Thursday, September 25, 2008

Nigger Lover

"You ever heard of the Emancipation Proclamation?"

"I don't listen to Hip Hop!"

In the realm of music, few things annoy me more than the term "black music." The idea that there is a single genre that is representative of an entire race is absolutely moronic, not to mention completely offensive. Is it supposed to be reflective of the listeners? If that's the case, than all of my white and Asian friends who went to see Blackalicious last year have obviously fucked that demographic up. Is it supposed to represent the artists? As if to say that all black people can produce is soul, R & B, and rap music? It's obviously not - it's those things, and reggae, and blues and punk and rock and roll and everything in between. BUT, I also understand that the more radio-friendly acts are likely to fit the more commercial niches, and as such we hear more Beyonce than Bad Brains. Well, let's try to fix that a little bit, shall we?

So with that in mind, I figured we'd talk about some artists/groups that void the stereotype. Black musicians and artists who walk their own path.



Living Colour is one of the greatest rock bands of the late 20th century, and sadly a band that burned up quickly and fell into obscurity. One of the rare all-black punk/rock bands, they successfully and brilliantly fused rock, punk, rap, funk and soul music into a wondrous mixture. Their first album, Vivid, was a shock to the system of music fans everywhere at a time when popular black music meant Bobby Brown or, God forbid these days, Whitney Houston. But Living Colour was the real deal - talented instrumentalists (Vernon Reid, Muzz Skillings, Will Calhoun), intelligent songwriters, and Corey Glover's amazing singing talents all combined to truly, for the first time in a long time, create something that was brand new. Their second album, Time's Up, was a bit more experimental, and didn't garner quite the same popularity as Vivid. Sadly, by the time their third album, Stain, came out, they were on their way out. All three albums are good for different reasons, but I will always remember Vivid as the one that opened people's eyes. Here's Love Rears It's Ugly Head, from Time's Up. Enjoy.



Since we're on the subject, next up is Bad Brains.

Now this was something truly innovative, though not even remotely mainstream. Bad Brains, out of Washington DC, blew the doors off my world when I was 13 (though they'd been around since 1982), and I've never looked back. Long before Living Colour, there was Bad Brains, the first (and possibly only) all black reggae/hardcore punk band. They were loud, fast, serious Rastafarians, incredibly political and intelligent, almost incoherent at times, but poetic in their lyrics and amazingly talented in their music. Gathered together by Dr. Know, the guitarist, they were most well known for H.R., their tumultuous lead singer (who once recorded the vocals for a track from a prison pay phone). Sadly, after numerous independently released albums and a couple of major label ones, they disbanded. They went through the motions in the late 90's, trying new lead singers, but could never recapture the magic. This is one of their more accessible songs, I Against I, off of the album of the same name. I'd recommend that, Rock For Light, or Quickness. Do me a favor and really listen, and let me know your thoughts.



Bad Brains actually recently got back together and put out a new album, Build a Nation. It's a little watered down, but probably more approachable for the more mainstream listener. I'd advise giving it a shot.




So now let's talk about Dead Prez, who I mentioned back in my Hip Hop post. So yes, they are unquestionably a Hip Hop act. A damn fine one at that. But what makes them even more interesting is that they include instrumental pieces on their albums, and those instrumentals are actually staggeringly beautiful. Truly wonderful stuff that's just as interesting and introspective as their regular beats and rhymes. Here's "You'll Find a Way" off of Let's Get Free.







Just for fun, here's an incredible live performance by Stanley Clarke, Victor Wooten and Marcus Miller. It's 14 minutes long and worth every single second, especially if you appreciate bass guitar.





Finally, we close with one of today's great innovators, another Hip Hop artist who knows how to bend, twist and ultimately destroy a genre, Mos Def. Here's "Ghetto Rock", a mix of rock, blues, hip-hop and spoken word poetry. It's off The New Danger, easily his most remarkable album - recorded with a house band led by none other than the aforementioned Doctor Know of Bad Brains, it's a phenomenal album. I highly recommend it.

klipler


That's what I've got for now. Hope you enjoyed. Full disclosure, portions of this came from a blog post of mine from a couple of years ago. Also, first person to mention Darius Rucker is gonna end up with my boot where their teeth should be.


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Now playing: Massive Attack & Mos Def - I Against I
via FoxyTunes

7 comments:

Boo said...

PM Dawn!!!!

Boo said...

ha ha ha, JK.

Well, you KNOW how much I love Bad Brains, and Living Colour did burn too brightly for too short a time. Solid on the Dead Prez, and I want Mos's bebes. So, overall, fucking awesome.

But where are my ladies at? FATWAPCOOTER post please! :)

(Also, as the wife of a recovering bass guitarist, I can easily say that Victor Wooten is the shit.)

Boo said...

Oh, and ?uestlove Thompson and Christian McBride of The Philadelphia Experiment. (Uri Caine is black at heart, though.)

rayray said...

Afrika by Dead Prez is one of my favorite songs. My friend Scott and I often sing it while drunk, trying to see who can mess up the words first. This is very challenging when sober, so you can imagine...

Felicia said...

Sweet, we're busting out the n-word now!! I was fortunate to see Mos Def live on Labor Day this year. He was AWESOME. Also saw The Pharcyde, who rocked my face off.

Jez said...

I actually need more education in this vein. In the early 90s, especially when I started pulling in a steady paycheck, I bought all the trendy hip hop only to be disappointed. Paris, Das EFX, the guy that did Mr. Bob Dobolina, and that band that did "Insane in the Membrane." I actually liked that one. Cyprus Hill? Yeah. I think I sold that CD, though, because it was the Wal-Mart (censored) version.

The Kilted Yaksman said...

No Tricky? Maxinquaye is a stupendous album.