(17) Classic Sounds…

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Speaking of Homophobia, and I say that because of this clip right here,  here’s a group that went against the popular Hip-Hop grain, made a song about a penis and rapped over house music. Say What??!

The groundbreaking founders of the legendary Native Tongues collective were apart of the wave of afrocentric rap outfits that almost dominated the late 80’s scene. What separated the Jungle Brothers from the pack, however, was their expressiveness and desire to party that matched their desire to drop jewels. Unlike the Public Enemy‘s and X-Klan‘s of the time, Jungle Brothers saw the lighthearted side of things, and used Hip-Hop as a mechanism to make people think and dance in the same swoop. The similarities between those groups, were the clever uses of funk/soul samples into drum-centered, vocal snippet heavy jams.

The production on this particular album is from that clever class that helped the Native Tongues click become popular. The infusion of different samples from jazz and funk songs were placed in such ways that didn’t dilute the distinct Hip-Hop song like some rap, but were more creative than just a straightforward loop or replayed interpolation. While the verses are usually just consisting of break beats, there’s a horn break here, a guitar loop there, and then a cavalcade of vocal samples that range from African chants to spoken word phrases. Yet, the sum of all of it’s parts is simplicity. It doesn’t come off as scratching and mixing caucophony like alot of songs from that era. The putting together is the production, but it’s the cohesion that makes it come off as seamless as if it were in fact one loop.

A great example of this is on tracks like “On The Run” and the album’s title track and lead off cut, “Straight Out The Jungle”. This may be the album where the group showed the most balance of their career, vacillating effortlessly between smooth and concise delivery and more upbeat and faster paced ones. On the former, the group gets funky and mirrors the pace the title suggests. It’s an uptempo groove that finds the group’s two rappers, Afrika Baby Bam and Mike G trading lines that make them seem like they’re moving through something with purpose. It’s not so much that they speed up their individual flows, but they keep up with the beat, which seems busy due to the scratches and elements that dj Sammie B continuously throws in there. On the latter, it’s the opposite. Probably some of the coolest blending of conscious and bravado ever seen in rap, the two rappers go back and forth in calm cadences, using a rhythmic default melody that has you rapping along with it before the song is over. They also make eloquent use of the jungle theme as they pass the mic in a flawless relay. This is all done over a stripped down guitar loop for the verses and great vocal parts brought in for the hook and breakdown that bring the song alive. It was their debut song and one of the best introductory cuts ever for a rap group.

The balance continues not only in tone, but in topic as the group spends a considerable amount of time between dropping pro-Black gems and describing their lifestyle and what makes them fly on addressing the ladies. There’s subtle tracks like “Behind The Bush”, which is just as laid back as the title track and cleverly suggestive(and begins with the horn sample that is used everytime  they rap on the remix of De La Soul‘s Uber classic “Buddy”), then you have not so subtle tracks like the infamous “Jimbrowski”. Coining a term that quickly became Native Tongue slang and fell right in line with the “Jimmy” parade going on in rap at the time, this song was bold. Basically, it’s an ode to the rappers’ genitalia that finds them characterizing and personalizing it and providing sexual braggadocio in an overly playful way that avoids graphic description. Featuring all kinds of zany background adlibs from legendary dj Red Alert, the song was a big enough deal to garner it’s own instrumental remix on the album called “Jimmy’s Bonus Beat”. Despite it’s lack of raunch, it is still a very blatant sex song that is kind of reckless for a bunch of dudes running around wearing African medallions. But the Jungle Brothers never claimed to be saints, nor prophets. They never took the mantle of being the CNN of the streets, or being the voice of the unheard.

It’s this absolving of responsibility that allowed them to walk the line between fun and consciousness. So when they crossed boundaries that were only crossed by local clubs outside of New York in areas that hadn’t broke into the mainstream yet, and made a rap song over a beat by a house music producer, it kind of made sense that it was them. “I’ll House You” was a breakout hit that despite journalists review of this album as a commercial failure, cemented the group in rap history. And to my knowledge as a kid in the 80’s I distinctly remember my cousins in Brooklyn bugging out to this song and hearing it everywhere. I didn’t understand why this house song about house was being considered rap music. It’s the equivalent of someone trying to explain Kid Cudi to me now. Yet, as a grown man now with some music knowledge and Hip-Hop appreciation, I’ve come to value this song as pioneering to the subsequent movement that followed in the late 80’s and early 90’s where rappers began mixing house in to often shameful results. They took a risk and made it okay for rappers to step out of their box. It’s catchy as hell and in my opinion, it’s the only rap/house song that really worked. I only hope that they feel as though they’ve gotten their appropriate recognition for that. 

