Before we get into this week’s post, I want to thank all of my new subscribers who came in from DeepDiscount.com. Welcome to the Violet Brown Told Me Blog! And to all of my previous subscribers, thank you for always being here!
Hip Hop will celebrate its 50th birthday on April 11, 2023. Throughout 2023 there are many events planned to celebrate the first 50 years. I started preparing for the festivities a little early. In 2022 I created a series of features titled “Hip Hop Hooray.” The series features facts and personal stories of working in the entertainment industry during the rise and evolution of hip hop. Below I am including links to my “Hip Hop Hooray” series. I am so fortunate to be alive and to continue to work in entertainment and music. It is a true honor to have been present and a part of the most formative years of this global phenomenon we call HIP HOP.
Hip Hop has been as important to the history of music as the birth of Rock & Roll.
Both genres of music originated in America, and both continue to evolve into new styles and sub-genres of the original music. The rapid popularity of rock and rap came from young rebellious fans. Both genres were seen as a threat to the establishment and especially to parents. Parents feared this music because it literally took over the hearts and minds of their children. Some parents and older folks called it “disturbing…just noise…devil music…shocking…or a fad that would not last.”
Rock and rap music has withstood the test of time and continues to evolve and gain popularity each year. And despite what was once said…IT IS HERE TO STAY!
Rock and rap music is usually loud, bold, and provocative. It can also be socially conscious, political, and a way to promote the awareness of racial, cultural, and economic issues. The music has greatly influenced the culture of every country and their people.
Today we have rock and hip hop artists creating music together. They often share the same stage at massive music festivals. Most importantly they are sharing the same fans and audiences. The music has been a source of unity by bringing their fans together. Currently hip-hop artists are even collaborating and touring with country artists. Times have changed and…I LOVE IT!
We feel and see the impact of hip hop everywhere
The influence of hip hop has changed the course of music by bringing new styles in music, poetry, art, dance, technology, film, fashion, media, entertainment, and more.
Last year Hip Hop made its way to the Super Bowl with one of the most anticipated and SPECTACULAR half-time shows. On Sunday, February 5, 2023, Hip Hop stunned the world again at the 63rd annual Grammy Awards with a tremendous tribute to the first 50 years of the genre.
I have personal connections to the majority of performers who participated in the Grammy’s joyous celebration of hip hop. In my series “Hip Hop Hooray” I share personal stories with many of these performers, pioneers, visionaries, legends, and “ICONS” of hip hop. If you are a fan of the music I hope you will use the links below to read the first 3 parts of my ongoing series on the history of hip hop. I hope you will enjoy reading and viewing personal stories and photos that I have taken over the “golden and platinum” era of hip hop. Since I am still active in the industry I will continue to include stories and photos with new artists too.
Since this post is really about the joy I felt watching the some of my friends and favorite artists on stage at the Grammys, I want to tell you about a historical hip hop release that includes most of the performers with their BIGGEST…most BELOVED songs.
Last year the prestigious Smithsonian Folkways label released an anthology featuring 129 of the most important songs of the first 45 years of the genre.
This 9-disc set tells the story of hip hop through these powerful and enormously popular songs. Smithsonian’s Anthology of Hip Hop and Rap explores the foundation and the evolution of Hip Hop. It also includes a 300-page coffee-table book filled with essays and rare, never-before-seen photos that span the formative years of hip hop. This is a MUST-HAVE for all fans of the music and it’s culture.
Here is a fun fact about my personal connection to this release: I am one of the music insiders who was invited to have a voice in the selection of the songs that would be included on this definitive anthology of hip-hop and rap.
The final songs that were chosen for this ground-breaking and historical release were compiled by a committee of well-respected rappers, scholars, writers, aficionado’s, music critics and industry leaders. The committee was led by rappers Chuck D of Public Enemy and MC Lyte, Jeff Chang, and Mark Anthony Neil (writers and scholars), Bill Adler and Bill Stephney (early Def Jam Executives), Questlove (Co-founder of The Roots, author, film maker and band leader of The Tonight Show) and 9th Wonder (rap artist and educator).
I was asked to submit 100 songs that I felt were worthy of being on this important piece of hip-hop history. I was quite pleased when I saw that many of my selections were loved by the whole group…they made the cut and are on SMITHSONIAN’S ANTHOLOGY of HIP-HOP and RAP.
