The Merger of Hip Hop & Punk..an Interview w/ Fab 5 Freddy

The meeting of Punk and Hip Hop cultures in the late 70s early 80s is an overlooked often downplayed facet of Hip Hop History. Most people think of Run DMC‘s Rock Box and later their collaboration with Aerosmith when they think of Hip Hop merging with Rock-N-Roll. The truth of the matter is that in a very organic way, artists from both cultures broke bread and came to respect each other not so much because of the music, but because of the ‘rebellious’ attitude and spirit that personified both groups.

With last weeks passing of punk icon turned Hip Hop icon Malcolm McLaren, the details of punk Hip Hop unions began to be revisited. We sat down with one of the key bridge builders to both worlds Brooklyn native Fab 5 Freddy to get his perspective.  Fab started out as a graffiti artist and later went on to rap and produce. His record Change the Beat is a classic. here Fab raps in French and at the end provides us with the classic line that every DJ worth his weight has used to scratch.. Ahhh This Stuff is Really Fresh. It was one of the earliest instances of a vocorder being used in Hip Hop. later on Fab5 became the face of Yo MTV Raps.

Fab 5 Freddy

He now heads up the VH1 Hip Hop Honors. He noted that this year they will be honoring the pioneers of the South. We spoke to him about those pioneering days and he noted that his love of art is what took him downtown to the thriving Village scene that hosted Punk, New Wave and artsy types..Fab 5 noted that his partner in crime (art crime) was the late Jean Michel Basquiat and together they attended a lot of the shows and parties and met folks like Deborah Harry and her man Chris Stein from the group Blondie.  The group would later immortalize Fab 5 in the song Rapture where they shouted him out. In our interview Fab 5 explains how that song came about.

Kool Lady Blue

We talked about Fab’s first encounter with Malcolm Mclaren. He noted that it was a promoter named Kool Lady Blue best known for her work at the Roxy and the Negril who introduced the pair and that Fab wasn’t really feeling McLaren. He explained that  his good friend Johnny Lydon aka Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols and later PIL had accused McLaren of ripping off the group. As a result when McLaren explained to Fab 5 that he wanted to go uptown to the Bronx and experience the emerging Hip Hop scene, he wasn’t gonna be ‘that guy’ to make it happen.

Fab went on to explain that he was impressed with the way Mclaren maneuvered. Not only did he make it up to the Bronx but he eventually teamed up with two guys Larry Price aka Se’Divine Price and Ronald Larkins Jr aka JazzyJust the Superstarwho were members of the 5% Nation who had started doing one of the earliest Hip Hop radio shows back in 1979 on WHBI. . The duo went by the name World Famous Supreme Team and they along with Mclaren made history by putting out some of Hip Hop’s ealiest hits including ‘Buffalo Gals’ and ‘Hey DJ’.. Fab explained what made Mclaren such a genius was his ability to capture not only the early feel of Hip Hop but also the groups popular radio show . He was ground breaking in his production and willingness to push the envelop.

Fab added that the Hip Hop -Punk fusion came about because there was a community of artists who were open minded and willing to collaborate.

The Clash

We talked about the groundbreaking role the Clash played. Fab noted that the London based group was influenced by reggae and saw similarities with that and early rap.  They did a weeks long stint at a club called Bond  where they decided to show support for Hip Hop by inviting a popular artist or deejay to open up for them each night. The line up included Grand Master Flash, Kurtis Blow, Afrika Bambaataa, Spoonie G and Funky 4 Plus One More.  he said rthe crowd was hostile. It would be like a rapper performing at a Tea Party. Things got so bad the Clash had to come out on one of the nights and let folks know they were in full support of Hip Hop. Later on Mick Jones would hook up with Futura 2000 to do a song called ‘Escapades of Futura’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gR9K2ISCUqg

During our interview Fab talked about how the merger of Punk and Hip Hop helped paved the way for early Hip Hop journalism primarily with writers Barry Cooper and Greg Tate who were fixtures in the downtown art scene and started penning stories about Hip Hop.