One thing that they should get recognized for, is the fact that they brought another game changing element with them. To add to their laid back ethos, the Jungle Brothers represented another shift that was taking place in rap; the intonation. A departure from the super animated and commanding voices that dominated the previous decade of rap, the JB’s were lighter-voiced and full of melodic-based confidence that was sort of a throwback to the days of the Cold Crush Brothers, yet so indicative of the new school that they were representing. Having that said, it’s only poetic justice that this album introduces us to the king of the light voiced rappers, Q-Tip. Appearing on the very necessary and very popular track “Black Is Black”, Q-Tip makes his impression felt, and this was before there the debut album of A Tribe Called Quest. This is where the group’s impact is most felt. Whereas the title track briefly and lightly touched on their conscious angle with lines like “Men killing men just because of one’s color/ in this lifetime, I’ve seen nothing dumber”, they address the color issue exactly on this song with lines like “My light complexion has no meaning/ If you think so, you’re still dreaming” and “I tried and tried to tell my people/we all are one, created equal/before we master, we must plan/is that so hard to understand??” And tho this is probably the cheesiest song on the album, it is by no means wack. And it was a topic dying to be spoken about that not enough rappers have tackled to this day.

The group also gets heavy on the track “What’s Going On”, which features one the best, but sloppiest samples of a Marvin Gaye song ever. Using vignettes of everyday drama, the group paint a picture of a world suffering from way too much negativity. 

As a pioneering group for the afro-centric age of Hip-Hop, the Jungle Brothers brought us untouched topics, pride for African roots among Blacks, House rap and Q-Tip. They are definitely employers of the one lightskinned, one darkskinned formula for rap groups with 2 main rappers, yet they taught us to look past that because “Black Is Black”.  What’s interesting is that their voices don’t have any huge distinguishing qualities from one another on this album…It’s more a matter of their inflections that help you tell them apart if not watching a video or listening intently. And while for some reason their follow-up album has received more critical acclaim, this album has gone on to heralded as a classic as it rightfully should.

My favorite tracks here are “Braggin’ & Boastin”, “I’m Gonna Do You”, The super boombastic “Because I Got It Like That” (which I ride around with on my iPod and has a massive amount of remixes) and on the later releases, their original promotional single, aptly titled, “The Promo” was added to the album. Also featuring Q-Tip, this is one of my favorite Hip-Hop beats. 

All Together, this album gets 16 Candles out of a possible

4812 or 16.

4(Classic Just because where it stands in Hip-Hop, whether it be the time of it’s release, it’s influence, or the popularity of it’s singles overall)

8(Classic because it was solid for it’s time, but may be a little dated or less than amazing by today’s standards)

12(Classic as a complete release and probably celebrated widely on the surface, but possibly lacking one key element – be it one song that doesn’t fit, a wack guest appearance, lyrics, lack of depth or beats)

16(Classic all around)

More like a 14 but once I give a 16, it’s a 16. And as far as Afrika’s questionable persona….Look up his new musical endeavors and judge for yourselves…For now, enjoy the music.

No Homo?…Hip-Hop is Gayer than you think…

Let me just begin by pointing out that as much as I respect Russell Simmons, he really annoys me when it comes to his Hip-Hop culture commentary, for reasons that I’ll point out later. In the meantime, just as I recently wrote a post about the objectification of women in media, this class has also got me tripping on the definitions of gender identification and sexuality. Homosexuality in particular has been a hot button topic recently, with all the New York hype surrounding gay marriage and this past month’s focus on it by Hip-Hop media. It all points to a larger theme of acceptance and a changing world.

But has the world really changed? Or has it moreso come full circle? Well, that depends on how biblical you are. Some of you may feel that this all just means that people and lifestyles are just blending more and sooner or later, differences won’t be discriminatory agents. Some of you feel like this is just a return to Soddom & Gammora – like times and is a sign of Revelations that Jesus is indeed coming. I’m more concerned with what it all means for Hip-Hop, and how I’ve played a part or been affected.

This is no doubt a business dominated by and heavily influenced by homosexual males, be they closeted or out, be it in the executive aspect or through the fashion aspect that creates the trends and signifies status. Anyone on the outside can just look and see how rappers have spent ages idealizing and romanticizing the designs of famous gay European fashionistas to be indicative of wealth and coolness. It’s even more significant to be able to say that you rub elbows with said designers. You can also look and see the evolution of style that has occurred from the baggy look to the hipster movement and see tangents of culture blending. And anyone on the inside who has spent enough time in the offices and on sets can tell you that a good majority of the decision-makers in this industry are at the very least, questionable. let us not forget the ever-looming speculation concerning rappers themselves.

