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  ...presents...               Hip-Hop Primer #2
                                  Part 2 of 2            by Mark Dery

                      >>> a cDc publication.......1991 <<<
                        -cDc- CULT OF THE DEAD COW -cDc-

     RUBIN: "Rap records are really black rock and roll records, the antithesis
of disco.  The rap records which were being made in the beginning, like the
ones on the Sugar Hill label, were disco records with a guy rappin' on top of
'em.  That's because these were companies who, before rap became popular, were
making disco records.  What I tried to do was make records that had more to do
with what the rap scene was about in the clubs, where the kinds of beats they
were rapping over weren't disco beats; they were Billy Squier and Aerosmith -
rock and roll beats!  So I thought what needed to happen was to make the beats
on these records more oriented toward rock."

     ADLER: "Rappers make rock and roll.  My notion of rock and roll isn't
pegged to a big, noisy guitar.  I think rock and roll has always been about
attitude and rhythm; it's about aggression, rebellion, sex, and a big beat.
It's also about intelligence and wit.  And if those are the qualities that you
look for in rock and roll, you're gonna come to rap."

     RUBIN: "A Run-D.M.C. concert, which, two or three years ago, would draw
maybe a 70 or 80 percent black audience, is now drawing a 70 or 80 percent
white audience.  I'd say that's a crossover.  Things are definitely changing
in rap."

     McDANIELS: "When we did 'Rock Box' and 'King Of Rock,' these headbangers
couldn't believe the tracks we made.  They like, 'Yo, man, that's really bad!' 
It definitely brought them in, and now, they still with it.  Even if Run-D.M.C.
don't put a metal track, they gonna buy the album and they'll wind up liking a
hip-hop jam, they'll end up liking a cut like 'Run's House' or 'Beats To The
Rhyme.'  Now they understand it.  They followed the guitar in there, and then
they found out there was a whole other side to it."

     ADLER: "Can I tell you why this music wins?  Because it is intrinsically
powerful.  This is some of the most exciting popular music being made by anyone
anywhere on the planet.  I've always said, 'Please let us play on a bill with
Bruce Springsteen or whoever most white people think is an exciting rock and
roller.  We'll go on first!'  Let me put Public Enemy on before Bruce
Springsteen; that would be it for brother Brucie; he'd be finished!  He'd have
to go and take an early shower!  Public Enemy would get off the stage and the
crowd would head for the exits!"

     SILVERMAN: "Is rap rock and roll?  Rap is what rock and roll should be.
When rock went to sleep, rap rose from its ashes."


     The chapter on rap in the late '80s will have to be written when
historical distance affords a little objectivity.  It's safe to make several
predictions, though, based on the words and music of some of the more
innovative rappers.  For example, it seems clear that we'll be seeing a return
to the use of live musicians in the studio and onstage.

     SILVERMAN: "Stetsasonic is the first rap group to tour with a live
drummer.  It's sort of a retro movement, because all the sampling that's
done is James Brown stuff, which was live drums to begin with.  Stetsasonic
have three emcees, two deejays, a guy named D.B.C. ['Dynamic Beat Creator']
who plays synthesizers, a live drummer, and a guy who makes scratch sounds
and beats with his mouth.  It's sort of like a hip-hop orchestra."

     McDANIELS: "People are startin' to put basslines in it, and pianos and
horns.  A lot of the records you hear on the radio now got good tracks behind
'em.  The music is maturing, progressing, and as it does, the rap scene does. 
The rappers and the deejays go into the studio and put a beat down and rap over
it and then they say, 'Hey, I know a bass line that would go great with that!' 
So I would say the scene is getting more musical.  Or at least, people are
utilizing more musical sounds.  Musicians play an important role; they add the
flavor to the beats.  We always have a lot of real instruments on our tracks. 
But people are still sampling.  We're still dropping in beats from James Brown
or Billy Squier or the Meters."

     The tug of war over the ethical and legal aspects of sampling will
continue as rappers go on painting remarkable pastiches in sound.

     GEHR: "So far, the big case involves the Beastie Boys, and the group
they ripped off for their tune 'Brass Monkey,' off of LICENSE TO ILL.
I suspect that will be settled out of court, because everyone's afraid of
setting a legal precedent for this stuff.  If record companies were smarter,
they'd say, 'Sure, anybody can do it,' because people from their record
companies are going to want to rip off people from other companies.  But
they're so concerned with keeping their turf that that's probably not going
to happen.  There will probably be these dippy little court cases that get
settled out of court without setting any legal precedent.  I don't think it's
going to be etched in stone."

