For all of the frigid, aggressive, winter music that New York Hip-Hop has given us over the years, there’s no doubt that it was originally born out of the muggy, oppressive heat that can only come from an East Coast-summer. Fuck gentrification, to THIS DAY, a walk around Harlem or the Bronx come July will teach you more about the origins of Hip-Hop than any pseudo-academic tome or half-assed bargain bin oldies compilation. The energy is palpable and if you squint hard enough you can see the ghosts of the Mr. Softee trucks, ghetto blasters, block parties, breakers and bombers that somehow, some way, created the single most improbable and original youth culture of the 20th century (fuck punk).
History has made clear that Hip-Hop’s move to wax was its original sin. The result was a compromised disco single from a bunch of biting-ass non-rappers that went to the top of the charts and the genre has basically been selling out ever since. Still, it’s had some great moments along the way: Def Jam bum rushing the rock world, Cold Chillin recreating the OG street sound of James Brown through sampling, The Native Tongues expanding our minds, NWA spawning an army of west coast chroniclers, Shaolin, Queensbridge, Brooklyn…
But these days, it’s hard for me to muster much enthusiasm for rap. Actually, let me rephrase that: these days it seems had for RAP to muster much enthusiasm for rap. Every single charting artist these days is auto-crooning wack ass platitudes over R&B tracks and showing more interest in mall-pop than the street beats. The Roots, those standard bearers of Hip-Hop purism, are a late night band more concerned with Indie Harpists than boom-bap. Super-producer Just Blaze wants to release dance records. Jay-Z’s dropping show tunes. Fuck me, I heard that KRS-ONE is going to sell his turntables and buy guitars.
And that’s why I made this mix. I wanted to remember why I fell in love with Hip-Hop in the first place. The funk, the energy, the RAPPING. You might ask how I planned to do this with a bunch of singles nearly 20 years older than the stuff I grew up on; the answer is that everything I love about Hip-Hop music is directly or indirectly linked to the energy on these early records. Have no doubt about it, most of them are as A&Red as anything out there today – ask the artists how they felt about disco; but there’s an innocence, an energy, a burning desire for recognition from the wider world radiating through these records. Some of them a rough, some a bit smoother, but even the glossiest among them are innocently aspirational, a chance for a bunch of ghetto kids to drop a single with a band, maybe even get a gig on Soul Train.
More than anything I wanted this mix to be fun. This is NOT a history lesson. That means that nothing’s in order, there’s some anachronistic interludes, a couple of well-known pop tunes made their way into the mix and nothing here is revelatory or underground in that tape-nerd kind of way. As much as anything, this was a way for me to get some of my favorite old school singles together in one place. Hopefully you enjoy it and get the same feeling out of these tunes as I do. At the very least, it’s infinitely less emo than what I put together for Summerjamz last year – what can I say, I’m in a good mood and wanted to hear some funk. So pull up a lawn chair, hold onto your Eskimo bar and blast this one out your box: it ain’t nothing but a party y’all.
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Cold Crush Brothers – Basketball Throwdown (Intro)
The Treacherous 3 – The Heartbeat
Grandmaster Caz – South Bronx Subway Rap
Sugar Hill Gang – 8th Wonder
MC Shan – Down By Law (Son Raw’s Crack Kills Hyperspeed-Edit)
Fab 5 Freddy – Down By Law
Blondie – Rapture
The Fearless Four – Rockin it
The Treacherous 3 – New Rap Language
The Funky 4 + 1 – Rappin n Rockin the House
Xanadu – Sure Shot
Cold Crush Brothers – Weekend
The Funky 4 + 1 – That’s the Joint
Kurtis Blow – The Breaks
Grandmaster Melle Mel – White Lines
Herbie Hancock – Rockit
Fantastic Freaks – Live at the Dixie
Whodini – Five Minutes of Funk
Grandmaster Melle Mel – The Message
Genesis (Wildstyle outro)