I feel like an anxious kid waiting for Santa as I impatiently wait for the Whitney Houston film “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” to hit theatres on December 22, 2022.
Whitney Houston was known as the “greatest singer of her generation.” She was also known as ‘THE VOICE.”
Whitney Houston was one of the greatest vocalist of all-time. She was a popular actress and also a huge box office draw for theatres.
Even though Whitney Houston left us on February 11, 2012. She is still beloved worldwide and ranks as one of the best performers, and best-selling female artists of all time.
Throughout her career from 1985-2012 Whitney received many awards and accolades to include 2 Emmy Awards, 6 Grammy Awards, 16 Billboard Music Awards, 8 Soul Train Music Awards, 14 World Music Awards, 22 American Music Awards and 28 entries in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Whitney Houston has also been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, the Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
I had the opportunity to be around Whitney on a few occasions.
My first encounter with Whitney was when she dropped by a record store that I managed in Los Angeles CA. Her first album was just released, and Clive Davis suggested that she should meet some of the key players in radio and retail. This brought her to my store where she sat on our counter and watched as customers bought her album as it played over the sound system in my store.
Whitney Houston’s self titled debut album available on CD here or LP here
This was not an official in-store autograph signing event, so customers were not aware that she would be in the store. They had no idea that Whitney was watching as they purchased her debut album. Whitney Houston was humble, sweet, and had a wholesome look and persona. At the time, she had no idea that she was about to become a musical icon and one of the GREATEST OF ALL-TIME!
On another occasion in 1995, I was invited to a private listening party for the “Waiting to Exhale” soundtrack. It was a star-studded event. I will never forget how the atmosphere in the room changed as Tupac entered with Faith Evans who was also featured on the album. This was the last time I had the opportunity to speak to Tupac. Just ten months later on September 7, 1996, Tupac was shot in Las Vegas and succumbed to his wounds six days later.
When Whitney walked into the party with Clive Davis, I watched as the other celebrities became star-struck fans that clamored to speak to her. The film and soundtrack for “Waiting to Exhale” were both phenomenally successful. You can get the film and view the movie trailer here …Waiting to Exhale available at DeepDiscount.com
Here are a couple of my most treasured photos with Whitney.
When the biographical musical film on the life of Whitney Houston is released on December 22, there will be another surge in the sales of Whitney’s music and films. This is why I chose to write about Whitney now. Her music and films will make excellent gifts for the holidays. Now through the end of the year all of Whitney’s music and films are currently on sale and well stocked here: Everything Whitney Houston at DeepDiscount,com
This holiday season there is something new for everyone. After sifting through the new holiday titles here is my list of some of the most entertaining and highly anticipated new titles. Here are a few that will bring your holiday get-togethers and parties to life. Whether you are sitting around a cozy fire sipping a warm holiday beverage or decorating your tree, these albums will put you in the spirit of the season.
Alicia Keys “Santa Baby” (2022)
I can’t seem to get enough of Alicia’s first-ever holiday album. This album contains one of my favorite Alicia songs of all time “Not Even The King” which is a “year-round” masterpiece. Buy it here.
This is one of the best new holiday albums of the season. Dolly is joined by an impressive list of guest performers, to include Michael Bublé, Billy Ray Cyrus, Miley Cyrus, Jimmy Fallon, Willie Nelson, and her late brother, Randy. This album is another example of why everyone loves Dolly Parton. Buy it here.
Neil Diamond “A Neil Diamond Christmas” (2022)
A Neil Diamond Christmas is a newly remastered set specially curated by Neil from his 4 best-selling Christmas albums. These recordings feature Neil originals and inventive arrangements of traditional songs, spotlighting his trademark sound in a holiday setting. Buy it here.
Matteo, Andrea, and Virginia Bocelli “A Family Christmas” (2022)
This is the first Bocelli family holiday album that features Andrea and his 24-year-old son Matteo and his 10-year-old daughter Virginia. This is a beautiful Christmas album was recorded at their home as they sat by their fireplace. Buy it here.
Backstreet Boys “A Very Backstreet Christmas” (2022)
After 30 years, the Backstreet Boys have released their first-ever holiday album. This is a must have for all “Backstreet” fans. Buy it here.