     ROBINSON: "We've never really used bits and pieces of other peoples' stuff
too much, because a lot of groups are getting involved in lawsuits over that. 
We just take ordinary sounds, like if I hear a noisy car outside, I'll grab the
little sampler and sample that.  Or if I hear people talking, I'll sample that
too.  Or if I'm watchin' TV and I hear somethin' from a commercial, like where
they say, 'Parkay... Butter!,' I'll sample that."

     DADDY-O, from Stetsasonic: "Our latest single and video, 'Talkin' All
That Jazz,' is pro-sampling.  It's almost like an anti-James Brown nowadays
record, now that's he's coming back with this static about sampling.  I'm
just establishing what we intend to do with sampling.  We sometimes use the
words 'recontextualization' or 'revivification,' but it means the same
thing, which is to take something old and make it new again.  The strong
point of what sampling does for us, as a music form, is to establish some
soul groove and some old funk that's lost with today's R&B in the name of
crossover, in the name of pop charts, in the name of Whitney Houston,
whatever.  You know what I'm saying?"

     STEVE ETT, engineer and co-owner, Chung King House Of Metal studios:
"I'm with everybody who steals stuff to make new stuff, because in my book,
one plus one equals three.  If you take one thing and add it to something
else, you get two in mathematics.  But in the real world, when you take one
sound and add it to a second sound, you create a third sound.  By stealing a
bass line from one old record and sticking it into a drumbeat, you create a
whole new song."

     McDANIELS: "If you use somebody's material, just give 'em their royalties
and everybody will be happy and merry.  That's something you should do right
away instead of waitin' until your records sell, because if your record does
good, the person will be like, 'Yo, I want mine.'  Then you can't put the album
out 'cause you be goin' to court and then you sittin' there mad, you know?"

     Rap is travelling beyond its old neighborhoods, and adapting to diverse
climates throughout the world.  In the U.S. strong growth pockets in Los
Angeles and Miami are creating new sub-styles of rap.

     SILVERMAN: "There's a Miami sound called 'bass music,' with modulating
bass and a heavy 808 sound.  And there's a California sound, which is totally
different, typified by artists such as Ice-T, people who are selling a quarter
of a million or more records in L.A. and don't ever get played in New York. 
All of the California stuff and a lot of the Miami music is high-speed rap of
120 beats per minute or more.  It all sounds like 'Planet Rock.'

     BAMBAATAA: "It's spreadin' from country to country.  You have Jovanotti,
this white Italian guy who had a Number One rap album in Italy.  You have
rappers in Holland.  You have a couple of groups comin' out of Belgium and
Germany.  A lot of the European rappin' is mixed, where you have blacks and
whites doin' it together.  I'd say France, besides England, has the funkiest
acts.  France is the only place that had a syndicated TV show called HIP HOP
that was on for two to three years."

     SILVERMAN: "A British school of rap is beginning to rear its head.
Derek B., Cookie Crew, and a whole new level of rappers are starting to
emerge from there, with very strong Jamaican roots.  If anything, they're a
lot more knowledgeable about reggae, which sells a lot more in that country
per capita than it does here.  So I think that they're going to have a leg
up on us when they do get into rap."

     RUBIN: "I think the British scene might be the future of rap.  Much
like Led Zeppelin taking the American blues and doing a white boy bastardized
version if it, the British might do the same thing with rap.  I don't
necessarily like what they've done to it, but I think that's the only
chance it has."

     GEHR: "The interesting thing about the British rap phenomenon is that what
most hipsters seem to be into in England isn't rap at all; it's hip-hop.
They're not into rap as an American derivative of Jamaican toasting, so much as
they're into the idea of hip-hop being a larcenous kind of music that borrows
from a lot of other sources, reorganizing them in interesting ways.  They're
into rap more as radical music than as social commentary."

     McDANIELS: "I like them English guys.  They seem to be with it.  They're
just as enthusiastic as the people over here in the States; I think they want
it more, even, 'cause they're not from here, you know what I'm sayin'?  A lot
of rappers do good over there, get a lot of radio play, do successful tours. 
It's very, very easy to get on TV over there, they got so many music shows. 
The scene over there is very good for this music, and I like the rappers that
are comin' outta there.  I think, right now, they just wanna see who's the best
rapper, who got the best beats and stuff like that.  But eventually, you'll
have some of 'em comin' out, discussin' what's goin' on in the streets, givin'
a message, making a strong social statement."


     Rap, it seems, is everywhere.  But despite its escalating sales, and
despite the push given it by respected critics in THE NEW YORK TIMES, THE
VILLAGE VOICE, and other publications, it continues to receive little or no
airplay on white or black radio.

