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Hip-hop and you don’t stop: ‘The Big Break Dance Contest,’ 1983
01:25 pm



Made at a time when you saw breakdancers pulling windmills and body popping on their cardboard everywhere you turned in NYC, The Big Break Dance Contest is a wonderful time capsule of the early days of hip-hop. Produced locally by WABC, it’s literally a breakdance contest from 1983 with the top prizes being $2500, an appearance on New York Hot Tracks and a role in the movie Beat Street. Hosted by actress Leslie Uggams and the host of NYHT Carlos De Jesus, the B-Boy crews seen here include the Magnificent Force, Uptown Express, the Fantastic Duo, the Flash Dancers, Larry Watson and Jason Twigg, the Heartbreakers and the Dynamic Breakers.

After a short introductory documentary on early hip-hop culture with Afrika Bambaataa and other members of the Zulu Nation, the contest begins. There’s a even a goofy Burger King commercial with a hip-hop theme that was recorded during the airing that they purposefully left in.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
N.W.A. alumnus Ice Cube waxes philosophical on modern architecture
06:56 am


Ice Cube

Ice Cube reenacting this famous photo of Charles Eames
A few days ago, a friend and I were discussing the bourgeois assumption that the “lower classes” do not enjoy “high art.” Part and parcel to this snobbery, there’s the idea that the wealthy are automatically “cultured,” a myth easily dispelled by a quick glance at the nouveau riche so often paraded on reality TV. Anyone can be tacky, but rich people have the means to really take tacky to its highest heights—and I say this as a long-standing fan of “tacky!”

Still, it’s always nice to learn that a former hardscrabble member of the hoi polloi has staked their claim to the artistic traditions of the monied, so I was pleased as punch to learn that Ice Cube has a penchant for modern architecture, specifically for modernist husband and wife duo, Charles and Ray Eames. Apparently Ice left El Lay to study architectural drafting at the Phoenix Institute of Technology before his career with N.W.A took off. The video below is a promotion for “Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. 1945-1980,” an exhibit that ran from 2011 to 2012 at the Getty Institute. As Ice opines the beauty and dynamism of Los Angeles, the parallels between the prefab design of the Eames and rap are made obvious, when he declares, “They was doing mash-ups before mash-ups even existed.”

Nowadays the name “Ice Cube” can illicit a little bit of disdain in a certain crowd—his acting in family-friendly movies apparently cost him some kind of mythical “credibility.” But from the looks of the man in this video, he’s clearly still just a guy who likes what he likes, and he doesn’t really give a fuck what anyone else thinks.

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
‘Inside Out’: Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s wildly entertaining life on parole

It’s safe to say that for virtually every moment from the time that Wu-Tang Clan became prominent around 1993 until his sad death in 2004, Ol’ Dirty Bastard—“Russell Jones” to the law enforcement community—was in some kind of legal trouble. He was convicted of second degree assault in 1993 and was arrested for failure to pay child support in 1997. A year later, he pleaded guilty to attempted assault on his wife and was also arrested for shoplifting. It goes on from there. In 2000 he was assigned to a court-mandated drug treatment facility but escaped—as a fugitive he met up with RZA and spent some time in the studio. In Philadelphia he was eventually captured. (DM previously reported on his endlessly interesting FBI file, released in 2012.)

After spending the next two and a half years in prison in New York, he was released on parole on May 1, 2003. Sensing an opportunity, ODB’s manager, Jarred Weisfeld, arranged for VH1 to have a crew follow ODB around for his release and the first few weeks out of jail. The end result was “Inside Out,” which can be viewed below. Actually, it’s a little unclear what this video is— lists the running time as 60 minutes over two episodes. This video isn’t that long, however. What I think this is is episode 1 of “Inside Out”—not sure there was an episode 2—followed by a brief remembrance section that likely doesn’t have anything to do with VH1. In any case, it’s wildly entertaining.
Ol' Dirty Bastard
The life of a mentally troubled rap star is as crazy as anything you’re likely to find. A stretch limo filled with family, friends, and business associates (of course these lines overlap) is there to meet him upon his release. He is immediately presented with a gift of 500 condoms. As the father of 13 children by multiple women, ODB sniffs out the subtext: “They don’t want me makin’ no more babies!” At his press conference the same day as his release, who shows up to take part? Of course, Mariah Carey.

Eventually ODB’s interest in the ladies alienates his sort-of ladyfriend Raquel, who promptly flees back to LA. Within days he’s photographing a silicone-enhanced Playboy model and hitting on women in the street. Meanwhile his new relationship with Roc-A-Fella records is proceeding with the usual complications. We see a few cordial encounters with RZA as well.

