Happy New Year all! I’m finally back. I really thought I would be back last week, but as the holiday fates would have it, I picked up a pretty persistent upper respiratory virus from our niece’s coughing, runny-nosed trio of kids who spent a couple of days at the Great Uncle & Aunt’s house for spoiling and fun. So, I am laying my influenza right at the feet of my niece and 3/4 of her kids. However, those two days were fantastic, only this gift that keeps on giving has not been.
Now that my boys are grown and out of the house, it seemed I had more time for myself than ever. So, in addition to some binge watching with my beautiful bride (Damn it! goes to my older son and his wife on ‘The Americans’! Like I have time for another TV show! Oh, that’s right. I’m disabled, so I do have time…unfortunately. One thing I did watch was on Netflix, which was their fantastic documentary Hip Hop Evolution. I can NOT say enough good things about this four episode show that basically takes the viewer through the beginning stages, or “Pre-Wax” years of hip hop up to the blossoming of the genre at the dawn of the Nineties.
As a white man who grew up in the ‘burbs of Central Indiana, I had no inkling about why hip hop came about. All I knew was my life changed the moment I heard “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugar Hill Gang. An acquaintance of mine had bought the 12-inch single of the song after he heard it at the local roller rink. Since I played basketball in the winter, I had no time for the roller rink, but what this guy was playing was absolutely blowing my mind.
In my waning high school days, a few hip hop song would trickle into the local record store/head shop, and the owner would put it on whenever I came in. Due to the owner’s of this record store, I would never have heard Kurtis Blow, Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, the Treacherous Three, the Funky 4+1, and so many others. But, when I finally got to college, my hip hop world began to open a bit. From “The Double Dutch Bus” (may not really be hip hop, but I count it), “The Message” and “White Lines” to Afrika Bambaataa & the Soul Sonic Force’s seminal “Planet Rock”, I was hooked on this singles genre.
Like the documentary pointed out, hip hop and punk/new wave had a kinship immediately, so there started to be much cross-fertilization taking place. One of the biggest signs of this cross fertilization taking place was Blondie’s number one hit from 1981 “Rapture”. For many people outside of hip hop’s reaches, this was their first exposure to this new musical form. Unfortunately, many of my friends never took to hip hop like I did. And, this wonderful documentary has kicked me back in hip hop mode by pulling out the hip hop music of my twenties like Run-DMC, Beastie Boys, De La Soul, Eric B. & Rakim, among others.
Although my throat hurt and my muscles ached, there was nothing more soothing to my soul than rediscovering these beats within a historical context that I now fully understand. And, I now understand why I felt so easily swayed by hip hop when I was a new wave kid. So, if you get four hours open in your life, check out this documentary on Netflix, because it absolutely will move you to re-evaluate this legitimate form of rock music.
P.S. One thing that I noticed when I was younger, that when I stopped listening to hard rock music before basketball games and began listening to rap and funk, my basketball game improved. As a former athlete and coach, I think there my be something of a connection of the flow of the game of basketball with the musical flow of funk and hip hop. Jus’ sayin’.