Backt to front

TECHNOLOGY IS A DRUG...

We can't get enough of it.

WE feed it to our kids and watch them grow on a forced diet of desensitisation. Switch on the TV and someone will tell you 50,000 people died in India. Two seconds later you're watching a comedy. Technology can do that. It gives us simulated realities that make us oblivious to the real world. Heroin does the same thing. So do most class A drugs. We are all addicts - addicted to the comfort and convenience that technology provides, addicted to the notion that progress is directly related to the size of your computer screen. Of course it is. We must be right. We come from the developed world. We're already developed. Sure. Then again, wealthy kids in America shoot each other. Poor kids in Soweto can't stop smiling.

So who's developed?

I met an Aborigine in Arnhem land - his nephews showed me symbols where I saw trees and rainbows through smoked glass. They could see fish through clouded water. I couldn't even see my own reflection. I must have forgotten how,
When I look in front of me I see two paths - spiritual or material. Two worlds - developed or developing. You decide which is which. We're still in the wake of millennium paranoia - earthquakes, floods, end-of-world- scenarios, cult suicides, viral diseases that eat into our computer realities. This is our developed world.

Then as Mandela says "We are free to be free".

We make our own prophecies.

Nitin Sawhney's sleeve notes to his album Prophesy, recorded in London, Rio, Madrid, Chicago, Soweto, Ganyangara and elsewhere in England, India, the US, Australia, South Africa and France, the lucky (talented) bastard.

LANGUAGE

LIKE?

This is a linguistic habit that all areas of society have picked up on and which we must rid ourselves of immediately. Totally like ubiquitous but also totally superfluous; it NEVER needs to be used. Still, people seem to think it's like cool to like punctuate sentences with this non-clause but it's like getting really annoying and I'd just wish they would like finish their like fucking sentences quicker. And the correlative problem caused by the perfidious Australian influence is to intonate every sentence as though it's a question? even though it's actually like a statement? which can have the effect of being patronising because it makes the speaker sound as though he's explaining something? when he's actually talking arrant bilge. Put like that together? And you have a fucking irritating person.


Hat too tight?

Scalp yourself
with the
Brian Harvey
Hair-away
.
..

MUSIC
Hip-hop,
be bop
(please, don't stop)

Hip-hop best of comps are all over HMV like a rash. As fully paid-up members of the white suburban wigger massive, in thrall to a different culture as it’s expressed far more interestingly than our own, hip-hop has consistently smashed it in ways that a thousand other indie whiners never could. The sound that emerged from NYC block jams, developed into electro and then into the ‘beats, rhymes and life’ of hip-hop has produced in 20 years what rock achieved in 50. We look at the main contenders for the hip-hop crown, the sole stipulation being at least three quality albums (Yes, we know they’re mostly from New York, that hip-hop has been graced with many one-offs and that Dre’s All-Stars is not a real group...)

Public Enemy
SKETCH:
Militant funk and rhymes from Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Professor Griff and Terminator X, with the Security of First World troupe, laid down by Hank Shocklee. Ideology influenced by Malcolm X, Louis Farrakhan, Elijah Mohammed and other US black radicals from the 60s onwards, the music was inseparable from politics for PE. The message, "freedom is a road travelled by the multitude", reached out way beyond black issues
HIGHS: My Uzi Weighs A Ton, Don’t Believe The Hype, Fight The Power, Bring The Noise, Welcome To The Terrordrome, etc, etc, etc/legendary Brixton Academy gigs/white America in fear as they had no answer to this articulate rage/commendable championing of free or independent music via the internet
LOWS: Professor Griff’s anti-semitic outburst did them no favours, but they kicked him out/output tailed off after Fear of A Black Planet, with Give It Up the only highlight in recent years
OVERALL CONTRIBUTION: Impossible to ignore from the debut onwards, no hip-hop act has since covered as much ground, and kept it as funky. With Flav, they always knew what time it was.

