Rap on Broadway…wait it’s Broadway in Rap!

Today in class we discussed the song “Hard Knock Life” by Jay Z which sampled from a popular Annie Broadway classic. I had heard this song before but never really considered the fact that Jay Z had blended two totally opposite genres of music together in one song. He made it work but it wasn’t well blended, it was obvious that the part from Annie wasn’t naturally in¬†that song.

The presence of this musical sound within rap caused me to question if this had happened with any of the songs form my favorite Broadway hit, Wicked. To my surprise there had been more than one rap hit that sampled songs from the shows soundtrack. I decided to pick one out and break it down a little to see if the the meaning strayed from the original song and how it flowed compared to some of the other sampled tracks produced at the time.

The song I selected was “Popular” by S-Preme, which contained a sample of the song “Popular” from Wicked the musical. the song can be heard here.

if you listen to this song and have every heard the wicked soundtrack or seen the musical you notice that this song is basically a huge sample they use the same two or three parts of the Broadway throughout literally every single second of this song. I don’t think that there is a single second of this track that hasn’t been touched by Broadway gold. Even though I think this song makes a mockery of the original it is well put together and has good solid flow where you can’t tell the music isn’t naturally supposed to be there. and from what i can tell the theme of this song does not stray too much from what was conveyed in Wicked. All in all I conclude that this is a proper use of a sample in which you don’t disrupt the meaning of the original song and let it keep it’s dignity.

Here’s the original broadway hit in case you wanna jam ūüôā


Rap Hates Tipper Gore

Tipper Gore, wife of former Vice President and Senator Al Gore, was one of the founders of the Parents Music Resource Committee. This committee was formed to increase parental control over the access children had to inappropriate music. The committee suggested a rating system similar to the one we use for movies (G, PG, PG-13, R, NR). In the eyes of the committee this would prevent inappropriate music from falling into the hands of gullible teenagers who will be influenced poorly by listening to it.

Because of this radio stations took it upon themselves to begin making ‘clean’ versions of these songs by taking out certain words mainly profanities or negative slang words such as nigger or hoe. I understand why this was done, however i think it ruins the integrity of the music. The artist produced the songs using those words because that is how they wanted their music to be portrayed, changing or omitting words to make a ‘clean’ version distorts the meaning of the song. ¬†This committee also led to the creation of a parental advisory sticker placed on the front of albums with inappropriate content. Some stores refused to sell the albums with these stickers, one of the most notable being Wal-Mart.

The creation of this sticker made a lot of music unsellable and caused a significant amount of outrage within the rap community. Many rap musicians criticized or parodied the Parents Committee or Tipper Gore herself. As terrible as this is I found this one especially hysterical.

I know Tipper was just trying to do everyone a favor and had nothing personal against the music or any of the artists. To me what she was trying to do made sense even though it would slightly ruin the integrity of the version of the songs to be played on the radio. It would make sense to sensor the material available to the youth with music the same as we do with movies. You can view and hear more inappropriate things the older you get. Even though I know that in a word like today’s where everything is on the internet and the rating system would be useless at best. Tipper doesn’t deserve the kind of public shaming she received from the music community, she was just trying to make the US a better place.

Song Analysis: Paper Planes, M.I.A.

M.I.A. has by far one of the most interesting and awful backstories I have ever heard of in the music industry. She grew up in Shi Lanka running from the civil war and being shot at everywhere from the street to her school. When she was 11 she moved to London and declared herself a refugee enrolled in school, graduated, and went to college to study film. With her father being stuck in her homeland as a political advocate, he was never a part of her childhood running from the war. When she began her recording career in 2002 she named her first album after him at which point he told her to change it to avoid anything bad happening to her and she did not listen. These bad experiences have influenced some of M.I.A.’s most popular works, the most popular being “Paper Planes”.