     ADLER: "There's a kind of paradox build into our success.  At the same
time that we've achieved enormous critical and commercial recognition, we've
also had to face an awful lot of resistance in the form of bans on radio.
If Public Enemy got airplay commensurate with their true popularity, they'd
sell ten times as many records as they're already selling.  They've already
sold 750,000 records in six weeks without any airplay!  Everybody in the music
industry understands that radio is the chief sales medium and yet we find
ourselves banned.  Why is this happening?  Because rock radio doesn't play rap.
 There's a more or less blanket ban on music by artists of color.  They don't
think that black musicians play rock and roll.  That's why we think AOR means
'Apartheid-Oriented Radio.'

     "The thing to understand is the difference in the cultural climate today
vis a' vis the '60s.  Take Woodstock, for example: There was an even balance of
white and black artists there.  Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone were the heroes of
that event in a lot of ways, but there was Crosby, Still, Nash & Young for
people who liked folk rock, Joan Baez was on the bill, The Who were there, and
they were all mixed up together.  And that wasn't unusual because that's the
way radio was at that time.  When Sly Stone had a hit and The Beatles had a
hit, you heard them back-to-back on the radio.  What happened, in the early
'70s, was that the once-monolithic rock audience was demographed by radio
programmers.  Now, there's so-called 'rock radio' for white kids in the suburbs
and so-called 'urban radio' for black kids in the cities and there's very
little actual crossover in terms of day-to-day programming.  So rock radio
plays virtually no black artists, even though there are musicological links
between the staple music of AOR and our music.  An artful programmer could
program Run-D.M.C., Public Enemy, and Eric B., along with Van Halen and the
rest of those bands.  Why aren't they doing it?  It's racism!  They're afraid
of black people!  It's all-white staffs and all-white deejays playing all-white
artists for an all-white audience.

     "Now, black radio is fucked up on the basis, not of racism, but of class. 
To put it in current cultural terms, it's a war between the buppies and the
B-boys; buppies are black yuppies and the B-boys are our guys.  Black radio is
run by upwardly mobile black men who, even if they come from a background like
Chuck's, don't want anybody to know about it.  Rap music pulls them right back
to the streetcorner, which is distasteful to them, even terrorizing.  It's
black, aggressive, loud, sexual music, and it has very little to do with Luther
Vandross, who's a staple of black radio at this point."

     Rap, according to Adler and others, has also been virtually ignored by
the technically oriented music press.  The problem, it seems, is that
hip-hoppers simply don't fit the white, middle-class definition of a musician. 
A musician, according to that definition, is someone who toils over manuscript
paper in an age where the studio has become the standard notational tool.  A
musician is someone who values manual dexterity above all else, in an age where
computers may soon circumvent that aspect of music-making altogether.  A
musician-the subtext reads-is a lanky-limbed Briton with a mid-'70s shag
haircut playing florid, high-register arpeggios that are equal parts Liszt and
Liberace.  What a musician is not, and could never be, is a black kid from the
Bronx making whukka-whukka sounds with a record needle.

     SILVERMAN: "To me, hip-hop deejays are musicians.  The technique that's
necessary to be one is at a level of sophistication similar to what it would
take to play an instrument.  It's really difficult to do what they do, playing
three seconds of a beat, in rhythm, and locking it so that it loops and they
can play it back and forth without missing a beat.  They're taking platters,
throwing them on, cueing them up, and going back and forth between two
turntables so that it sounds like it was recorded that way.  Making new music
from seven or eight other records is an incredibly difficult thing to do.  I've
heard people cut as little as one beat back and forth, from one turntable to
the other, left, right, left, right, without headphones or anything!"

     "Current hip-hop represents the use of synthesizers and drum machines by
people who are musically illiterate but could be musical geniuses.  I believe
that there could be Beethovens and Mozarts in the ghettoes of the United States
who never surface because they can't get access to the tools of music.  As the
prices have come down on synthesizers and drum machines, they now have access
to instruments which they don't need manual dexterity to be able to play,
because of sequencing.  They're able to put down musical ideas which they can't
express on an instrument that takes some type of musical articulation."

     "Without any airplay, rap sells more concert tickets and more records
than any of this.  Anything that can sell more than 30 million albums a year
without any airplay-more than Marillion or most of these groups that you read
about in technical music magazines-is a legitimate art form that people are
appreciating.  Rap music is real.  Rap isn't a bunch of middle-class guys with
money going out and putting on makeup and talking about throwing their parents
out the window [Twisted Sister].  It's about people who are living in ghettoes
and have no way out.  And it's also a mega-business, practically an industry
unto itself.  I mean, how long can you ignore it?"

     D.B.C. ["Dynamic Beat Creator"], sampler/synthesist for Stetsasonic:
"Who's to say what music is?  As we move further toward the future, music is
gonna change even more drastically, and then what you gonna say?"
  _   _   ____________________________________________________________________
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  .ooM   |1991 cDc communications by Mark Dery                   08/31/91-#187|
\_______/|All Rights Pissed Away.                            FIVE YEARS of cDc|