Joss Stone “Merry Christmas, Love” (2022)
This is the first holiday album from GRAMMY Award-winner Joss Stone. I fell in love with the vocals of this soulful singer from her debut album “The Soul Sessions” in 2003. She has always wanted to release a Christmas album and this one was worth the wait…I LOVE IT! Buy it on Vinyl here.
Jim Brickman “A Very Merry Christmas” (2022)
I love the piano and Jim Brickman never fails to give an amazing performance. This album is the perfect mix of classic and nostalgic sounds of the season. Buy it here.
Emmy and Tony Award-winning singer/actress, Kristin Chenoweth, brings us her first holiday album. The album shows Kristin in a festive but classy light as she rings in the best and her favorite time of the year. Buy it here.
Idina Menzel “Christmas: A Season of Love” (2019)
Tony Award-winner Idina Menzel has released an album of traditional and brand-new songs. Christmas: A Season Of Love features guests including Ariana Grande, Billy Porter, and Frozen costar Josh Gad. This new album is sure to bring friends and family together throughout the holiday season. Buy it here.
“The one thing that has been a blessing since the pandemic, is learning to do all my shopping online. I save, money, time, and the stress of traveling to crowded malls” If you are looking for special gifts, hard-to-find titles, or the HOTTEST new releases for the holidays, just type in what you are looking for or browse through EVERYTHING that is available….YES, I SAID EVERYTHING!
Now through the end of the year, you can load up on everything you need while saving money during the site-wide sale……(and don’t forget to click the 10% off coupon for even MORE SAVINGS).
Alicia Keys first-ever Christmas album is finally here!
Back in the day, I was a music buyer for a large chain of music stores, and I had a good relationship with music mogul, Clive Davis. So, his record label often shared new music with me very early before the actual release dates. If I was able to spend time with the music and loved it, I would be more likely to place a huge order for my stores.
It was 2001 and I was given an album from a brand-new artist named Alicia Keys. I was told that she was a singer, a song writer, a classically trained pianist, and she was also composing songs at the age of twelve. At fifteen she signed her first recording contract, but Alicia did not fit into any specific genre of music that was popular at the time so the label wanted her to re-work some of her music to fit in with what was currently being played on the radio.
Alicia was unique and she already had a vision for her music and career, and it did not include changing anything.
She was able to get out of her contract and to look for the perfect label to release her music. At the time, Clive Davis was the head of Arista Records which was a label that he founded in 1974. Clive signed many important artists and super-stars to Arista, but there was one that became iconic and that was Whitney Houston. She went on to becomes one of the BIGGEST pop stars of all-time.
It was 1998 and a seventeen-year-old, Alicia Keys found her way to a meeting in the office of Clive Davis. She performed for Clive and was signed to Arista Records.
Alicia felt that she finally found the man and the label who understood her as an artist, her music, and the career she envisioned for herself.
The majority of record labels looked for artists that had clear radio hits. Clive was blown away by the talent and artistry of Alicia Keys. He felt that even though Alicia was different from everything on the radio at the time, that radio would be driven by her profound talent and potential popularity to give her radio airplay (and as usual Clive was right)
Clive was known for finding distinctively unique talent and Alicia seemed to have it all, including wholesome beautiful looks.
In 2000, Clive founded another new record label that he named “J Records” after the first letter of his middle name, which is “Jay.” Alicia followed Clive to his new label where everything would start moving towards the launch of her debut album.
Of course, Clive always knew which tastemakers to give his new music to. So, he gave Alicia’s album to a few influential music store buyers, critics, and radio programmers. He also had listening events to preview her music and talent. Clive also gave her album to the most popular talk show host on the planet, Oprah Winfrey. The power and push of the Oprah Winfrey Show was a game-changer for a new artist, for authors, actors, films , books, and any product that she decided to mention.
Upon hearing Alicia’s song, Fallin’ Oprah produced an entire show to highlight “Women Who Sing”. That legendary episode featured Jill Scott and India Arie who were emerging as the hottest new neo-soul singers and songwriters at the time. The show also featured one new artist that would be releasing her debut album the following week….ALICIA KEYS! After the Oprah episode aired all of the ladies experienced astronomical sales. And since Alicia was new, everyone was waiting anxiously to purchase her first album on June 5, 2001.
