Ho99o9: United States Of Horror.

6 05 2017

ho99o9

 

With a smack to the face and a kick in the shins, a bloody nose. Broken bones. Grazed knuckles. Aching joints. That’s what the debut record from Ho99o9 will bring you. Pain, anguish, destruction, pleasurable noise, decadence, truth, brutal and brave truth. A riot. They’re not just a Hip Hop group, but man, they have made the best Hip Hop record in a long time. As far as debut records go, this one is going to be ringing in your ears even when they release their fifth one. It’s got this level of greatness to it that comes from sheer determination, and boy- they have it!

When I first heard Ho99o9 in 2014/early 2015, I was instantly moved by their attitude and how they really had this strong Punk sound that we so desperately needed. Ho99o9 were and still a band that we urgently need. They speak to everyone irrespective of race, age, sexuality, background. None of it matters, it never should matter. Their songs are to be played as loud as possible, and for every word to be yelled and learnt. Keep up the pace.

At the moment, Street Power is my favourite song on the record but I’m fully expecting that to change. 17 songs in 46 minutes. 17 songs that will blow your mind, blow your eardrums and leave you wanting more. 17 songs that shape our frustrations at the world and the things we see. The things we can change, and the things that are out of our hands, for now. No band has been this brave in a long time. United State of Horror is a body of work that oozes blood, sweat and rage. It’s the perfect record to expand your thoughts to and see things for how they are.

For just two people to make this much noise and to have such an incredible force within their debut record is just amazing. They take the sounds of two genres and make something really out there and unlike anything else. Sure they’ve had the Death Grips, Bad Brains and Black Flag comparisons but there is something else within them that is totally unlike anything else. Songs like Splash and Knuckle Up really show this, and for me, I’m just really in awe of Eaddy and theOGM. Just two people with such truth and rawness to their sound. It’s like exposing a wound. People will turn away but are still intrigued at the gore and guts. There’s gore and a whole lot of guts in their songs. How can you not be moved even slightly by them?!

I spent most of yesterday listening to the record at work, and I just intensely focused on the lyrics. Today I’m trying to take in every detail within the music. The way they make you feel like an electric shock is flowing through you. This isn’t a band that should be labelled as “not suitable for…” forget that. They are a band for EVERYONE. They hold something so important within them, and it isn’t something that needs ignoring.

Again, they are one of those bands that you’ve got to see live. I’ve yet to, but how they are on record will easily be shown in a different light during their live shows. They just have something in their music that needs to be in a live setting. Venue size doesn’t matter, the more that hear them- the better. Songs like Sub-Zer0 and War Is Hell just need to be seen live, you get that immediately from them. I think I’ve move on to Sub-Zer0 being my favourite right now.

From their EPs to this debut full length record, in just a few years Ho99o9 have created their own movement on their own terms. The finest thing to have come from New Jersey via L.A in a long time. Well, ever really. United States of Horror is a record that deserves your complete and utter attention. It’s easily one of the best records of the year, and the rage within it will feed into your soul. It’ll find its way deep inside of you, and will never leave.

You know what to do- play loud. Learn the words, throw your body around to the songs, go to the shows and let Ho99o9 completely and utterly take you over.

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RAKIM.

3 08 2013

I remember the day I was handed a copy of Don’t Sweat The Technique by Eric B & Rakim. I was only 12 years old. An age where puberty is the biggest concern, but mine was, on that day “How quickly can I learn the words to the songs?!” Some jotted down the names of boys they liked in their maths notebooks. I obviously never felt the need to do that, for the obvious reasons. I wrote names of bands I loved and ideas for my own songs. I could recite the words to certain songs immediately but I couldn’t recite you a simple maths equation. Languages had my full attention. Hip Hop was a language at that age that I understood more than anything.

I walked through school playing Don’t Sweat The Technique on my portable tape player. It had a tendency to chew up tapes, so I had to be extra special with this one as it wasn’t mine. I still played it over and over. I was hearing something I hadn’t heard before. It opened up the floodgates to a love for a style of music that, although I may not follow it now- the love will always be there. I cannot connect to the current state of Hip Hop. Anything after 2004 seemed to just be, well, crap really. Something died within it. I’m not sure what.

