Wednesday, December 19, 2018

"Rap For The Faint Of Heart" : A MID-WEEK MIX

So, this is how it unfolded.

I watched "Springsteen On Broadway" on Netflix. I was moved a number of times. It lived up to the hype. The next morning while having coffee, I surfed Facebook. There were more than a few posts about the Bruce show, all of which expressed the same feelings I had...except for one. Okay, so what? Not everyone likes Bruce Springsteen. What bothered me was the rationale behind finding the performance "boring." He is boring and he sucks because "after The River, his record sales plummeted." Huh? Upon further review, it seems the person making these statements really isn't a fan at all, and confused "Born In The U.S.A." with "Born To Run." But that's not really the point.

Don't people get tired of saying the same things over and over?

"The Beatles are overrated."
"Paul McCartney's solo career sucks."
"The Grateful Dead sucks."
"Led Zeppelin sucks."
"Queen sucks."
"Billy Joel sucks."
"Hip hop sucks."
"All reggae sounds the same."
"All blues sounds the same."


My friend commented how he discovered a lot of great music through Burning Wood, and suggested I steer him in the right direction regarding rap, which he admits, he does not like.

"There are simply two kinds of music, good music and the other kind ... the only yardstick by which the result should be judged is simply that of how it sounds. If it sounds good it's successful; if it doesn't it has failed."
- Duke Ellington

I don't like what rap has become. I can't listen to it. I don't like "how it sounds." But not all of it is bad. It is the broad-stroke manner in which people decry rap and Billy Joel and Led Zeppelin and the Grateful Dead that gives me a twitch. A lot of the time, it is baseless, like trying a piece of sushi and declaring all Japanese food sucks.

I've put together a playlist of mostly older rap and hip hop. I wouldn't be surprised if some 20-something hip hop aficionado thought the playlist sucked. But these songs represent what I love about the genre. There's humor, great grooves and beats, amazing samples, and an occasional rhyme or three. I like "how it sounds."

I've mentioned the Beastie Boys masterpiece "Paul's Boutique" a number of times here. I do indeed think it's a masterpiece. It's three mad scientists piecing together hundreds of literate and often hilarious thoughts, while a veritable cornucopia of sound, comprised at times, of three and four components simultaneously, keep things at a danceable pace underneath it all. The songwriters out there might think that's cheating. I don't. I think it's another art form and the Beasties are fantastic at what they do. I wish I had thought of putting Bernard Herrmann's "Psycho" strings underneath Sly's "Dance To The Music." It's clever and it's creative and it's a blast to listen to.

Go in, if you dare. I've made it real easy for you. And please, let's not say, "We like what we like," or "This is what makes the world go around." Those statements are just as boring. This is a place to discuss music, good and bad.

Bust A Move- Young MC
Hip Hop Is Dead- Nas
I Know You Got Soul- Eric B. & Rakim
Shake Your Rump- Beastie Boys
The Seed- Cody Chestnutt & The Roots
Star-Crossed Lovers- Propellerheads & Martha Wainwright
Pop Goes The Weasel- 3rd Bass
On A Sunday Afternoon- A Lighter Shade Of Brown
Think Back- Galactic with Chali 2Na
Eye Know- De La Soul
Mona Lisa- Slick Rick
Funky- Ultramagnetic MCs
Jingling Baby- LL Cool J
Somebody Else's Beastie- Essexboy
Bouncin' Back (Bumpin' Me Against The Wall)- Mystikal
I Got A Man- Positive K
Summertime- DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince
Fight The Power- Public Enemy



Unknown said...

Looks like a great list, some of which I know and like. Interested in hearing the rest.
Would add Eminem, Lauryn Hill, Arrested Development to the list of great examples of the "earlier" sound.
I understand that just the mention of Kanye throws people into apoplectic fits but albums like The College Dropout are simply amazing esp tracks likes "Jesus Walks".
And everything by Kendrick Lamar. To Pimp a Butterfly was my most played record of 2015 and still gets heavy rotation.

heartsofstone said...

