N.W.A. cover art by mastry81693
Hip-hop reflects the truth,
and the problem is that hip-hop
exposes a lot of the negative truth,
that society tries to conceal.
It’s a platform where we could offer
information, but it’s also an escape.
– Busta Rhymes
from Miramar Florida, a Young Woman we predict big things for, Morissaaa with Raw Then Tic
by Kendall F. Person
I am a child of hip hop. I was in the eighth grade when Rapper’s Delight by the Sugarhill Gang shifted the ground beneath our feet. We did not know it then – no one did – that it would change the game in the industry so drastically. So completely. It would make millionaires out of former bangers, and a billionaire out of one particular entertainer. It would alter the scope, the sound, the feel and the vision of the music industry, in a way, that rock and roll once did.
Many believed that rap was only a fad. Even some stalwarts in the music business bet against it, and lost everything they had. It survived ridicule, it detached itself from violence, and it connected the whole world in a way that few musical sounds have been able to do, till this very day.
Heavy D & the Boyz would emerge as the next ground breaker in an ever-changing game. His infusion of backup singers laid over his contagious lyrical flow, was proof of rap’s staying power, as now the genre was growing, conquering and dividing. Along with The Father MC (love him or hate him) they laid the foundation for what is considered hip hop today. The Father MC, however, was undone by trying to out dual Heavy D. He surrounded his lyrics with a superior backup group, that overshadowed his music and Jodeci became a million album selling group.
NWA proved the depth of rap groups, by each member going their own way, giving birth to solo giants that are Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and the late Eazy E. With a mere three notable exceptions (The Beatles, The Eagles and New Edition) no other popular group has disbanded and produced so many successful solo acts. Perhaps, poetic justice that Dr. Dre would become the first billionaire hip-hop rapper.
In the late 1980s, when rap had securely established itself as a cultural icon in Black America, but just before it crossed over into a worldwide phenomenon, I attended a rap festival at The Coliseum in Oakland, California. It was the largest spectacle of rap music on one stage and the tickets would fly off the shelves. Run DMC headlined the bill, with a powerhouse supporting cast of LL Cool J, Whodini and the Timex Social Club. It was a spectacular showcase of music and one of the most memorable concerts I have ever attended. While Run DMC held down the fort, with LL Cool J and Whodini delivering masterful performances, what I remember most is 18,000 African-American fans on their feet, grooving, swaying, trapped in the grasp of the backwards baseline of a song called Paul Revere, performed by a trio of young, white rappers, known as The Beastie Boys…who blew the roof off the coliseum.
It would be well over a decade later before Marshall Mathers, better known as Eminem, would solidify the rank of white rappers, of the best there ever was, color be damned, but it is The Beastie Boys that behold legacy.
Cypress Hill were not just of the first Latino hip-hoppers, but they were also the coolest. Well before marijuana was legal, their music saluted bud smokers everywhere, without making it seem rebellious. And while Pitbull and Jennifer Lopez have songs in the genre and would be considered the most popular, it was the emergence of Los Rakas that its niche was fortified within the genre.
Los Rakas are Panamanian-Americans, and if the irony is lost, Panama is not only where the diasporas cross, but literally serves as a land bridge, connecting North to South America. Their music blends hip-hop, tejano, rap, and calypso so effortlessly, its as if the genre had already been born. Only The Fugees come close in describing their original vibe. And only Selena eclipses their place in musical history.
Tupac, along with his darkness, would bring a poetic brilliance to rap, inspiring the University of California’s flagship campus, Berkeley to offer classes based upon his art. Queen Latifah would become a leading lady, years before the emergence of Lil’ Kim and Nicki Minaj. Ice T and LL Cool J would have staying power long after they ruled the rap stage. MC Hammer would add entertainment, with Master P and P Diddy producing their own wealth, expanding their empires, well beyond rap’s reach. And of course. the reigning maestro, Jay-Z has taken the hip hop brand to a whole other planet, recently eclipsed, however, by the billionaire Dr. Dre.
And while hip-hop lives strong on the main stage, it still thrives in the underground – where it began – and on December 1, The Neighborhood will countdown The Top 30 Songs, with the number 1, opening the Season-ending Show and will wear the mantle as the 2015 Best Song of the Year.
– this is… The Neighborhood