As much as I probably should write about Eric B & Rakim, I just really want to focus on Rakim. When I was getting into Hip Hop I wasn’t sure what I was going to be steered towards. Was I going to fall for Gangsta rap or was I going to go towards something more laid back? With a love already cemented in the likes of A Tribe Called Quest, it was obvious that the latter was going to be the way I went. I couldn’t (and thankfully so) relate to seeing friends being murdered or thrown in prison. I could relate to disliking the state of the world and where I was living. Hip Hop made me want to change everything, Hip Hop gradually made me feel okay with wanting to want more from life. I think Punk made me go get it. Both are equally as important to me.

Rakim probably has one of the most distinctive and influential voices in Hip Hop. If it wasn’t for him, a lot of the rappers past and present may never have picked up a mic. His laid back approach and his soul-touching lyrics just made him an immediate icon. He had something that no other has ever had. He never sped up, he never resorted to violent lyrics to be respected. He used his intelligence to get his point across. He freed your mind when you listened to him; he made you want to learn more about the world. As thankfully, where you were at the time you first heard him- isn’t the place you will always be.  Rakim was influenced by Jazz, which I think really did mold his technique. His voice was a form of guidance. Whether solo or with Eric B; everything he said just made you think.

Rakim has been involved in Hip Hop since he was about 18 years old; he may not be as active as he once was within Hip Hop but he is someone who is continuously referenced. What I loved about Rakim was his way of incorporating religion into his lyrics. I’m not a religious person, but I enjoy hearing people’s stories as to why they believe and what God they believe in. There’s something obviously above us, but I choose something more spiritual. It is important to believe in something, because maybe one day, it might be the only thing you have left. The way he puts his knowledge of Islam into his music is beautiful. He portrays it in the way it truly is- peaceful and kind. It’s a shame those with closed minds cannot see this.

Rakim’s wordplay is something that many have obviously tried to copy, but never quite got there. Don’t mess with perfection is probably the message you can take from that. He never bragged about this and that; he encouraged you to learn. He’s the opposite of everything you hear now. No one else has ever really come close. It is obvious the likes of Talib Kweli, Common and Mos Def have been influenced heavily by them. I guess that’s why I’ll always regard those three as being exceptional in what they do. I think Mos might be the closet to perfecting everything Rakim did. By this I mean, when I listen to Mos I just want to learn something new. I don’t care what; I just want my head to be filled with as much knowledge as possible. I’d rather a rapper list Philosophers that have influenced them than someone reeling off designer brands. That I can relate to. Intelligence will always overrule. Rappers like Rakim will be mentioned in 20 more years from now. No one is going to care about certain rappers that are coming out now. I don’t need to name names.

Many regard Rakim as a teacher; you cannot help but agree with them. He taught many how to pick up a mic and just speak from the heart. To touch on subjects many want to shy away from because it doesn’t bring in money. I’d always choose having a free mind than wanting to have as much money possible. Materialism is something I’ve never got my head around, and probably never ever will, thankfully.

If I never heard Don’t Sweat The Technique I’m not really sure what my relationship with Hip Hop would be like. Rakim is one of the very few rappers who have left a lasting impact not just on Hip Hop, but Music in general. His relaxed approach and thought-provoking lyrics made him more than “just a rapper.” His words connected the listener straight away; within each song there was always something there to relate to. I couldn’t sleep the other night, and BET’s Hip Hop Awards from last year were on, he received the I Am Hip Hop Icon Award. An award he rightfully deserves, but let’s be honest- an award doesn’t sum up just how great he is. His music does that alone. He is New York’s finest. He’s the embodiment of Hip Hop. He is Hip Hop in its truest form. Rakim IS Hip Hop.





Was Westwood Ever Relevant?

27 07 2013

 

 

 

I should be writing this from my mum’s house. I should have flown home for the weekend. I didn’t. Normally it’s because I missed my flight, but this time it’s because I’m ill. It’s either an ear infection or my wisdom teeth are making a wonderful appearance. Advised by my mum and a pharmacist to not fly, I listened. For once. I even rang NHS Direct which proved to be a waste of 4 hour. “Just take some paracetamol.” WOW. I hadn’t thought of that. I got to thinking, and this is where it led me.