This in great. And, as usual, great insights in the introduction. I would nominate Afrika Bambaataa & the Soulsonic Force if there is a Volume 2. Thanks again.

buzzbabyjesus said...

Very refreshing. Hip Hop is to the world what rock was to most of us. It's simply the dominant thing, and it's roots just as long and twisted as rock. A different branch of the same tree.
I've been enjoying the funkified Tales From The Tour Bus, so this fits right in.

cmealha said...

Just saw Springsteen last night. I was mesmerized for 2.5 hours and totally blown away by how phenomenal it was. I only wish I could have seen it live.

I was on board with early hip hop because it was out there in such small doses and so different what it has become. I liked a bunch of stuff that came from the Sugarhill Gang, Kurtis Blow and later De La Soul, Eminem, Kanye, Young M.C., etc. Not a full tilt fan but there was a lot of stuff to enjoy. It became too pervasive and dark along the way but there is still stuff that once in a while gets my attention. The last rap song that caught my attention was "This is America" by Childish Gambino.

I'm familiar with some of the cuts on your list but I'm unfamiliar with most of them and look forward to exploring.

Anonymous said...

props for including Slick Rick the storyteller

kevin m said...

Sal - I think you and I have very similar tastes when it comes to Hip Hop. A lot of good songs on your mix. And yes, Paul's Boutique is a masterpiece.

Anonymous said...

Lots to unpack here. I think one reason -- maybe the main reason -- folks feel comfortable saying all reggae/blues/bluegrass/hiphop/punk sounds the same is that those genres have developed an orthodoxy in their presentation, so that "real" artists from those genres are the ones that stick to the formula; to vary it is to pollute it with other forms, or -- gads! -- to try and widen its popularity (aka "go mainstream"/not "keep it real"). Bluegrass, for one, started out with a formula, and has largely stuck to it for decades, and blues has a set form, but, at least as far as punk and hiphop's concerned, there was variety built into the model from the get-go. The catholic nature of anything goes in early punk/wave was soon supplanted, tho, by the orthodoxy of hardcore, so...there was a lot of sameness to punk among the "real" punks. I don't care for hiphop, but I love wordplay and I hear a lot of it in the bits of rap I hear. The presentation still puts me off, but I'm not one to dismiss it because it's not my thing; same with the Dead and Queen, two bands on your list that I'd also find it a slog to listen to if I had to. Anyway, I really like the rap that I do like, which is a few CDs worth; the only one on your playlist I have is the Positive K song, which is as infectious, spirited and joyous a piece of dialog as I've heard committed to tape. Thus, I'm looking forward to hearing the rest of your choices.
As to the non-Springsteen fan, I don't do FB or any social media, but if I did and saw such a comment, I wouldn't waste my time on checking it out since I'd assume it's wildly misinformed (not because of the opinion, but the stated 'fact' about record sales, that, even if had been correct, is irrelevant) or an obvious troll. I've got no time or interest in either prospect.
C in California

rick said...

Well, that was a fun stroll down a street I’ve never really paid much attention to, and a lot of the songs had me smiling and had me looking for cultural, historical, and musical references. The clever word play—and rhythm of the word play--in some of the songs (from ‘Bust a Move’: From frustration, first inclination/is to become a monk and leave the situation) reminded me of Springsteen (Some silicone sister/with a manager mister/ told me I got what it takes) and Dylan before him (Ah, get born, keep warm/short pants, romance, learn to dance). The borrowing of the intro and of the hook on ‘Hip Hop is Dead’ from In A Gadda Da Vida was fun and clever and fit in nicely with the rest of the song; as is the nod to the child’s prayer: ‘If hip hop should die before I wake…’
I had to listen to The Seed a couple of times to follow the lyrics, but when I did I thought, ‘That’s nasty; why can’t it be more wholesome like “I wanna give you every inch of my love”?’
‘Star-Crossed Lover’ reminded me of something from Stevie Wonder, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.
Am I only enjoying ‘On a Sunday afternoon’ because I’m hearing Groovin’ by the Rascals and Crystal Blue Persuasion by Tommy James and the Shondells underneath it all? Like, hey Pops, here’s a little something for you. Is it ok for hip-hop to do all this borrowing? Sure, why not? Marcel Duchamp painted a mustache on the Mona Lisa and ‘made it his own’. Speaking of Mona Lisa, I really wanted Slick Rick to reference Nat King Cole rather than Burt Bacharach, even though Walk On By is maybe my favorite Bacharach/Dionne Warwick song. I’m not sure throwing in the Walk On By fragment really does much for the song, though; it seems like an afterthought.
Some of the songs did seem familiar from a couple of recent ‘young persons’ wedding receptions I’ve attended, where I, without shame, did my version of the white man’s overbite on the dance floor, and this kind of music is fun as hell to dance to (though white people dancing to ‘black’ music always reminds me of the SNL skit in which a reggae band got hired to play at an American Legion function and sang, “And now we kill the white people…”).
Simply sitting down and really listening to this playlist has given me a better appreciation for the genre. I don’t think I’ll be running down to Sam Goody’s to buy any of it, but I don’t need to be dismissive of it.
Thanks, Sal!