Wu-Tang Clan
SKETCH:
Shaolin-influenced self-sufficient hip-hoppers representing Staten Island, the last of the New York boroughs to front, all brought together under Rza’s superb production
HIGHS: From the debut Enter The 36 Chambers onwards, the Wu released a stunning selection of long-players, principally from Method Man (Tical), Raekwon (Only Built 4 Cuban Linx..) and Gza (Liquid Swords), with tough integrity beating thug life hands-down. Even the Wu-wear clothing label, the hip-pop of Gravel Pit and the Iron Flag album were cool
LOWS: Ol’ Dirty Bastard in and out of prison, the independent ethos and previous acclaim meant that some of the later LPs didn’t quite cut it
OVERALL CONTRIBUTION: In rap’s mid to late-90s trough, the Wu made endless beat-loops, horrorcore samples and rapping ad infinitum the shit.

A Tribe Called Quest
SKETCH:
Originally part of the alterno Native Tongues collective, these were arguably the best-ever pure hip-hop trio, Phife Dawg complimenting Q-Tip’s silky delivery as much as the two were a foil to Ali Shaheed’s jazz-influenced production. This group linked modern black street music to its antecedents like no other
HIGHS: Within years, People’s Distinctive Paths... became The Low-End Theory and the ATCQ template was complete/Scenario perhaps their defining moment of "beats, rhymes and life"/Even a recent house bootleg of Bonita Applebum was good.
LOWS: Q-Tip’s Lucy Pearl project looks a bit lame/Jo Public’s refusal to look beyond Can I Kick It hasn’t done them any favours over here (though it’s not even their mix responsible)
OVERALL CONTRIBUTION: Inestimable; funky, intelligent hip-hop that never disappeared up its own arse.

Gang Starr
SKETCH:
"I can’t work in a fast food joint, I’ve got some talent, so don’t you get my point". Not as politicised as the first two, DJ Premier and Guru Keith E stood as much for the life of "two turntables, a record and a microphone" itself, and were the link between the hardcore NYC world and the outside. Premo’s beats were so tight that they made a virtue out of Guru’s stentorian delivery.
HIGHS: More classics from each of the Step In The Arena, Hard To Earn and Daily Operation LPs than most produce in a career/the second’s hard-edged beats, minimal samples and guest rappers (Jeru, Black Sheep, Smooth,...) were priceless/Who’s Gonna Take The Weight made scratching into jazz/and Jazz Thing for Spike Lee’s film. "Thelonious Monk was a felonious punk" indeed.
LOWS: After a dodgy first album, hard to fault. Even Guru’s Jazzmatazz projects have made a virtue of bringing muso experimentation to hip-hop
OVERALL CONTRIBUTION: Beyond respect in both the boardroom and the projects.

Dre’s All-Stars
SKETCH:
Dressing up onstage as part of World Class Wreckin’ Cru, bringing eastside LA to the world, dropping Es and unleashing Eminem, middle-class Andre King has been involved with some of hip-hop’s most infamous acts.
HIGHS: Street-tuff electro of the World-Class/gangsta rap over sped-up funky drummer beats in NWA’s outstanding Straight Outta Compton, which also gave us the AmeriKKKa-hating Ice Cube/slick G-funk of his own The Chronic and Snoop’s Doggy Style; right up to his own Dre 2001 and bringing Eminem to the world (particular props here as the white media reveal their inverted racism when they get more affronted at a white bad boy rockin’ it) Recent productions (Mary J Blige) show the quality is still there.
LOWS: Efil4zaggin was a disappointing and puerile second NWA album. Mum: "Do they have to swear like that all the time"; Me: "Oh fuck off you old cow"
OVERALL CONTRIBUTION: The production don of nearly 20 years, Dre’s continued commercial success has not compromised his own sound or the breaking of new acts.

