Thursday, March 29, 2007

Why Are 70’s Babies So Damn Salty? AKA Tell ‘Em Why U Mad, Son!

I realized that I should address this issue for many reasons. I am often dissapointed in just how little the current buying public knows about Hip Hop/Rap before 1997. I then have to remind myself that if you’re 18 now, you were born in 1988. That automatically means that the 18-20 year old missed the first Golden Era of Hip Hop...actually, it ALSO means that they missed the Second Golden Age as well (1992-96)!

How many 8 year olds you know that are into Nas? You typically don’t really get into music until you’re between the ages of 9-13. This would bring your musical cutoff memory/ point of reference to from around 1996/7 to now...everything that happened previously, would be considered “old school”.

They would’ve just got into mainstream music when a lot of us oldheads began washing our hands of it (1997/8). I remind myself of that fact whenever I have to explain to someone on who Company Flow was. Do we really expect a kid whose first CD purchase was Mase’s “Harlem World” to appreciate Large Professor and Lord Finesse beats? This is why BET won’t play the new Roots video for the “106 & Park”ers.

I can never jump in and go off on young people for their lack of hip hop knowledge due to the fact that it’s almost justified in their case. Our experiences as 70’s babies growing up with music was so different from theirs that we can’t possibly even compare the two.

For the most part they (mid to late 80’s babies) grew up in a BET/MTV/ADD/instant gratification/quick cut society. We grew up playing 8 Track tapes we couldn’t rewind...we had to sit there and listen to each and every song. Before we got our OWN radios, we had to sneak/ask to use the family record player when we were young. Records had to be treated with the utmost respect. Our parents/older siblings wouldn’t let us just handle an Etta James, Ruth Brown or James Brown record any kind of way, you had to RESPECT the records!

We had to handle them a certain way, put them on the record player a certain way, learn how to drop the needle and then wait for the record to start. At a young age these things taught us patience...shit, even the first Sony Walkman’s had three big ass buttons: Play. Stop. FF. The Eject was a separate button. YOU COULDN’T REWIND TAPES AT FIRST! That button was added onto Walkman’s later.

We used to listen to the radio during the 80’s and early to mid 90’s and have a tape ready in that box with the following buttons down: Pause. Play. Record. Once that coveted jam started, you ran your ass over the the radio and pressed Pause. All you had to do in the late 90’s was either buy the mixtapes with all of the exclusives and new singles from the radio mixed with advance tracks. Or go online and download whatever songs you wanted and burn your OWN mix CD’s (have you SEEN how they kids treat CD's and DVD's? We handle them like we did records). Before that, they at least had a CD player so they could skip tracks instantly or fast scan to an exact point in a song digitally. Can you imagine how WE would’ve turned out and where hip hop would be now if we had the internet in 1992? It’d be a wrap for the entire music industry!

Considering that I was born in 1975 and I spend a good amount of time answering questions about hip hop history to many people born in the mid to late 80’s, and that I have a 17 year old younger brother I can see the rift firsthand between so called 70’s and 80’s babies.

I remember when Sickamore first started writing his blog series “80 Ways To Know You’re Not An 80’s Baby”. I personally thought it was clever, insightful and funny...then I started seeing that many readers (a lot who were my age and younger) seemed to take it the wrong way and began to get really pissed off at certain things on those lists. They saw those lists as a representation of the younger generation that seemed to be proud that they didn’t recognize any emcee with a career that started before 1997/8 and many of them were outraged by it...

Some of them also saw it as disrepectful to the DJ’s, emcees and producers that paved the way for this generation of rappers to enjoy the sucess that they have now. A lot of older heads were appalled that legendary emcees such as Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap and Ice T aren’t put on a pedestal like they deserve to be by the younger generation. Another thing that pissed off some old heads was that this generation of rap fans doesn’t even recognize emcees like Nas, AZ, Ghostface Killah or Ras Kass as being considered relevant nowadays. I saw it more as “Yeah, and...?”.

I realize that I’m not as salty as I should be about these things given my age and level of hip hop knowledge. I mean, if I had some kids, a wife, a mortgage, a car note and and an unpaid student loan on my head I would be, too. However, I have no debt and no kids of my own so I have no reason to be as cynical/angry as I should be at this age....and I can also recognize when I’m blaming others for some shit that isn’t totally their fault.