The question then becomes, why should we care? Or why do we care? Perhaps it matters because this, like most challenges to the normal and historical social order of Hip-Hop is disruptive to what we’re used to and forces us to have to adjust. Just like any other minority as in when women began to become more prominent, or when Eminem made us have to embrace White rappers the same way as the brown faces that we’re used to, homosexuality presents a new challenge. The thing with homosexuality is however, that in this male arena, it kind of stands as the antithesis of the culture itself. Created from the improvisation inspired by poverty shared by young kids in the Bronx, Hip-Hop developed as the voice of a generation in the aftermath of the aggressive Black Power movement and the wild disco era. There were pieces of both of those coming together expressing a mutual sentiment against inequality and a desire to just be indulgent and free. This was fueled by male braggadocio and the self-esteem issues prominent in minority life. Of course this movement was taking place around the same time as gay rights pushes and the rise of drag and flamboyant subcultures. Yet the 2 worlds, tho often next door to each other, seldom intertwined.

And that brings up another issue; for so long, and mostly due to gays themselves, the idea that flamboyancy is one in the same with being homosexual has been the way gayness has been characterized for males. This threat to the traditional male behavior and gender role is a direct threat to the very hetero machismo that Hip-Hop culture was built on. Why would there have been reason for the 2 worlds to cooperate harmoniously?

I read the latest issue of XXL magazine where this was being covered, and was surprised that they took a more sociological look at the whole thing. Besides the Beanie Sigel quotes, which were the most humorous and honest parts of the article, I found this quote by a professor to be the most poignant “For Hip-Hop, it’s not really an actual conversation about same sex, and it’s always these rhetorical tropes or some sort of public posturing or progressive support for same-sex marriage”. This is super true. The so-called evolution that rap has experienced is more of a political correctness when asked about it, but not in the music itself.

And this is based on the point made by the professor that as long as it’s not a conversation about sex or sexuality, then gays are more of a thing to be accepted than a group of people. But if it was truly a matter of what goes on in someone’s bedroom, as NORE tried to narrow it down to, then there would be a lot less homophobia in the world. We all know that with that presence of flamboyancy, it’s always  more than just a private matter. The lifestyles and stereotypical socialization of gays, particularly gay males, kind of puts their sexuality in everyone’s faces.

There’s so much surface posturing in Hip-Hop when it comes to this, like Russell Simmons (Who’s been accused of being one of those closeted execs time and time again) who says stuff like homophobia is exaggerated in Hip-Hop because Hip-Hop is more accepting than any other culture and that poets have always been the most tolerant. This is utter bullshit and just good talk. It’s waaaaay too early for that kind of statement. Rap hasn’t changed that much to the point where you can make bold statements like that. Not with all the anti-gay punchlines and derogatory language on the radio. And when you’re being hit with that kind of suggestion that hard from a consistent source, it’s never just words. Sure, there may be a larger sense of coolness with lesbian and bisexual female activity, but certainly NOT for gay dudes.

As somebody who’s never used the word faggot and knows plenty of gay folk, I understand how the performance versus real life aspect takes place. Then again, you have to wonder why it’s okay for me to be cool and friendly with gay people in my regular day-to-day life, but when it comes to my raps, there’s a good amount of lines that point at being a gay dude as the worst thing that one can be. Naturally, this arises from that conflict that I mentioned earlier of the macho hetero basis of Hip-Hop with the effeminate basis of stereotypical male homosexuality. In a competitive field such as rap the natural thing to do is to strip a competitor of their status. You belittle them of those things which they value the most…This includes wealth, skill, and most strikingly, manhood. And if a man who acts feminine represents a loss of manhood, then implying that someone is gay is a severe offense. The other thing is that within the urban community, there’s the damaging rise of the down-low epidemic. And for it’s very dishonest nature and contribution to mistrust between males and females and breaking of families, it garners serious contempt. As it should.

There’s a lot of stuff about gay culture that I just don’t get and can’t rock with, such as the adopting of opposite gender identity and characteristics. I also have little respect for those who don’t just come out and pretend to be straight.

None of this is an excuse tho. And if my otherwise evolved mind is able to understand homosexuality in real life (even tho, I don’t fully understand it per se), it should reflect a bit more in my songs. I’ve come quite far in the last few years, I think there’s room for growth. Evaluate me after these next 2 projects of mine drop.

