How did you become interested in Hip-hop music and what made you a develop a liking towards it?
2Pac. But before we get to him, there are other reasons too.
We didn't really listen to much hip hop growing up. It was all about jungle and rave from 90s to mid 00s. Jungle pretty much was our version of Hip Hop. It was a British underground breakbeat movement, the same way as hip hop was an American underground breakbeat movement. I mean, both genres took breakbeat to different places. But to me, there are so many parallels:M Beat & General Levy – Incrediblehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mL2Bgj-za5kUK Apachi & Shy FX – Original Nuttah http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PkAYv0MuVTETribe Of Issachar – Junglist http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GGj67GCO2Ls
If you muted the sound, you'd be forgiven for thinking it was hip hop. Predominantly black (like so much good music is). Typically the purview of the lower class, underprivileged youth. Rowdy and somewhat distrusted, shunned or ignored by the mainstream. A freestyle MC, a DJ mixing and scratching some dirty amen beats, a dancehall. There wasn't so much emphasis on rap, though, which is a significant difference. There wasn't much lyrical storytelling initially. The MC was more ragga, just there to get the crowd pumped. There was more emphasis on dance. Probably down to the house/rave roots. There was also a lot of 80s hip hop sampling. But both jungle and hip hop developed alongside each other, drawing upon the same pool of influences and innovations.
Even early 2000's, there wasn't really much hip hip in the underground music scene. It was grime. Hip hop/garage fusion. There was a fairly large appetite for American rap in the mainstream, but that didn't really intersect much in the circles I moved in. Bear in mind I was still a teenager in the 90s. At that time it's all about your friends, your crew, your brothers and sisters from another mother. There is no world beyond that. I'm only talking about my immediate sphere of experience. It would have been significantly different growing up somewhere else. Growing up on an inner-city council estate was like growing up in an insular goldfish bowl. Jungle/rave was the music I grew up with, what my friends listened to, the music I came of age with, first real musical love, that I continue to love. There was one dealer we used to go to who had American gangsta rap on all the time. That's probably the only time I heard new Hip Hip regularly. It was custom to sit and share a few spliffs with the dealer. We'd just sit in there, red-eyed, bobbing our heads in the smoky room.
Then we come to drum & bass. It's a natural progression from jungle to drum & bass. Mainly because it was largely the same artists. The same DJs. The crossover point between jungle and drum and bass is so indistinct that it's not really worth arguing about. For me, jungle is defined by the things the very word might inspire. It’s tribal, untamed, primal, rowdy. Sometimes fierce, impenetrable and chaotic. Sometimes lush, beautiful and mysterious. It’s the wild heart of drum & bass. The roots of it. I would say it was structurally defined by deep rolling bass, choppy, feral amen break drums, and typically has ragga, dance hall and dub influence and vocals. It can be too aggressive and eratic for some ears, militaristic. And drum & bass, to me, is collectively the sub-genres that came out of the jungle. But there was a major paradigm shift around '95. Lots of artists released their definitive music around that time. And it just feels a little more progressive. A little smoother. A little more cleaned up from dirty jungle and hardcore beats. And so, we come to this kind of thing: 4hero (ft. Ursula Rucker) – Loveless http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_OJw4G4BoYRoni Size & Reprazent (ft. Onallee) – New Formshttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFiAK4fD6MkBig Bud (ft. MC Conrad) - A Way Of Life (LTJ Bukem Mix)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKMzbXcn26gMC Conrad – Dawn Of Harmonyhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3B7LowsEjkNookie (ft.DRS) – Pushing The Vibehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AoH9T57g4-QLTJ Bukem (ft. MC Conrad) – Horizons http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Beboh8Azuuo
It strikes me as having more of a spiritual dimension to it. MCs rapping about cosmic nature, the human condition, love, passion, sexual attraction, destiny, rapture, awe, raw emotion, enlightenment, expanding the mind, liberation of thought, innovation of self, elevation of intellect, higher states of consciousness, that which is salubrious to body and soul rather than street tales and material things. I guess that's why they called it 'Intelligent Drum & Bass'. I'm not sure if I like the name. It kinda implies a lack of intellect in other genres. But I can't deny that it's a somewhat fitting name. And I can't really deny that it's rap.