Most people slag off “commercial” radio just to seem cool or “different.” Let’s be honest, you have no control over what the radio plays so get angry over stuff that matters. IE: Everything that happens in Russia. I love listening to the radio. Yesterday at work we had 1XTRA on all day. They had an hour where they played old stuff. I felt 14 again. They played Lil’ Mo and FOXY BROWN. I nearly fainted at my desk. I was so happy to hear the songs I used to love being played on the radio. They even played that Bob Marley and Lauryn Hill duet. As I was listening to these songs, I realised who was responsible for me hearing these songs in the first place. Tim Westwood, of course.

I used to listen to Westwood’s show religiously on a Friday and Saturday night. The radio was my best friend from a very young age. If it wasn’t for the radio, I may not have learnt to love music in the way I do. For the most part radio presenters love the sound of their own voice. Maybe Westwood did too. I have no idea. I used to ring his show a lot. I got through once when Mystikal was on. At that time I was a HUGE Mystikal fan. He turned out to be a rapist. I have his autograph. He addressed it to me. I had Westwood’s and Trevor Nelson’s autographs too. Theirs were on a postcard, I was so happy. I recorded my conversation with Westwood and Mystikal. I still have the tape. I used to record certain songs off the radio. Every Foxy Brown was taped. When he’d play rappers coming in and doing a freestyle- I’d record them all. I once won the R&B Top 20 off Trevor Nelson’s show on Radio 1. I still have all the CDs.

Westwood made compilation records. I think I bought the first 4 of them. Then I kind of lost interest. I realised not all the songs were played in full and he kept shouting over the songs. I don’t mind on the radio, but not on record. Not cool Westwood, not cool. A lot of people are quick to call him many things. Not many are positive. I can see why some may call him a joke but if it wasn’t for him a lot of rappers past and present over the past two decades may never have got any radio play in the UK. Hip Hop was always deemed as “bad.” Kind of like the naughty kid at school. You privately wanted to be its friend but in the public you turned your back. I’ve turned my back on the current state of rap music. 1XTRA are currently playing Macklemore. I really don’t get the appeal. I cannot stand his music at all. Maybe it is because I can’t relate to his music, or maybe because I just don’t like it. I think it is both. I’d rather listen to EPMD.

I used to love it when Westwood would link up with New York’s HOT 97. Funkmaster Flex to Angie Martinez (I did a Spanish project on her, and emailed it to her. She saw. I got a B!) When HOT 97 took over for an hour or so on Westwood’s show, the listeners were exposed to more underground New York Hip Hop. Artists that Westwood had mentioned and maybe not played yet; they were being exposed to a UK audience because of Westwood.

Westwood’s show introduced me to one of the rappers that became a massive part of my life; Big L. Big L, as soon as I heard his freestyle that Westwood played I knew I had found someone truly amazing. Big L was a freestyle genius. I cannot, and you simply cannot, compare Big L’s style to anyone else. Westwood had 20 years on the radio, I had been listening to him for half of that. In that time I appreciated Hip Hop in a different way. I used to love it when he’d play the intro to a song about 5 times then eventually play it or when he’d play the same song over and over because he loved it that much. It was like you were listening to music with your best friend. They were getting excited about the music with you. It didn’t matter that he’d play it over and over because you did the same too. I know I did when I used to tape certain songs.

I remember the week after Aaliyah died, he did a tribute to her and it was truly beautiful. He didn’t play much R&B back then, but he played a few of her songs and just paid tribute to someone that obviously, should still be alive.

Sure Radio 1 is pretty much a station that is a victim of playing the same songs every hour. Most stations do to be honest. There aren’t many that don’t. Even though I don’t listen to it, I know it is an important platform to subjecting people to new music. I find my new music by spending hours looking for it wherever I can. This doesn’t make me better than someone who loves Radio 1. I don’t care what station anyone listens to, I’m just glad the radio is still being listened to.

The best thing is when you flick through radio stations and you hear a song that you loved a long time ago. This happened to me yesterday and it was brilliant. I don’t care where I hear the songs I love so long as someone is playing them.