The special presents a glimpse of actual parole life that’s not often available on TV. We see ODB successfully pass a drug test and we’re told that, as messy as his life was, he was able to adhere to the 9pm curfew imposed on him. When he signs the paperwork before his release, he’s told that he’s agreeing that parole officers can visit his home more or less anytime, and sure enough, we get to see such a visit. All goes well, except for ODB’s lingering paranoia after the fact.

ODB never really got the psychological help he needed, but nobody could say that he lived an unfulfilled life. “Inside Out” is excellent evidence of both parts of that equation.


Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Deaf people: Don’t masturbate. Also, 50 Cent

Some smartass/genius has procured a sign-language video, evidently produced by Jehovah’s Witnesses, meant to instruct the deaf on why it’s important to avoid the evils of masturbation, and set it to the music of rapper/actor 50 Cent (that’s pronounced “FIDDY Cent,” in case you didn’t know, he said, whitely), of Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ fame.

I really wish there was something… anything I could add to this, but the sign language gestures for tossing one off turn out to be pretty much what you’d expect.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Unhappy Valentine’s Day: Kim Gordon’s Break-Up Playlist
10:12 am


Kim Gordon

The break-up of Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore in 2011 caused an amount of dismay and grief normally reserved for fictional characters or mentally deficient royals splitting. What was interesting and somewhat surprising was the music Kim turned to for comfort in the aftermath. She told Elle,  “Rap music is really good when you’re traumatized.”

Not country revenge songs about cheating in which someone gets shot? Not Nick Cave’s “Your Funeral and My Trial,” Leonard Cohen, Morrissey, or a single song from Frank Sinatra’s Only The Lonely album?

For others, the only things that helped them through the first stages of a broken heart are copious amounts of alcohol, gallons of ice cream, Patsy Cline, early Kiss albums, Dio, or The MBD Band’s Hot ‘N Sticky. For Kim, it was old school and new rap.

Having her share her break-up playlist is like having Brian Greene explain the Higgs boson, Richard Stallman expound on software liberty, or Henry Rollins talk about self-reliance (or list his twenty favorite punk albums). It’s time to pull up a chair.

Kim and Thurston’s wedding day, 1984. Do you feel doomed yet?

Kim Gordon’s “Traumatized Good Time Tunes,” as told to Refinery 29 after the jump…

Posted by Kimberly J. Bright | Leave a comment
A 7-year-old’s drawings of classic rap albums

Via the fantastic So Bad So Good blog comes word of the talented lad Yung Lenox, who at age 7 is filling his Instagram account with his own re-creations of classic hip hop album art, with some punk and metal in the mix as well. Now, I’ve never known a kid who didn’t love to draw, but this kid shows some promise a bit beyond his years. He’s also admirably prolific, and enterprising to boot—he has an online store where he’s selling prints of his work. There’s little else I could add but to question whether he’s even allowed to listen to any of these, but since that does little to illuminate the actual work, let’s just have a look at the images.

Raekwon, Only Built 4 Cuban Linx

Ice Cube, Amerikkkas Most Wanted

Dr. Octagon, Dr Octagonecologyst

2Pac, All Eyez on Me

A Tribe Called Quest, The Low End Theory

Slayer, Live: Decade of Aggression

Minor Threat, Minor Threat

2 Live Crew, As Nasty As They Wanna Be

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Public Enemy’s ‘It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back’ Deconstructed
05:49 am


Public Enemy

Public Enemy released It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back in 1988. Few albums have made a bigger impression on me or meant as much.

Today, Flavor Flav is a former reality TV star and Chuck D is a former Air America Radio personality and an elder statesman more generally. It’s difficult to reconstruct just how weird and scary Public Enemy once was to White Amerikkka. In 1989, when I first heard Nation of Millions, I was a college freshman who listened exclusively to radio-ready pop music and classic rock, with the exception of the speed metal I had recently gravitated towards—in fact, the inclusion of a snippet of “Angel of Death” by Def Jam labelmates Slayer on “She Watch Channel Zero” was one of the first facets of the album that attracted me to it.
Public Enemy
We didn’t know it then, but 1988 was the heyday of intensely sample-heavy rap LPs before the lawyers ruined everything—other masterpieces using that approximate technique include the Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique and De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising. For a dopey white kid from the suburbs, the texture of Nation of Millions was heady, intoxicating. I could obscurely categorize all the talk of “white devils” for which Professor Griff would soon be jettisoned from the band as “wrong,” but most of the other stances, even the incoherent ones, were far more difficult to rebut. The sound of the album was insistently “hard” and justifiably angry, funky and brainy, an album to drive you to bone up on James Brown and Malcolm X. The purpose of the approach was to change minds, but I often wonder if Chuck D and the Bomb Squad had any notion of the appeal the album might possess for impressionable white kids. I suspect it wasn’t much on their minds.

