Thursday, August 16, 2007

Don't Sweat The Technics


Eric B and Rakim "Eric B Is President"

My brother and fellow music nut Pat has always tried to get my goat by asking me what music of my generation will be on the radio still in thirty years. Granted, his comments were justly inspired by whatever band of the moment I had brought home and compared to Zeppelin. After listening to a track, Pat wold turn to me and say, "Yeah, but are they going to be listening to Alice In Chains in thirty years?"

My lifetime has not included a Summer of Love, or a '76 kind of year. My generation grew up in the MTV era of short attention spans. But our generation did see the rise of hip-hop, and as I've previously wrote, hip-hop radically changed the pop landscape. I loved hip-hop from an early age. I spent many evenings dialing into the radio station of the University of Chicago, several miles from my safe suburban home, thrilled by the rhymes of a Sugar Ray Dinki or the beats of a Fast Eddie. This music sounded like NOTHING I had ever heard before, and certainly spoke of an experience as alien as it was of-the-moment. Before they became a boring catalog of material possessions, rhymes dealt with life in the ghetto. And that life was not altogether hopeless. The other great theme of early hip-hop rhymes was partying- not partying with Cristal and a 300 pound security guard between you and your fans, but partying at a barbecue, a record shop, hell, anywhere where they had a turntable. Hip-hop was a community, a movement. I'm sure most people thought it would have its five minutes and short-lived MTV show and then disappear. They were pretty wrong. Hip-hop was an early harbinger of where pop music is today, where personalization and unique distribution have eroded the power of labels and even MTV.

Although alpha males MCs like Big Daddy Kane, LL Cool J, and Chuck D dominated the scene, I did not want to be a MC. I wanted to be a DJ. These guys had the power. They were a one-man band, and it was their beats that made hits. What romance was there in being at a studio, double-tracking your guitar solo? DJs did their magic right in the club, what you heard was the same as when the needle dropped. And by creating their sound, DJs destroyed it, literally. You know why you don't see many James Brown records at record shops? Because most were beat to shit and back by '80s DJs. To this day I would take two turntables and a mixer over a guitar (even a double-necked one) or saxophone.

Eric B. and Rakim hailed from New York City. "When Eric B. Is President", their debut single, dropped they instantly became the most forward-thinking group in hip-hop. Erik B. nods to black music's past all over this track. It manages to have a the slow burn of blues, the swing of jazz, and the propulsion of disco while also sounding so incredibly spare (especially when compared with the celebrated sound his contemporary, Terminator X, was spinning for Public Enemy). Rakim's rhymes cleverly break down the wall between listener and MC. You're listening to the track, and he's telling you what he's doing and what he's going to do right afterward. He's not telling a gritty tale. No, Rakim knows he's riding a hot beat, so he's going to let that do the boasting for him.

Download this, rip it to a CD, roll the windows down on your car, max the bass on your off-the-line sound system, and drive irritatingly slow in the right-hand lane in the happeningest street in your 'hood. Play it loud enough to drown out the car alarms you set off. Bring it in to whatever party you are heading towards. Get the DJ to play it. Watch that groove get bodies moving.

Pat, THIS will be played in thirty years.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

i bet radiohead will still be popular in 30 years.

it's funny - i sometimes work out at a local college's gym. i'm 47. what surprises me is that these guys are 18, 19, 20 years old, right? and what do they listen to while working out?



van halen.

basically stuff that came out when i was in high school. i couldn't imagine listening to crap that came out when my dad was in high school when i was in college.


Billboard Top 10 Songs of 1953
1. That's Amore - Dean Martin
2. The Doggie In The Window - Patti Page
3. Vaya Con Dios - Les Paul & Mary Ford
4. Your Cheatin' Heart - Hank Williams
5. Rags To Riches - Tony Bennett
6. I've Got The World On A String - Frank Sinatra
7. You Belong To Me - Jo Stafford
8. I Believe - Frankie Laine
9. South Of The Border - Frank Sinatra
10. Stranger In Paradise - Tony Bennett

okay - maybe the hank williams, but that's it.

i felt like telling those guys to develop a genre of their own.

end of rant.



5:41 PM PDT  
Blogger Rip Roarin said...

Bands of Generation X's that WILL be played 20 or 30 years from now, in no particular order (and I'm taking Radiohead out of it because you are right):

Beastie Boys
Pearl Jam
Public Enemy
LL Cool J
Prince (do we get him? I hope so)
Sonic Youth
Green Day

Tough call on Madonna(too beholden to fads), Flaming Lips(possible if psychedelic is the nest big thing, otherwise not popular enough), and Oasis (fully intent on making a Van Halen out of themselves). U2 I never considered a band of my generation because they've always appealed primarily to boomers.

8:17 PM PDT  
Blogger dusted21 said...

so Flaming Lips are not popular enough, but Pavement is? I don't think so. Yr right about most except for Pavement and Sonic Youth. Just because they are great doesn't mean the masses give a fuck about them.

9:03 PM PDT  
Blogger Rip Roarin said...

Correct about popularity, but I think both Pavement and Sonic Youth had such a huge influence on everything that came afterwards and also represented vital indie genres-lo-fi and noise (or art) rock. Bands will still be using them as a touchstone thirty years from now.

Ahem...and can I use the Velvet Underground example? Or is that a cliche now?

7:39 AM PDT  
Blogger dusted21 said...

look, there are two kinds of people: us and casual music listeners. casual music listeners don't know who sonic youth, pavement or the velvet underground are. the stuff that gets played on the radio and in films 30 years after its inception is popular music only.

i do however believe that MASTODON will be the music of the future and bring harmony to the galaxy. much like Bill and Ted's Wyld Stallyns did in that movie.

10:13 AM PDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

this word verification is so cool i just want to use it as the comment:


wow! i might nab that as my blogger id!


9:44 PM PDT  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home