“Negroes In The News” – Shooters try to put the K in Coney Island, Plaxico plays nice, & Gay-Ass Tracy Morgan calls the kettle…

The only thing that keeps me from naming this column ‘Niggas In The News’ is the positive and more light-hearted fare that usually ends each post, but it’s safe to say that niggas with guns are the worst thing to happen to Blacks in modern history. It’s the deadliest inner city disease besides the disease of ignorance itself.

For instance, last week’s shooting at Brighton Beach on the Coney Island Boardwalk…

Now, I’ve been around my fair share of gunshots and hood violence for what appears to be my whole damn life unfortunately, but I really truly believed that this particular brand of senseless violence was gone with the early 90’s. Yet, as my recent run-ins with reckless Brooklyn niggas without senses of boundary have been proving, some fools just don’t think.

Sometimes I wonder if the average hood dude even has the capacity for foresight. Time and again, I’m left thinking ‘no‘. Especially in moments like these. My first reaction was ‘who the fuck shoots at Coney Island??!!‘ It’s like the last bastion of child-like radiance and excitement, the final frontier…In other words, it’s pretty much the happiest place left in New York City. A damn amusement park region named after bunnies!! My second thought was ‘wow, niggas still really just open fire on crowds of people??!’ And my third thought, after thinking about how it was the hottest day of the year so far, was ‘who the fuck is thinking about shooting when it’s sweltering hot outside?!!’ Sure, it can be argued that intense heat brings forth agitation and hostility, but the usual sentiment shared by New Yorkers on scorching hot days is almost unanimously one of trying to get to anything cool. Yet, as it would appear, niggas are the furthest thing from usual, and gunfire is the furthest thing from cool.

Nothing underscores this point more than the fact that so many random people got hit by bullets, and young Tysha Jones will never see another day. It’s so crazy to me that for all the trouble these idiots go thru to make scenes, cause panic and draw weapons of death, that when the smoke clears, the intended victim is almost never the one who takes their last breath. See what I mean? Niggas with guns… 

The boy Donny Goines just made a song dedicated to Tysha, and one of the dumb fucks behind the shooting has since been arrested as cops look for a suspected 2nd shooter (So it took not 1 but 2 niggas to miss the real target and kill a teenage girl??).

And my mom just asked me to go there a week and a half ago. This coulda been my sister or me and my nephew…

On the subject of Niggas with guns and stupidity and irony, Plaxico Burress

is doing his whole clean up act real quick. Fresh out the pen this month, the former New York Giant is iniating his PR sweep in thinly veiled efforts to retouch his image and rebuild his reputation. Joining with The Brady Center, the infamous public interest group that is responsible for the implementation of The Brady Bill in the 1990’s, Burress has attached himself to press conferences and appearances where he will be speaking out against the dangers of gun violence and illegal possession. I’ll have you remember, this guy just got out of jail for shooting himself in the groin with a gun that he kept in his pants off safety while sittingf in a bar. In Midtown! You can’t expect much from a professional Black athlete, but I’m sure he’s not appreciating this lockout right about now, as his rep and his fate hangs in the balance. Niggas with guns…

Ok, so it’s not a big secret that I don’t really care for Tracy Morgan. I don’t respect him as a comedian or an actor, and I’m moved to say not really as a grown ass man. Yet I don’t know him. What I do know is that he’s been catching Hell since this weekend over anti-Gay comments that were apart of a stand-up act that he just did. I also know that Tracy (howudoin?!) has some of the most femine mannerisms ever (maybe it’s the alchoholism or post-alchoholism stances and poses), and he has played some of the most flamboyant and ridiculous characters – to a believable (and un-funny) extent. I also know that this particular offense would have gone unnoticed had it not been for Morgan’s sudden meteoric success and fame that resurrected his decades-dead career and made him a household name to White folks thanks to SNL. As you can see, I don’t think he’s funny at all, just a dumb ass negro who will do or say anything for a laugh. That, a comedian does not make. However, it’s good enough for him to be the newest token coon for the White mainstream that tunes into 30 Rock every week. Guess they never heard his stand-up before. They would have known not to be shocked. Get ready for possible Isiah Washington treatment.

Sorry folks, the good news is far and few between this time. Pick something; The Mavs winning the Championship, the Black Tony Award winners, the Braxtons finale and reunion…

Nevermind…

Oh wait, Jada Pinkett’s medical drama, Hawthorne is back on network television this week, and this season has some familiar minority faces like Marc Anthony, Derek Luke & Lauren Velez. Good move. Whew! Knew I had something in there…

The Black Man’s Manhood is Constantly Under assault & All your Favorite Entertainers are Gay! True or False?

So I JUST left my barbershop where one of the homies popped in this DVD with this old southern Black man ranting and going on about the “conspiracy” behind the entertainment industry.

