Who is Hip Hop’s most under rated emcee? Thats right you guessed it the one and only Black Thought of the legendary Roots Crew. He’s not to be toyed with and he proved that point when him and J Period wrecked shop at the True Skool 12th anniversary in San Francisco a few weeks ago. It was a show to remember and Thought came with it..Ya don’t belive me check out his flows..
I’ve always loved NWA‘s classic track ‘Straight Outta Compton’.. When it dropped back in ’88 it clearly captured the energy and urgent vibe at the time. NWA had broke on the scene and wanted West Coast rap to be heard and respected. At the same time they wanted to shatter all the myths about LA being a place with palm trees and beaches. LA was about hardcore gang bangers, vicious police and cats from Palm tree lined neighborhoods with a fearless attitude. That song and video definitely did the trick in terms of putting all the above mentioned on the table..
Over the years various groups have attempted to recreate that energy by doing their own versions of the song. One of the best parodies was highlighted in the movie Cb4 featuring comedian Chris Rock.. Y’all may recall when he dida video for his fictional gangster rap group ‘Straight Outta Locash‘
Over the past couple of years the Roots have re-done the NWA songs when doing tribute sets.. Usually its been Black Thought and Skillz holding down the vocals. This past weekend tin Chicago, the Roots took it new heights when Q-Tip from Tribe Called Quest hit the stage to join Black Thought with an incredible rendition. Also on the mic doing Eazy lyrics was guitarist Captain Kirk Douglass. Later on in the show Erykah Badu graced the stage..I wish sometime in the future the Roots do a special NWA project with guest emcees like Q-Tip as well as original members and maybe even go on tour..
Since we’re talking about Q-Tip you should know he’s currently producing some tracks for and with Kanye.. He’s also producing tracks for band member Phife Dawg‘s up and coming solo album. He’s also doing stuff for Mary J Blige
Here’s a couple of angles of the group ripping this NWA classic. The first one is an up close angle at the start of the song. The second video is the longer more complete version..which unfortunately missed the beginning.
I came across this missive from Questlove of the Roots today on twitter… I read it, then peeped the video he linked to and my mind went racing in a few directions all at once. First, I looked at the video from the perspective of the disgruntled fan. In today’s society so many of us attach ourselves to celebrity so much, that our identity gets caught up in what they do or don’t do. This is especially true if that celebrity fills an important void that society refuses or doesn’t seem to have the capacity to fill.When this happens we don’t want our celebrities to change. When they fall short we take it personal. I seen this happen with everyone from Public Enemy to Jesse Jackson.
The second angle I explored was how so many of us are allowed space to grow and evolve. Sometimes it’s our own fault. We don’t wanna take responsibility. We don’t want to endure the pain that comes with growth so we get caught up in what has often been described as the Peter Pan syndrome.
On the other hand , we live in a society that often doesn’t want us to grow. We’re to forever be child-like in our thinking and entertainment minded versus business minded. We’re to forever be the buffoon and never the scholar. When we stray away we get smacked down into place and severely criticized even from our own. So in this case ice Cube at age 40 is still supposed to be a hardcore gangsta riding around with an AK versus maybe be a family guy…For him to grow, he’s considered a sellout.. and not a fully well-rounded thinking man.
Third and most disturbing, is something that author/scholar Adam Mansbach often talks about. He describes the proverbial suburban white Hip Hop fan who grew up fascinated and intimated by Hip Hop which they fully equated with the totality of Black culture. He talks about how many would live vicariously through the words and videos of street oriented rap groups to the point that they would start mimicking them and adapt a worldview that would be warped to the point that anything not falling into the mold was somehow out-of-pocket.
Mansbach describes how those suburban white kids would listen to these records, watch those videos and not ever have to full experience the realities depicted in the songs. This would lead them to feel comfortable and believing that they were not only part of but definers of the culture. They would become embolden and ‘no longer afraid of the ghettos they vicariously visited..
Here’s what Questlove had to say…
tryna tell yall: this is why i cry out against the press/blogger minstrelsy embrace of hip hop (if its “scary” or “bright” “clownish”/”funny” or “oversexed” or “watered down apolitically” (no balls/opinion/position/eager to pleaseisms) its minstrel!!!! read this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minstrel_show
point is: this song is cute http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cjx8wg0hmY&feature=player_embedded#
but TRULY it is the answer to all the questions we had about hip hop’s demise.
it would be nice to say “oh…its an art form and treated as such” (remember that@harryallen quote about “hip hop is treated like its disposable. its not even considered ‘art'” on our Things Fall Apart intro?–well this is the dangers of embracing something for the wrong reasons:
hip hop’s MASSIVE success was running on the fumes of the “horror flick/roller coaster” syndrome: something scary and exciting you are curious about…but something you don’t take all that serious.
in other words: lets look at sting and lil wayne:
if both figures (both are massive sales figures in pop music)—if both made announcements that they were quitting music for a career in politics: and them in office position effected your life and you had to chose one—who would you be more inclined to take seriously to run your government?
(ill leave it up to you to get my point….but for those who say wayne, i can pretty much also guess that you too dont take life all that seriously or being contrary is how you differentiate yourself from others)
anywho….watch that clip.