Don’t do its debased contemporary forms, but every now and again, I really, really miss old school hip-hop.
I have these LSD flashback-like musical urges. It gets quite distracting,
and I usually end up spending hours on YouTube to get my fix. At
the moment, I’m yearning to hear PE’s "Black Steel in the Hour of
Chaos", Rakim’s "Follow the Leader", Poor Righteous Teacher’s "Rock this Funky Joint", EPMD’s
"You gots to chill", and a host of other oldies. And, umm, something by Mantronix. (Sorry, I have no control over this.)
Especially the battles, with people accusing each other of biting each other’s rhymes and claiming to be living large when you know they were taking the bus. UTFO vs. Roxanne was entertaining (I still wince at the memory of "Roxanes Shante is only good for steady pumpin’!"), but nothing beat LL vs. Kool Moe Dee (who judging by lyrics and delivery won that battle–there was no recovery from his explanation of what "LL" stood for–but of course lost the war when LL became a Hollywood star).
Miss being called a "Sissy" and "Cave Man" by Professor X. Miss all the make-pretend Muslims spouting Moorish Science-style word salad–gibberish so exquisitely funky and creative that its incoherence was beside point–about "math", "gods", "devils", and "mystery spooks", all the while exoticizing Islam as some primordial source of virility and authentic blackness like some New Age hippy raiding the Far East for a new identity.
Miss sullen b-boys in triple fat gooses who couldn’t find Africa on the map sporting "Red, Black & Green" Africa medallions–or, even better, immense alarm clocks–around their necks. (For a while after seeing one with the map of Mexico I was on a kick to make one with Scandinavia.)
Miss when being from outside New York was a major strike against an aspiring rapper.
And going to Skippy Whites for the latest singles. Reading "The Source" back when it was a stapled newsletter from a college radio station. Pilgrimages down to Roxbury to buy decent
kicks at Alpha & Omega Shoes, all the while worrying we’d get jumped by some of those same b-boys who didn’t welcome black outsiders, much less white boys from the other end of the Orange Line.
I miss battling (invariably unsuccessfully) my cravings to listen to the foul-mouthed, misogynistic and thuggish posturing of NWA and clenching my teeth at the incongruous sight of preppy suburbanites in Hahvahd Squayuh blasting "F**k the Police" from shiny beamers. Back when gansta rap was honest, a disturbing but important window into a for most hidden, burning world as opposed to a long since metastasized cancer in urban culture and inspiration for prejudice outside it.
I miss wondering what the heck Das EFX were saying. I miss rolling my eyes every time KRS One mentioned Scott La Rock’s death yet again. I miss the sense of white hot outrage and revulsion when Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince fell off with "Parents Just Don’t Understand".
I miss being a respectful guest in another community’s little known subculture. Miss when it was often crude or cheesy, but underground and still generally
spontaneous and real. (It doesn’t get any realer than Biz Markie’s "Picking Boogers" or Kool Moe Dee’s "Go
See the Doctor".) Back before the Chicken McNuggets rapped (the BC/AD line for me).
Don’t miss Big Daddy Kane, though. God, has anyone ever been more overrated? Did he ever say anything you didn’t anticipate?
Back to work.