The densely multilayered nature of Nation of Millions cries out for a deconstruction—preferably one that can be imbibed via the ears. Fortunately, on the Solid Steel Radio Show a few months ago, DJ Moneyshot released a remarkably enjoyable hour-long episode that does precisely that. For anyone who loves the album, the show is a singular treat, nothing less than an aural essay on its sources, of which there are many. Civil rights speeches, immortal soul classics, contemporaneous rap gems, and interviews with the likes of Hank Shocklee are all mixed together, Bomb Squad style, into a delightful stew.

Oddly, I’d learned only days earlier that one of the key opening samples from “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos” stems from Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions; I also had no idea that David Bowie’s “Fame” was used as the bed for one of Griff’s mottos in “Night of the Living Baseheads.” I’m going to assume that many DM readers, being less ignorant than myself, will still derive considerable enjoyment from this head-scrambling mix.

Thanks to Lawrence Daniel Caswell!

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘Beat This!’: Must-see document of Hip Hop’s golden age with Malcolm McClaren, Afrika Bambaataa
07:13 am


Beat This: A hip hop history

1984’s Beat This!: A Hip Hop History is one of the very first films to document Hip Hop culture at a time when it was entering its golden age. Made for British TV, the film is smartly done and includes lots of terrific footage of pioneers of the genre, including Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa and The Soulsonic Force and Malcolm McClaren (in his role as yoof culture’s Richard Attenborough) describing his exotic journey into the depths of the Boogie Down Bronx. There’s some ultra-cool footage from Herc’s original dance parties.

Beat This! was directed by British filmmaker Dick Fontaine who has a history of intelligently chronicling the early days of R&B and modern jazz. This one’s another significant feather in his creative cap.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Ballin’ Oates: Hall & Oates meet hip-hop mixtape
10:56 am


Daryl Hall
Ballin' Oates

More than anything, the thug-ish artwork for Scott Melker’s Ballin’ Oates mixtape caught my eye. I LOL’d.

Here’s what Melker says via his SoundCloud page:

Ballin’ Oates is the third EP in a series of compilations produced by The Melker Project, each focusing on a different classic artist. Each Hall & Oates song was completely replayed and remixed by Melker, before blending them with different acapellas.


Previously on Dangerous Minds:

The story behind Hall and Oates’ ultra-WTF? video for ‘She’s Gone’

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Magic numbers from De La Soul’s hip-hop masterpiece ‘3 Feet High and Rising’
11:52 am


De La Soul

When De La Soul’s monumentally groundbreaking album 3 Feet High and Rising came out in March of 1989—a few months ahead of The Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique, it should be noted—it was a significant moment, a high-water mark, if you will, of the era when the lessons of “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on The Wheels of Steel,” “Rapper’s Delight” and Run DMC had been taken on-board and refined by a younger generation of musicians.

The “sample” wasn’t exactly a new thing by the late 1980s (Faust sampled The Beatles in 1970, and there must be dozens of historical examples prior to that) but knitting together entire songs from parts of other songs was still a relatively “new” thing to do at the time. The way forward pointed out by these earlier pioneers of the form, could be perfected and expanded upon. The gear was there—and was coming down in price—there was a will and there was a way.

The groups who were heavily sample-based could simply wow you with the depth of their musical knowledge, their crate digging prowess and the sheer wittiness of their samples. A Tribe Called Quest, Deee-Lite, the Dust Brothers/Beasties, Public Enemy/The Bomb Squad, and De La Soul/Prince Paul were all doing something so startling and creative in the context of the late 80s/early 90s, that many people—myself included—who were disappointed with the sorry state of music after the post-punk era had tailed-off started to pay attention.

Yes, there was a brief moment there before the lawyers got their teeth stuck in and ruined everything…

Nevertheless, a small handful of classic albums that mostly consist of samples did get made—and released—despite the best efforts of the music industry’s own legal eagles to strangle them in their crib. 3 Feet High and Rising is one of these records and considering that the samples come from Led Zeppelin, Michael Jackson, Jefferson Starship, Kraftwerk, The Turtles, Parliament, Otis Redding, James Brown, Barry White, Sly and the Family Stone, Johnny Cash, Steely Dan, The Bar-Kays, The Monkees, Cymande, even Liberace and Richard Pryor, it is something—like Paul’s Boutique—where it’s just a miracle that it even exists.

3 Feet High and Rising is one for the ages. The Village Voice dubbed it “The Sgt. Pepper of hip hop” and the good people of the Library of Congress evidently feel the same way as they inducted it into the National Recording Registry of culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant American creations in 2010. It’s an album that’s been included on practically every “of all time” list known to man.

Enjoy the sounds of the D.A.I.S.Y. Age (“da inner sound, y’all”)...

“Me, Myself and I”

“The Magic Number”
More magic numbers from De La Soul after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
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