Why would you instantly expect any kid born between 1986-1988 to really give a damn who Percee P is? Do you really think that any kid that’s a rap fan nowadays who loves cats like Cassidy or Fabolous (I had to make sure I spelled that correctly/incorrectly) would be able to instantly fathom just how important and dominant emcees like Grandmaster Melle Mel, Grandmaster Caz, or Kool Moe Dee were or what they represent to older hip hop fans? Why would any kid in high school now be expected to revere Mr. Magic, Kid Capri, Kool DJ Red Alert or Jazzy Jay like we (older hip hop fans) do? What REASON do they have to do so?

When I write a list of all time great basketball players Bob Petitt and Dolph Schayes don’t make my list, even if they obviously deserve to...Why would I put them on my list? I never saw them play! Shit, I SAW Dr. J. I saw Larry Bird. I saw Alex English. I saw Kareem Abdul Jabbar. I saw Robert Parish with my own two eyes. I can’t possibly have the same regard for George Mikan because I didn’t personally see him play. Does that automatically make me a disrespectful ignorant bastard because he’s obviously the first great big man in history but he doesn’t make my personal Top 50 All Time? I don’t believe it does.

Relate that same kind of thinking to hip hop culture. How many under 21’s do you think have even SEEN “Style Wars”, “Wild Style”, “Beat Street”, or “Krush Groove” before? WE experienced the growth of Hip Hop firsthand, THEY didn’t...or are we quick to forget that?

Kids that were born in the 70’s got to grow up with hip hop culture. Before records were even thought of, all we had were radios, tapes, turntables, speakers, crates of records, pieces of cardboard and linoleum that we carried around everywhere, markers, paint cans, blackbooks, etc. All we knew were voices from tapes and names. That’s ALL we had to go on.

Sometimes we got pictures of our heroes. usually they were grainy as all hell so we could barely make out anyone’s features and they were mostly in black and white, if we were lucky they were in color. Hip Hop was a living breathing culture that we were a part of and all we went on was FAITH. It was supposed to have died so many times when I was growing up that to hear someone utter that phrase now doesn’t event illict a response from me.

We heard the voices of the Crash Crew, Kurtis Blow, Jimmy Spicer, Spoonie Gee, The Treacherous Three, The Furious Five, Sequence, The Fantastic Five, Chief Rocker Busy Bee, The Cold Crush Brothers, Funky Four Plus One More, and Afrika Bambataa & The Soulsonic Force on the radio and knew all of their rhymes chapter and verse. The best DJ’s were named Kool Herc, Afrika Bambataa, Afrika Islam, Jazzy Jay, Grandmaster Flash, Grandwizard Theodore, DJ Baron, DJ Breakout, DJ Charlie Chase, DJ Tony Tone, DJ Crazy Eddie, Grandmixer D. St, Davy D, DJ AJ, etc.

These were the men we hero worshipped and as kids we argued day and night about who was better than who on the mic, who was quicker on the cut, who played the best records, etc. We had no pictures or video of them in action whatsoever, all we had to go on was our imaginations and mental images we made of them in our heads. Rap was rarely on the radio, it wasn’t even regarded as MUSIC. Rappers were even rarely in Right On! and Black Beat magazine. There were NO music videos at this time. If we did get images, they were few and far between.

We would catch the occassional picture of the Rock Steady Crew or the New York City Breakers. We all knew who Crazy Legs, Frosty Freeze, Powerful Pexster, Kuriaki, Ken Swift, Mr. Wiggles, Speedy Legs, Doze 5, Take One, Kippy Dee, and many of the greatest B Boy’s were by reputation or heard stories of the new moves they made up in competition.

Mind you, I was a kid growing up in Boston, which is 200+ miles away from New York. We could buy NY newspapers ( we STOLE them) and read about legendary graf artists warring with the transit authority. Imagine how it was for kid who loved hip hop in the early days who lived somewhere that they couldn’t easily get a tape from a jam in the Bronx in the mail from their cousin in 2 to 3 days or get flix of famous bombed trains running through New York.

