Hip Hop 101: Every City Has a History-Here’s Early LA Hip Hop

Rich Cason & FormulaV

When it comes to Hip Hop every city has its own pioneers and their own unique special history.. Some of it was influenced by what was going on in New York, a lot of it was homegrown and came to light once things started to bubble up from NY in the early 80s.. In other words, in places like LA and the Bay Area there was already a thriving street dance scene where people were tutting, popping and roboting which had nothing to do with New York.. Funk and later Uptempo dance records were the gems that galvanized people..

Below are some of the first records I recall hearing out of LA back in the early days of LA rap, which I should add was different from the Bay which has its own unique history.. What I liked about LA’s history was many of the artists started off as DJs.. People like Arabian Prince, DJ Unknown, Egyptian Lover, Chris The Glove Taylor, Tony G, Joe Cooley , Julio G, Uncle Jamms Army etc..

It’s important to note that LA Hip Hop history is by no means the totality of West Coast Hip Hop History.. There were simultaneous scenes going on in the Bay Area 400 miles away and in Seattle which is good 1000k miles away during those early days. Each had their own unique origins, pioneers and influences..The sounds were also very different at least in terms of early records.. This is not to say folks in the Bay or Seattle weren’t jamming to early Ice T, Uncle Jamm’s Army or KDAY which because of its AM signal could be heard up and down the coast, but the early sounds coming out of LA represented a vibe, mindset and overall attitude that was unique to that city..

In the video below you see Chris the Glove who produced the cut Wreckless and featured Ice T is shown in this 1983 video along with Egyptian Lover demonstrating deejaying..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hj8hPyIAKfU

EgyptianLoverA lot of the music in LA’s early Hip Hop days was classified as electrofunk and is often associated with the sound Afrika Bambaataa established with his song Planet Rock. However, when speaking with the early DJs from LA, they say they were already into that sound way before hearing Planet Rock.

Egyptian Lover explained that he was influenced by early Prince and Kraftwerk.. and that he had been deejaying in a crew since the mid 70s.. Folks in LA will recall how Egypt who was part of Uncle Jamms Army used to do huge parties at the LA Coliseum where they would work 4 turn tables at a time which was pretty major back at that time..

Here’s an interview we did with Egypt on Breakdown FM where he breaks all this down:

Below is a more in depth interview done in two parts where Egypt gives a lot more details as to his career and the early LA scene..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=85xqcGgc4a4

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6tSheNRTs-c

Uncle Jamm’s Army ‘Naughty Boy’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3IGJAVtMZQ

Other pioneering figures had already been playing in bands and were producers.. Rich Cason is a one such pioneer. You can’t talk about LA Hip Hop without proppin him up.. He’s a key foundation… The first records I heard from LA that I associated with Hip Hop was Killer Groove by Formula V, Gigiolo Rapp and Bad Times by Captain Rapp were all produced by Cason. His legacy goes way back to the 60s. In fact his group Formula V had been putting out records since 1973.

Killer Groove by Formula V w/ producer Rich Cason

Captain Rapp Bad Times..

Captain Rapp Gigolo Rapp

Arabian Prince

Arabian Prince who was an original member of NWA is another pioneering figure in LA Hip Hop who was deejaying in a crew since the 70s. He started out as a DJ and later went on to produce. He’s unique in the sense that he was a pioneering figure in Hip Hop’s electro-funk movement as well as pioneering figure in Hip Hop’s gangsta rap movement. A quick look at his track record will show you that he produced landmark tracks for everyone ranging from JJ Fad to Bobby Jimmy and the Critters as well as NWA. Here’s an interview he did with him on Breakdown FM

Tons of things have been written about the World Class Wrecking Crew which was home to Dr Dre… They had a bunch of hit songs and Dre helped elevate the deejay game before he went on to start producing..

