Hip Hop Got To Stop 2: Decoding The Message
Sometimes pop culture and mainstream media really is hit in the face with a brick. And it is always beautiful to see.The hypocrisies of an era are laid bare, and new Folk Devils are created. Folk Devils are the simple stereotypes media and societies create to explain shocking new sounds, clothes, behaviours and other phenomena. The Mods and Rockers and all their fights and terribleness were almost entirely fictional. Devils conjured up by papers, politicians and curtain twitchers.As was a lot of the noise and fear around Hip Hop.It's impossible to overstate the shock, the horror, the racism and the fear around the emergence of what was then called "rap". The famous "The Filth and The Fury" jive around UK punk hype was nothing compared to what happened when rap broke out. There were a lot of messages that Suburban America didn't want to hear here, and plenty more that the naive, the fearful and the just plain bigoted made up about it all. The lyrics of The Message are the clue to how, why and what was being transmitted, and felt:"Broken glass everywherePeople pissin' on the stairs, you know they just don't careI can't take the smell, can't take the noiseGot no money to move out, I guess I got no choice"A lot of America did have a choice to leave the inner cities, and did so en fucking masse. In the misleadingly named "White Flight", most anyone with any skin colour who had a job or even just a car starting moving out in the late 1950s. The riots, factory closures and spreading gloom of the late 60s accelerated the process. This left behind a hardening core of hangers on too broke, too sad or too sick leave while the best and the brightest turned to the drug trade and, at the margins, music.Urban America, especially on the East Coast, was truly in a self imposed death spiral. As is so often the case, a well meaning but very naive set of government policies made it worse. The Cities of the Future would be fed by massive motorways cutting through and across old, blighted spaces. The poor would get a chance to live in new housing with great views, conveniently close to said motorway. The bad, mad, sick, and old would get a new start too - cheap rent in lovely old buildings landlords would be forced to fix up a bit. If your home burnt down, you'd be in a brand new one in no time, and fully compensated for anything that went up in smoke. If you were stubborn enough to live in an area that needed to be demolished to make room for that motorway, which might not be built but who knows, you would be gently pushed by the withdrawal of key services like transport, fire brigade cover, police and schools to send the message. Of course landlords were required to have fire insurance, and offered tax breaks to fix up the buildings. Landlords are a low class of people generally, but forcing them to spend money they don't have while giving fire insurance is a sure way to make them evil. Rentier Capitalism, where an upper class make cash based just on what they own, not what they earn or sell or make, helped to destroy the Roman, Persian, Moorish and Mughal Empires in a cancer of decadence and sloth. Sound familiar?The result was carnage. While the whites got the press, huge numbers of Blacks and Latinos got as far away from the gangrene as fast as they could. They were the victims, and of course that's why they got the blame.The best way to understand this is to see a classic US TV documentary - from a commercial station, too. Back then there the elites we reject today thought it was more than OK to interrupt a diet of sitcoms and soaps with truth. The Fire Next Door has damaged sound, but is a majestic time portal into the 1980s and the world that created Hip Hop, and why it was feared so much. This is a portrait of an America in many ways more "Leftist", loving, honourable and naive than Europe today struggling and failing to deal with reality, instead making it far more toxic. It is a breathtaking film, and knocks what today's BBC and Channel 4 make, even the likes of Benefits Street, into the tabloid meets PC toilet where they belong. This is the foundations of The WIre, and far more visceral than Noughties Baltimore which seems like the King's Road in comparison.The major labels smelled magic in rap, and signed and declined some real innovators. Like Curtis Blow and Run DMC. In one of the sick ironies of our mess age, the men who murdered Jam Master Jay, a genius who just wanted to make people happy, were looking for "50 Cent", hateful closeted Maytag (prison gentlemen's relief) with less relevance to humanity than ringworm.Kurtis Blow was heavily overpromoted and made to make too much product for audiences that didn't dig him anyway. Rap looked like the next Disco Bubble and went down the major's agenda. Until a bunch of rich white punks, who also happened to be peerless geniuses, appeared. The Beastie Boys.I remember shocking my family in a smoky Pizza Hut when I put Fight for Your Right on the juke. The fact middle class white girls got more than wet for these seemingly silly sex beast frat boys added to the Hip Hop shock, but also made it kind of safe.Jesse B. Weaver, Jr. was from Philadelphia. A city hit harder by the shit above than any part of NYC other than the South Bronx. In the crack killed year of 1986 he hit hard with a scratch and drum machine infested bit of Brutalism that was a dimension away from safe. The fear, the hate and the horror returned tenfold. Schoolly D made no apology about who he was or the hell he was was from. He didnt make a Christmas record or hang with fucking Aerosmith. He did not jive to be your mate. He existed in total opposition to Suburbia and didn't care what the fuck you though or who you thought you were.He is a God. I heard it on the radio. And was infected. Rat hooked me up with an original press. My neighbours hate my shit.