Besides, Hip Hop was just supposed to be some fad that the ghetto/poor kids were into, it would soon fade away like the Pet Rock or the Hula Hoop, they said. Adults thought we were all out of our minds. Mainstream America laughed at a bunch of Blacks and Latino kids and young adults witing their names or creating an alias and trying to put it up every and anywhere it could be seen and recognized by as many people as possible (we are NOT invisible), carrying huge radios on their shoulders or spinning on their backs on makeshift flooring made with refrigator boxes on the corner . Little did Middle America know that this culture that they laughed at openly and they thought was due to die any minute would spread throughout the nation and then the WORLD.

First came the rap record. It was 1979 and here comes the Fat Back Band with “King Tim III” (Personality Jock), then came “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugarhill Gang...we had NO idea who the hell they were. But that record got played to death! Next thing you know, more and more rap records started coming out, these had crews/emcees we actually heard of on them. The album covers finally gave us faces to go with the voices we heard for years for so long. I remember going into a record store on a few occassions with my big brother, not to by records but to SEE what the hell these cats that sounded larger than life on our radio and record player looked like.

The only thing in life that requires you to believe in something without having any real visual representation of what it is is RELIGION. You believe in God. He never speaks directly to us. We don;t see Him manifest himself in front of us physically, but we believe anyway. In the early days of Hip Hop, we BELIEVED in it. We didn’t KNOW that there would ever even be a rap record. We never thought we’d hear a rapper on the radio...unless we were playing a tape of somebody’s party, that is.

We were actually half afraid that the rap record would kill hip hop. Around 1982, rap records were coming out less frequently and some people started crying that now that old school rappers couldn’t do parties/jams like they could back in the days since the clubs took over and the lure of records was killing the base of the hip hop jam as we knew it, (you guessed it) HIP HOP IS DEAD!!!! Uhh, hold your horses doubting Thomases and Thomasinas!

It all changed when Wild Style and Style Wars were filmed in 1982 and were premiered for the first time in 1983. Everyone not only got to see the faces of their favorite DJ’s and emcees, but most importantly, they saw hip hop in action for the first time in living color. The layman saw Lee Quinones, Fab Five Freddy, Lady Pink, Zepyhr, Kase2, Min One, Dez, Butch 167, Seen, Duster, Cap One, Mare, Skeme, and Dondi sneak into yards and train stations and bomb the system.

They got to see the Rock Steady Crew in action with their own eyes as opposed to hearing these second and thirdhand tall tales about impossible spins, routines, footwork and freezes. They also got to see The Cold Crush Brothers, Fantastic Five, Cheif Rocker Busy Bee, Double Trouble (the genesis/blueprint of RUN DMC), and Rammellzee rap and rock the crowd LIVE for the first time ever. Soon, the entire country and later on, the world would see it. In 1983, Run DMC came on the scene and released their first album. Next, their video “Rock Box” was the first rap video to ever air on MTV. Gil Scot- Heron was made into liar at hat exact moment... the revolution WAS televised.

By 1984, Hip Hop had taken over the mainstream, Middle America, AND Madison Avenue. Companies began rushing out hip hop related movies, commercials began featuring rapping or B Boys in them. I remember seeing Fred and Barney rapping about Fruity Pebbles and a bunch of kids doing windmills and backspins in a Hershey’s commercial in back to back Saturday morning cartoon commercials in 1984. I lost my damn mind! I though it was strange enough that there were B Boys on stage with Lionel Richie when he did “All Night Long” during the LA Olympics. Run DMC , Whodini, Kurtis Blow and the Fat Boys were in Rolling Stone! LL Cool J was on American Bandstand!...this was a lot for a 9 year old B Boy to handle.

This^ is why us 70’s and early 80’s babies seem to fly off the handle at the younger generation in regards to hip hop nowadays. From our standpoint, they’re spoiled brats that always had it good. They were always rap/hip hop records (or CD’s) for them. A lot of them don’t remember a time when Rap records didn’t get a Grammy category, and if it did, it wasn’t even televised. We had no rap videos, and no video shows would air them. They had Yo! MTV Raps growing up and Rap City (Muchmusic’s as well) for their entire existence. We didn’t get a magazine that was written about rap/hip hop culture until 1988/9. They’ve had The Source running since they were born damn near!

Rap records were lucky to go Gold at one point. Now, going Gold is seen as damn near flopping based on your fame, promotion and budget. We judged who was the best on their skill levels. Sales and street credibility rarely factored into the equation. For us, Rap/Hip Hop was so much more than just music. It became a part of us, it was something that belonged to just us.