Boogie Down Productions
SKETCH:
Again, this Bronx act was strongly politicised, KRS-One expressing the ills of mid and late 80s NYC over Scott La Rock’s minimal rhythms, the original block rockin’ beats. Never were so many words used to express so much indignation
HIGHS: My Philosophy/Step Into My World/Sound of The Police (a Notting Hill carnival anthem)/KRS-One apparently taking battling with Melle Mel in a jam and ruining him
LOWS: Fairly uninspired solo work from KRS, except for Police
OVERALL CONTRIBUTION: Street rage, street poetry and street sounds, this combo kept it real way before the lust for authenticity started bringing the artform down.

The Next Men
Run DMC: The Adidas kings produced King of Rock, Raising Hell and the seminal 12’’ of Sucker MCs/It’s Like That, but a little too rapping-about-nothing and a little too cartoon. Also responsible for the rock-rap crossover, which has since seldom produced worthy material. One of them also went all evangelical for a while
Grandmaster Flash (& Melle Mel, the furious five, etc): The Message and White Lines are undisputed classics, and Flash along with Kool Herc and Afrika Bambaata are hip-hop’s original holy trinity before it went into the studio
Mantronix: Mantronix’s 909s and Tricky Tee working in harmony, Fresh Is The Word indeed but like Whodini and others of the electro area too electro to qualify
Beastie Boys: From Licensed to Ill through to Ill Communications and beyond, the Jewish white boys have produced more than enough quality, and the sound pushed beyond straight-ahead hip-hop
ICE-T: Worth a mention for Original Gangsta and other LPs, hardcore LA gangsta-rap par excellence, Cop Killer can only win our vote too. Not a bad actor either

EPMD/Biz Markie/etc: The Cold Chillin’ label turned out some belters in hip-hop’s late-80s halcyon days
Kool Keith: Ultramagnetic MCs, Dr Octagon, Masters of Illusion with Kutmaster Kurt and his current Copasetik label, the "crazy" "eccentric" etc Keith just missed the cut but wins props for forever flipping the script
Eric B and Rakim: Made rapping the coolest thing in the world with the cuts from Paid In Full, but no longevity
Cypress Hill: DJ Muggs’ low-end sound made this band the shit over the course of the Black Sunday and Cypress Hill albums, but ironically in hip-hop went too far with the Dr Greenthumb weed-centric image. Also put up with House of Pain and Funkdoobiest Now peddling a competent rap-metal sound
Puff Daddy: Only joking, this cunt has made a mockery of hip-hop, turning it into a slick poppy sound for wannabe ‘players’, but we liked Biggy Smalls before he was shot by Suge Knight’s lot
De La Soul: Quality work throughout,and a great revival with Art Official Intelligence, but the original Daisy Agers showed too much dissatisfaction with hip-hop’s core. The other native tonguers, Jungle Brothers, also tarnished their credibility by going along with the UK jump-up sound
Pete Rock and CL Smooth: Main Ingredient and Mecca & The Soul Brothers defined the slick, jazz-influenced early to mid-90s East Coast sound. Remixed PE’s Shut 'Em Down to great acclaim too
Pharcyde: Bizarre Ride... and Lacabinifornia lps showed wit and invention
The Roots: Representing Philly, Rahzel, Black Thought and co have possibly been the best ‘experimental’ act so far
Dilated Peoples: Platform and now The Expansion Team suggests greatness for these west-coasters
Rawkus crew: With the Soundbombing and Lyricist Lounge albums, Mos’ Def, Talib Kweli, Pharoah Monch, and other connected heads such J-Live, L-Fudge, Mr Complex et al, the label revitalised hip-hop at its grass-roots and built up an independent ethos. No artist or group has built up sufficient definitive work yet
Stones Throw crew: Madlib, alter ego Quasimoto et al, Peanut Butter Wolf’s LA label has a similar ethos to the above, and is fast building up an impressive body of work, starting with Wolf’s My Vinyl Weighs A Ton LP

Loads of others we have forgotten about....

PE pic nicked from www.bullymag.com

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