The man, I later discovered, is a very vocal “conscious” commentator by the name of Bobby Hemmitt who has video clips littered all over the internet. You’ve probably heard of him and this video. It’s a few years old. I know many folks like Mr. Hemmitt. And I wouldn’t be all too surprised if those who I know, know him very well also, as birds of a feather tend to flock together and like minds attract.

His particular focus in this DVD (that came in a plastic sheath with a poor photocopied cover – a la street DVD’s from the 2000-2008 era) that had my favorite 2 barbers and everyone else in the shop hyped, was the secret gay rituals of Hollywood and the Music Industry and the plot to emasculate the Black Man.

He begins the DVD with an audio clip of Pimp C talking to radio VJ’s about comments he made about Atlanta, fake trap-rappers and Russell Simmons’ sexuality. This is all probably old news to you all now. As is this whole expose that he professes to take viewers on, by hashing out faulty theories consisting of conclusive generalizations formed from a mix of facts and loose rumors that have been circulating for over a decade now.

I watched as my barbershop peeps were just eating everything up, Amening as he implied that everyone from Flip Wilson to LL Cool J is Gay and the only stand up guys from entertainment are Fred Williamson, 2Pac and Dave Chapelle, who refused to go for the Okee Doke (and chose to “cement their male-ness” and not let them effeminizethem). The popular discussion of why so many perceivably strong Black Men in the limelight end up doing the old cross-dressing routine is the dominant topic of conversation, and he seems to have it in for Quincy Jones and Will Smith especially. All of this before he begins to credit Lela Rochon as a good actress who was apart of a whole heap of Black actresses who can no longer get roles due to a move conspired by Hollywood to only give big roles to fuller-figured Black women, in an effort to hide the Black Woman’s sexuality and prevent it from being equated to that of their White counterparts.

He mentions a trend in films where Black male actors get shot in the Buttocks as a form of disrepect, and comments how fellow African-Americans  supporting films where Blacks die adds to a fear element that damages Melanin.

I’ve heard some of this before, As I ‘ve stated, I know Mr. Hemmitt’s mind-frame all too well, as I’ve come across it many times in my short life. My own perspective wasn’t too far removed at one point. I also know that from belief, people can tie things together in whichever ways they choose to make sense of and connect dots to form what they wish to see. There are a number of conspiracy based things that I endorse that lack fundamental or empirical evidence, such as AIDS being a man-made epidemic, designed for genocidal population control. But I tend not to profess that as the absolute truth as if I had proof of this. The difference here, is that Hemmitt takes small pieces of things and presents them as actual evidence to support the absolute truth that he is pushing.

The closer in and deeper I get involved in this business, Iam learning and discovering that there is a great deal of homosexuality and general non-Masculine behavior amongst the people in power. There are so many people running things who are on ego trips and are indulging in a very social-climbing based lifestyle. The more I learn, I will definitely share with you. That just may mean that entertainment, like fashion, is just a realm that attracts that crowd. Gay is not a curse word. I would hope that is not the point being made. But to Bobby’s credit, I think that his focus is more on the denigration of  the heterosexual Black Male and his historical place in the world. This is a species that has been stripped, beaten, broken and misguided time and time again. Viewing a surge in homosexual activity in a platform that delivers our primary imagery of Black men(be it music media or film media), which tends to be looked at reflectively, as another threat to this character, may not be so off. As a damaged creature on this planet, can young Black men or women really benefit in clear self-images when they see more and more flamboyant men flailing around behaving like women? Or being constantly made villains and dying sidekicks? There is a point being made here. I’m just not too keen on how…

“Conscious” people have a bad habit of finding racism in almost everything. The dangerous part is that propaganda works both ways. There’s always a great amount of truth in what they say, but where that truth leads them is sketchy. What’s so funny to me is the things that are condoned by these “Conscious” folks. The paradoxical nature of humanity is always in full effect, but blatant contradiction and hippocracy just sucks. Right Nas?

So is it “Black Girl Lost” or Shorty Owe You For Ice?”. Is it Ok for Dave Chapelle to play a crackhead as long as he doesn’t put on a dress?(FYI, he wore a dress in Robin Hood – Men In Tights), Or would Denzel deserve the Oscar more rightfully so if he didn’t get shot in the butt and lived at the end of Training Day to see another day as the Drug smuggling, philandering, murderous crooked Black Cop? So we’re supposed to have confidence in Dead Prez’s Revolution when they make anthems about gettin fucked up on weed and alcohol??

One day people will get the gist that Extremes, in either direction, don’t work.

Watch the clip above and then below, and tell me what you think about Mr. Hemmitt’s comments.