We were there in the beginning, therefore a lot of us feel that we are more authentically Hip Hop than that next generation of rap/hip hop fans on some “How old were you when “Yo! Bum Rush The Show” dropped?” or “Did you ever even hear the N.W.A. & The Posse” album? shit. A lot of us think that the younger generation has fucked up hip hop as we know it and blame them for not knowing what we know about it or even wanting to. This is where I tend to disagree with this logic.

An album like Public Enemy’s “It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back” will not resonate with a 13-18 year old in 2006 anywhere near the same way it did when it dropped in 1988. I would have low expectations for my 17 year old brothers opinion of some of my favorite all time albums like Ultramagnetic MC’s “Critical Beatdown”, Stetsasonic’s “In Full Gear”, or BDP’s “Criminal Minded”. These albums were seminal classics and they were the cutting edge in the sound of hip 1986/7/8. If you don’t have any frame of reference for that time period, then how can you be expected to understand it or embrace it?

I don’t think I can properly explain to anyone who wasn’t alive to experience the era for themselves how Dana Dane’s “Dana Dame With Fame” was a classic hip hop LP. Anyone that expects the average 16 year old rap fan to think that De La Souls’ “3 Feet High And Rising”is obviously a better hip hop album than “Diplomatic Immunity Vol. 1” must be on crystal meth...and if they do? Check their teeth immeadiately...Are some missing? You got your answer then!

My one beef is the question of “relevance” and ageism in hip hop. However, I only feel this way because I’m 31. When I was 18/19 I remember saying on SEVERAL occasions “I won’t be rapping when I’m 30!” or “If I haven’t blown by the time I’m 30, I need to just hang it up”. Hip Hop/rap is, for the most part, a young man’s sport. Difference is that now, in 2006. You can be 40 and still make a dope album (A 40 year old would’ve been born in 1966 and was just 13 when the first official rap record dropped).

When I was a kid, rappers were starting their careers at 16-18, so to be still rapping at 30 was a big deal back then. However, I think too many of us get sensitive when the question of a rapper’s/emcees “relevance” is brought up. I AM annoyed that no matter how good that new AZ, Cormega, DJ Hi Tek or Talib Kweli joint is, I won’t be seeing it on BET anytime soon (or ever). I get over it. Why would a 15 year old want to hear a new Chuck D record? I’m 31 and I don’t wanna hear a new Chuck D record! Read his new book? I’m down for that. Listen to him do a lecture? Yeah, that too. Cop that new album? I’ll pass.

Rap/Hip Hop has new generations like reverse dog years. Every 3-5 years things change over. Why? That 13 year old has turned 18 now and has become a completely different person with different tastes. What worked in 2003 has become old by 2006. Do you think 50 Cent will ever go double platinum again? Do you think Chingy’s next album won’t come out on Koch? Do you think Cassie will have a follow up album? Things come and go fast as hell.

Remember how short some of the greatest crews of the 90’s careers were? The UMC’s, Leaders Of The New School, Fu Schnickens, Black Sheep, etc. only lasted 2 albums in the spotlight. Why? Because the way they rhymed in 1991/2/3 was out of style by the time they make a second album and they were forced to switch it up....

Things were the same back in the days with us. We didn’t want Busy Bee, and Spoonie Gee to make records in 1988! We were like “Why won’t these old school cats hang it up?!” “They can’t hang with KRS One, Big Daddy Kane, Ice T, Rakim, Kool G Rap and Chuck D!” Remember when Melle Mel lost to Mikey D at the 1988 MC Battle For World Supremacy and wouldn’t give up his belt? A lot of us thought “How can Melle Mel be surprised that the people preferred Mikey D to him? Shit, it’s 1988...not 1978! Step aside and let the new generation rock.”

I think it’s funny that we’re so quick to diss the youth and not even stop to realize that things are so much different now than it used it be that we can’t possibly expect things to be the same. These kids didn’t grow up with the entire culture of hip hop like we had the privilege of doing BEFORE the labels, promoters and corporations got a hold of it. When we were kids Crazy Legs and Phase 2 were each as big a star as Slick Rick or Doug E. Fresh was. That all changed in a matter of years. If you give that same process 15-18 MORE YEARS, then what do you think is going to happen?

