The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash and the Wheels of Steel (1981)


“As digital sampling becomes more and more pervasive as a recording technique, the belief that anything is possible in a studio nowadays is also on the rise. But in 1981 ‘The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash and the Wheels of Steel’ took the cut-and-paste-sound approach used covertly on many records today (when they’re not abusing Auto-Tune) and the scavenging of other songs as its very subject. The number asks: How smart can you steal? How slick can you mix? This technical apex of one of rap’s leading disc-spinners is tremendously influential; many of today’s dance-music and rock productions are unimaginable without it. Flash started as a South Bronx dance-hall disc jockey whose trademark was taking his favorite rock and rap songs and repeating their hottest elements for heightened effect. Although credited to the full vocal group he supported, ‘Wheels of Steel’ was a solo shot by Flash designed to show off the wizardry that knocked ’em out live. After a stuttering intro, Flash lets Blondie’s ‘Rapture,’ Chic’s ‘Good Times,’ and Queen’s ‘Another One Bites the Dust,’ as well as snippets from earlier Flash/Five singles glide in and slam out of the unwavering beat. These songs of different tempos all fit without being forced. Spoken sections, boasts, and song apexes are finely woven into an amazingly seamless whole. Before the serrated-edged righteousness of ‘The Message’ and ‘White Lines (Don’t Don’t Do It)’ turned attention to rapper and writer Melle Mel, the group was a showcase for Flash. This is why.”
boingboing
W – “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash and the Wheels of Steel”
Genius (Audio)
YouTube: Grandmaster Flash – The Adventures Of Grandmaster Flash On The Wheels Of Steel (original mix)

Spoonie Gee – Spoonin’ Rap (1979)


Gabriel Jackson (born May 27, 1963), better known by his stage name Spoonie Gee is one of the earliest rap artists, and one of the few rap artists to release records in the 1970s. He has been credited with originating the term hip hop and some of the themes in his music were precursors of gangsta rap. Jackson was born in Harlem, New York City, receiving his ‘Spoonie’ nickname as a child because the spoon was the only utensil that he used to eat with. His mother died when he was twelve years old, and he went to live with his uncle, the record producer Bobby Robinson, in whose apartment he began to practice rapping. His first recording came about after Peter Brown visited Robinson’s record store and mentioned that he was looking to make a rap record. Spoonie’s name was suggested, and he recorded ‘Spoonin’ Rap’, which was released on Brown’s Sound Of New York, USA imprint, featuring a lyric that included jailhouse references that would later become common in Gangsta rap, and with echo applied to vocals in a similar way to many Jamaican deejay records. Spoonie Gee has been described as ‘the original gangster rapper’. …”
Wikipedia
Genius (Audio)
YouTube: Spoonin’ Rap

Black History Month: Post-Soul Culture Circa 1992


“… In the March 17, 1992, issue of the Voice, contributor Nelson George surveyed the ‘post-soul’ landscape and discovered that, ‘as a musical genre, a definition of African American culture, and the code word for our national identity, soul has pretty much been dead since Nixon’s reelection in 1972. But what’s replaced it? Arguing in these pages in 1986, Greg Tate tried to establish a ‘new black aesthetic’ as a defining concept. He had a point, though I’d argue there was more than one aesthetic at work. For better and worse, the spawn of the postsoul era display multiple personalities.’ Indeed, over seventeen pages George explores a broad spectrum of post-soul black aesthetics, and the Voice’s art department helped with diptychs comparing and contrasting Malcolm X to KRS-One and Muhammad Ali and Bundini Brown to Chuck D and Flavor Flav, as well as triptychs of Lisa Bonet and Magic Johnson. …”
Voice

Return of the Cold Crush: Charlie Chase on the Early Days of Hip-Hop


“Hip-hop’s birth on the streets of the Bronx is a well-documented moment in New York’s musical history. In the late 1970s, DJ Kool Herc isolated the drum break; Grand Master Flash turned art into science with the ‘quick-mix theory;’ stumbling upon the scratch, Grand Wizzard Theodore gave the genre its signature sound, then, in 1982, Afrika Bambaaata took the whole world to ‘Planet Rock.’ Those are the broad strokes. However, many of the music’s earliest pioneers receive less recognition than they deserve. As a fearsome crate-digger, block-rocking DJ and founding member of the legendary Cold Crush Brothers, Charlie Chase is one such character. This interview, which took place in 1998, began in Chase’s modest, record-strewn Bronx home. While there, he handed me a tape of his most recent labor of love: a version of Cold Crush’s 1981 battle with Theodore’s crew, the Fantastic Romantic Five. The vocals, Chase explained, were remastered from a fourth – or fifth – generation cassette, and all the music had been painstakingly re-recorded – a process that involved more than 8,000 individual edits. …”
Red Bull Music Academy Daily (Video)