So I already have the basic ingredients to be a hip hop fan. I still did actually listen to it occasionally. There was more and more old skool 80s hip hop floating around the graffiti scene. It all just blended into one lifestyle. All part of the same under-culture - the music, the street art, the street dancing, the chillin out in the park. I just wasn't into the mainstream hip hop 'scene' so to speak.
And then there is 2Pac. I can't even remember when I started liking 2Pac. But I was very young. Too young to really appreciate what he was talking about. My mum had an LP of his (she had so much good music). Me Against The World.
I remember being sad when he died because my mum was sad. His music didn't really speak to me until later in life, though, when there started to be parallels between my life and what he was speaking about. I think what truly melted my heart and made me a fan for life was his love for his mother. That's what meshed with me.
What I love most about 2Pac, though, is that he actually tried. He tried to get out of a shitty situation. He even studied drama and dance at one point. Just wanted to make music and write poems. He was brought up by hardened criminals. His childhood was unstable and that's putting it lightly. He got moved around a lot, spent most of his early life on the move. The adults and peers around him as a kid were in and out of prison. His parents were violent activists linked with the Black Panthers. They were into some REAL serious shit, not just petty street crime and thuggery. They even had to change Pac's name because people had threatened to kill him if they ever found him. His step dad was on the FBI's top 10 most wanted, a man who eventually got locked up for murder or something.
Music was his way out. His poetry was escapism from an early age. He pours his heart out in some songs. It's why he gets so much respect from other artists in the genre, even though he isn't perhaps the most technically gifted rapper, like Nas or Method Man or someone like that. With Pac, it's all about the message and the simple unapologetic honesty. He spoke from the heart and spoke for a lot of people. Changes
reached out across genres, 2 years after his death, and that isn't even his most raw and heartfelt verses.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nay31hvEvrY
I mean, can we just stop and appreciate how good that tune is? Some might think it's overplayed, commercial, surpassed by better. But I don't. I don't care about any of that. Changes
, to me, is what rap was all about. Forget this new money bragging. I'd rather listen to poets telling the story of the streets. Nothing has changed. It's as bad if not worse than before. But for just a brief moment when I listen to it, I can believe it. I can believe things can change.
Hard to imagine that he was younger than me when he was murdered. He didn't have the best start in life but he almost broke out of it. Could have been so different for him. I don't honestly think he got the type of fame he really wanted. But it worked I guess. He made an impact. He definitely impacted my life. I'm not excusing anything he did or might have done, but I can understand how easy it is to fall into the game. I've been there. I've lost my way so many times. I've fucked up so many times. Done things I'm not proud of. Who am I to judge?
I think it's easy to write off rap as just privileged boasting by bling and whore hungry arseholes, but the underground hip hop always had a real message. There is a lot of anguish to the some of the best rap songs, deeper meanings that spoke to underprivileged youth. Rappers were telling the story of the streets and nobody really gave a fuck. They just took it as criminals glorifying violence and crime, but I think they just wanted to be heard, maybe rub it in the face a bit, tell people what it's really like out there on the wrong side of the tracks, enjoy new money, the new privileges that it brought, a little taste of what the white man had for so long. Consider the mind-blowing fact that they lynched blacks in America barely a decade before hip hop was being born.
Humans are not meant to be alone. They'll take what they can get, be that a normal happy family or hard brothers and sisters in blood who watch each others back. We all need to belong, need to be understood and appreciated. We move through life, trying to establish ourselves and make our mark, discover our sense of identity, trying to be unique, but all the time silently crying out for others just like us. There are no sign posts sometimes. You end up where you end up.
There is a certain breed of hip hop hipster who think its cool to knock Pac because his MC skills aren't the best, or his verses are too simple, or because he studied poetry and dance, or had a few pop hits early in his career, or he's 'overrated'. I don't have any time for them. I think they completely miss the point of his music and the man behind it, and completely miss the point of rap altogether. He was as real as any rapper out there. He's been there, seen it, done it, tells stories about it. He made an effort to get out of it, snubbed the street life and wanted something else, and then ironically ended up being sucked back into it and became the thing he hated the most. He was a beautiful hypocrite. He has a charming, ugly, beautiful, flawed, uplifting, tragic story to tell for anyone who's listening.