"I shall live badly if I do not write, and I shall write badly if I do not live" -Francoise Sagan Novelist, Screenwriter


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Rapper's Delight

With the recent influx of reality trash TV, I have given up some of my favorite channels, cold turkey.  MTV, TLC, Oxygen - this means you!  ABC redeemed itself with Dancing With The Stars.  How many shows can snatch Cloris Leachman from next door to Mary Tyler Moore in '75, jump to the 80s and kidnap her from the Eastland School where she took over her sister, Edna Garrett's, job of babysitting Tooti, Blair and gang, put her in a time machine, fast forward 20 some-odd years and have her in a studio ballroom, dancing the Flamenco-infused Tango to Jazmine Sullivan's "Bust Your Windows" at age 82?  But I digress.

Every station you turn to while channel surfing has some sort of eat-a-bug, resist-committing-adultery-on-a-ship-of-singles, you-are-the-weakest-link so vote-your-teammate-off-the-island-out-of-the-house-off-the-game-show, lose-weight-lose-your-run-down-home, swap-wives-husbands-children-homes-genitalia-type of show and my eyes and brain are on strike for lack of substance to view! 

But around this time every year, I get a little bit excited about TV.  Amongst all the rubbish, there is a gem of a show.   On the night it airs, I cut all means of communication and make it "me" time.  Then I grab a pair of baggy Girbauds, a rope chain, matching door knockers earrings, a dude with a high-top fade, a pair of scissors and give myself an A-symmetrical cut, a pair of Reebok Classics (that's $54.11s to some of you), a Coke and a smile and prepare for one of my favorite shows:  Vh1's Hip-Hop Honors.

Now, Vh1 and I once had a little love affair going on.  Being the musicmonger that I am, I loved the network's spawn like "Behind The Music" (moral= basically all 80s rockers got high, got laid by Kelly Bundy-looking chicks and are now upstanding husbands living in Surburbia, USA, taking their daughters to school - that's you Whitesnake and Twisted Sister);  "Where Are They Now?" ("Right Said Fred" is not too sexy to work the drive-thru..."You want fries with that?"); "Pop Up Video" with all it's breaking news like, Did you know before starring in Lars and the Real Girl, Ryan Gosling was joined by Justin and the fake girls, Britney and Christina Aguilera. Yes, that's right, he was a Mouseketeer, performing horribly choreographed dance moves and singing songs that'd make even Barney puke!; "I Love the 80s" which made me go "Hmmm, America should have suspected Doogie Howser, M.D. was gay because Vinnie tipped through his window just a little too often; and it's sister network...the mother of all that is good and pure...Vh1 Soul.  That's just good ol' American fun right there.  But I took Vh1 off my DVR list and put it on my DNR (Do Not Resuscitate)  list once the buffonery of Flavor of Love and it's trainwreck trail of shows began to air.  However, after the first airing of HHH, I was in love again. 

What a concept! A 2-hour testament to the theory many people had almost 30 years ago: this Rap thing just may be around for a while.  At first, I was angry.  I couldn't fathom why one of "our" networks couldn't have toyed with this idea.  Especially since Hip-Hop music, it's artists and videos are the driving force behind BET.  "Uhh Bob Johnson, you dropped the ball...and sold out so you could play with the ball in Charlotte with those ragedy Bobcats!"  TVOne?  "Cathy Hughes, ummm hellllooooo!" 

The timing of HHH debut a few years ago was so right on.  We're living in a time where Hip-Hop is under attack, and rightfully so.  The vulgar language, the glorification of violence and crime, the complete lack of respect for women.  The videos are mere infernos of G-strings, liquor and backsides for men to slap and hump.  I have a one-year-old nephew and I wouldn't dare allow him listen to that mockery of music.  I don't want him to think because the lyrics rhyme and it has a good beat, it's ok to shoot a gun and demean a woman.  I prefer he have better instructions as to how to lead his life.  I am grown and it's very rare that I tune into the local Hip-Hop radio station on any given day.  Eventhough all four of my eyes have witnessed some of the truisms about which rapper's speak, my brain cannot stand being bombarded with the goings-on of the 'hood.  I lived it.  It's not as glamorous as a Gucci Mane song.  Sorry!

I grew up during an era when Hip-Hop was called Rap and it was initially about raising awareness about the poor and down-trodden.  Bringing the social inequalities suffered by the minorities to the masses through the vehicle which "we" have been using since Slavery: song.  Thank you South Bronx!  Then it morphed into a healthy competition of sorts for the teens with ADD and a rhyming dictionary.  Thank you Biz Markie and KRS-ONE!  Rap was fun then and HHH celebrates that.  Thank you Viacom!

Please allow me to take you back...way back, back into time when...

