Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Zenformation Playlist 10/12/05:
...The Recently Discovered Old School Mix Tape

I'd rather have a hundred thousand or a million people saying I'm nuts and I'm crazy for my musical choices and what I've said lyrically, than a million people all raising their hand on the first day.
- Chuck D., Public Enemy

There's something missing lately from the mainstream hip-hop scene. Maybe its the lack of any hope, or the lack of creativity on the turntables, or the discarded sense of ghetto intellect. Its sad, really. Where once rap music served as a means for poor folks to escape the tragedies of American poverty, now the push is to market and repackage some of those same tragedies to kids in the suburbs. Instead of sreaming "Take from the Man What's Rightfully Yours," the majority in the mainstream scream "Become the Man and Sell Out Your Community."

I recently rediscovered an old mix tape, the label worn down to nothing. This was probably recorded for me by a buddy of mine on my high school track team, a guy named Eddie. Eddie was 340 lbs of pure black rage who would later go on to play college football at a traditionally black college in Virginia, and, as rumor has it, successfully court a Ms. Black Virginia Pageant contestant using only his mad, dope, fly...hiaku skills.

Those of us who lived in what was often referred to as the "Booshes" (rural po' folk pronunciation of bushes) often swapped mix tapes as way to . We shared tons of new music, old school jams, and beat-box beats as a way to liven up normally boring trips through rural central Virginia. Ahh...the mix tape. The original P2P file sharing software...

A sampling of the songs from that tape:

1. Left My Wallet in El Segundo - A Tribe Called Quest
One of the most bizarre, random hip-hop songs of all time. How many rap songs include slick lines like "And Ali had the fruit punch?" Almost forgot the lyrics to this one.

2. Burn Hollywood Burn - Public Enemy
What happens when you turn Ice Cube, Big Daddy Kane, and Public Enemy loose in a recording studio? You get a riveting three minute manifesto about the racial stereotypes prevelant in mainstream culture. I don't think much has changed, except now the majority of mainstream rap acts are more interested in selling Uncle Tom than fighting him.

3. Going Back to Cali - LL Cool J
The first time I went back to my hometown after moving to California, every guy I grew up with would always make some reference to this song when I explained why I had no desire to move back to Farmville, Virginia.

4. Sometimes I Ryhmn Slow - Nice N Smooth
Rather obscure early 90s hip-hop act. These guys took a Tracy Chapman guitar loop, a little bit of that old school drum machine, and some creative lyrics. No bitches or hos, no drinking Crystal. Just a very real narrative about a relationship with "Jane Doe" and coping with the issues of dating someone who thinks Emcees are just ghetto versions of ATM machines.

5. Brooklyn Lullaby - Lordz of Brooklyn
This song may hold the record for "Most Children Conceived to the Soundtrack from an Independent Hip-Hop Mafia Film." Smooth and gruff. Quiet acoustic instumental arrangements overlayed with lyrics about Gambinos, mob hits, comic book references, and cement shoes. I knew a lot of black guys who used this song as their "player" song - never realizing the song was recorded by a bunch of Italian American taggers from New York.

6. Papi Chulo - Funkdoobiest
Think, from the song title, most people can figure this one out. Sun Doobie, the leader of the group, went on to star in numerous adult films, curiously. There are two versions of this track, one in English and one en espanol.

7. I Know You Got Soul - Eric B. and Rakim

Eric B. is still regarded as one of the best emcees of all time, simply for the fact that he had this menacing flow that embarrassed a lot of other cats. There were two kinds of emcees I grew up with - those who wanted to sound like MC Hammer and those who wanted to be Eric B. The latter were often invited to perform with my band and other hardcore punk acts or vise versa. DJ Inc, the Bootcamp Chics, Angry Nigga Mob...angry kids with more passion and punk attitude than your average Green Day fan. How many rap acts have the guts to sample the Dead Kennedys or loop some Soundgarden? It was such a wierd mix. I even performed a live, punk version of the Gravediggaz' "1-800 SUICIDE" with Inc and ANM at a couple of house parties.

8. Walk This Way - RUN-DMC
Run DMC remain the kings of rock, there is none higher. Sucker emcees still call them sire. These guys from Hollis ressurected Aerosmith's career.

9. The Gun Tower - Ice T

10. Slam - ONYX and Biohazard
Why oh why did Limp Bizkit ever come into existence? Did the world really need Fred Durst to ruin the whole concept of rapping over live rock? Nobody's ever been scared of Fred Durst...well, maybe Justin Timberlake. But Evan Seinfeld and Sticky Fingaz? I'd cross the street.

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