Play That Beat

 

Chapter 10 of Love and War includes: Our Back Pages, It's Not a Black Thing, No Queens in the Kingdom, Please Stay, Jamaica Way, and Rock Music.

Our Back Pages

I am obsessed with The Godfather. Thirty-two years after its release, I still watch it over and over. I often wish that somehow I could once again see it for the first time. Then, instead of knowing every line by heart, I could re-experience the movie as something brand new.

 

After reading Jeff Chang’s Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation, I have some idea what that would feel like. Although the general outlines of hip-hop history are as familiar to me as the plot of The Godfather, on nearly every one of 467 pages Chang had me saying to myself “I didn’t know that” or “I never thought about it like that.”

It's Not a Black Thing

The witch-hunt against Ice Cube and his Death Certificate album has escalated in the past month, while the issues raised continue to be ignored.

 

In a November 23 editorial, Billboard called Ice Cube "racist" and urged retailers not to sell Death Certificate. Camelot Records, one of the largest chains in the Midwest, took them up on it, thus joining the many stores that never carried Death Certificate in the first place. When James Bernard, senior editor of The Source, wrote a reply to Billboard’s editorial and asked that it be run as a commentary, Billboard replied that Bernard's words weren't "of substance" and would appear only as a letter, although Billboard has found censor Jack Thompson and the Parents Music Resource Center substantial enough...

No Queens in the Kingdom

Suppose

Just suppose

That all the rappers

All the rappers who ever used the words “bitch” or “ho” in a song

Controlled the United States government

 

Suppose

That this rapper government sent out police

Special units dressed in sweats and backwards baseball caps

Sent them into every neighborhood

To arrest any woman who wasn’t acting “properly...”

Please Stay

Cheech Marin’s 1987 music video, “Born In East LA,” was based on Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA.” The song and video were novelties in the Weird Al Yankovic tradition.  Cheech played it for laughs, even though there was no question that his heart lay with the persecuted immigrants.

 

Houston rapper Chingo Bling (aka Pedro Herrera III) started out in much the same vein, achieving notoriety with a video for “Taco Shop,” a spoof of 50 Cent’s “Candy Shop.”

 

“A lot of people tried to categorize me as ‘The Mexican Weird Al’,” he told Agustin Gurza of the LA Times. “But novelty songs don’t last long… I’m going to prove a lot of people wrong...”

Jamaica Way

When sampling began to appear on American rap hits in the late Seventies, it was just plain weird, a novelty in which big swatches of a familiar hook were thrust in your face as a dare not to buy the record. Over time, sampling evolved from a joke to an art form to just another way lawyers do business under the cover of music.

 

But where North America’s music industry was huge and impersonal, Jamaica’s was small and, despite fierce rivalries, intimate. There was constant overlap and interplay between reggae producers, DJs, sound system operators, singers, and session musicians. So when dancehall DJ U-Roy burst on the scene in 1970 with three consecutive number-one records in the brand new style of toasting over rhythm tracks from somebody else’s records, it didn’t provoke the great philosophical and legal debates that sampling did in the U.S...

Rock Music

First released in 1992, Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth’s Mecca and the Soul Brother is now out in a double disc version on Traffic Records.  Mecca was the New York duo’s first full-length album, part of a new surge out of New York that would serve as a stylistic counterpoint to the West Coast G-funk of Dr. Dre.

 

Sampling was still a bedrock of rap music then and Pete Rock, legendary for his stamina in stalking the aisles of record stores, is a crate digger supreme. On Mecca, he mixed obvious choices (Sly, James Brown) with left field ones (The Coasters, Lee Michaels, Mongo Santamaria, Super Session, Little Richard) while often relying on the ultra obscure (Skull Snaps, Ernie Hines). Although simpler and more direct than the Bomb Squad was with Public Enemy, Pete Rock achieved the same essential result: New music to be heard in new ways...