October 23, 2010

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It was mildly disheartening to see the senescent B-boy panorama that accompanied the Stretch and Bob 20th reunion show. The photo captures radio days like an athletic reunion, where uniforms fit too tight and guts lose versus gravity. More ideal is a vintage image of what the Source once called The Greatest Hip Hop Show of All-Time (OF ALL-TIME).  The end result of two dudes and a Columbia radio station transmitter, at the serendipitous crossroads between rap’s rise to the penthouse, and its concurrent yearning for basement rawness. The show starts with none other than a flashback freestyle featuring none other than Big L and a young Sean Carter. Billed as one of the Originators, Jay is halfway between his Kane and Kool G last fast rap worship and the post-Illmatic flow — pretending like “In My Lifetime” made noise out of the Tri-State area.

With several notable exceptions, few were concerned with the after-shocks away from the epicenter. There was too much damage and distortion reverberating within the Five Boroughs. Stretch and Bob had the greatest radio show of their time because of the usual reasons:  taste, humor, aversion to morning show gimmickry and terrestrial radio sycophancy. But they also had the luxury of four straight hours to play whatever the fuck they wanted, with the possibility of drop-ins from Wu-Tang, DITC, or Boot Camp.  With corporate monopolies crossed with largely unctuous Internet taste-making, we’ll probably never get another show like this.

Now everyone with a cable connection has access to the right (or wrong) hundred blogs. Plenty of radio shows remain as excellent sub-cultural curators — most notably at the BBC and Internet-only bastions like Dublab. But a significant portion of Stretch and Bobbito’s importance stemmed from the issue of scarcity deftly addressed in Mark Richardson’s Pitchfork essay.  For a West Coast rap junkie, getting the fix from one of those tapes was a minor miracle. It infused the music with a value and mystery that’s impossible today, unless you’re one of those people who genuinely cares about music unearthed from African cell phones (read: live in Williamsburg). Their power was partially derived from how they captured an ascendant movement, but also from the idea that unless you tracked down a tape, the moment was permanently confined to second-hand descriptions. More often, it was a myth you could never fully access. Your imagination was forced to run wild.

The Internet has allowed most of the programs to be a Megaupload file away. But that wonder has permanently scarred supply and demand ratios. With Squeeze Radio shutting up shop — another victim of a woeful year for those once hypnotized by the boom-bap — Stretch and Bob reunited once more to drop bombs, knowledge, and the answers to a thousand trivia questions. Sit down man and listen up.–Weiss

Download:
ZIP (via Alt Rap): Stretch & Bobbito — 20th Anniversary Show on KCRW (10/22/10)
ZIP (via HL) :  V/A – XXL’s 20 Greatest Stretch & Bobbito Freestyles 

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