Alicia Keys and J Records soared to the top of the charts with their inaugural release of “Songs In A Minor.”
Alicia was a prodigy that sang, wrote, arranged, and produced all of her music. There was only one song on the album that Alicia did not write, and it was penned by none other than Prince.
The album “Songs In A Minor” debuted at number one and within three weeks the album was certified as triple platinum for sales of over three million copies. The album has now sold over twelve million copies and was certified as a “Diamond” release when ten million copies were sold.
“Songs in A Minor” has also been added to the National Recording Registry. It qualifies to be preserved for all-time based on its “cultural, historical or aesthetic importance in the nation’s recorded sound heritage.”
Once again, with the release of Alicia Keys, Clive Davis changed the course of music and opened the door for more unique and soulful singer songwriters who could also play instruments. The artist H.E.R. has said that Alicia Keys is an inspiration to her own music and career.
Alicia Keys blended soul with classical music and she defied all odds and genres to become Clive Davis’s next Superstar.
Alicia Keys helped to propel J Records into the stratosphere and Clive Davis and his “J Records” was just what Alicia Keys needed to sky-rocket her career in record time.
I was fortunate and privileged to have a front row seat to the launch and explosion of her career. Her first eight albums have collectively sold more than 65 million copies. Alicia has also won numerous awards to include 15 Grammys.
Today Alicia Keys is releasing her ninth album and one that is long over-due……
Her first ever holiday album, “Santa Baby”.
The album was recorded while Alicia was on her sold-out European tour over the summer. The album features seven reimagined holiday classics, as well as four brand new original songs that she wrote.
Here is what Alicia had to say about “Santa Baby”
“I picked each song based on my all-time favorites and I wrote the new ones based on real holiday emotions and stories. The holidays are such a beautiful time to slow down, be with the ones you love and make meaning! Santa Baby is definitely going to be the perfect holiday soundtrack. I can’t wait for you to fall in love with it.“
As the days get shorter and the cold weather comes creeping’ in, I can’t think of a better album to set the holiday mood and to cozy up with.
I LOVE THE HOLIDAYS and I LOVE ALICIA KEYS so along with many of you I will pick up my copy here today.
Rap travels from the Bronx…to Harlem…to the clubs of NYC…and to RADIO & RECORDS
From the early seventies to 1979, rap was alive and well in the clubs, at house parties and in the parks of the Bronx. Soon everyone wanted to get in the game. MC’s and DJ’s started coming out of the woodwork. Battle rappin’ was becoming a huge thing and rap groups were forming everywhere. Battles became as big in the Bronx and Harlem as some of the sporting events and boxing matches. A well promoted rap battle could fill a venue. And Harlem World located in Harlem, NY was the epicenter of some of the first gigantic rap battles.
When two members of The Cold Crush Brothers left the crew and joined the Fantastic Five there became serious rivalry between the two groups. It did not take long before a new MC joined the Cold Crush Brothers. His name is GRANDMASTER CAZ (a.k.a. DJ Casanova Fly).
On July 3, 1981, one of the most legendary rap battles went down at Harlem World. It was between The Cold Crush Brothers and the Fantastic Five. The prize was $1,000 cash…WINNER TAKE ALL!
Cold Crush had been preparing for a major battle for almost a year and the time had finally come. They were about to go up against some “pretty boys” that seemed to be loved by the ladies….”THE FANTASTIC FIVE”
On the night of the battle, the club was HOT and packed with fans for each group. The winner would be chosen by the audience and the loudness of their cheering. Cold Crush was all about delivering dope lyrics that were also melodic. The Fantastic Five did not have lyrics of substance so they relied on getting the girls up front and screaming for them. Fantastic Five had dance routines, wore flashy clothes, and leaned heavily on their looks and flirting with the girls up front…..
Needless to say, the screaming girls worked and The Fantastic Five took home the $1,000 prize money. Cassette tapes of rap battles and live shows sold quickly throughout all 5 boroughs of New York. The tape of this battle revealed clearly who REALLY should have won the battle. The Cold Crush Brothers “CRUSHED IT” with their clever lyrics. When the underground, bootleg tape of the battle hit the streets “EVERYONE” was talking about the “Cold Crush Brothers.” At the time there were no real record labels signing rappers, and rappers were okay with that. The rap community loved having something that they could call their own. Rap was spontaneous, performed “LIVE” and found in the boroughs throughout New York. The underground tapes were giving The Bronx and Harlem a name in hip hop. Everyone wanted to be present when this music was performed live so the tapes were great for promoting the clubs, parties, and rap battles.
