Congratulations and huge sighs of relief are in order as Shan Nicholson and Cristina Esterás Ortiz’s Rubble Kings project finally reaches its funding target, through Kickstarter.
Documenting the blossoming of Hip Hop culture in New York during the 70s, the film’s cast of original ‘warriors’, gang miscreants turned rapping evangelists and delinquents guided onto the righteous path of, what would be, a musical and cultural breakthrough, colourfully lay down the roots. The incendiary of depravation and violence in a bankrupted city, failing to get a grip on the crippling gangs that ran the streets, was quelled by the street sounds collective movement. A force of good which took the pow and punch (mostly) out of the confrontational territorial disputes that kept communities from all backgrounds apart.
In celebratory mode, Monolith Cocktail picks a selection of spirited early Hip Hop from New York.
Afrika Bambaataa ‘Looking For The Perfect Beat’ (Tommy Boy/ Warner Bros.) 1982
Captain Rock ‘The Return Of Captain Rock’ (NIA Records) 1983
Divine Sounds ‘Dollar Bill’ (Specific Records) 1984
RUN DMC ‘Sucker MC’s’ (Profile/Arista) 1983
Roxanne Shante ‘Roxanne’s Revenge’ (Pop Art Records) 1984
Fearless Four ‘Rockin’ It’ (Enjoy) 1982
Marley Marl feat. MC Shan ‘Marley Marl Scratch’ (NIA Records) 1985
Kid Frost ‘Terminator’ (Electrobeat) 1985
DJ Born Supreme Allah ‘Two, Three, Break’ (Vintertainment) 1985
Awesome Foursome ‘Monster Beat’ (Reality) 1986
Disco Four ‘Get Busy’ (Reality) 1986
Despite the many studies, myths and folkloric postulations, the birth of Hip Hop is still missing a cohesive background story, explaining just where and how it really started. Documentry film director Shan Nicholson and Cristina Esterás Ortiz don’t lay claim to producing that definitive tome, but they do document the transformation of what was, a desolated, bankrupt and crime-infested city into a street culture mecca.
Primal rage in the deprived and forgotten slums of the Bronx had led to an explosion of gang culture in the late 60s. A microcosm of New York, the Bronx alone could boost of more than a hundred neighbourhood gangs alone, each with a hierarchal system and sporting a rich tapestry of monikers (Savage Skulls, Bachelors, Black Spades, Hitman and Turban Queens to name but just a few), from every ethnic diversity imaginable.
Walter Hill‘s The Warriors may have been a cartoon-esque version of the brewing tensions and resentment of New York’s ‘degenerates’, yet the city’s police and social authorities really had lost control, as the murder rate soared through the Manhattan skyline.
The aptly named Rubble Kings chronicles the ‘forgotten few’ who heroically crossed the territorial lines to bring the burgeoning music, dance and artistic culture of Hip Hop to a devastated urbane landscape.
In the can already , the four-year project has been shown to numerous film festival audiences, and garnered rave reviews. However for a full theatrical release the project needs funds to cover the cost of clearing footage and musical rights. A Kickstarter fund has been started, hoping to raise the target $50,000. A range of incentives will hopefully rouse the necessary funds, because this is one story that needs to be told.
Visit the site for more details, and if you’re flush, donate some money to the cause.
Another fine selection of golden age Hip Hop (1988 – 1994) to get your kicks from.
Join me now as I take you through mafioso swagger, hoodcore, science metaphoric’s, Casanova rap, Afrocentric nuggets, party jams, a trip back into the be-bop era, and the conscious on this latest trip.
Kool G Rap & DJ Polo ‘On The Run’ (Cold Chillin’) 1992
London Posse ‘Gangstar Chronicle’ (Wordplay) 1990
Main Source ‘Atom’ (Wild Pitch) 1991
Positive K ‘I Got A Man’ (Island) 1992
Brand Nubian ‘Wake up (Reprise In The Sunshine)’ (Elektra) 1990
Cash Money & Marvelous ‘The Mighty Hard Rocker’ (Sleeping Bag Records) 1988
Compton’s Most Wanted ‘This Is Compton’ (Orpheus Records) 1990
The U.M.C’s ‘Jive Talk’ (Wild Pitch) 1991
Showbiz & A.G ‘Represent ft. Big L, DeShawn and Lord Finesse’ (Polygram) 1992
MC Mell’O’ ‘Open Up Your Mind’ (Republic Records) 1990
013: ‘My Philosophy (Extended Remix)’ Boogie Down Productions (Jive/RCA) 1988
Few would dispute the role of KRS-One (Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone) in the Hip Hop community. Possibly without exception the most durable and constant force in rap music, whether fronting the custodians of the South Bronx, Boogie Down Productions, or as a solo artist, Lawrence Parker‘s diatribes, broadsides, transmissions and educational spits have never been improved upon or bettered. Leading the charge from way back in 1986 with his mentor and DJ partner, Scott La Rock, the boogie Bronx street wise liturgies took no prisoners; rubbing up against their Brooklyn rivals, Marley Marl, Roxanne Shante and MC Shan by sparking off the legendary “Bridge Wars”. Tragically LaRock was shot dead in an altercation, an event that changed Parker, who would go on to adopt the role of teacher, spreading a message of education, self-respect and Black consciousness for the next 25-years.
