The seeds of hip hop lay in community and dissent. Seminal break beat master, Kool Herc’s sister rented the community center in their housing project in the “Boogie Down” and gave a birthday party. She hired her brother to spin. Hip hop was born.
Later, in response to racist and exclusionary door policies at midtown Manhattan discos, latin and black kids threw their own funktions and using the club hits of the day, reduced the length of the records to the “breaks.” Emcees rhymed over these parts. The fly girls and fly guys went a little crazy. Like a disco fever, the flavor spread. In it’s earliest and purest form, hip hop was a way for rebelious people to have a good time.
HIP HOP’S FOUNDING FATHER KOOL HERC
While still spreading the fever, Guerilla Union principals, Josh and Chang, the promoters of RTB, provided several opportuinties for the participants and patrons of the tour.
A vehicle for up and coming emcees to peep the moxie and flavor of the vets. Exposure of the vets to the fresh new styles of tomorrow’s sound today. Fair compensation for practitioners, of what appears to be, an art form in transition. Plentiful networking opportunities and a place for friends and families to gather in support of this thing that used to be ours exclusively. All of this was accomplished in an environment that still felt underground and indy yet relaxed and friendly.
I was all over the networking, friends and family parts. As I stated earlier in The Chronicles, it was hot seeing my old friends. It was hot seeing new ones too.
The Wirk is the latter. We were introduced by a mutual friend after I saw her on his MySpace page. I asked who the pretty girl with the glasses was. She’s prettier than her pictures.
She’s a software consultant for SAP with an adventerous spirit and a pencahnt for wearing wife beaters. She’s computer savvy but not a nerd. She’s acredited but doesn’t like to read. She skims.
She’s got wanderlust and refuses to sit still. She’s in a different city 3 or four times a month and sometimes three cities in a week. She has a cat.
She’s got a soft spot for the games of chance. She once asked me, “If you call Gamblers Anonymous, who is more likely to answer the phone, a man or a woman?”
A PAIR OF WHITE DICE PRESUMABLY AFTER THE WIRK HAS BLOWN ON THEM
Close friends and followers of this page know that I’m a serious high stakes blackjack player. I thougthfully answer, “the culture of gambling is populated by men so it’s most likely that a man would answer.”
She says, “I don’t know but I got five on it.”
The Wirk is inappropriately funny. She has answered her phone to tell me that she can’t talk because the bones are in her hand and that she’s on a roll. She’s focused.
She’s careful to let me know that she reads this blog. Which is good, since she subtly inquired whether or not I’d do it. Until I did. She’s influential.
She loves NFL footbal and is an avid hoops junkie. She frequents both college and pro games. She was a fan of my beloved Knicks until Charles Smith couldn’t convert or get fouled, by three Bulls players in a big playoff game in ’93. She’s mildly oppionated. She’s a Duke fan. But who’s perfect?
She’s midwestern, multi culti and razor sharp. She’s extremely American and mad modern. She’s got a hot dress game. She’s young and energetic and proud of it. She’s edgy and appreciates others who are too. She’s annoyingly busy.
She’s a pop culture fanatic with an array of fun facts at her disposal. She’s got well thought out reasons for the demise of Janet Jackson’s recording career. Madonna means something to her, George Michael is the truth and Tina Turner is a goddess in her book.
ANNA MAE BULLOCK THE DEITY
The Wirk has got really big brown eyes that see through you. She’s built to last. When God was giving out smiles, she got on line twice. She keeps the needle in the red. She is without a doubt, “what it is right now.”
I’d invited her to the Miami and LA gigs. She was booked. She likes to plot her month around the concerts she’s attending and trips to Vegas. I hosted her brother, Shaheen and a friend in Miami. He’s a music junkie and wanted to see De La. Cool kid.
I invited her to the SF gig. Two days before RTB in the Yay, she was in Dallas on business and undecided about attending. The day before the show, she was at home in the DC area. She decided to fly out for the day. She’s a bit spontaneouos.
When she gets to the Four Seasons it’s still a few hours before show time. We get caught up. She order’s a room service kobe burger with wasabe mayo and comments on the view. A massive Ikea that dominates the industrial park where the hotel is located. She’s been in the area before on business.
Spain’s 17 year old, olympic point guard sensation, Ricky Rubio is playing on the flat screen. He’s two years away from shaking the NBA up. He’s got a bit of “Pistol” Pete Maravich in his get down. She appreciates being put up on his game.
The reach of NY’s independent, hip hop record companies did not extend to her native Dayton metro area when she was a kid. She’s a bit unclear about why there’s all of this drama surrounding RTB. She knows the bigger hits. De La’s Me Myself and I is a favorite. I play a few jawns. I take special care to play their remix of, Buddy for her.
