MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2015
WEEK 37: THE GOLDEN AGE OF HIP HOP
When Run DMC and LL Cool J consigned old skool to the dumper, and Schooly D hinted at a gangsta future, hip hop became so empowered it made the leap from its cult scene, novelty pop past to fully fledged art form and million selling records. Headed up by Public Enemy’s flag bearing radicalism, Erik B. & Rakim's scratched up retooling of the early seventies and EPMD’s stoned, somnambulist swagger, the leap in quality and depth formed the framework for a hugely creative golden age, the new superstars joined by a number of inspired one offs to create a period where black consciousness and rebellion met pure party pleasure.
The importance of Public Enemy was crucial, not just for hip hop but for modern music culture as a whole. They weren’t just hip hops political wing or ‘the greatest rock’n’roll band in the world’, their true greatness ran far deeper than that. Chuck D possessed an unprecedented vocal authority, a statesman like strength and uber-masculinity that made his gibberish sound as indefatigable as his wisdom. It was his complete belief in the message that made Public Enemy the revolutionary force no government could hold. At least that was the dream; a group so stunning they made you believe anything was possible.
Incendiary, fast, loud, rabble rousing, tongue twisting and full of metaphors that remain undeciphered, Public Enemy’s noise was something we’d not heard the like of before. Yet by 1989, they had been smeared with a serious allegation of racism, homophobia and hypocrisy from which they’d never fully recover. Written off as nothing more than an exotic black Clash, token rebel rockers full of mere rhetoric and hollow gesture, in a cruel sense of irony the only fan base they managed to retain was almost completely white.
Inevitably, Public Enemy’s fall from grace left a huge creative hole to fill. For a while the Native Tongue consciousness of the Jungle Brothers, De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest was enough to reinforce a belief that hip hop was going to get even more crazy, druggy and progressive. It was a time to get happily stoned while pondering the whys and wherefores of a new multi-racial bohemia. The fact that it failed to materialise and hip hops time as revolutionary music within the mainstream came to a shuddering halt was all down to one record.
NWA’s Straight Outta Compton was, indeed still is, a fucking horrible record expressing pure loathing for women, gays, pacifists and anyone else that believes in any kind of unifying morality. That it was also one of the greatest thrill funk albums of all time is an unfortunate paradox, but all on its own it prompted hip hops slow descent into mean minded machismo, dangerous feuding and sexual and political conservatism.
Following the extraordinarily creative and commercial golden age there had been a strong belief that hip hops new disciples would accept almost anything, the more out there and experimental the better. In one move Straight Outta Compton caused arty, progressive albums like Son Of Bazerk to bomb and it became very obvious, very quickly that the cutting edge was no place to be. The onslaught of NWA kicked off the gangsta bandwagon but whereas in the past most bandwagons had rapidly ground to a halt, this one picked up so much speed down its dead end street there was only going to be one, disastrous outcome.
01 SALT’N’PEPA ‘My Mic Sounds Nice’ (Hot, Cool And Vicious LP March 1986)
02 RUN DMC ‘My Adidas’ (Raising Hell LP July 1986)
03 BOOGIE DOWN PRODUCTIONS ‘South Bronx’ (A Side August 1986)
04 BEASTIE BOYS ‘Rhymin’ And Stealin’ (Licensed To Ill LP November 1986)
05 ERIC B & RAKIM ‘I Know You Got Soul’ (Paid In Full LP July 1987)
06 EPMD ‘It’s My Thing’ (A Side September 1987)
07 AUDIO TWO ‘Top Billin’ (A Side October 1987)
08 BIZ MARKIE ‘Biz Is Goin’ Off’ (Goin’ Off LP February 1988)
09 ROB BASE & DJ E-Z ROCK ‘It Takes Two’ (A Side April 1988)
10 BIG DADDY KANE ‘Ain’t No Half Steppin’ (Long Live The Kane LP June 1988)
11 NWA ‘Straight Outta Compton’ (Straight Outta Compton LP August 1988)
12 2 LIVE CREW ‘Me So Horny’ (As Nasty As They Wanna Be LP March 1989)
13 ICE T ‘You Played Yourself’ (The Iceberg/Freedom Of Speech LP October 1989)
14 DE LA SOUL & THE NATIVE TONGUES POSSE ‘Buddy’ [Native Tongues Decision Version] (A Side December 1989)
15 DIGITAL UNDERGROUND ‘The Humpty Dance’ (A Side March 1990)
16 A TRIBE CALLED QUEST ‘Bonita Applebum’ (Peoples Instinctive Travels And The Paths Of Rhythm LP April 1990)
17 PUBLIC ENEMY ‘Welcome To The Terrordome’ (Fear Of A Black Planet LP April 1990)
18 GANG STARR ‘Who’s Gonna Take The Weight?’ (Step In The Arena LP January 1991)
19 SON OF BAZERK ‘One Time For The Rebel’ (Bazerk Bazerk Bazerk LP May 1991)
20 CYPRESS HILL ‘How I Could Just Kill A Man’ (A Side June 1991)