Todd said...

Based on the time period of most of the songs, I would include Dream Warriors "My Definition Of A Boombastic Jazz Style"

Sal Nunziato said...

Todd! My definition! My definition! My definition!
Yes! I’m bummed I left that out.

A walk in the woods said...

Nice comp!!

jeff said...

I think Chuck D is obviously the most well-read rapper whose opinions and words must always be valued. It is clear from this interview he did years ago in which this excerpt appeared:
JMC: Will this technology make it into the hands of your fans?

CHUCK D: I look at it in the five-year window. At one time, there weren't cellular phones or beepers in the black community. Eventually, you're going to see laptops go as low as $200. You're going to see laptops manufactured in jails, which is like slave labor. These corporations are going to find ways to get things done cheap for the public. I don't look at things as they are now, I look at things as they are to be.

I'm reading a book called The Box by Jeff Kisseloff. It's the oral history of television. Reading the beginning of that book parallels what is going on now--1925 in radio, or 1951 in television, 1999 on the Web. You had sound, then you had sight and sound. And now you got sight, sound and interactivity. You can't beat it with a baseball bat. Why would anyone go to the store if they know they can make their own CD for $4 or for free. If someone doesn't have a computer, I see people going over to someone's house and making their own CD.


I'm really diggin this mix. Thanks Sal.

rick said...

Ha, cool!

FD13NYC said...

Coolio's Gangster's Paradise

Robin said...

Nice! I’d add “Can I Kick It?” “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo” or “Check the Rhime” from the one and only A Tribe Called Quest. They are so fluid and musical, folks who think they don’t like hip hop are often surprised they like some Tribe.

M_Sharp said...

I never got into rap or hip hop, it was mainly the gangsta crap that drove me away. This should be very helpful, thanks.

I had a job a while back that sent me all around Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. I had just grabbed Paul's Boutique and put it on my iPod and lugged it into the car stereo. I was going somewhere in Brooklyn and drove about 30 blocks under an el train track and it seemed to make more sense that way. All the street sounds, the people, and driving past stores of every nationality made it all sound normal.

Dr Wu said...

Pete Rock & CL Smooth‘s "They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)"

Dr Wu said...

And thank you for the mix, Sal! Great tunes all.

steve simels said...

Well done.

I don't grok every one of the songs on that list, and the Beastie Boys are incomprehensible to me on all levels, but your larger point is well taken.

steve simels said...

Also, not to gloat or anything, but my beautiful and brilliant girlfriend took me to see SPRINGSTEEN ON BROADWAY on the night of my 70th birthday. Best present I ever got.

Chris Collins said...

Love love this mix. And the sentiment. Lazy music fans drive me nuts. Thanks for always reminding me that there's great stuff everywhere.

And "Springsteen On Broadway" is magic.

Ken D said...

Just got to this today (1/8). A couple of weeks after the fact. But appreciate the mix. A lot of great stuff here for an old fart who generally rolls his eyeballs at hip-hop. Enjoyed the listen.

But sir, where are the women?