So is Westwood relevant? Has he ever been? I cannot understand why someone would say he’s never been relevant. I used to love Jay-Z (I’m not dropping the hyphen) and I regard Reasonable Doubt to be his best album. The Blueprint may have been he last decent record. The Black Album is a solid record too; but after that, I stopped caring. He started to sound like the new rappers that were emerging. I’d rather go back and listen to the old stuff, and be happy with that than listen to his new stuff and weep for what should have been. BUT! If it wasn’t for Westwood, nobody in the UK would care this much about Jay. He’s not the best rapper, but he once was. The best rapper around now? I really have no idea. I’ll probably always favour Talib Kweli.

Westwood gave many many Hip Hop artists a platform to be heard. Without him a lot of them would have been overlooked. It’s been a questionable 20 years, but it has been 20 years that have no doubt meant a lot to the Hip Hop community. He may have called himself the “Big Dawg” which I never understood, and he may have been a posh boy with an Anglican Bishop for a father. But he loved Hip Hop in a way that made you love it. To some he may have been a joke, but for some like me; he made Hip Hop a massive part of their lives and really did make a difference. Say what you want about him, but what he did for Hip Hop in the UK may never be done again.

Radio presenter to history maker; you cannot deny what he’s done.





A TRIBE CALLED QUEST.

22 07 2013

 

 

1990. I’m a baby; in my mother’s eyes I always will be. I’m only 4 years old in 1990 but I already had a love for music that was evidently going to stay with me forever. I saw a video on MTV that was bright and had something about it that I instantly realised- this band would be in a line of those I quite simply, couldn’t do without.

I Left My Wallet In El Segundo was the first song I remember hearing by A Tribe Called Quest. They had an approach to Hip Hop that, at the time I didn’t really get. I was too young. Move on 10 years and I get it. I hear sounds and words that made a world of sense to me. Words and sounds that eased the soul and freed the mind. Their relaxed vibe made me feel like an alien to where I was growing up. Where your heart is, that is home. My heart was in Hip Hop and I know it always will be. Hip Hop and Punk. Both entirely different but the same in some respects. Both allowed you to be free. A Tribe Called Quest were a ticket to a different world. It all started with leaving a wallet in El Segundo.

Stressed Out which featured the beautiful Faith Evans will always be one of my favourite A Tribe Called Quest songs. It’s like a comfort blanket and a release in one. Again, they just soothed the soul and take you to a spiritual place.

The way Phife and Q-Tip went back and forth with their lyrics was insane. It felt like they never wrote anything down; that they just brought it out of each other. This laced with Ali Shaheed Muhammad’s production skills just made them stand out from everything else that was going on in Hip Hop. They didn’t project anger; they oozed this brightness to their sound that is found in the likes of De La Soul. They were, as lame as it sounds, fun. Fun is such a shit word, I’m sorry. But they made you feel as if you were part of something worthy of being proud of. They were the first Hip Hop group that made people consciously aware, maybe. Of course there were some before but I feel they brought it to the mainstream for others to see. If I started a Hip Hop group, I’d use all their records as a blueprint to what I would want to create.

Even in their solo projects they still managed to keep that Quest vibe to their music. They went in different directions, but still carried that sense of unity with them wherever they went and with whoever they worked with.

Scenario turned many on to the insane sounds of Busta Rhymes. There’s a live performance of the song where Busta turns his hat inside out and raps as if it was nothing. He quickly became one to watch; he had this way of creeping up on you on Scenario, I think that style stuck with him. Especially early on in his career. He had a wild style that caused many to fall for. Just like how A Tribe Called Quest had that calm vibe about them that lured you in; it stayed with them.

I have no idea what the world thinks of A Tribe Called Quest or what caused people to fall for them. I can only speak for myself. I just know that they’ve always been and always will be a massive part of my life. If not from a musical perspective, but from a spiritual way too. They offered more than music and they offered more than most.

They was Phife and Tip confidently bounced off each other whilst Ali Shaheed Muhammad stayed cool behind them was something that just set them apart and above the others. They sounded like none before and none after sounded like them. They had a unified sound and a family vibe. They created a world where everyone belonged. It didn’t matter where you were from or what you were- they made you feel alright with the skin you were in. There aren’t many bands that do that now. Maybe no one else ever will. It’s alright, because what A Tribe Called Quest gave us was priceless.

Every member was (and still is) distinctive in their own right. When you recite their songs you don’t know if to be Phife or Tip- so you recite both parts. You become A Tribe Called Quest and that is exactly why their music is not only important, it also improves that they will always be there.





Ladies First: Female Rappers.