As for those of us old heads that place the blame for the lack of old school hip hop appreciation squarely on the heads of the mid to late 80’s babies themselves need to remember that everytime you point a finger at someone else, three are pointing back at you. We should share some of the blame as older brothers, sisters, cousins and parents for not properly educating our younger siblings, family members, and children about hiphop.

B Boying was underground for a LONG ASS TIME if you all remember well. I stopped B Boying in 1985 because I thought it was dead. No kids I knew were doing it anymore because we thought it was played out....we thought that an aspect of a culture we loved was played out because it was in commercials and in movies (can you believe that shit?).

They were still dancing but there were a handful of dedicated B Boys and B Girls holding it down (Respect to the Floorlords outta Boston, Ma!). All of the powers that be convinced us to just stop doing one of the 4 basic hip hop elements like that..and none of us questioned it. We just quit like nothing. We were B Boys one year and then the next, it’s dead.

It took until 1992/3 before I began seeing a widespread resurgance in people getting back into it again. Dance classes opened up again and little kids started learning footwork, etc. If it wasn’t for Rock Steady Crew and many other B Boy advocates that kept it alive, who knows what would’ve happened?

The DJ had his place in the culture switched around, but the DJ wasn’t going anywhere. Especially when the first early signs of what will come to be called “turntablism” showed up in the event of the Herbie Hancock/Grandmixer D. St song “Rock it”. Aside from the seminal recording “The Adventures Of Grandmaster Flash On The Wheels Of Steel”, this song was the introduction to the mainstream of the potential of two turntables...the sky was the limit.

Graf writing/aerosol art had become criminalized to the point where it was pushed far underground and became an independent outlaw culture unto itself, which is weird because it existed before the other 3 elements and helped influence THEIR slang and development. All that remained on the mainstream radar of the original 4 elements of Hip Hop culture was rapping/emceeing itself by 1986. After 20 more years of having Rap music separated from the rest of the culture on a mainstream level, how can we blame the younger generation for not fully understanding hip hop as a culture like we supposedly do when they’ve never been exposed to properly in it’s entireity?

If they don’t properly understand/appreciate hip hop, the cuture or it’s history the only people we can really be alty at is ourselves for not doing a better job of teaching them or bridging the gap between the 2nd Golden Era (1992-1996), the deaths of Big and Pac (1996-7) and the Jiggy/Bling Bling Era (1998-now). If that’s not the case, then remember that history repeats itself.

One day, G Unit will be on Koch Records and 50 Cent’s gonna be an underground rapper that can’t get on the radio. Dipset fans will grow up and start listening to Jazz records and Jay-Z will STAY retired...By then the mid to late 80’s babies will be pissed off at the 90’s babies for similar reasons....Hopefully, “Red Gone Wild” and “The Growth” will have finally came out. We need to stop crying about what’s past and work on the present so the future will ensure more generations of Hip Hoppers to come. One.

This blog was originally posted as part of my State Of Hip Hop Blog series on October 21st, 2006 on


DL said...

Great article Dart. This is an issue I have thought about a lot recently and I totally agree; there is too much of a tendency to criticise those without the knowledge in hip hop culture even if it may not be their fault.

Stay up mate!


Josh said...

Damn good article. Well all of your articles are really good. Anyways i just thought i'd say that there ARE 14 year olds who are pretty educated for the amount of rap out there. Not to brag, but I consider and am considered really knowledgeable about rap. My favourite album of all time is Enter The Wu-Tang. I have about 11,000 songs in my itunes and have almost every kind of rap imaginable. From Paid In Full to the new Young Buck. I totally understand your blog and why some adults are salty and YOU are right about kids not being taught. My uncle (Who is turning 30 this year) Is the one who educated me about hip hop, and music as whole. As a younger kid I was always always fascinated by turn tables and really wanted to get my self a set and start scratching. My family couldn't afford it and to this day i still haven't gotten my turntables. My music tasted start off allright all I wanted to hear was ludacris and Eazy-E but eventually I grew into my uncle's music and then took it and ran. I feel as being from Surrey, British Columbia and white i owe DOUBLE to the culture I love. So what have i done? I can name 6 people's mental graves I have dug. It might not seem like a lot but the how thick headed and ignorant some people can be it's actually amazing.

