and developing his unique style, the stage was set for DJ culture to flourish and become the backbone of Hip Hop, even today. Herc has been very secretive about his playlist that humid, summer eve in that historic landmark, but you can guesstimate that joints of the day, such as "Give It Up Or Turn It Loose" by the Godfather James Brown, "Bongo Rock" by The Incredible Bongo Band, and "The Mexican" by Babe Ruth made its way through the speakers for that youthful crowd to enjoy.
Fast-forward to 2013, the 21st Century, and we have covered much ground with Hip Hop culture. Introducing the world to a movement that most never imagined would be a worldwide tour-de-force, we pay homage. Around the same time that Herc was blessing ears with his Merry-Go-Round turntable technique, Stevie Wonder released to the world Innervisions. I parallel that title with the path that the forefathers of Hip Hop culture laid. They had the internal vision to bring unity, artistic expression, and a sense of against the grain bravado to those that were often misguided, misinterpreted, misrepresented, but not missing in action. Even though Kool Herc is credited for bringing the culture of Hip Hop to the world, others had weighty contributions. Afrika Bambaatta, Kool DJ Dee, Grandmaster Flash and Grand Wizzard Theodore can all lay claims to fame to creating a culture collectively, from the subterranean streets of the Big Apple to globally.
How does it feel to be middle-aged Hip Hop? How did you get to this point? A few years ago, Nas stated emphatically that Hip Hop Is Dead, but it is making its mark commercially, to say the least. Unfortunately, that commercial footprint has hindered the creativity that sparks the culture. For every Little Brother, you have a Trinidad James, reaping financial benefits without paying any true dues, in my opinion. And there is the rub when it comes to this thing we call Hip Hop, specifically that highly visible part that involves spittin' rhymes, so to speak. Over the years, Hip Hop has always had this issue with sacrificing substance for superficial. Be it MC Hammer or Vanilla Ice, the backpack contingent has looked at the commercial side of "Rap Music" with that ever-present side-eye. "Hip-Hop" versus "Rap" has been in constant rotation on the illusionary cultural turntable since Run-DMC "Walked This Way" into Middle America (pun intended). It's unfortunate that lyricism and musicality has pretty much taken a back seat to fly-by-night Rich Homie Quans and the like. No disrespect to him, because I don't follow his movement or music, but it is very evident that he doesn't possess the lyrical dexterity of a Lupe or Kendrick (two artists that have managed to balance the artistic with the commercial). I feel, however, that the music as a whole can said balance across the boards. Unfortunately, the MTV's and BET's won't pump their machinery in the direction of very talented artists deserving of shine. BET had the audacity a few years ago to even go as far as to state (publicly mind you) that a group like the aforementioned Little Brother was "too intelligent" for its viewers. Such a slap in the face.
So where do we as a culture stand? At a crossroads? I think that there is indeed a market for Hip-Hop At 40. There is going to be a dope lineup performing in Durham, North Carolina at the DPAC to coincide with North Carolina Central University Homecoming. Return Of The Legends will be a two-night affair with some of the icons that have made Hip-Hop culture the cash cow that it is now. Rakim. EPMD. Das EFX. The Pharcyde. Brand Nubian. Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth. Camp Lo. Even BBD is making an appearance, showing that their brand of Hip Hop, even though it was "smoothed-out on the R&B tip" appeals to the masses in this day and time. I am so looking forward to this joint. I don't consider it "old-school", but "true school". I don't want to necessarily place a label on the music at hand, but I want to be very clear that Adult Contemporary Hip Hop can thrive. Truth be told, throw the labels to the side and create dope music.
"Dope beats, dope rhymes what more do y'all want..."
Hip Hop is 40. I will be 44 in January. Jay Z (hyphen removed) will be 44 in December. Eminem is 41 today (October 17th). Black Thought is 42. Snoop Dogg (or Snoop Lion or Snoopzilla) is 41. DJ Jazzy Jeff is I can on and on about the maturity (and sometimes lack thereof) within Hip Hop. I won't, however, because the script is still being written about the real-life and real-time culture that started in the urban Big Apple jungles and has now spread globally. I am glad to be a character is this film (an extra, but in the film nevertheless). I salute Hip Hop for what it was, what it has become, and what it will be in the future. We Are Hip Hop!
Thursday, October 17, 2013
To coincide with Hip Hop reaching that 40-year threshold, we have Blastmaster KRS-One bringing us 40 Years Of Hip Hop. Filmed in Amsterdam at the Bijlmer Parktheater for Hip Hop Appreciation Week, KRS-One took his teachings to an international stage. He has been one of the most vocal proponents for Hip Hop culture since the Golden Era, and his lecture/documentary is proof-positive that he will continue on that path of Hip Hop enlightenment. More than 102 minutes of footage, interspersed with video excerpts, gives the viewer a glimpse into the true tenets of the culture. "I Am Hip Hop" is more than a slick saying, but a venerable truth for KRS-One. Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone!