‘My Philosophy’ is the epiphany if you like, as the battling bruising slamming of BDP’s debut LP, Criminal Minded, shifted towards a more challenging doctrine of knowledge and political awareness on the follow-up, By All Means Necessary. Among the most militant and controversial records of the Hip Hop era thus far, this sophomore release had Lawrence mimicking the infamous gun-weilding photo of Malcolm X on the cover, and traded off the often referenced quote of his, “By any means necessary”. Lawrence swaps Malcolm’s assault rifle for a more contemporary Uzi, but the message remains the same. Regarded as among his best work (if not in the whole Hip Hop cannon itself), My Philosophy is an adroit, poetic stream of social commentary and a lesson in rap.
014: ‘Keep Your Eyes On The Prize’ Marley Marl feat Masta Ace & Action (Cold Chillin’/Warner Bros.) 1988.
Rivals to the Boogie Down Bronx Hip Hop of KRS-One, the Juice Crew led Marley Marl stable of MCs and DJs hailed from the Brooklyn side of the Bridge. Bitter worded retorts criss-crossed across the state, as both camps claimed they invented rap. Mostly kept to a battle of words, the infamous “bridge war” of the mid-to-late 80s threw up some talented rappers, and spurred the production ever-forward in, as it turned out, a friendly competitive fashion.
Marley Marl is regarded as one of the founding pillars of Hip Hop for his “super producer” skills and developments with sampling techniques. From the burgeoning days of electro through to the present his rooster of collaborations and credits is staggeringly impressive.
Gradually, Marl moved from working with artists at Tuff City and Uptown Records to forming his own label, Cold Chillin’ in 1988. Gathering together the local talent from his Queensbridge roots, he compiled a showcase under the ‘In Control’ tag, and launched many careers. A litany of, now, esteemed names appeared including, MC Shan, Roxanne Shante, Big Daddy Kane, Biz Markie, Kool G Rap, Graig G, Percy Tragedy and Masta Ace.
Spotted by Marl the year before in 1987, the confident flowing Masta Ace performed on the albums most bustling and packed show-off, The Symphony; easily holding his own against stiff competition. Ace was also given two tracks of his own (though a mysterious Action is also credited), Simon Says, and this one, ‘Keep Your Eyes On The Prize’; a title taken from the original folk song used by the American Civil Rights movement in the 50s and 60s -covered by a host of legendary artists such as Mavis Staples and Pete Seeger. This version riffs off the jazzy brass, Wurlitzer like organ and melody of the Detroit Emeralds 1973 hit, You’re Getting A Little Too Smart, and uses a sample vocal break from the Fab 5 Freddy (feat. Beeside) 1982 track, Change the Beat (Female Version), as Ace lays it down the line.
015: ‘”¿Do The Digs Dug?” The Goats (Ruffhouse) 1992
Hailing from the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia, the Oatie Kato, Madd and Swayzack trio of rappers formed the unlikely titled Goats – an acronym of some kind surely?! Produced by the legend that is Joe “the Butcher” Nicolo and signed to his Columbia Records imprint Ruffhouse (Cypress Hill, Tim Dog, Kool Keith) the conscience political group remained an obscure footnote, even though they threw down some memorable, inventive beats and dished out a raft of proclamations.
Using the Lalo Schifrin theme from ‘Mission Impossible’ as the main source for the backing, they throw in some lumbering breakbeats from Melvin Bliss‘s ‘Synthetic Substitution’ on their most well known track, “¿Do The Digs Dug?”; which featured on both the Anthony Drazan directed 1992 movie, Zebrahead soundtrack, and on their debut LP, Tricks Of The Shade. One other LP exists, No Goats, No Glory, before they took a hiatus – though they still do performances. Both albums long ago run out of print, making them a raw find and treat.
016: ‘You Can’t Play With My Yo-Yo’ Yo-Yo (East West America/ Atlantic Records) 1991.
