God this is a tedious listen! After watching a good interview with Public Enemy producer Hank Shocklee last night I found myself craving some hip-hop tonight and so I reached for one of my little oddities a double 12″ sampler from the 1995 hip-hop-doc The Show. I remember really liking the track by The Dove Shack* and wondering why I had not played it in about 15 years.
A minute into opener ‘How High’ by Redman/Method Man** I know just why that is. It’s lacking dynamics, wit, decorum and, most unforgivably of all for this genre of music, any clear sense of rebellion. This is the sound of two men sitting on a mangy sofa, stoned out of their gourds, slurring threats and absolute bollocks to each other. As we honky bloggers put it, ‘the N word’, is heavily overused. A genre that began in dizzying creativity and real rebellion*^, any ambition for change and something better, just became ambition for $. Diamond hard delivery has been reduced to the gunk dribbling out of an offensive bum’s mouth; from ‘Fight The Power’ to ‘The Egyptian Musk use to have me pull mad sluts’. Blunted? yup, you lost any cutting edge.
In fact The Show is all pretty damn dire, A Tribe Called Quest turn in the damp squib of ‘Glamour and Glitz’; the Kali Ranks and Onyx tracks are unlistenable/unpleasant in equal measure; Dove Shack and Mary J. Blige are just bland and wan. Now that just leaves record 2 side B to save us. What you got for sho’ The Show?
First off we have LL Cool J and ‘Papa Luv It’. So what does the innovative, angry LL have to give us? the articulate chap who cut several of my favourite early hip hop tracks like ‘Rock The Bells’ and ‘I’m Bad’^^? Save us LL Cool J, look at the world around you in 1995 and find some wisdom, some defiance and some gravitas! What you got for us? Do your duty LL!
It’s my duty to dig booby
FFS! It’s a God-awful sex rhyme, the type of sexist shite that makes me want to barf up my pancreas. That’s all he’s got for us.
Luckily there’s a bit of genuine class about the closing track, 2 Pac ‘My Block’. It’s a sad, defiant ode to struggling and the roots of petty criminality and violent crime, the lack of choices that young men in the ‘wrong’ areas have, it savours the rush of it all, the braggadocio and ends sad, counting the human cost. I could do without the children’s/women’s choir, it makes it a bit ham-fisted but let’s face it hip hop was never meant to be subtle.
To paraphrase DJ Shadow The Show pretty much shows us ‘Why Hip Hop Sucks in ’95”. Now to cleanse my/your brains, have some earlier hip hop greatness:
*apparently not ‘a little old place where we can get together’.
**or Clifford Smith/Reginald Noble if you’re their mums.
*^if I was a 1995 style rap chap I might have said ‘Rappaz , Revolutinariez and deviantz / Be causin’ the mayor to shit his pantz’ whilst possibly feathering up the sentiment by inserting a choice racial epithet, or two. Rascals!
^^’I’m Bad’ has my favourite ever historically inaccurate rap fact ‘Not Attila the Hun, I’m Threwler his son’. Now, That’s a classy rhyme.