Musically, the earliest hip hop records were dominated by one direction: A hit black dance record would break out of the clubs, emerge on the charts and a few months later, some colorfully named crew from NY would “cover” the track and spit their joint over the top of it.
The Funky 4 +1 rhymed over, Frankie Beverly’s. Before I Let Go. The Jazzy 5 hit over, Gwen McRae’s, Funky Sensation. The Sugarhill Gang destroyed the game while spitting on the CHIC classic, Good Times.
This was changed to a large degree by Russell Simmons with his interest in original production. First, thru his management client, Kurtis Blow’s, Christmas Rapping and The Breaks. Later, thru his production of, Jimmy Spicer’s, Dollar Bill and most famously with his little brother’s group, Run/DMC.
THE SOUND CHANGERS
Later in the decade, the music of James Brown and Bob James began to dominate the palate of the hit makers that produced early charting rap records. Until the Native Tongues came along; a loosely affiliated group of young artists who were originally comprised of kids from the outlying burbs of Queens, Long Island, Jersey and London. Queen Latifah, Monie Love, The Jungle Brothers, De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest were on the initial roster.
The “tongues” spoke In opposition to what came before. This crew changed the sound of hip hop by expanding the hit menu that rappers sampled from. By using the more progressive music that was found in their parent’s record collections. Artists like; Steely Dan, Hall and Oates, Funkadelic, Mandrill, Collage, and others began to supply the sounds that these kids used for production. The most progressive of them all were my favorites, A Tribe Called Quest.
Frontman and primary contributor, Q-Tip grew up in the same neighborhood that produced LL Cool J, 50 Cent and Run. He had an older sister who was immersed in the funk and soul of the ’70’s, a father who was a jazz fanatic and a mother who was a back up singer for early r & b singers.
I met him 20 years ago at the classic NY weekly, Soul Kitchen. He engaged me in a discussion of the appreciative differences in the way drum sounds were recorded over the years. A little nerdy, yes, but charming
Tip’s understanding of the fusion and funk recordings of Roy Ayers, Freddie Hubbard, Weather Report, Cal Tjader, Milt Jackson and Minnie Ripperton was well beyond his years. His awareness of the dope underground freestyle scene that was taking hold of New York. His feeling for a hot party jam and his unique lyrical perspective all contributed to his hit making ability and his status as The Abstract Poetic.
Making up the other 3/4 of the original Tribe lineup are, Jarobi, producer dj, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and, The Funky Diabetic, Phife Dog providing rough, rugged and raw counterpoint to Tip’s smooth daddy, downtown persona.
As previously stated, Nas had a record that entered the charts at no.1 two weeks before the show. Tribe hadn’t been on the radio meaningfully since ’98 yet they were headlining. They briefly reunited for a tour in the summer of ’05 but didn’t play NY. This would be the first time that they touched a NYstage in a decade.
Spin.com has an article depicting the struggles of my discovery, D’Angelo that I’m quoted in. The article states that his, Brown Sugar album was the beginning of the neo soul thing. If not for the success of Tribe’s break through, Low End Theory album, I would not have understood the commercial appeal of, D’Angelo’s demo.
Tribe DJ, Ali Shaheed Muhhamad was kind enough to lace me with the a co-writing and co-production of, Brown Sugar.
Tip’s got a solo deal at Motown and a hit that’s moving called, Getting Up. His new album is slated for release on election day ’08. The single references, soulful stand up, vocal harmony group, Black Ivory’s, You And I. An early ’70’s begging jawn that he’s revisited to do a bit of begging of his own. He’s opening for his own band with Mos Def taking a cameo as hype man.
It’s dark and the crowd is going crazy. Tip finishes his twenty minute mini set that features a torrid display by DJ Scratch that includes him taking his shirt off while he’s cutting and Tip and he rotate on the 1 and 2’s.
By now everyone is on their feet and Ali drops the voice of the electronic lady that narrated their, Midnight Marauders album. She introduces the band and it starts to go down.
Bugging Out begins the proceedings and then we are pummeled by hit, after hit, after, hit after hit.
Check The Rhyme, We Got The Jazz, Footprints and on and on. The crowd is taken to fever pitch and then the hottest guest spot of the night. Drama King and prodigal Tounge, Busta Rhymes comes out and takes his star making turn on, Scenario. Then Ali filps it into Busta’s smash, Put Your Hands Where I Can See.
While Scenario is rockin, I run into C-Line. She’s gotten a return call from Faith on her jack. This is the first time that we’ve run into each other in about 9 hrs.
I return the call. Faith is displeased. I try and apologize. She’s having none of it. While she’s riffing, I wonder why she didn’t just come to the building. She would have seen any of 30 people that she knew if she’d gotten to the employee entrance. Faith has forgotten a bit about the hustle from our old club days. I listen a bit more and then remind her that we aren’t married and enough is enough. I hang up.
De La comes out and they all perform the MTV standard, Award Tour. Mercifully it all ends without injury. My clique has put a hurtin on ’em.
After the gig, I checked into the Hudson Hotel. I’ve slept for five of the previous 48 hours. I need a rest.
…to be continued
shouts to Aphrodita, Dan Peisner, Carolyn and Jellybean Benitez, Barry Michael Cooper, Michael Gonzales and… The Wirk