Saturday, October 5, 2013
INTERVIEW BY: WISDOM
The original plan was to meet up and coming NC lyricist Drique London at Triangle Town Center to chop it up at my favorite spot Barnes & Noble. That didn't quite come to fruition, so Plan B went into effect. Drique London so graciously spoke with me via phone for a good 30 minutes. Very cool character. Humble. Intelligent. These are qualities that are sometimes lacking in the swagged-out atmosphere of Hip Hop in the 21st Century. I've been around enough entities within this unforgiving bloodsport to know when someone is the genuine article, and when someone is perpetrating a fraud. Drique London is indeed the genuine article.
|Photo acknowledgement: katrinlaskowski.net|
Talking with Drique London, it becomes apparent that he has multiple influences infused into his overall style. "I was born in Selma, and moved to Queens at an early age. I think that dual experience molded me into the artist that I've become." You can hear both the Southern hospitality and direct Yankee musings during our conversation. Being an up and coming artist in a swag-driven industry can be a difficult proposition, but he takes it all in stride. "My mom really inspired me to do this, man. I used to record little tapes when I was about 11, then around 16 I recorded my own project. I went to Millbrook High School in Raleigh, had my own label in high school, World Face Entertainment. It was cool, just being a kid in school, making music on my own terms." Touching on his place in the North Carolina Hip Hop scene, Drique London made it quite clear that he has quite a ways to go, but he wants to leave his mark on the industry as a whole. "Cats like 9th Wonder, Little Brother, they paved the way for me to do what I am trying to do today. It's an honor to even be mentioned when their names are spoken. I'm here just to do my part and advance this culture, in my own way bro."
|Photo by Kali Rogers|
Taking a look at the NC scene, there are quite a few like-minded artists that are walking that same path that Drique London is embarking on in 2013 and beyond. Dope talent such as King Mez, Rapsody, Charlie Smarts and others have proven that there can be a flair of intelligence within the Southern realm of this Hip Hop culture. "I've known King Mez a long time", says Drique, who was able to record the dope joint "The Cypher" with Mez and fellow Carolina representative and Kooley High member Tab-One. "For 'The Cypher' I reached out to Mez, Mez put his verse down, then I reached out to Tab-One to add that finishing touch to the song". Looking at the video for "The Cypher", you can almost feel that synergy that these three distinct, yet like-minded, artists shared. Filmed in Raleigh by Kent Willard for Depth Of South Productions, it showed the solidarity and potential that NC has when it comes to Hip Hop music as a whole. "It was produced by Majestic, who I've been down with for a good while."
|Photo excerpt from Kent Willard on set for "The Cypher"|
2013 has indeed been a busy year for Drique London. He has been putting the finishing touches on A Hard Nights Day, which will most definitely bring more exposure in NC and beyond for his Dreams Of Children Music Group imprint (DOCMG), which includes London, Majestic, U'nique Music and Donovan McCray. I asked the NC lyricist about where he sees his perpetual grind taking him, and his response was a resounding "everywhere". "Keep working, thinking of ways to expand my craft. I would love to be on 106 & Park spittin' in The Backroom. But you know what...if I don't ever touch a Grammy, I'll still be content with who I am as an artist and person". He indeed has other aspirations, be it fashion, sneakers, running a Hip-Hop site, in essence just branching out to fulfill his ultimate creative purpose. Make no mistake about it though, the music is taking precedent for this year and for years to come.
"The Finale" is a recent offering from Drique London, but it is definitely not a final listening from this very talented, humble and grounded individual. Even though we talked music and his career for a brief time, I feel that I have known him for a good while. He is wise beyond his years, and dope beyond the average emcee spittin' nonsense. Follow him on Twitter @DriqueLondon to catch a glimpse of what makes Drique London poised to make noise for a long time to come. You can also go to his blog for further information and discography: http://driquelondon.blogspot.com/.
Special thanks to Drique London for allowing me the opportunity to document this place and space for others to notice the talent that he is. This interview has been a long time coming, since our original discussion took place months ago. I hope and pray that this does a little justice for the artist that he is, and will become over the years.
Peace and blessings!
Thursday, October 3, 2013
DMV Emcee/Producer extraordinaire Oddisee has just released his instrumental offering The Beauty In All via the very dope Mello Music Group imprint. It's no secret that Oddisee is from that true school of Hip Hop production that I love and respect, and The Beauty In All brings that further to light. Twelve cuts in all, you can feel the vibe that Oddisee was conjuring throughout the instrumental dopeness. That dopeness is exhibited through the emotional rollercoaster that is life, with ebbs and flows, ups and downs. This is nice joint to listen to while cruising the streets of DC, B-more, NY, Philly, ATL, Raleigh, Miami, Houston, Phoenix, LA, Oakland, or wherever you call home.
You can check out this offering, along with the accompanying mixtape Tangible Dream via Bandcamp. Oddisee keeps bringing the heat to take us into the fall and winter months. Enjoy!
Nappy DJ Needles has blessed us with the ultimate mash-up with A Tribe Called Kast---The Lyrics Of Outkast Over Beats By A Tribe Called Quest. Two of the most revered and beloved groups in Hip-Hop get the non-silent treatment, blending the dual entities into a seamless musical and lyrical gumbo. Since I have the utmost respect for both Tribe and 'Kast, a mixtape of this caliber would have to bring the Hip-Hop noise, and it does.
MIXTAPE STREAM: http://streaming.djdownloadz.com/stream-mixtape-new.php?mixtape=djneedles_atribecalledkast
You can download this dopeness from the DJ also known as Nodzilla at the following:
At a running time of 38:28 this 12-cut joint rocks from beginning to end. Nappy DJ Needles is an entity to look out for the rest of '13 and beyond. I love spreading the word about talented entities within Hip-Hop culture, and Nappy DJ Needles definitely fits the mold. Follow him on Twitter: @nappydjneedles.
PEACE WISDOM SEEKERS!
I'm looking forward to this album dropping next week. An album review will be forthcoming. I think that King Push has the ingredients in place to rival works from his group offerings. We shall see! In the meantime, check out the inner workings of King Push via his Tumblr: http://kingpusha.tumblr.com/.
Special thanks to NPR Music and Okayplayer for showing that Pusha-T love and sharing this joint with the world.