The recent untimely departure of the now late and always Great, Ms. Teena Marie (AKA Lady T) has had me melancholy (I keep playing Casanova Brown, over and over again) L. In the past few years we have lost The Ivory Queen of Soul, the great “Superfreak”, Mr. Punk Funk, Rick James, Phelps “Catfish” Collins (of P-FUNK & JB’s fame & Bootzilla’s big brother), Gary “Starchild/Diaperman” Snider (also of P-Funk fame), the man that made Shaft a Bad Mutha … shut your mouth, the Great Isaac Hayes and of course the Godfather of Soul Himself, the Magnificent and Illustrious Mr. James Brown. The thing that makes me more morose about these tragic loses of these music greats is the surprising lack of fanfare upon their departures especially by those who benefitted the most from their legacies, the Hip-hop culture or to use a derivation of the name of Busta Rhyme’s old crew, The Leaders of the New/Old School (sorry if the picture is misleading).
In order to make my point I’ll attach some notes on the origins of Hip-hop from Wikipedia:
“Hip hop arose during the 1970s when block parties became increasingly popular in New York City, particularly in the Bronx, where African American and Puerto Ricaninfluences combined. Block parties incorporated DJs who played popular genres of music, especially funk and soul music.”
“One of the first DJs in New York to use dub style mixing was the Jamaican-born DJ Kool Herc… Because the New York audience did not particularly like dub or reggae, Herc switched to using funk, soul and discorecords. As the percussive breaks were generally short, Herc and other DJs began extending them using an audio mixer and two records.”
“The 1980s marked the diversification of hip hop as the genre developed more complex styles.”
“With the emergence of a new generation of samplers such as the AKAI S900 in the late 1980s, producers did not require the aid of tape loops. Public Enemy's first album was created with the help of large tape loops. The process of looping break into a breakbeat now became more common with a sampler, now doing the job which so far had been done manually by the DJ. In 1989, DJ Mark James under the moniker "45 King", released "The 900 Number", a breakbeat track created by synchronizing samplers and vinyl.”
And this next excerpt is key to my discussion:
“Hip hop's "golden age" (or "golden era") is a name given to a period in mainstream hip hop—usually cited as between the mid 1980s and the mid 1990s—said to be characterized by its diversity, quality, innovation and influence. There were strong themes of Afrocentricity and political militancy, while the music was experimental and the sampling, eclectic.] There was often a strong jazz influence. The artists most often associated with the phrase are Public Enemy, Boogie Down Productions, Eric B. & Rakim, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Gang Starr, Big Daddy Kane and the Jungle Brothers.
The golden age is noted for its innovation – a time “when it seemed that every new single reinvented the genre” according to Rolling Stone. Referring to “hip-hop in its golden age”, Spin’s editor-in-chief Sia Michel says, “there were so many important, groundbreaking albums coming out right about that time”, and MTV’s Sway Callowayadds: "The thing that made that era so great is that nothing was contrived. Everything was still being discovered and everything was still innovative and new”. Writer William Jelani Cobb says "what made the era they inaugurated worthy of the term golden was the sheer number of stylistic innovations that came into existence... in these golden years, a critical mass of mic prodigies were literally creating themselves and their art form at the same time".
The specific time period that the golden age covers varies slightly from different sources. Some place it square in the 1980s and 1990s – Rolling Stonerefers to “rap's '86-'99 golden age”, and MSNBC states, “the “Golden Age” of hip-hop music: The ’80s” and ’90s”.”
I would argue that the invention or utilization of sampling was a key aspect and innovation of Hip-hop music. In addition, the golden age of Hip-hop was the definitive musical evolution of the century. No offense to Rock and Roll, Blues, RB and Jazz but this era of music has affected all genres of art & entertainment (music, movies, sports, art, fashion, dance, etc.) and has built upon, incorporated and synthesized all the previously mentioned music forms. The Golden Age of Hip Hoppers have taken their art and spread it across the globe. Their influence is immense and far reaching. All over the globe you see Asian, African, Arab, Latin and European youth rapping, tagging, and break/hip-hop dancing (now crunking too). For some it has become the theme music of their liberation struggles. I imagine that if other life forms on other planets have technology to tune into our world they would probably bob their head(s) to Jay Z, Nas and Rakim (I have seen plants and animals bob and dance to Hip-hop, but that was during my college years J).
However, these great Golden age Hip-hop artists (many of whom have gone on to be movie stars, music and fashion moguls, businessmen and women and authors) have created a great offense. The offense(s) I speak of is #1 they have not reached back and helped and honored those from the past that their music and fame were built on, and #2 they have not done enough to mentor and save the current generation of Hip-hop artist( many of whom are steering this great art form into the recesses of hell).
I make the previous statement with the understanding that it is a blanket indictment and is not applicable to every Hip hopper. There are some who give “big ups” to the O.G.’s and Ma Dukes and who “feed the seeds”. And I ain’t no Hater, I say what I say as a loyal fan and avid supporter of Hip-hop. I grew up in the Midwest in this Golden era where House music was predominate(understatement). JB music was also very big especially amongst the Midwestern skating culture. We also grew up on Parliament. So, when Rap/Hip-hop started to infuse into our areas, we fell in love with Eric B. and Rakim, PE, BDP, etc. And then Ice T, NWA and Too $hort made their salvo from the West and we continued the love affair. Outside of the lyrical mastery and adult and street themes we could feel the East Coast samples which were oft times heavily influenced by James Brown and the JB’s. West Coast Hip Hop was submerged in and emanated from P-Funk.
So that being said, I am brought to my question(s) to the Leaders: why does DJ Cool Herc - founder of Hip Hop (who is currently gravely ill) have to make an appeal for help to get surgery? Why did James Brown die with debt and with little if any commemoration from the Hip Hop community? For that matter where is the hip hop community’s collective acknowledgment, praise and honor of many of the recent fallen greats? I know MC Hammer, who waxed rich off the Superfreak sample, is now broke but did he even attend Rick James’ funeral (I’ll give it to him that he did honor James Brown at his)? I know Wyclef was trying to be Prez. of Haiti and Lauren & Pras are incognito but did they give a shout out to Lady T for blessing them with Ooh la la la? Did Dr. Dre send flowers on behalf of the G-Funk to the fallen soldiers fighting Sir Nose Devoid of Funk on behalf of the P-Funk? No offense or disrespect intended. I am not trying to single the former mentioned out as bad guys. I am just using them as examples.
But a bigger issue is why the hell are these Leaders of the New/Old school allowing Fiddy (50), Weezy, Jeezy, Gucci and Nicki, etc. (no offense once again; I hypocritically and reluctantly listen and sometimes enjoy their music too) lead Hip hop into the pit of obscurity and absurdity?
It is stated that to whom much is given, much is required. Hip Hop leadership is risking marginalization by not honoring their past and mentoring their future.