“Paper Planes” by M.I.A. was released in 2007. The song had a lot of influence from different key events throughout her life. The main influence however was her inability to gain a long-term visa to enter the United States to record an album. She called visas paper planes because they were a piece of paper that allowed her to fly to the US and make music. This song also makes a huge reference back to her violent childhood. The gunshots that are used as a lyric in the song make a specific reference to her elementary school being shot down on a regular basis during her childhood. the opening lines of the song “if you stop me at the border, I’ll have a visa in my name” show that she doesn’t want to cause any problems but the fact that she cannot further her career by entering the US is frustrating to her.

M.I.A. puts her heart, soul, and experiences into her music. Give it a listen and see if you can her the brutal reality of her life and her background. I know for me it was obvious the first time I listened to the song.



Does everything have to reference cocaine…

Public Enemy released a song in 1988 titled “Night of the Living Baseheads”. This song was about the effects of crack cocaine on African Americans at this time. ¬†This song really is kinda screwed up ¬†with how it describes people who are on cocaine. The song’s title refers to the film “Night of the Living Dead” which basically is saying that people addicted to cocaine are zombies.¬†The song samples 19 songs each from a different group one of which was their own.

Three of the most notable songs that are sampled in this are “Sucker M.C.’s” by Run-DMC, “My Mike Sounds Nice” by Salt-N-Pepa, and “Bring the Noise” by Public Enemy. “Baseheads” samples the line “…first come first serve basis…” from Run-DMC. The use of this line in the Public Enemy track really alters it’s meaning. Sucker MC’s was a song about the birth of rap and the MC who thought he had skills, but Public enemy uses it to reference the drug market and you only get drugs on a first come first serve basis because everyone wants it and the market is small. They use the Salt-N-Pepa line that is used to call to someone running the mic to check it “Yo Herb” to reference drug dealers working the curb to cell people that used to smoke pot and now do crack cocaine. And they use a line their own song “Bring the Noise”, “…bass…”, that refers to the element of music, ¬†in “Baseheads” as a slang word for cocaine.

All in all each of these samples is distorted to mean something different and overall more negative than their original pieces intended. This could potentially ruin the integrity of the songs the samples were pulled from by making the listeners the song has a different meaning that they were aware of. It also distorts the meaning and integrity of the original piece. This kind of sampling is wrong and should have never have been introduced in the first place.

99 Problems -> Ice-T vs. Jay-Z

Ice-T¬†began is rap¬†career in 1980 and was signed to his first record company in 1987 when he released his debut album Rhyme Pays (the first hip-hop album to have an explicit content sticker). He then founded his own record label “Rhyme $yndicate Records” the following year. in 1993 he produced his own singles one of the most famous being “99 Problems”.

Some may notice that this song sounds very similar to one that was circulating around the popular music radio stations in 2003, “99 Problems” by Jay-Z.

I never knew that there was a previous version of this Jay-Z song and was surprised by the striking similarities between the two songs. Jay-Z took the main line from the song “I’ve got 99 problems, but a bitch ain’t one” straight from the Ice-T song. The beat is also very similar between the two songs, they both are a little slower than the typical songs of their time. The Jay-Z hit also reuses the high pitch accent noise in the background every few beats that was see in the original Ice-T version.

The more I realize that the songs of today’s music are sampled, the more frustrated I become. It makes me think about how unoriginal the music industry is. This is a reoccurring theme throughout the class that we usually glaze right over like it is no big deal. In a majority of the songs we listen to in class there are identifiable samples that he artists done even try to hide. It’s just amazing to me that these artists feel as though it is okay to take someone else’s beats and lyrics. Isn’t music supposed to be art, original art. I now wonder if there is a single song on today’s charts that does not use samples or words from other songs.

In the battle between Ice-T and Jay-Z, Ice T wins because well he made the song and deserves the credit. I think I’ve officially lost all respect for Jay-Z, not that he had much in the first place.


The Creation of a Rap Grammy

In 1988, the National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences announced that there would be a new Grammy category, Rap.  The president of NARAS used this statement to explain the decision to add this category:

“Rap last year was an urban black music form, and over the last¬†year¬†it has evolved into something more than that. It has matured into several kinds of music, with several kinds of artists doing it. ¬†We felt there was enough product coming out to justify a rap category.”