22 04 2012

Hip Hop is a massive love of mine. They’re not rappers, they are modern-day poets. Well, some are. Not all. Read the lyrics of Tupac and you will see that it is poetry. Read the lyrics of Soulja Boy and well, maybe not yeah? Maybe not. However, the Hip Hop industry has always seemed to favour men. I don’t know why, you may not know why. Nobody may know why. Thing is, there are SO many female rappers around. Go back to the start of Hip Hop and strong female MCs have ALWAYS been there.

The first ever female rappers I remember hearing were Monie Love and Queen Latifah. They did an amazing track together, Ladies First. Not only was it incredibly produced; it was also (and still is) one of the cleverest Hip Hop tracks written. The way they bounce off each other was probably enough for any female of the early 90s hearing this song, want to rap. More importantly; make a difference.

When I heard Ladies First, I just immediately became aware of how sexist the world was and how society viewed women. I was so young, but after watching the video and hearing the song..I just kept asking my mum so many questions. She just sat me down and said the world and life, was unfair- but I didn’t have to settle for it. Ever. That I shouldn’t be told I couldn’t do something because I’m a girl. The term “Feminist” leaves the tongue of some many like a bitter taste. Like it is a bad thing to want rights for your own gender. But, I firmly believe that you don’t have to have boobies and a vagina to be a Feminist. It’s just called being a decent human being, you know? Any good person wants equality for all. Regardless of age, gender, sexuality, colour, religion, disability or no disability. With so much hate and hurt in the world- we need to come together and be kind. Be gentle and comforting. There is nothing weak about wanting to be held. There is nothing weak about having a kind heart.

A lot of female rappers seem to think, if they talk about having sex with whoever, wearing next to nothing and just selling themselves out-it’ll bring them money. Sure it will, but will it give them respect? I say this, but I really really adore Foxy Brown. She’s always been a favourite of mine. She’s struggled with a hell of a lot. Gets knocked down and ridiculed, but in my eyes- she’s one of the greats. Now, I know she wears hardly anything- but listen to her lyrics (okay maybe not Hot Spot or Candy) but she has some songs that are just mind-blowing. B.K Anthem just tells you about Brooklyn in a way that’s never been done. The Letter (which features THE legend Ron Isley) and Broken Silence are heartbreaking and honest. To put yourself out there in that way, well fuck it, I respect her. I respect anyone who metaphorically rips their heart out and spills their guts out. Admitting to their faults and just being so open- I just admire that. I don’t care who you are, if you’re honest- then that’s all that matters.

Hip Hop is one of the most honest genres of music. It’s real. You believe in every single word. Everyone faces struggle in life. Some every so often, some every single day. Some use Hip Hop as a crutch to just plough on through. To hear songs like those I mentioned by Foxy Brown are enough to make a woman who is feeling utterly low and damaged, to just pull through. She’ll feel comforted by it because another female is expressing those insecurities and has cut herself wide open for all to see and hear.

Then you have the whole, Lil’ Kim vs Foxy Brown thing. It was ugly, and it was brutal- but it made for great entertainment for those voyeuristic blood suckers. Of course it got personal, it always does. It was almost impossible for the Media to state that these two female rappers were both as good as each other. For me, I was always on Team Foxy. I couldn’t really connect to Kim for some reason. Her early stuff was too much, but gradually, I guess she became more grown and easier to listen to. But like I said, Foxy is the one.

If you want to class M.I.A as a rapper, she’s probably the best around right now. She has a message. Maybe it is too political for most, but as far as I’m concerned, Hip Hop has always pointed out all the wrong in the world in order to make it right. That’s what M.I.A does, most of the time.

I want to touch briefly on Nicki Minaj for a second.