I know most people would never have a write up like this for a comment but for futhering my knowledge and understanding and expanding my taste in rap I feel as this quick paragraph is a little of repayment. Keep it up


alley al said...

whew dart. that was a doozie.
thanks for the breakdown. much props for all your time spent.

i am not one of those youngin-haters. i try not to be a hater, period.
i do get my sarkastic cynical moments, tho.

note about HISTORY to youngsters, and all of us in general: it's just more fun when you/we can connect a piece of history to the now. for example, the music is already fun, but if the listener was aware of the "references" or "inside jokes/infos" or "history" and they "got IT" it's more interesting.
like, you can listen to FREESTYLE FELLOWSHIP's MARY and dig the song, but if you never smoked weed, or don't know the slang, then you just relate to the song differently. you just can't appreciate it in a way that they intended. you can still appreciate it, but just not in the way that potheads do.
or, if you're not really a hip hop head and you're at a turntablist exhibition.. it's still really amazing to watch the tricks and stuff, but there's a different appreciation if you know that the vinyl being cut is an original, and how difficult it really is to juggle THAT part of the snare with THAT vocal sample and THAT guitar lick all on one record. i mean, sometimes you can just close your eyes and FEEL IT, but when you watch and listen closely, and you know all the records being utilized, it makes it that much better.

like, you can go to the art museum and look at some nice paintings and shit, and see all familiar famous names that we hear throughout our school years like van gogh and andy warhol and jackson pollack and da vinci and dali and monet and piccasso and whoever else.. there'll be something there you'll dig even if you don't know shit about art, but if you knew the history on the artists and the periods they came from and the clicks they belonged to and how they rebelled against their govenrments and the drugs they were into and how insane some of them were but they were/are revered as geniuses.. maaan, it makes that piece of art THAT much better and interesting.

point: life is good, but it can be better if you knew your shit.
wake the fuck up you zombies!! stop sleepwalking.

Just-Ice said...

Damn, Dart. I think you wrote more in this one post than I have in the last 3 years combined. Good read though! This line: "Anyone that expects the average 16 year old rap fan to think that De La Souls’ “3 Feet High And Rising”is obviously a better hip hop album than “Diplomatic Immunity Vol. 1” must be on crystal meth...and if they do? Check their teeth immeadiately...Are some missing? You got your answer then!" had me rollin'!

As a early 70's baby, allow me to add my two bits on this issue if you will. I am so damn thankful to have been born when I was as far as rap music is concerned. To think I experienced firsthand hearing Rakim, Dana Dane, The Beastie Boys, etc for the very time during their first time is more than memorable to me. If I had to spend my early hip hop years subjected to today's vomit, I'd most likely be a skater who thinks rap is for retards and drop outs. On the real, I ain't playin', LOL. I don't give a rat's ass what any youngin' calls me, I heard it all before. Today's rap music is worth less than a fresh bucket of shit to me and most know it. Sucks for them to think KRS and the like are wack, played out or whatever gibberish slang term they made up this week to identify them. To me, they will always be the best at it who've done it. Several decades after the fact, The Beatles are regarded as giants and here we have snot nosed bastards in our genre calling Schoolly D, etc wack and shit. They deserve their Dipsets, LOL!

I'm an old dude old enough to be your momma's baby's daddy (hi Son!), I'm salty and don't care if you know it. Besides, we can't all have good musical taste. Who'd be left to poke fun at? :)

Crooklyn said...

GREAT READ...front to back you took the words out my posting this on NBS if you don't mind son!

Crooklyn said...

Thats Nobodysmiling

oliverboliver said...

I just got to say that this article- is bad ass. I'm among the few 80's babies (just by a hair, '89) that appreciates some good old fashioned hip hop. I must be a proud meth head cuz 3 feet high and rising is probably my favorite album of all time!

By the way, I think you older folk are plotting some sort of revenge; I can't see the upcoming De la soul show (and subsquent show of fucking PRINCE PAUL AND PETE ROCK) because the venue is fucking 21+. I'd sneak in, but I can barely pass for 17, let alone 21. I'll cop a fake beard, maybe that'll work. Or go to Pitchfork up in chicago and see de la with beastie boys and sonic youth. It's just not the same...

Anyway, thanks for the good readin'!