One night an R&B diva who had some radio hits under the name “Little Sylvia” (known for Pillow Talk & Love Is Strange) went to a party at a club in Harlem. Sylvia also had her own record label called “Platinum Records” which was not doing well. At the party she noticed the DJ who was also on the mic as an MC. He went by the name “Love Bug Starski.” Sylvia could not take her eyes off of him. After leaving the club she could not get “Starski” out of her mind. She saw something fresh and new that she felt could be big someday. It was not long until Sylvia Robinson founded the first hip hop record label…SUGAR HILL RECORDS. She and her son went out in search of a rapper that could thrill the world like she was thrilled watching “Love Bug Starski” in that Harlem club.
Sylvia Robinson and her son went to a local pizza shop to meet up with a guy who managed the Pizza spot and some of the local rappers. One of the rappers he managed was an amazing writer and member of the Cold Crush Brothers, “Grandmaster Caz.”
Sylvia and Joey rolled up and parked in the front of the shop and they asked, “Big Bank Hank” and a couple of his friends who also rapped a little to come out to the car to audition for her new record label. Big Bank Hank did not have lyrics of his own, so he started rapping lyrics that he knew. Those lyrics belonged to Grandmaster Caz (who was also known as Casanova Fly). Hank also managed Caz.
Sylvia loved what she heard from all three of the guys. They went by the monikers of Big Bank Hank, Wonder Mike, and Master Gee. Although she was only looking for one rapper to sign to her record label she decided that all three should be signed as a group. Sylvia Robinson did not know that Big Bank Hank’s lyrics were taken from another Rapper that Hank happened to manage.
Sylvia signed all of them and they became the “The Sugar Hill Gang.” Now Hank was in a real jam because he had no writing or real rapping skills of his own. He called his friend and client that he managed Grandmaster Caz. Hank asked Caz if he could borrow his lyric book to use some of his lyrics and rhymes. Caz thought if Hank’s group took off that it would be a break for him and “Cold Crush” as well. Caz handed over his precious lyric book to Hank. Back then, getting a record deal was new territory so Caz did not fully understand what could happen to him by handing over his “coveted and priceless” lyric book.
When The Sugar Hill Gang released their first BIG single “Rappers Delight” it took the world by storm. The song exploded on radio and the charts. It even cracked the Top 40 charts. The lyrics of Grandmaster Caz were now popular and made famous by “Big Bank Hank.” Fans were now rapping along to the lyrics of “The Sugarhill Gang”…so they thought!
FUN FACT (for everyone but Grandmaster Caz)
When Wonder Mike introduced Big Bank Hank in the beginning of Rappers Delight, this is what went down on the record.
Wonder Mike said….
“Well, so far you’ve heard my voice, but I brought two friends along….And next on the mic is my man Hank: come on, Hank, sing that song”
Then Big Bank Hank said…..
“Check it out: I’m the C-a-s-an-the-o-v-a, and the rest is f-l-y”
Hank didn’t even change the part in the song that actually spells out Caz’s original moniker, CASANOVA FLY. When Rapper’s Delight and the Sugarhill Gang shot to world-wide fame and fortune, our man C-a-s-an-the-o-v-a…f-l-y never saw a “p-e-nn-y” of royalties.
Caz did NOT get paid. The lyrics were “straight-up stolen,” No songwriting and credit and NO PAY! There were also other parts of the song that sounded much like lyrics that were performed during live sets in the clubs. It kind of makes you wonder how many lyrics were truly original and written for “Rappers Delight”
FUN FACT #2:
Rapper’s Delight was originally a 15-minute song that was recorded in just ‘ONE TAKE’. Black radio played the entire 15-minute version of the song but that was not suitable for pop radio, so the guys recorded a 7-minute version that introduced pop fans to the infectious hit song.
FUN FACT #3
I have always found this verse remarkably interesting…….
“A time to break and a time to chill To act civilized or act real ill But whatever ya do in your lifetime Y’never let a MC steal your rhyme!”