She’s probably hated as she is loved. Some claim she’s a gimmick, some see she’s for real. The only person who knows what she is about is, well, her. Personally? I love her. I’ve been a fan since 2008 when I was listening to some of her old mixtapes I heard online. I just became obsessed with what I was hearing. Sure it was a bit vulgar and overly sexual, but her honesty well, was admirable. To have the guts to be as open and nasty as some male rappers- well fuck it, she was playing them at their game. And she was winning. Now look at her. Her second record, Roman Reloaded is free of those topics. I can’t find fault in it. And I’ll admit, I do get pissed when people slag her off. They seem to ignore her background. They seem to think she just came from nowhere and became a star overnight. Bullshit. She’s always been a star, she was just busy in the background working hard to get to this point. She’s frequently laid into because she is apparently a gimmick. Some dressing up and not going by her real name/creating alter egos has never been done before? Sure..I mean, Ziggy Stardust was real wasn’t it? It isn’t cool to be someone who gets off on being disrespectful to others. If you want to slag her off, go ahead. But it just makes you seem pretty childish. Are you on stage every night pouring your heart out? Nope. So shush your noise, and go put your hate into being frustrated at the state of the world instead. Maybe I care too much, or maybe I just don’t get why anyone would care that you hate someone you do not know? I mean, it does seem pretty stupid to hate someone you do not know doesn’t it? Maybe I’m alone in that. Maybe..maybe.

I think females have a long way to go in the Hip Hop industry, and Music in general. There’s still blatant sexism floating about. Not just in Music, but everywhere in life. It’s like, “Oh she’s a female rapper, she must be a lesbian.” Oh please do fuck off. kd lang’s a lesbian and she doesn’t rap. You don’t need to dress like a tramp to be taken seriously and to be heard. Kids aren’t inspired by that- they need something real. Something they can hold onto for life. Something that teaches.

One of the first female rappers I really admired was MC Trouble. She sadly passed away in her sleep during the production of her second record. She may not have been around for long, but she’s easily as influential as the likes of Queen Latifah, Monie Love, Roxanne Shante etc.

I cannot mention female rappers without mentioning the one who had THE most distinctive voices ever in Hip Hop, and was part of one of THE most influential female groups ever. Lisa Lopes aka Left Eye from TLC was just so perfect and pure with her words, and the way she rapped. She totally owned the mic and every stage she stood on. Her small frame didn’t stop her from being so great and highly influential. I remember when she died (10 years on Tuesday) I just broke down. It was a shock, it always is. A truly heartbreaking moment in music. Maybe the standard of female rappers slipped when she passed. I have no idea. I don’t know. All I know is that she had something that will now always be missed. She was such a strong character. She taught girls how to be strong and utterly fearless. My love for her is totally different piece altogether. Maybe one day when it stops being a sore subject, I’ll get it out.

Hip Hop will always be a huge love of mine, and a vital part of my life. I do believe female rappers have a long way to go, but we’re getting there. You don’t need to be half-naked to be sexy. You don’t need to have a vulgar tongue to be heard. Be strong, stand up and say something that hasn’t been said before.





New York.

14 08 2011

New York City. The birthplace of two genres of music that own my heart. Punk and Hip Hop. Oh, I can’t love the two? I can’t possibly love Hip Hop because my favourite band of all time is The Smiths? I can’t love Hip Hop because I think Warpaint are one of the best bands around right now? Oh okay then, I guess I’ll just start being small minded like the rest.

Or not.

New York City has given us some of the greatest musicians of all time. From Disco to Salsa- it all started in NYC. Going through most of the music I own, most of it comes from NYC. It’s something that I’ve recently picked up on and as a result, I am fascinated with all music that is created in this city. I hate flying. It shits me up a stupid amount. I have a brief panic attack whenever I fly to see my family on the Isle of Man and that’s only a 20 minute flight. However, if I had the money and a doctor gave me enough tablets to knock me out for the duration of the flight- I’d go to New York. I’d explore the birthplaces of the bands I love, the venues that they’ve played. I’d go to underground clubs and watch bands play that nobody has ever heard of. I’d wander round eating a bagel and explore the record shops. I’d take a virtually empty suitcase and bring back a load of records and books with me.

I’d take everything in and refuse to go back home. Knowing me, I’d probably take copies of my CV with me whilst there and give it to various record and book shops. That would be the best thing ever. Not only would I no longer be in England, but I’d be constantly surrounded by good music.

I can dream I suppose. Or, I make that dream a reality. I’m going for the latter.

So, New York City. The home of The Strokes, Ramones, Mos Def, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Liars. I could list them all.

It’s quite possibly the home to the greatest. I am tempted to say Manchester because of Morrissey- and of course, I regard this one person to be greater than thousands. Always.