Scratching


Scratching, sometimes referred to as scrubbing, is a DJ and turntablist technique of moving a vinyl record back and forth on a turntable to produce percussive or rhythmic sounds. A crossfader on a DJ mixer may be used to fade between two records simultaneously. While scratching is most associated with hip hop music, where it emerged in the mid-1970s, from the 1990s it has been used in some styles of rap rock, rap metal and nu metal. Within hip hop culture, scratching is one of the measures of a DJ’s skills. DJs compete in scratching competitions at the DMC World DJ Championship and IDA (International DJ Association, formerly known as ITF (International Turntablist Federation). At scratching competitions, DJs can use only scratch-oriented gear (turntables, DJ mixer, digital vinyl systems or vinyl records only). In recorded hip hop songs, scratched ‘hooks’ often use portions of other songs. … In the 1970s, hip hop musicians and club DJs began to use this specialized turntable equipment to move the record back and forth, creating percussive sounds and effects–’scratching’–to entertain their dance floor audiences. Whereas 1940s-1960s radio DJs had used back-cueing while listening to the sounds through their headphones, without the audience hearing, with scratching, the DJ intentionally lets the audience hear the sounds that are being created by manipulating the record on the turntable, by directing the output from the turntable to a sound reinforcement system so that the audience can hear the sounds. Scratching was developed by early hip hop DJs from New York City such as Grand Wizard Theodore, who described scratching as, ‘nothing but the back-cueing that you hear in your ear before you push it [the recorded sound] out to the crowd.’ …”
Wikipedia
A Brief History of Scratching (Video)
YouTube: Grand Wizard Theodore is THA MAN!, 5 Minute Scratch Session with DJ Q-Bert & DJ Revolution

Grandwizard Theodore

ESG (EP – 1981)


ESG is the debut EP by American post-punk band ESG. It was released by 99 Records in 1981. The EP received positive reviews from music critics. ‘Moody’ became popular with house DJs, and ‘UFO’ came to be one of the most sampled tracks in hip hop music. Ed Bahlman discovered ESG while serving as the judge for a talent show and became the band’s unofficial manager. Tony Wilson from Factory Records approached the band after a performance at Hurrah in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and three days later they began recording with Martin Hannett. They recorded Moody’ and ‘You’re No Good’ in the first take. Hannett had three minutes left on the master tape, so he had the band record ‘UFO’. … ‘Moody’ was released off of ESG as the band’s debut single. A 12-inch remix single followed, and both versions found popularity at clubs in New York and London. Because of the single’s release through Factory, many New York DJs assumed ESG was a London-based act. Paradise Garage listed the song in its top 50 all-time tracks. It became a foundational track for the emerging house music scene. …”
Wikipedia
40 Years of Dancing: In Conversation with Renee Scroggins of ESG
The Quietus: “It’s Music That Makes You Dance” – ESG Interviewed
YouTube: Moody+REMIX, UFO, Dance, Earn it ESG Hey

“That’s The Joint” – Funky 4 + 1 (1980)


“‘That’s The Joint’ is a song by rap group Funky 4 + 1 released as their second single. The single became Funky 4 + 1’s signature song and is frequently cited as influential early hip hop record borrowing from disco, funk and jazz. It was arranged by jazz organist Clifton ‘Jiggs’ Chase and includes dance rhythms (it was performed live with dance routines). It features rapping from all group’s members and many parts sung together. Track samples ‘Rescue Me’ by A Taste of Honey and as a classic was itself sampled in nearly 30 records. It was listed on The Pitchfork 500 and as 47th best hip hop song of all time by Rolling Stone. It was named best song from 1980s by music critic Robert Christgau. In his initial review Christgau gave it ‘A’ rating and wrote: ‘The instrumental track, carried by Sugarhill bassist Doug Wimbish, is so compelling that for a while I listened to it alone on its B-side version. And the rapping is the peak of the form, not verbally—the debut has funnier words—but rhythmically. Quick tradeoffs and clamorous breaks vary the steady-flow rhyming of the individual MCs, and when it comes to Sha-Rock, Miss Plus One herself, who needs variation?’. …”
Wikipedia
Genius (Audio)
YouTube: That’s The Joint (original mix)