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Hip Hop Got To Stop 8: Countdown To Armageddon
It's a 'truism' because its true that Europe and often the rest of the planet adapts, saves and improves a Best Of American Culture.When jazz stateside meant even Herbie Hancock going pop and the cancer of Kenny G, joints from Paris to Stockholm, Munich and more gave a home to magic musicians and local geniuses oxygen they could not find elsewhere.Being stupid I don't speak French, can only kind of understand the point if I listen slow, so when thinking about the international evolutions that saved hip hop I can mainly consider the UK.In 1987 a Black, New York take on what Punk Rock really was came to the UK courtesy of the innovators then at Def Jam.The result was electric.Ever notice the 'Street Sounds' comps in the Rat racks? From 1983 onwards for a good while Street Sounds was a series that brought a Best Of The USA sound to hungry hearts, ears and dancefloors across the UK. Electro, "freestyle", boogie, and more were comped. Albums from flagging but vital voices like Ashford and Simpson were cropped of shite ballads and unleashed.These were the people that wanted far more than the fag end of Post Punk and Trevor Horn parodies could deliver.And then the Real Thing turned up, Chuck D in full force.Countdown to Armageddon indeed.Because just two years later the Courts would crush it like a grape in a dry cleaners press when sampling became a crime.Yet it was too late. The fuse had been lit.What was Hip Hop in the UK? A mixed bag that burnt up and created something better. As a dumb kid I knew the best. A single or two from Silver Bullet, who rocked despite looking a bit silly today and some geezers I can't remember from the Midlands that sampled Nirvana for some fucking reason. They were worse than I imagined.For reasons needing more academic rigour than I can muster, R&B was able to fuse into a British soul and become real in a way 'rap' could not. Maybe they tried too hard to be American in a transparently pantomime way.But that 1987 tour of Public Enemy fertilised minds like a swarm of funky killer bees. The results were mixed, but sometimes magic.This is not the time nor place to describe the epoch changing rave new summa of luv whatever you call it when a pastiche of US based dance sounds hit the Mother Country. It was amazing, but as limited and fashion based in the end as the forces that took the likes of The Ramones and the New York Dolls into some Kings Road posh fashionista motif with added musical ineptitude reverse alchemy as 'Punk' became. Sorry, but X-Ray Specs and most others are best understood as fleeting consumer brands, not brands.Some loved the idea of getting fucking up and slinging beats but did not dig the cod hippy nonsense or general retardation of the scene. They felt the native blood running through the soil.Call it what you want. Jungle. Drum and Bass. This is a native tongue in Our blood, honed from the sacred realities of reggae and dub.So just as the Countdown to Armageddon was counting down in the USA, beginning to kill the liked the likes of the Bomb Squad, the Mother Country birthed a healthier brood.One went hard and fast. The others, slow and beautiful. Both lit the flame in a better way, that will warm us next time.
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