Ice Cube‘s protégée, Yo-Yo (Yolanda Whittaker) opted to spread a more uplifting and positive message than her “gangsta” west coast compatriots on much of her material. However, this inaugural introduction, ‘You Can’t Play With My Yo-Yo’, lays down the law to the rivals. The funky-fired swinging soul beats and melody of Sly & The Family Stones‘s ‘You Can Make It If You Try’ and Earth, Wind & Fire‘s ‘Devotion’, chime well with Yo-Yo’s confident and authoritative flow; marking her out as one of the golden age’s most respected and acclaimed female MCs – in a mostly pumped-up male dominated genre, any female did well to make an impact.
Yo-Yo first appeared on Cube’s ‘It’s A Man’s World’; a track that appeared on the firebrand LP, AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted. The former N.W.A member returned the favour on her debut album, Make Way To The Motherloade, adding his props on this leading single. Yo-Yo went on to make four further albums and act in a host of movies; even making a voice actor appearance on the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas game. A new EP, My Journey To Fearless: The Black Butterfly, is due to be finally released (originally inaugurated in 2009) this year.
017: ‘Crumbs On The Table’ D – Nice (Jive) 1990
Part of the Boogie Down Bronx crew, DJ/rapper turned photographer D-Nice filled the vacuum left by the late Scott La Rock; a mentor to both Nice and KRS-One. First appearing alongside the “blast master” street layman on the ‘Stop The Violence’ campaign (his burgeoning start as a producer) and on the exceptional Edutainment album, Nice took on the mc mantle for himself with his debut LP, ‘Call Me D-Nice’. Stripped of the overt political and social commentary favoured by his compadres, Nice went for a more boastful style of rapping that rolled and bounced off the funky backing.
‘Crumbs On The Table’ reworks both the title and main chops of Laura Lee‘s original Crumbs Off The Table funk-fried soul tune, and features a liberal splattering of speech samples and dialogue from Micky Dread‘s 1979 album, African Anthem (lines are included from Saturday Night Style, Comic Strip and Operation Choice).
018: ‘Financial Leprosy’ The Disposable Heroes Of HipHoprisy (4th & Broadway) 1992
Hip Hop couldn’t contain the political-charged grievances and social commentary of Michael Franti alone. Transcending rap, the Last Poets’ scion and natural successor tangled with industrial sounds, punk and acoustic soul under the moniker’s of The Disposable Heroes Of HipHoprisy and Spearhead.
Hailing from San Francisco, Franti’s first furore of note was in the late 80s with Rono Tse in the beat-poet/hard-core punk collective The Beatnigs. They both went on to form their most enduring and appraised partnership, The Disposable Heroes, in the early 90s, influenced in part by Gil Scott-Heron, The Dead Kennedys (whose ‘California Uber Alles’ they cover) and William S. Burroughs.
Better known for their break-out diatribe against the TV networks, ‘Television, The Drug Of The Nation’, their acclaimed debut (and only album, unless you count their spoken word collaboration with Burroughs, in which they added a backing track to his miserably dark train-of-thought meanderings ) Hypocrisy Is The Greatest Luxury spawned a whole host of equally “A-ploitical” scarp yard blasting shots across the bow. With a litany of disgruntled musings and observations the 1991 contemporary ‘Financial Leprosy’ once again rings true today – the rather over-exuberant conspiracy laden video (those regular as clockwork sniffs of anti-semitism fill me with a certain unease) footage is out of my hands I may add. If ever a condemnation was needed than it’s now, until someone does snack on this nugget of poetic justice.
Taking a lazy sabbatical from posting my dig through my personal favourite Hip Hop choices from – as I call it – the ‘second golden age’, I’m back with a splurge of fine examples from both sides of the shore.
From the rebel-yell London ‘terrorist group’ – who incidentally were signed up by Ice T back in the day – Hijack, to the west coast funk-sizzled Funkdoobeist, there’s wealth of A-grade plutonium Hip Hop to be re-discovered by both those who forgot, and by the uninitiated alike.
Funkdoobiest ‘The Funkiest’ (Immortal/Epic) 1993.
Tha Alkaholiks ‘Make Room’ (Loud/RCA) 1993.
MC Duke ‘I’m Riffin’ (Music Of Life) 1989.
BDP ‘Duck Down’ (Jive/BMG) 1992.
The Gravediggaz ‘Pass The Shovel’ (Gee Street/ Island) 1994.
Queen Latifah ‘Wrath Of My Madness’ (Tommy Boy) 1989.
Roxanne Shanté ‘Bad Sister’ (Cold Chillin’/WB) 1989.
Black Sheep ‘The Choice Is Yours’ (Mercury) 1991.
Hijack ‘Style Wars’ (Music Of Life) 1988.
Digable Planets ‘9th Wonder (Blackitolism)’ (Pendulum/EMI) 1994.
Freestyle Fellowship ‘Innercity Boundaries (feat, Daddy-O)’ (4th & Broadway/Island) 1993.
Blade ‘Survival Of The Hardest Working’ (691 Influential) 1992.