Thursday, October 06, 2005

Yes yes y'all

Play it: Early Hip-Hop Breakbeats
. . . hearing black DJs rock Kraftwerk’s "Trans Europe Express" in Brooklyn playgrounds, marveling at breakers spinning on cardboard under Times Square’s neon, seeing painter’s caps and shell-toe Adidas emerge as high profile fashion on Harlem streets. . . . [Yes Yes Y’All is] about a time and a place and a people that you should know about and that I, happily, cannot forget.
—Nelson George, from the Introduction to Yes Yes Y'All
Recently finished another great couple hip-hop tomes, first of which is Yes Yes Y'All, which is a great oral history of the first ten years of Hip-Hop put together by the Experience Music Project. Through the mouths of the artists themselves, this book documents the rise of Hip-Hop from the early days of Kool DJ Herc's parties, through the Sugarhill Gang's "Rapper's Delight" release all the way to it's spread outside the confines of Brooklyn in the early 80's.

DJ's dominated the early days ('75-80,) and their tools were the 'breakbeat.' First popularized by Kool DJ Herc, DJ's located the point in a song where the beats created the best atmosphere for dancing, and would 'merry-go-round' it (DJ Herc,) 'cut' it (Grandmaster Flash) or even 'scratch' it (Grand Wizard Theodore.) The playlist of breakbeats I've compiled is fun to listen to, throw a party too, or just play 'find the break' (or sample that appeared a rap song later.) Afrika Bambaata is responsible for some of the crazier ones, like Kraftwerk and the Rolling Stones, but they worked on the dance floor, and worked in contributing to Hip-Hop to crossing cultural barriers. Other faves of DJ's were James Brown, the Jimmy Castor Bunch, and the Incredible Bongo Band ("Apache" is everywhere...except in Rhapsody.)

Another book I recently digested is Back in the Days, which is a great collection of hip-hop photographs from Jamel Shabazz. The photos document the period from 1980 to 1989, following Hip-Hop's rapid rise not just in music, but also in fashion. The jacket tells the story better then I could: "Shabazz’s subjects strike poses that put supermodels to shame—showing off Kangol caps and Gazelle glasses, shell-top Adidas and suede Pumas with fat laces, shearling coats and leather jackets, gold rope chains, door-knocker earrings, name belts, boom boxes, and other designer finery." It's a fun look through, and I recommend it for any fan of early Hip-Hop.

Also of note, recently the NY Times ran a great story on Joe Conzo Jr., who took also took photographs of the early days of Hip-Hop, but Conzo was there a lot sooner, and has some amazing stories to go along with the great photos he captured at the time. Conzo was the Cold Crush Brothers' personal photgrapher, and thus had an inside into much of the scene. He has shots from the set of the controversial filming of the 1981 film Fort Apache, the Bronx, as well as the infamous "1981 Harlem World battle against the Fantastic Five, where the Cold Crush Brothers stepped out gangster-style in suits and fedoras, toting plastic guns." Good stuff.

Loop 1 Babylon is Burning 1968-1977
Loop 2 Planet Rock 1975-1986
Loop 3 The Message 1984-1992
Hip-Hop History week on Fresh Air

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drake leLane said...

Early Hip-Hop Breakbeats

* "It's Just Begun" - Jimmy Castor Bunch
* "Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose" - James Brown
* "Get Into Something" - The Isley Brothers
* "Get Ready" - Rare Earth
* "Melting Pot" - Booker T. and The MG's
* "Take Me to the Mardi Gras" - Bob James
* "The Breakdown (Part 2)" - Rufus Thomas/Carla Thomas
* "I Know You Got Soul" - Bobby Byrd
* "Diff'rent Strokes" - Syl Johnson
* "Dance To The Drummer's Beat" - Herman Kelly
* "Mary, Mary" - The Monkees
* "Get On The Good Foot" - James Brown
* "Soul Makossa" - Manu Dibango
* "Daisy Lady" - Seventh Wonder
* "Think (About It)" - Lyn Collins
* "Rock Steady" - Aretha Franklin
* "The Hook and Sling" - Eddie Bo
* "Trans-Europe Express" - Kraftwerk
* "Stand!" - Sly & The Family Stone
* "Johnny The Fox Meets Jimmy The Weed" - Thin Lizzy
* "Good Times" - Chic
* "Walk This Way" - Aerosmith
* "Say It Loud (I'm Black And I'm Proud), Pt. 1" - James Brown
* "Honky Tonk Women" - The Rolling Stones
* "I Can't Stop" - John Davis & The Monster Orchestra
* "Planetary Citizen" - The Mahavishnu Orchestra
* "Brother Green (The Disco King)" - Roy Ayers Ubiquity
* "Fencewalk" - Mandrill
* "Expansions" - Lonnie Liston Smith & The Cosmic Echos
* "Soul Power, Pt.1" - James Brown

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