I found this quote to be very problematic and disrespectful to the genre and the artists within it, especially to those who developed the genre. This quote is a politically correct way of saying that rap didn’t deserve awards last year because it was music made by black people for black people. But now that there are some white rappers and white people like it and listen to it we should create an award for it. It totally alters the authenticity rap had in its early years. Rap was developed by African American people who had gone through horrible things and were trying to express them and help other people to understand them. By inferring that the music was useless in this ‘urban black form’, the NARAS is basically saying the only good thing that came out of it was creating a section of rap for white people. It’s saying that before rap developed into different artists and types it had no value to anyone but those who were making it.

All in all this quotation is very angering to me, it just shows how truly awful African American people were treated in this country and how much the popularity and evolution of music was driven by the white man. If Rap hadn’t evolved to appeal to the white people of America who knows what it could have become or if it would have even lasted to appear in today’s music world.

How to Ruin the Career You Never Had, a book by Sister Souljah

Lisa Williamson, or more famously known as Sister Souljah, began her career by being a featured guest for the famously rebellious group, Public Enemy. She then joined Public Enemy after one of their other members left. Eventually she began her solo career and released her first and only album in 1992. It was titled, ¬†“360 Degrees of Power”. The songs and the videos that went along with them were very rebellious in fact, two of the videos were banned on MTV because of their strong imagery. Because she didn’t get exposure, made some super bad comments after the beating of Rodney king, and really have a name for herself at all her album didn’t sell and her producer dropped.

After reading more about her, I think what most people remember her for is this quote made in May of 1992. “If black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people?”This statement that she gave during an interview became big news really quick. For having come out of a mouth that was so unknown by the public eye, she sure did receive a lot of attention from this comment. At the time, Bill Clinton was running for president, and criticized this quote publicly.

After hearing her song “Afrikan Scaredy Kats in a One-Exit Maze”, and seeing this quotation i was not surprised. My mind first went to, she is probably just an under educated, upset member of society who just so happens to have a spec of media attention at the wrong time. Then I saw that she had a Ivy League education from Cornell, was a double major at Rutgers. That really made me wonder what kind of students those two well known schools produce. I was shocked and quite honestly in disbelief that a person with that caliper of education, would make that uneducated of a comment. It made me think that perhaps she did everything she did musically, and through her interviews on purpose, and made these comments that weren’t necessary educated or throughout in order to provoke conversation, and potentially change. This is seen for sure in her music as a solo artist and with Public Enemy. However monumental she thought she was being I found her comments and words to be offensive. Even though Clinton got a lot of crap for saying what he said about Souljah’s “racist” comments, I can’t help but agree with him, what she said seemed to be completely against everything that America stands for. I think she dramatized and played up events for the sake of media attention and potentially a ‘revolution’. This act limited her audience, and probably ended her career.



Movies and TV Pick up the slack?

Today in class we discussed the use of television and the big movie screen to boost the sales of music and increase the popularity of certain artists or record labels. The first of these that we discussed was the movie Krush Groove which was produced in 1985. This film was a rarity for a music based one because it featured 6 popular groups/ artists and was made to explain the beginnings of Def Jam Records.

Another that we discussed was the development of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air to tell the story of DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince. Having never known that smith had a rap career before the show was produced and aired i was surprised to learn this during class. But after seeing one of his music videos that was made before the show it made a lot of sense to me that the show correlated to his previous career. it was easily noticed that the graffiti and movements/characters in the shows opening songs were the same as those found in the music video for “Parents Just Don’t Understand”. You’ll notice at the beginning of the Fresh Prince song that the walls are plain white and covered with spray paint words and pictures exactly like the ones in the music video for Parents Just Don’t Understand. The next visible similarity between the two is the woman who plays the mom in Parents and the woman who plays the aunt in the shows theme song. Both have very similar features and are portrayed almost identically. The next that i noticed between both was the mocking of the parental figure in a high tone of voice with a funny voice by Will Smith. Both songs feature this with a negative tone towards their figures of authority. These were the biggest ones i could point out but i found it was almost laughable how they basically reused the music video for the opening to the show. They could have at least been a little more creative.