-The only entourage a rapper showed up with at an event was his DJ and his Addidas suit-clad break dancers. 
-The only producers rappers had were their DJs (RIP Jam Master Jay).  Sorry Puffy!
-The only show that displayed rap videos (for those of us NYers who didn't have cable) was "Video Music Box" on Saturdays.  Back down MTV!
-When Herbie "Luv Bug" managed just about every rap group from NY.  Move over Violator!
-When all you needed was skill, a microphone and a turntable.  Eat your heart out autotune!
-(like it's predecessor in the 50s, Rock'n'Roll music) There were no skin color barriers if you had actual talent.  Thank you Beastie Boys, uhh...where are you Vanilla Ice?  3rd Bass, you get an honorable mention because "Gas Face" was funny.  You may enter stage left Eminem and crush and destroy any White boy heard before you.

This was one of my favorite performances of the night.

Moreso than me being a huge fan of the HHH show, I am a fan of the epoch in which it reveres.  The 80s were a civil time of Rap.  Yes, there were beefs but they were mostly fought on wax.  There were no gang affliations (not publicly known anyway), colored bandanas worn, tatts on the face or threats on the other's life.  You simply grabbed the mic and rhymed about how much better your lyrics were and how more expensive your clothes are.  Thank you Big Daddy Kane!  There were strong, feminine voices on the forefront too.  Ladies who wanted to shed stereotypes rather than clothing.  Thank you Queen Latifah and MC Lyte, sit down Lil' Kim and Foxy!    You may rise Lauryn Hill, if you can take a break from making babies and make an appearance at a concert on time!  Despite the fact that it was a competition, a business if you will, the artists were friends and fans of one another.  You'd hear rappers applauding each other in radio interviews and complimenting each other's styles and success in records.  Two years ago, I believe, one of the honorees was Big Daddy Kane.  Of course, along with accepting the honor, you must perform one of your songs.  BDK hit the stage and the magic appeared.  The crowd went wild, his cocky persona....er...I believe it's called swagger now, was relit and it was on.  And although he's quite a Big Mac and milkshake meal from being the size he was in '88, BDK executed all his old dance steps - even flipping in the air.  As spectacular as that was to witness, it all paled in comparison to seeing LL Cool J, a legend in his own right (like it or not) and an honoree himself if I'm not mistaken, out of his seat, bopping his head back and forth, smiling from ear-to-ear and mouthing ALL the words to BDK's hit.  That's love!

Rap is my generation's rebel music, it speaks to us because we lived it!  I am a lover of Hip-Hop and I won't stop loving it until it's healed.  I got the remedy.  I want to grab DMX and give him a hug!  Wait...first a bath, then a Tic Tac, then a hug.  I want to put Method Man and Redman back in the studio, take away the marijuana, give them some Ritalin and watch the magic happen.  I want to sit and talk to the guys from Onyx, tell them they can't act, give them some Rogain and stand back and watch the talent flow.  I need to get in touch with Fat Joe, Rick Ross and Busta Rhymes, get them out of Church's Chicken and back into the church because they need Jesus.  You  know Diabetes runs rampant through the veins of us minorities brothers.  The obese thing is not cute!  I want to grab a hold of Lil' Kim, take her to the factory where her mannequin was produced, melt her down and hopefully her former shell will emerge.  I want to take Lil' Wayne and put him over my knee and beat the platinum out of his mouth.  Now, it's true that Black mothers prescribe 'Tussin for everything.  But Wayne you KNOW your mother didn't mean take that much syrup!  And you have the nerve to be procreating?  UGH!

Hip-Hop is the Darwinist fusion of Rap, R&B, Blues and Soul.  No one could have predicted that Hip-Hop music, even liquified to it's purest elements, would be around this long.  Nor would there be a record label dedicated to publishing rap recordings that would withstand 25 years (thank you Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin for believing in Rap!).  I adore that there's a medium to commemorate Hip-Hop's achievement - even if surviving is it's most noted and only accomplishment.  I'm so appreciative that this generation can get a glimpse of what the art form used to be.  Not corporate whoring for a sneaker deal, or a clothing line or hawking liquor to your underage fans just so your picture can be on featured on a poster in every liquor store window.  Sit down Jay-Z, 50 Cent and Diddy!  Now, I shot'cha!  It was a platform  used to raise the level of consciousness of the people (thank you Public Enemy!) and also to spread good dance music (thank you Digital Underground's "Humpty Dance"!).  I hope this younger generation of rappers are taking notes during the HHH ceremony.  The lives and minds of our youth are being senselessly taken away because of the words someone says in a record (RIP Tupac and Biggie!).   I love that HHH are trying to keep the art alive.  But if we don't act now to reverse the destruction we've caused, there will be no music, nor any fans, left to save.

Just some reflections from my heart. Love is contagious, spread it!
~ Ms. P


Georgia Peach said...

The Divine Ms. P:

You have outdone yourself with this blog. As someone who used to work for Def Jam many moons ago, but around the time when Ja Rule, Jay-z and DMX ruled things...thank you for reminding me of why I first wanted to work there. Because i LOVED hip-hop...I hope that it returns at some point soon and these misguided youngsters like Soulja Boy get the mic's snatched back from them!

Bangin playlist girl! LOVE THIS BLOG! :)

Ms. Princess said...

Thank you Glee! I know as someone who worked in the music industry at different labels, you have a love for the music too. It used to be great, didn't it? Here's to it's rebirth!! Thanks for the encouragement. I can't say it enough, gur!