Once upon a time - and it does bloody sound like a fairytale as you’ll read in a mo - there was a musical genre that emerged from the disfranchised sewers of American society, the sounds of urban underground, the poetry of unter-classes… During the ‘toddler-period’ of American history, slaves had the rudiments of blues to help them deal with the harsh reality.
Rap originated about the same time as punk (in the US) when NYC ‘hoods started to come alive with ‘spinned’ [segued] discs that by 1977 were ‘rapped’ over, although the first records wouldn’t be for another two years. The Sugrahill Gang, Fatback and Kurtis Blow were the first to have hits in the States and the genre quickly slipped into more popular forms with Blondie, The Clash and Tom Tom Club adding it to their arsenals. We all know the most important crossover, Run-DMC and Aerosmith‘s ‘Walk This Way’ from ‘86.
In those early days rap was rather political - NWA, Public Enemy - but it all deviated into gangsta-rap, a self-glorifying and warning-to-whites about ‘Black planet.’ The capitalist inevitability is that everything gets digested by the ‘machine’ - ever since the suits realised that there are million-selling discs like Dr Dre’s ‘The Chronic’ to exploit - and today’s Hip-hop stars are signed to the major labels… ‘Subverting-from-within’? Yeah, right-on, bro and sis.
There are very few politically-minded and reality-concerned rhymesters, such as Dead Prez or Paris [36-year-old Californian Oscar Jackson, check out his ‘Sonic Jihad’] who once commented that, “It’s easy to put out carefree music that serves the purpose of diversion and escapism. It’s one thing to run away from the problem in the community and another to address them. I prefer to address them, as opposed to pretending they don’t exist.”
Wu-Tang Clan, Eminem, 50 Cent... Shots fired at Nas' London show!