Friday, July 16, 2004

A Mic as a Magnum Murdering MC's...

What does a 40 year old white man living in Atlanta GA know about hip-hop music?  Enough to have a defensible position on it I’d say.  Like the music industry as a whole, the hip-hop segment has suffered as badly from a quality perspective as rock-n-roll has with regard to what is being released from the major labels.  The majors continue to ignore relevant artists in lieu of a chance to hit the lottery with the next Brittany Spears.
I have a few young employees that I get the opportunity to debate my “old school” thoughts with on this subject.  “Give me one example of anything released in the last 5 years that is anywhere near the relevance of Eric B and Rakim’s  ‘Paid in Full’!” I’ll ask.  I ask you this question as well America.  While I may have a huge amount of respect for the pioneers of hip-hop’s golden years and wait anxiously for these guys to drop their next disc, I also feel that the genre is still so young that there is hope that a rebirth of relevant rhymes is in the offing somewhere.  I believe this can be coaxed out of obscurity and into major label release by a renewal of the competitive nature of the art form.  If you’ve ever seen any of the battle contests on Showtime, HBO, BET, etc…  you know what I mean.  These guys (and gals) aren’t boasting about their ho’s, bling-bling, cars, et al, they are quick thinking, concise, entertaining, intelligent, vicious, and most importantly, humorous. 
This is what I miss most about the old skool (sic) rhymes I was turned onto by a couple of guys I worked with from Brooklyn who had come up the river to West Point to cut grass in the summer of 1988.  While I was one of the first guys amongst my music friends to stray from our R&R cocoon into hip-hop appreciation, it was Jamal and Jerome who had me spending my WG-2 wages at Sam Goody’s on the latest in hip-hop brilliance.  Swapping tapes in each other’s Walkman was quite possibly the only way I got through that hot summer working that shitty job.  It makes me laugh just thinking about what it might have looked like seeing two black guys with fade haircuts of the day, a tall white dude with hair halfway down his back cutting hedges in front of some General’s house, bobbing our heads, spitting every other line of one of these rhymes way too loudly to the utter quiet and tranquility of the West Point summer (often laced with the obligatory profanity).  Absolutely hilarious.
So why this nostalgic musing?  For good reason.  I have been listening to the Beastie Boys new major label release “To the Five Boroughs”.  While I might have been caught during my college days hanging with guys that owned only one hip-hop record  (“Licensed to Ill”), and claiming to be schooled in the art, myself and my friend Savage knew that it was better and more deserving than to be tossed along side of the other college party staples (al la “That’s What I like About You”) and certainly there was much more to be had out there.  When the B-Boys released “Paul’s Boutique” we ate it up.  That record is the closest thing to the Sgt. Peppers of hip-hip you will find.  The B-Boys have really never let us down.  They have always been in it, always updated their sound without compromising their deeply rooted old school Brooklyn style.  It’s been so long since their last album and so much garbage has polluted the hip-hop airwaves since then that I had almost given up.  Now “To the Five Boroughs” hits the street and it has me smiling and laughing all the way to work thinking about my hip-hop summer school days.  This record sounds like it could have easily been released in 1988.  Its only giveaway is it’s contemporary sonic quality which anly enhances the experience.  I won’t bore you with my sad Lester Bangs review attempt of it, but I highly recommend anybody who was a fan back then and has become disenchanted with what passes for hip-hop these days to check this disc out.  They even take dead aim at the weak ass rappers that clog the scene today on “Hey F**k You”.  They definitely know what time it is.
 “…got millions an zillions of rhymes to flex, got more rhymes than Carl Sagan’s got turtlenecks”.  Can’t even say it without chuckling…