Hip Hop and You Don’t Stop

It’s the 44th anniversary of the birth of Hip Hop, so the internet tells me, and this would be a great opportunity for me to burst out of my snug suburban mum cocoon and drop some knowledge on my unsuspecting readers; to do some serious name dropping about the time I met Busta Rhymes in a cake shop, or bought DMX an apple pie in McDonalds, or (in yet another food related claim to fame – there’s a pattern here) gave the Black Eyed Peas a lift to a late night pizza shop back in the days before Fergie joined them and they turned pop.

I could even, if I was able to find them, show the pictures of me with Kool Herc and Afrika Bambaataa. Never heard of them? Well they’re legends. They’re the pioneers. And because in real life I am very much still in my snug suburban mum cocoon, and writing this sitting up in bed in my big knickers and nightie, I can’t give you the history lesson that you might need to truly describe their importance, along with others, in the emergence of probably the most successful musical genre ever.

The Bronx’s Finest: Kool Herc

But luckily for you, whether you are unfamiliar with the formative years of the Hip Hop scene, or a lifelong fan, there’s some shows on Netflix that are worth checking out: The Get Down and Hip Hop Evolution – one fictional one factual – that I’ll have to go off on a tangent about another time.

I love Hip Hop. It was 1988 when my older sister came home with Straight Outta Compton and Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. This stuff wasn’t the same as Kylie Minogue and Bananarama (and no disrespect to them – ‘Robert De Niro’s Waiting’ is still my jam) or whatever little girls were supposed to be listening to. This was protest music.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I was entirely unaccustomed to music with a message. My Dad was always kind enough to take the time to explain songs to me so I listened to what was being said in Anti-Vietnam lyrics, in Irish rebel songs, and in the words of Billy Bragg. But my Dad didn’t have to explain any of this new stuff to me. It spoke for itself. It was an eye opener.

It was the new rock n roll, frightening the shit out of well-to-do parents, and stirring up emotion of all kinds in its young listeners. I remember wanting to take my brother’s vinyl copy of The Beastie Boys’ License to Ill to the parish disco when I was 7, and I’ve never seen a look on my Mum’s face quite like it.

As relevant today as ever: Love this Public Enemy inspired print from Etsy

It wasn’t just the eye opening lyrics of these records that I enjoyed early on. Native Tongues groups like De La Soul, the Jungle Brothers and a Tribe Called Quest seemed to be offering a gentler more ‘conscious’ vibe that I loved just as much as the aggressive stuff, and got me into the Pharcyde and Jurassic 5. Plus I adored all the samples all over their tracks.

Many years after first being introduced to Hip Hop and the music coming out of the East Coast of America formed the soundtrack of my teenage years, intermingled with Brit Pop, early jungle, and whatever I’d inherited from my siblings and parents. Seriously; what a time to be alive.

Don’t even get me started on the women. Here they were, Salt n Pepa, MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, up to Lil Kim, Foxy Brown and Rah Digga – talking unashamedly about sex, having control over their own bodies, making their own money, succeeding in an industry dominated by men.

But for me, it was the beats and rhymes coming from what was termed by some as the Second Golden Age that moved me the most. Nas, Mobb Deep, Biggie Smalls, Das EFX, Big L, Boot Camp Clik…. God, we’d be here all day if I listed them all. Put it this way – there was a lot of music listened to back in the day.

Representing BK to the Fullest: Mister Cee’s Biggie Mixtape

Even after the turn of the century, I was listening to Common, Mos Def, and used to love those Soundbombing compilations. I was encouraging my own friends with their endeavours: writing press packs, sticking labels on their mixtapes, showing them love with they got on the radio or television. British Hip Hop had never quite got off the ground (it had some wonderful artists and a strong underground scene), but grime was emerging and the UK was creating its own unique sound which eventually took the mainstream by storm.

And then, as if by magic, *poof!* – it all fell by the wayside for me. You move on, you move areas, you lose touch, that kind of thing. I didn’t keep up to date with new music, and here were are today: reminiscing over the old days and vaguely aware of who’s who these days but getting their names a bit mixed up, not knowing any of the lyrics apart from the odd Drake chorus and wondering if those verses you sometimes hear about cooking stuff up in the kitchen are at all Mary Berry related.

Those were the days. So today, 44 years after the birth of Hip Hop, I’m gonna just take a brief moment to remember those artists who’ve passed away that were there on my Walkman and car stereo growing up: Guru, J Dilla, Biggie, Prodigy, ODB, Adam Yauch, Eazy E, Jam Master Jay, Big Pun, and Big L – Rest in Peace.

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