I’ve also invited MTV exec, Tina Perry. Tina and I know each other from NY, at the time she was an associate at a top law firm there. She’d been a club crawler. Recently, she’s been in LA and in the employ of the MTV Networks. She’s the business affairs exec on, From G’s To Gents. She’s flying up from LA and will be meeting us later at the gig.
THE WIRK AND MISS MTV
It’s getting late and it’s time to bounce. The Cayenne is pulled around, it’s starting to feel like the Bat Mobile. The Wirk, The Ep and I are off.
As we’re pulling up to the building, my phone rings. It’s Rena checking in from NY. I tell her that I’m about to go into the show and ask if I can call her back.
On the road leading to the venue, we notice five-o has a caucasian male hemmed up and inquiring about his sobriety. They’v got him looking up into the sky and touching his nose. I’m not so focused on him. I hear music playing in the distance.
The Ep whips out the Blackberry and calls, RTB don, Josh Boumel and tells him that we’re in effect. JB appears and escorts us backstage and bounces.
There are picnic tables in the backstage area and The Ep spends a bit of time with us before he goes to handle his. I introduce The Wirk to Plug 3 DJ Mase.
Arguably, hip hop’s greatest living MC, Rakim is on the mic. He’s a wooden performer but a lights out MC. I say, “Rakim is on” and lead The Wirk into the house. He’s doing his thing the sun is blazing and I think that it’s a shame that because he’s on so early, few people will get to witness, The R.
He does all the jawns. Follow The Leader, Paid In Full and the classics, I Know You Got Soul and Eric B Is President. I look at the 3/4 full house and see an audience that’s 70% white. As I go line for line withThe R, I reflect on the debt that the Obama candidacy owes to hip hop.
My phone rings again. It’s another of my MySpace friends, Cory. I told her that I’d be in town for the gig and that we should meet. Over the music, I yell and tell her that we can be found, stage right and about a dozen seats up into the orchestra on the aisle.
Until after the tour, I haven’t had a picture up on the site. I’m a mystery to most of the citizens of my virtual Soul City. I describe my green print shirt and tell her to look for the sun’s shine off of my head.
Cory finds us. She’s a big blonde in a green dress with tiny white polaka dots and a big smile. I explain to The Wirk that she’s been having domestic problems. The Wirk tells me that she was with the suspect that we saw earlier in police custody. The husband in question. Apparently, her domestic problems have followed her to the venue.
Between sets, Cory explains that her husband had come to the show, stolen her car and crashed it in his attempt to get away. Yay area police took a dim view of this and booked her man.
My phone rings a bit later. It’s Miss MTV. I find The Ep and he and I go get her. She gets there just before De La hits. I introduce her to The Wirk and they exchange plesantries. De La let’s loose. Their act is bordering on performace art. They’re murdering ’em.
Plug 3, DJ Mase grabs the mic and spits in the middle of the set. I was unaware that his rhyme resrtictions had been lifted. Later he tells us that he’s been rhyming since ’95.
There’s a pause in the proccedings. Mase returns to the turntables and starts to tap out the drum pattern fron Tana Gardner’s dance smash, Heartbeat. The basis for the remixed, Buddy, The Native Tounge anthem.
The band then asks the crowd if they like funk. An obvious precursor to, Me Myself and I. The biggest single in the band’s career. I tell The Wirk before the bass line drops that they’re about to rock, “your shit.”
Funkadelic’s (Not Just) Knee Deep was expertly sampled to good effect while the band took a humorous poke at racism. The jawn was wildfire and went top 10 pop in ’89 at a time when it was a struggle to take a rap record to the top of the R & B charts.
This was obviously an important record in Dayton.The Wirk jumps to her feet and shakes it with intention.This is an extremely well rounded girl.
After the set, Dayton’s finsest, Miss MTV and I retire bacKstage. We commandeer our own picnic table.
Long time Tribe securtiy don, Muhammad stops by to meet the ladies. He tells us that he’s come up and now he’s running security for the tour. I wonder aloud if he’s doing the right thing by chilling so hard with us. He assures me that he’s making us all a little more secure. and anything else can wait.
He laces me with a crew meal ticket and bounces. I get on line for the buffet. Simple choices, chicken or fish. I go fowl and pile on the fixins.
I bring two forks back. The Wirk is uninhibited. Somewhere in her background she’s acquired an appreciation of mashed potatos, dressing and gravy. We eat with relish. I’m smiling while I watch her do her thing. The kobe burger has been long forgotten.