Click HERE to Here Breakdown FM podcast featuring Fab 5 Freddy

Below is a link to the interview we did with Fab 5..

Breakdown FM Interview w/ Fab 5 Freddy How Hip Hop Met Punk

Here is a shortened video version of the podcast

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EyxNc-7cA7E

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3niRdoFgYoQ

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Rap & Rock Come Together Again w/Street Sweeper Social Club

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Boots Riley and Tom Morello Step Up and Get Busy on  Jimmy Fallon

by Davey D

Boots Riley & Tom Morello Street Sweeper Social Club falls in a long line of rap and rco artists teaming up and wrecking shop.

Boots Riley & Tom Morello Street Sweeper Social Club falls in a long line of rap and rco artists teaming up and wrecking shop.

We tip our hats to Boots Riley of the Coup and Tom Morello of  Rage Against the Machine. As you know the pair came together to form the Street Sweepers Social Club and their new album was released earlier this week. Last night they appeared on the Jimmy Fallon show and got busy.  For those of us who’ve known Boots over the years. It was the first time we’ve seen him get busy on the dance tip..LOL The video says it all

On another note.. we keep hearing conversations about how its cool to see artists like Boots moving into Rock-N-Roll. I guess one of the reasons this convo been surfacing is because we recently had Lil Wayne rolling out in that direction and so for many this appears to be a new thing. I guess people forgot about Ice T and his rock band Body Count..and their dope song Cop Killer LOL 

We just have to remind people nothing could be further from the truth. Hip Hop artists merging with rock has been going on from day one.

And when I say ‘day one’ I mean years before Run DMC hooked up with Aerosmith  to do a remake of  ‘Walk This Way’. In fact one of the reasons why Run DMC even agreed to help save the careers of Aerosmith who ironicly were flioundering at that time was because  the drum beat to that song had long been used as a popular break beat back in Hip Hop’s pioneering days. 

I recall Jam Master Jay talking about how the original versions of the remake had a much harder hip hop feel. It was more percussion based with the guitar riffs being used to add flavor.  At the time the trio did the song Jay wanted to take it back to the early days of Hip Hop and have it reflected in the song. This meant that Aerosmith’s role would’ve been limited.  It would’ve been all about the drums. 

I don’t know if it was good thing or not, but the powers that be intervened and pushed to make Walk this Way more of a rock song and the rest is history. Hip Hop officlally meets Rock-N-Roll… Well that’s the MTV version of the Hip Hop history..

Hip Hop and Rock as I said goes way back and before Run DMC teamed up with Aerosmith there was stretch of time where the early pioneers were hooking up with Punk Rockers and New Wave artists.  The most visible examples was Afrika Bambaataa teaming up with Johnny Rotten to do the classic song World Destruction. The collab clearly reflected boths artists taste and love for music.  The other classic was Blondie doing the song Rapture where they shout out Grandmaster Flash and Fab Five Freddy.  Lead singer Debbie Harry herself does the rap and in the video she features graf artists Freddy, Lee Quiones and Jean-Michael Basquiat .  What was interesting about this chart topping song was the NY Daily News had an article where they basically credited Blondie for inventing rap. I was dumfounded.

Fortunately Debby Harry was one of those people who didn’t try to exploit the situation as she often noted Rapture was her way of paying tribute to the block parties she and others used to attend up in the Bronx. She was inspired by Hip Hop and many within Hip Hop were inspired by New Wave Punk scene.  This was reflected in songs like ‘Punk Rock Rap’ by the Cold Crush Brothers or  “Genius Rap’ by Dr Jeckyl & Mr Hyde’  which borrowed from Tom Tom Club’s ‘Genius Of Love’ which was huge hit amongst early Hip Hoppers.

During the pioneering era all sorts of Rrck songs ranging from  Queen‘s Another One Bites the Dust to Billy Squiers ‘Big Beat’ to  Liquid Liquid’s Caravan were all used as break beats. If it had a funky percussion section it got used.  So this notion of  rock and rap is nothing new.  Boots and Tom merrelo are just a continuum in a long line of folks who make good music pushing the envelop and exploring new ways to take things a higher level.

-Davey D-

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