The city has given us, within the last 10 years, bands such as The Pains of Being Pure At Heart, Battles, TV on The Radio and Brand New. All of which have their own distinctive sound.

I remember when I first listened to The Pains of Being Pure At Heart and thinking it was the early 90s and in hope that The Jesus And Mary Chain were still going, coming back to reality wasn’t nice.

The city has so much to offer for anyone. It doesn’t matter what your race, religion, sexuality- anything. None of it matters (it never should anyway) there’s just something for everyone. It’s just this ridiculously huge place that has everything.

When I listen to the Ramones, I always think what it must have been like to have been around in New York when the whole Punk scene started. Imagine going to CBGBs and seeing a band start out- years later, they become one of the most influential bands of all time.

Imagine being part of the Factory scene- being in awe of Edie Sedgwick’s beauty every single time she walked past. Or being around when the Velvet Underground first emerged.

New York City, responsible for so much- yet it doesn’t have to answer to anyone. Ever.

You cannot mention New York without naming one of the best bands to have come from the city- A Tribe Called Quest. They were one of the first hip hop groups I remember falling in love with. I remember watching the video to Scenario on MTV at a very very young age, and just being obsessed. I loved the way Q-Tip pronounced his words and the words he used. I just loved everything they did.

I loved Q-Tip’s solo work- anyone who doesn’t love Breathe & Stop is a twit. Seriously. I just couldn’t get enough of them. The Low End Theory is easily one of the greatest Hip Hop albums created. It mixes Jazz with Hip Hop in a way that has not been done since, if it has, it hasn’t been done as well. The production on the album is mind-blowing. The samples used on it are just insane. From start to finish, it is sheer perfection.

I remember in 2001 first hearing The Strokes. For the past 10 years they have got me through bad times and have been there through the good. Two years ago I had Is This It tattooed on me. The album is so personal to me. I obviously don’t need to tell you why, but it was a crutch for so much- it still is. It always will be. I fail to see why many overlook First Impressions of Earth- the bass on Juicebox is mental. Heart In A Cage is just perfect. Evening Sun is beautiful. All four of their albums mean a lot to me for various reasons. They have that same rawness that the Ramones had. They don’t have to explain or define what they do to anyone- that’s how it should always be.

Music from New York has this type of edge to it. I can’t think of a better word, so I’ll go with edge. It has a distinctive sound. When you listen to band from the city, you know they are from there. It’s this raw, powerful sound. The feel of Punk still lies within a lot of bands from New York- even if they don’t realise it. Punk wasn’t just a genre of music- it was a way of life, a state of mind, an attitude. It’s in bands such as The Stokes, Vivian Girls, Yeah Yeah Yeahs etc- the way they play and how they are on stage just shows this.

Some may regard Punk as a music genre as dead, and that is the case. But the true spirit of it is alive and well within certain bands from New York City.

When I think of the music that has come from New York, I think of all the cultural aspects that are with it too. It’s such a vibrant place. It is full of all forms of Art. Whether it’s break-dancing, graffiti, theatre, cinema, Salsa- it’s everything. It has everything.

So many songs have been written about New York. It’s the Hip Hop community that you feel can truly sum up what New York is, and what the place is to true New Yorkers.





What Hip Hop Means To Me.

12 08 2011

As I write this, I am watching How Hip Hop Changed The World on Channel 4. I also have a migraine and I’m unsure if I’m going to pass out from pain or throw up. I’m also fighting off sleep like a stubborn toddler.

This programme is bringing back a lot of memories for me, and it’s got me thinking- what does Hip Hop mean to me?

I grew up on so many kinds of music. Everything from Billie Holiday to Bob Dylan to Blondie. I heard everything. It all inspired me in so many ways.

When I went to secondary school, I didn’t exactly have the time of my life there. To say it was hell is a massive understatement- but that’s not for here. Never for here. I remember walking down the corridor in my second year of secondary school playing Eric B & Rakim’s album Don’t Sweat The Technique  on my Walkman. Tape Walkman that is. I loved Eric B & Rakim so much. I thought Rakim was the best thing since hiding in the library to escape everything and everyone.

I adored bands such as De La Soul, Naughty By Nature, A Tribe Called Quest, Salt n Pepa. I loved them all so much. I felt like nothing could touch me as I walked through school. The reality was, I just couldn’t hear anything due to having my music blaring in my ears ridiculously loud.

