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Public Enemy’s ‘It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back’ Deconstructed
08:49 am



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
10:13 am



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
01:56 pm



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’
02:52 pm



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
Famous Beastie Boys sample revealed!
11:47 am



Goggle-eyed comedian Mantan Moreland is most famous for being chauffeur “Birmingham Brown” in the Charlie Chan movies, for his supporting role as one of Lucifer Jr.’s “idea men” in Vincente Minnelli’s all-black musical Cabin in the Sky, and for playing the hapless mailman in the “sick humor” cult favorite, Spider Baby. You know how some people are just so naturally funny that the minute you see them, you’re primed for laughter? Mantan Moreland has always had that kind of effect on me.

I can’t tell you the number of times I have inflicted King of the Zombies on unsuspecting friends in the 1980s. It’s a terrible, terrible film, but his scenes are hilarious. I’ve watched it a lot. Too many times!

The Beastie Boys must’ve been Mantan Moreland fans, too, as there is a particular punch-line from one of his rude-n-crude “party records” of the 1970s sampled in a song called “B-Boys makin’ with the Freak Freak” from 1994’s Ill Communication album. The line—“Shit, if this is gonna be that kind of party, I’m gonna stick my dick in the mashed potatoes!”—is (inexplicably) hilarious on its own, but here’s the entire routine from Mantan Moreland’s album “That ain’t my finger!”

It starts a bit slow, but stay with it.

Below, Moreland is basically the star of King of The Zombies, but he’s not given top billing, the white actors are. My favorite scenes are when he gets hypnotized into believing that he’s a zombie and the scene where he leads the zombies into the kitchen to be fed. He says a line in the scene that begins at the 54:00 minute mark that I have used as a “catchphrase” for decades: “As I member, I has privileges.” No one ever knows what I mean when I say that, but I laugh.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Beastie Boy Mike D designed some wallpaper
11:18 am



Beastie Boys
The one in the middle… he designs wallpaper now
And it’s pretty clever and cool! Available in blue or red, the print is done the style of a French Country Toile, but depicts the imagery of Brooklyn. There’s Biggie Smalls, Coney Island’s famous Cyclone Roller Coaster, pigeons, and even a Hasidic Jew!

I’m sure a few curmudgeons will scoff, but come on; Mike D is actually Mike Diamond, a 47-year-old father of two. He’s been married to the same woman for 20 years—a music video director who wrote a vegetarian cookbook. He was born to an upper middle class Jewish family and he went to Vassar. How has he not already designed a wallpaper?

The idea was his, but it was executed by Vincent J. Ficarra and Adela Qersaqi of Revolver New York. Flavor Paper produced the design as wallpaper. The product is eco-friendly, and available for as low as $7 per square foot. That seems pretty affordable for an accent wall, right? (I have no idea, my walls are all crumbling drywall and exposed brick.)

Mike D's hallway
Here it is in Mike D’s very own hallway!
Via Brokelyn

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
MAKE IT STOP: See how far you can make it through Dee Dee Ramone’s rapping!
04:23 pm



Dee Dee King
Poor Dee Dee. He went through so much in his life! An erratic childhood with an alcoholic father, heroin addiction, working with Johnny Ramone—the list goes on! But nothing, and I mean nothing excuses his foray into rapping. Below is his single, “Funky Man,” recorded in 1987 as “Dee Dee King.” Listen, if you dare.

One thing in his favor, Dee Dee was a legitimate hip-hop fan, and he was really dedicated to trying to contribute something new and meaningful to the genre. Unfortunately, this also meant that he started to wear track suits and gold chains. According to legend, Johnny Ramone refused to board a plane with him until he changed back into his Ramones “uniform.” He even quit The Ramones in 1989, citing a focus on his rap career as the impetus for the decision.

Dee Dee later expressed regret at his rap venture, acknowledging the project was a bust.

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Champagne Jerry’s ‘Tampa Realness’ is a NSFW ‘alternative hip-hop’ delight
10:44 am



I have no idea what this song is all about, but I really like it. I like that it’s hilarious, which it is. I like the stoopid nerdy self-confidence. I like the nifty appropriation of Prancercise lady Joanna Rohrback. I even approve of the triumphant use of Comic Sans. No one can touch Jerry’s “Tampa realness.”

I don’t know diddly squat about “alternative hip-hop” but to me it sounds a little like Das Racist, and that’s got to be a good thing.

Champagne Jerry did the lyrics, Ad-Rock did the music, so technically you might say it’s a Beastie Boys side project. Sell your friends on it that way, I don’t care. I just want to listen to it again:


Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Singapore needs babies, so Mentos released a hip-hop PSA to promote fucking!
10:22 am



Let's put a Bao in your oven
National Day in Singapore takes place every August. Last year the mint-candy company Mentos released a catchy rap video promoting “National Night,” as in “As a Singaporean citizen you’ll be doing your civic duty if you forget about the condoms after the fireworks and the parades are all overwith. So let’s get fucking, shall we?”

Daniel Lametti of Slate explains the magnitude of the problems Singapore is facing:

Singapore’s birth rate is at a record low. Female citizens of the country now give birth to about one child in their lifetime, a number that used to be much higher. (American women, by comparison, have about 2 children.) According to a video released by Singapore’s government, the city-state needs to produce about 50,000 children per year to maintain its population and avoid the economic calamity associated with an aging citizenry. But the current birth rate is less than 30,000 children per year. To combat the problem, last month the government sought ideas from the public; that’s when The Freshmaker popped in.

National Night and I want a baby
To my untrained ear, the song is mimicking the structure of Alicia Keys and Jay-Z’s massive hit “Empire State of Mind,” and the video is clearly a cheeky copy of Cee-Lo’s massive hit “Fuck You.” Hey, why not stick with the best, right?
I'm talking about making a baby
The thing is, though, this song is actually pretty good. It’s jam-packed with clever and salacious wordplay—“Let’s not watch fireworks, let’s make ‘em instead” or “Singapore’s population, it needs some increasin’ / So forget wavin’ flags, on August 9th we be freaking,” and so forth. 

We’ll leave the last word to Lametti. After explaining that baby booms can’t be manufactured by PR appeals, he writes,

Given that the Mentos ad was not commissioned by the government ... it seems likely that the campaign is simply trying to capitalize on a national crisis rather than actually bolster baby-making. Even so, Singapore’s government doesn’t seem to mind; they’ve let the advertisement run uncensored in a country that once banned a Janet Jackson album for “sexually explicit” lyrics.

Well, I’ll be. Check out the video—it’s a lot of fun:

via Fluxtumblr

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Rappers and their Jewish lawyers: A love in supercut
04:39 pm



Snoop and lawyer Donald Etra
Snoop Dogg and his legal representative, Orthodox Jew Donald Etra in 2007
From Abel Meeropol to Leiber and Stoller to Carole King to The Beastie Boys, there’s always been a Jewish presence among Afrocentric art forms. Perhaps it’s a shared sense of marginality, perhaps it’s the ethnogeography of urban life, but any monograph on jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, or hip-hop worth its (kosher) salt is going to mention a lot of Jewish names.

But what of the lesser-heralded administrative roles in the music industry? Should you be inclined to prattle off tired old lawyer jokes, let us remember that black artists have a long history of being swindled by record companies and railroaded in court. Yes, the ladies and gentlemen of the tribe have been at many a rapper’s side when the times got tough, so much so that it’s a “thing.”

And now we have a formal commemoration of this very special relationship, in a super cut of shout-outs!

Via Vulture

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
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