I return to the buffet for cookies and lemonades. When I get back, I notice that the temperature has changed in the area. I since the presence of a star. I turn around and Mos Def is in the house. He comes over and we hug.
The Wirk and I are telling Miss MTV about Cory and her husband. Miss MTV says incredulously, “Her husband stole her car, crashed it, got arrested and she still came to the show? That’s hip hop.”
The Pharcyde is on while the three of us kibitz. Miss MTV is sharing some bacstage MTV Networks scoop. Comic pimp, Kat Williams is getting a new show on Comedy Central. Perhaps they have finally found a talent that can move them beyond the damage of the Dave Chapelle debacle.
I comment that Pimpin Kat, “has a limited scope.”
Miss MTV tells us, “it’s all about your team. He’ll be surronded by writers and producers etc…hell, everybody ain’t Stevie Wonder.”
She’s reminding me of the day long ago when I taught her about The Great Stevie Wonder’s ability to write, play, sing, produce and perform his jawns with very little help. Her comparison rings true and it’s very insightful. I turn to The Wirk and say, “You see why I keep her around right?”
Speaking of comedy, the always entertaining Red Man and Method Man rock next. We return to the house for their set. Their feel good, get high vibe is a hit in the Yay.
CHRONICALLY HILARIOUS METH AND RED
We stay in the house between sets and soon it’s time for The Mos Def the mos special one to touch stage. He’s all arts and crafts. Two djs and a mic. His brother Rahman and Preservation and the steel. That’s all.
He plays samples for Cali. He sings. He rhymes. He does, his mother’s tribute, Umi Says. I’m getting a little emotional when he gets to the vamp and sings/chants, I want my people to be free to be free/I want black people to be free to be free. His love of community is obvious and touching. That kid has got soul.
God’s Son, Nas is on next. I retire to the backstage area for a meeting with the RTB dons, JB and Chang. Nas is cool but I got the records. I’m doing a little paper chasing. The meeting went well.
I run into Michael Rappaport, he’s running around with his skeleton camera crew and sound package trying to capture private and meaningful, Tribe moments for his documentary. We do the wassup and keep it moving.
I see the Zulu King, Afrika Bambata. The dj from the Roxy, the 18th Street Manhattan roller disco that went skate free and hip hop on the weekends. Former Sex Pistols cohort, Kool Lady Blue promoted a party to European bohemians that comprised hip hop’s first real crossover audience. For a keep it real flavor, sprinkled in were b-boys, fly girls, guys and early executives of the fledgling hip hop industry.For a moment, the Roxy was hip hop headquarters.
I saw T-La Rock perform there, caught my first Run/DMC show, met Rick Rubin there, saw The Beastie Boys do ther first show, saw The Entertainer, Doug E. Fresh rock and saw Madonna do a track date to a partially empty club. I also heard every important hip hop and club record released from ’83-’86 .
The Roxy was on fire and Bam played the records. I stop, kiss the ring and reflect on the day when any hip hop party could break into a chant of, “the Zulus run the muthafucka yeah yeah, the Zulus run the muthafuck yeah yeah.”
Of course, this would usually happen after Jimmy Castor’s Just Begun played and some Spanish kids had been spinning on top of their heads in a circle. For three years I never missed a Friday night at the Roxy.
I’m back in the house in time for Tribe’s set. Like UPS, they deliver. Later I found out that old tensions resurfaced and there had been a flare up between Phife Diggity and the Ab. Even so, the show is dope.
When, Scenario plays I’m again privileged to witness just how much soul that the Wirk is Wirking wit.
We say good night to all and The Wirk, Miss MTV. The Ep and I all pack into the Bat Mobile and make our way back to Palo Alto’s Four Seasons.
We play the lobby and chop it up. Kobe sliders are ordered, gourmet pizza, sparkiling Italian champagne and a cab that Bono put The Ep on one night at the Chateau Marmont.
I play it simple. My cough has deepened. It’s now a hack. My conversation is interrupted by coughing fits. I get the green tea and and the Henny with a little honey and some lemon. I mix them all together. The old disco goers remedy. A trick I learned after spending too many, winter NY nights in a row clubbing.
The conversation was warm. Red Man passed by. The Ep and I shout him out. A conversation about David Mamet leads to somone revealing that his play, Speed the Plow is returning to Broadway. The Wirk asks if that wasn’t Madonna’s theatrical debut all those years ago. Of course it was.
The day is over and everyone goes their seperate ways. I’m exhausted and sick. But I hit the bed with a warm feeling caused by the knowledge that there’s still a Hip Hop Nation and I smile.
to be continued