I never liked the songs that degraded women or bragged about the amount of money so and so had. I loved the fun lyrics and the in depth lyrics.

I loved (and still do) Talib Kweli, Mos Def and Common. Those three were the ones I constantly played. Black on Both Sides by Mos Def still remains one of my favourite albums ever. I loved LL Cool J’s early stuff. I challenge you to listen to Mamma Said Knock You Out and not feel like you were the most important person ever. It just held you so high, you felt like you could do anything.

I was obsessed with Tupac. I’ve still got all his albums, all the books, his poetry book, videos- that’s right, I’ve got VHS’ of Tupac, all the films he was in, bootleg tapes and CDs. I just adored him. I still do. I loved his honesty, his brutal lyrics, his loving lyrics. I still can’t listen to Dear Mamma without crying. It still tugs at my heartstrings. I’m also still angry that they never caught his or Biggie’s killer. I know everyone was its either Tupac or Biggie- you couldn’t like both. I thought both were brilliant. Biggie’s Ready To Die is a phenomenal debut album. The way Tupac could break your heart then instantly make you laugh with his wordplay just blew me away. First and foremost, he was a poet. He made you see the world how he saw it with his words. He made you change how you saw the world with his words.

I could write so many words on why I love him and what he means to me. I probably will soon, I can feel some kind of essay about Tupac coming on if I don’t move onto a different part of Hip Hop.

There’s always been a lack of females in Hip Hop. Those that ever got anywhere were usually half naked on stage and being ever so vulgar with their words. For some reason, I loved Foxy Brown. I loved her deep voice, the way she didn’t care about what she said and how she said it- she wasn’t afraid. That for me just made me love her music. I was never a fan of Lil’Kim. I don’t know why, I just didn’t really care about her music as much as I cared for Foxy Brown’s.

Does anyone remember MC Trouble? No? Well, she was amazing. But she died before anyone really knew of her. MC Lyte, Roxanne Shante, Queen Latifah, Missy and my favourite- Monie Love. They were all strong female rappers. Ones worth looking up to.

Many argue about who and where Hip Hop started- I’ll always say it started with DJ Kool Herc. Always. But obviously there is no way you can deny that Grandmaster Flash played an equally vital role as Herc did. I guess I’d say, they both started it.

Kurtis Blow, Rakim and Big Daddy Kane are three of my favourites ever. EVER. There is no denying that those three flow so smoothly over beats. Their wordplay hypnotised you and made you want to rap. I was just in so much awe of them when I first heard them. I still am now. There’s never been anyone else like them, there never will be.

One rapper that I adored and was massively upset when he was killed was Big L. The Big Picture is up there with one of the best hip hop albums ever. I’d safely place it in my list of favourite albums of all time too. His song. Ebonics educated you on street slang. The Freestyle on the album blew you away. His duet with Tupac, Deadly Combination was just stunning. It’s just a perfect Hip Hop album.

So, what does Hip Hop mean to me? Well, I personally feel it has that Punk vibe to it. Don’t care what anyone thinks about you or says about you- just be yourself and express yourself. It’s an art-form. A way of life. Pop music isn’t a way of life or a state of mind. It’s just empty words over repetitive sounds. Hip Hop on the other hand educates. It’s a state of mind. Just listen to Public Enemy if you want to be educated in a way you never thought you could be taught.

For me, Punk rock and Hip Hop go hand in hand within the music industry. They went against everything you were told you listen to. It was rebellious at best and dangerous at worst.

What still pisses me off is the way people are always going on about how it degrades women and is mindless.

Those that say this are listening to the kind if Hip Hop that doesn’t deserve to be called Hip Hop. They are ignoring the songs that hold depth and lessons.

Go listen to Public Enemy, go listen to Jurassic 5, go listen to Dilated Peoples. There is more to Hip Hop than what the media rams down your neck.

Not every rapper carries a gun and a wad of money in their back pocket. Open your mind and go listen to the true essence of Hip Hop.

There will always be rivalry in Hip Hop. The media will always blow it out of proportion and make Hip Hop out to be the bad guy- when really, it isn’t. Hip Hop speaks to people; it’s a form of art and a way of life that has undoubtedly saved lives.

Remember, “It ain’t where you from, it’s where you at.”