mardi, octobre 03, 2006

You Know What Time It Is

YouTube is a mixed blessing. Where else can you find footage of the last thing you thought you'd ever find footage of?

I was surfing for old school rap videos. It's hard for me to believe that some of the first and favorite videos ("back in the day") are a little more than 20 years old. The first time I ever heard rap was when I started high school at St. Joan Antida. I'd spent the last eight years in a Tosa grade school that I hated and was frankly, the last kid to be picked for a team in gym class. Now I was transplanted into a world with so much diversity I wasn't sure what to do...but it was all so fascinating. All my classes had been white and now I had the humor and flavor of Asians, Latinos, Black and multi racial women. And they were funny as hell. And a little more rough around the edges but still pretty tame by today's standards.

And I had more friends... city friends with city girls who were like me.

But I didn't get this music thing.

Until I transferred to Washington and there was more change, more texture to my life, and some of the best high school years. Here, people were in groups in the hallway rapping, beatboxing, and there were people dancing even when there was no music.

One day in 1986 I came home and my parents had a surprise for me: they had bought a color TV. And we had cable. Cable!!! I started surfing around and stopped at BET, because I heard a familiar tune: All The Way to Heaven by Doug E. Fresh and the Get Fresh Crew. To this day, it's my favorite rap tune. At a time when it wasn't about gangsters, it was about storytelling, humor, being with your friends, block parties, and house parties... in 1986 you'd still see handwritten flyers at the bus stop for house parties.

So I thought I'd share some of the first and favorite videos that I ever saw on BET. Things changed soon though with the West Coast "gangsta" influence. But these days, the New York sound of the second generation Jamaican and Trinnie populations will always stay with me.

I always loved this: The opening with the block party poster theme is so New York borough, the ladies doing the Wop (and they're fully clothed, btw), and that darned move that Chill Will does at the end. We tried for hours to master that and our uncoordinated asses could never do it.

Grandmaster Flash was already becoming "Old School" even at the time this video came out (1987). It's one of the first times I ever heard the expression "You Know What Time It Is". The basic animation feels like steamboat willie a little bit. And you can't beat using the visual of a dog scratching itself overdubbing the remix "scratch" effect.

Eric B. and Rakim. I'll bet they're one of the first rap acts you ever really listend to. Eric B's delivery is great - his voice is unique, his timing is spot on, and the song just sounds good. Check out the ghetto boombox. You know you wish you had it. And the scratch to feed it full of ten D batteries.

Drawback? It was the first real exposure for the heinously annoying "Flava Flav" of Public Enemy. Rap was never the same. It was the fall of civilization. The only saving grace of FF was the delivery of Chuck D.

And 1998 concludes our Old School session. It was good, good times. Simple and pre-internet, pre-cell phones, pre-guns, gang activity was abnormal, and people dressed fashionably and in clothes that fit. And trust me, they came to school dudded up. It was just what you did. At those times, in those places.



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