What I keep thinking about with things like this, was about how they could¬†possibly boost popularity and record sales enough to cover the cost of making the movie/show. After searching for a long time there was not much evidence to support this but I find it scary interesting how closely the music industry becomes tied to the film and television entertainment industry. It makes me wonder if many of the movies we see go through theaters each year and streamed on the internet have hidden agendas in mind when they are put out. For example I’m sure films like “Straight Outta Compton” were made to increase music sales for the artists featured. It just makes me wonder what certain artists would be without being pout on display for the world with a story that could be real or could be just as fake as the characters who play them.

Run D.M.C.: Quite Possibly the Most Influential Group in All of Hip Hop History

Run D.M.C. was a trio of males who took the hip hop world to a whole new level by introducing heavy metal and rock riffs to hip hop.¬†The group is widely acknowledged as one of the most influential in the history of hip hop culture, and were known as one of the best hip hop acts in the 80’s. Their addition of these riffs made them quite possibly one of the most well marketed and most award winning groups of this genre at the time.¬†They were the first group in the genre to have a gold album,¬†be nominated for a Grammy Award,¬†earn a platinum record, earn a multiplatinum certification, to have videos on MTV, and ¬†to appear on American Bandstand, and to be on the cover of Rolling Stone. There is no way you could do all of these things and not be influential to music.

With the introduction and use of heavy metal in hip hop they helped to eliminate the use of funk and disco music in the genre. This transition that hip hop made moved the music away from something that was light and danceable to something that was heavy and that could not be danced to in the way people were accustomed to. This change in hip hop also called for a way hip hop was portrayed. As we saw in class the early hip hop artists like Grandmaster Flash had to wear very flashy clothing ¬†and a band behind him to be considered hip hop where as Run D.M.C. brought hip hop to a more relaxed dress and only a DJ with two turntables behind them. This introduced the importance of the DJ-MC relationship because the Run D.M.C. (the MC’s), depended on the DJ spinning the records in order to have successful performances. Rolling Stone stated,

“Run‚ÄďD.M.C. took hardcore hip-hop from an underground street sensation to a pop-culture phenomenon. Although earlier artists, such as Grandmaster Flash and The Sugarhill Gang, made rap’s initial strides on the airwaves, it was Run‚ÄďD.M.C. that introduced hats, gold chains, and untied sneakers to youth culture’s most stubborn demographic group: young white male suburban rock fans. In the process, the trio helped change the course of popular music, paving the way for rap’s second generation.”

This quote to me really points out just how significant the impact Run D.M.C. had on how hip hop is viewed even today almost 40 years after their careers began. When people who don’t know rap think of rap they think of gold chains and flat brimmed hats. It’s just amazing to me that these men introduced gold chains and hats to the pop culture stigma of this genre and it still is stuck with us today. Run D.M.C. seems to have been the most influential groups that we have learned about up to this point in the course. They changed not only the genre itself and the way the music sounds and is performed, but also how the genre is seen from a societal perspective.

Blonde and Fab Five Freddy

In looking at the artwork by Fab Five Freddy the first thing I notice in the two photos is that they are generally and conceptually the same photo, just with different words changing the type of “soup”. Freddy is specifically referenced In the song “Rapture” by Blondie. In this song I think she generally eludes to the fact that society keeps advancing and we are losing our individuality aka our “flavor of soup” and becoming shuffled into generalized flavors. I think the importance of this as a graffiti form is because he is breaking out of the gereralization of art forms and trying to find his own “flavor”. It gives his work a deeper meaning and individuality.

I think that this collision of cultures kind of points to the fact that the nationalization of Hip Hop will take away its individuality and throw it into one box of songs that all sound similar. Which is ultimately what happened and still happens in today’s music and art world. The same guy writes all of the hit songs and they have the same rhythms and themes. He was eluding to the fact that the industry was losing its indivuality and he was absolutely right.