Wrecking Crew w/ Dr Dre Surgery

Here are some other early cuts I recall from back in the days..Now please keep in mind this is just a taste of a city that is steeped with stories.. No, we haven’t touched on the dance scene and influence. We haven’t talked about KDAY and the Mixmasters which go back to ’83 and 84.. We haven’t touched on the Good Life or any of that.. This is just a sample.. A great place to go to get some good info on early west coast is my folks from germany who run www.westcoastpioneers.com

Ice T the Coldest Rap Ever.. produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis 1983

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDo1DqolHOg

Ice T and Chris ‘the Glove’ Taylor‘ Reckless

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Mc3pTmiCHI

LA Dream Team ‘Rockberry’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KElKcfgzN5I

Ice T 6 in the Morning..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ka0yBdZh46E

As I noted 1580 KDAY was the station that set it off with the Mixmasters..Below is an old aircheck from 86 but there was dope mixes on the radio for years prior not just on KDAY but also KACE and KJLH

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=80-d8vreH4Q

Return to Davey D’s Hip Hop Corner

The Return of LA Hip Hop… Blu is in the Building

Whoever said Hip Hop was dead, obviously had not peeped Blu, a South Central LA native who defies any and all stereotypes we like to associate with cats from the hood and West Coast emcees.

For starters we have to take special note to the way the tall lanky emcee spells his name. There is no ‘E’ at the end and its a oversight that he often rhymes about. Second, Blu got hip to Hip Hop late in life. He is the stepson of a strict pastor who forbade him from listening to Hip Hop while he was growing up. His biological father is a member of the Bloods who listens to gangsta and Bay Area turf raps. To this day Blu’s dad calls him him ‘Flu’ instead of Blu. Thats how deep it gets.

According to Blu, he got turned onto groups like De La Soul only after hearing DMX. His musical upbringing and ultimate influences before being introduced to Hip Hop was centered around a diverse collection of artists ranging from Al Green to Thelonious Monk to Bob Dillon. It’s no mistake that the lead song off his ‘Below the Heavens‘ album is a remake of the Del’s classic ‘My World is…

Blu says he regrets missing the Golden era of LA Hip Hop which was personified by legendary spots like the Good Life and Hip Hop staples like Freestyle Fellowship, Jurassic 5, Project Blowed and the late Bigga B to name a few. However there’s no denying that his lyrical prowess and charismatic style kicks in where those legends left off.

Blu acknowledges that it was people like Charli2na of the J5 who sat him down and laced him up with lots of info and tales surrounding the scene of that bygone era. Much of what 2na told him was underscored by radio shows like The Wake Up Show and Friday Nite Flavas before it was unceramoniously taken off the air.

As Blu honed his emcee skills he cites Inspectah Deck of the Wu-Tang Clan, LA legend Cashus King and Planet Asia as being big influences. With respect to Deck, Blu says that he’s the illest emceee when it comes to kicking off a song. He cites the track Triumph as the one where Deck truly shines. Blu’s one regret with the new debut album ‘Below the Heavens‘ was not having Deck on. However when peeping songs like ‘Simply Amazing‘ you can clearly hear how he was inspired.

During our interview in which Blu walked us through a variety of songs including ‘Narrow Path‘, ‘Simply Amazing‘, ‘Show Me the Good Life‘ featuring singer Aloe Blacc of the Dirty Science Crew and ‘Bullet through Me‘ off an upcoming album called ‘Piece Talks‘, he admits that he has a lot to say and his feverishly working to put out 6 different projects which will allow him to get everything off his chest. He refuses to be limited by industry driven categories and limitations.

For example, in the song ‘Bullet Through Me‘ which is off the Piece Talks album produced by Ta’arach, Blu does an experimental cover of a Paul McCarthy song. He admits that upon first listens many will question where he is going and what he’s doing, but folks will learn to get passed any hesitations. His ultimate goal is to put fun back into Hip Hop and be creative. He also wants to help bring national attention back to LA and west coast Hip Hop. In 2008 where everyone is talking about Change, Blu’s attitude and outlook is right in step. This looks to be a big year for him.

by Davey D

You can peep the Blu interview on Breakdown FM by clicking the link below