First, Happy New Year’s to you and all your readers.
As a hip hop historian, I try to listen to all the new and popular artists of today like 2 Chainz and J. Cole, and other rappers. When I listen to their music, I look for certain qualities in their work such as subject matter, hooks, lyrics, originality and creativity, because you have to get in-depth to really see how good an artist is. You have to also know if they’re real MC’s or rap artists, because there’s a difference between the two.
An unusual fact about hip hop’s early days is a great question. The first thing that stands out is that with today’s music, there’s a lot of misogynistic, violent and profane lyrics, and many artists tout their street cred or gang affiliation. Ironically, hip hop had its beginnings on the streets of New York as a way of moving away from gang violence on the streets. Afrika Bambaataa was the leader of the Black Spades, one of the biggest gangs in New York back in the 70’s, and he used hip hop as an outlet for his members to do something positive.
I would also say that back in the day, rap was a lot more diverse in styles than what you hear today. You had club bangers, radio hits, street records, comical rap, etc. and back then, MC’s could battle each other without worrying about getting shot because a battle was a competition to see who had the better skills.
I read you began rapping in the late 1970’s. Do you think today’s rap music would have been accepted then or would hip hop fans have a puzzled look on their faces if they heard Eminem on the radio?
I think rap today, especially with a talented brother like Eminem, would’ve received much love had the crowds back in the day heard his style. I think lyrically, rap has advanced a great deal over the decades.
Eminem’s lyrical style was basically influenced by artists like Rakim and Treach of Naughty By Nature. Rakim’s style was built from Kool Moe Dee’s technical rhyme style, one of the all-time greats from the 70’s and 80’s so when you listen to Eminem you can actually hear some of Kool Moe Dee’s influence that passed on from generation to generation. In fact, Moe Dee invented the syllabic rhyme scheme back in the day with lyrics like: “I’m a real rap trooper, with a power so super/ after battling me I guarantee you won’trecuperate.”
Rhyming one word with the syllable of another word is something Em, Biggie and thousands of rappers have done over the years, but Kool Moe Dee invented that.
You complained in the same article about young rap fans not knowing who early artists were. For anyone reading this who doesn’t know rap before 1994, who should they listen to from 70’s and 80’s hip hop?
Yeah, a lot of fans today are unfamiliar with many of the early artists from back in the day, but I think most of the blame is on the radio stations. Basically, radio doesn’t support old school hip hop like they support other classic music and artists, so a lot of young people don’t really know unless they study the game.
The artists they need to know about in terms of the legends that created hip hop from out of nothing to a multi-billion dollar industry are: DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash, Mele Mel and the Furious 5, Kool Moe Dee, the Cold Crush, Whodini, Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, KRS-One and believe it or not, Will Smith as the Fresh Prince with DJ Jazzy Jeff, because they brought a style to the game with a fun vibe to hip hop like the Fat Boys.
Could Top 40 radio play music with a positive message today?
I believe Top 40 could definitely play music with a positive message today, but it’s going to have to be an artist like Jay Z who might collab with Rihanna or Beyonce or with Dre and Eminem. But it could absolutely happen if it’s the right song with the right people behind it.
You don’t just love talking about rap, you keep up with the times yourself. Please tell us about your new single!
My new single is called “Money Makes the World Go Round,” and I’ve been receiving a lot of love from people all around the world. It’s actually a part of “adult contemporary rap,” which is the phrase I coined for mature hip hop for the 30 and over crowd.
The song was actually produced by another legend, Charlie Prince of Rockmaster Scott and the Dynamic Three, the group that created “The Roof Is On Fire.”
Charlie is my partner, and he and I are looking to drop a full length CD later this year. No disrespect to any artist out there or legends, but I’m on a mission to prove that I’m the greatest rapper of all time!