FUN FACT #4
In the classic hip hop film “Wild Style” from 1983, Grandmaster Caz plays himself. This film is a must see and one to own for all old-school hip-hop fans.
Although Grandmaster Caz received no writers credit or pay for his contribution to “Rappers Delight,” he is often acknowledged as the writer that took hip hop to the mainstream with the first “hit rap record.” Rappers Delight has now sold over 14 million copies…and counting.
In addition to Caz’s lyrics being stolen, the songs track also included a replayed sample of Chic’s “Good Times.” The two writers of “Good Times” sued Sugar Hill Records for copyright infringement. Writers, Nile Rodgers, and Bernard Edwards are now credited as songwriters on “Rappers Delight.”
My personal relationship to Rappers Delight….
Back in 1996, I had the concept in mind for an album that would be a tribute to some of the biggest rappers of the past.
Prominent rappers were asked to record “remakes” of their favorite rap songs that paid homage to the original songs and rappers.
On November 25, 1997 “In tha Beginning There Was Rap” was released and I was the Executive Producer.
Erick Sermon of EPMD, Keith Murray, and Redman (who had a close relationship with the Wu Tang Clan) recorded their remake of “Rappers Delight” for the album under the name “DEF SQUAD.” Their version also became a huge hit that pushed my album to #4 on the hip hop charts and into the Top 20 on the pop charts. Within two months the album achieved gold status, selling over 500,000 copies.
If you read Part 1 of “HIP HOP HOORAY” you heard that one of the true honors of my life was working with “DJ Grandmaster Caz” at the United Nations club in LA. In addition to being an important writer and MC, Caz is an enormously talented DJ.
Thanks to all of you that have sent messages concerning my hip hop features. I am glad that you enjoy hearing about the beginning of this important and historical era in hip hop.
I will be writing about several things that come to mind for October, but I will also keep the features coming on Hip Hop….Part IV is in the works now, so come on back for more!
Now, if you read my feature on the “Holy Trinity of Hip Hop” (HOW IT ALL STARTED) you know a little about how it all began.
Over the next few months, I will have a lot to write about from all genres of music, movies, and television but my plan is to also go deeper into the history of rap music and hip hop culture. I will feature some of the most important originators of hip hop and their music. I will take you on a journey through where the artists are from and how their music found its way into the hearts of hip hop fans worldwide. If you are a subscriber to my blog, you probably have read a bit about my history in the music industry. You may know that I have had a lot of success with hip hop and that I have a deep love of the genre.
I will give you interesting information and personal stories of my relationships with hip hop artists and their music. In order to make it an easier and a quick read I have created the title “Hip Hop Hooray” in celebration of the genre, and it will include several parts to tie the full history together
Be sure to come back to my blog often to see which artists I am featuring and where my stories will take you. When I am interviewed I am often asked to share my personal stories that span over the nearly fifty years of hip hop. I am excited to share some of these stories and personal photos with all of my subscribers.
Before I get rollin’ on Part III, of “Hip Hop Hooray” I want to remind you about a historical collection that was released in 2021.
“SMITHSONIANS ANTHOLOGY of HIP-HOP and RAP”
Back On August 16, 2021, I reviewed this new extensive and definitive collection of hip hop. This amazing release should be in the personal collection of every hip hop fan. You can read my original feature on the link at the end of this post. After reading you will understand why I was chosen as a contributor to the making of this historical music project. You will also understand how each song was added to this impressive release.
“Smithsonian’s Anthology of Hip Hop and Rap” could very well be the soundtrack to my “Hip Hop Hooray” features. I will highlight many of the Legends and Originators of Hip Hop that are included on this 9-disc collection of rap music.
I am bringing this title to your attention now because through September it is being offered at Deep Discount for an appealing sale price.
How do you put over 45 years of musical history into one disc?
It was impossible so the collection turned into 9 discs…129 definitive songs and a beautiful 300-page collectors book written by hip-hop’s leading writers and critics. The book also contains hundreds of iconic photos spanning the decades of hip-hop….1973—2018.
The final songs that were chosen for this ground-breaking and historical release were compiled by a committee of well-respected rappers, scholars, writers, aficionado’s, music critics and industry leaders. The committee was led by rappers Chuck D of Public Enemy and MC Lyte, Jeff Chang, and Mark Anthony Neil (writers and scholars), Bill Adler and Bill Stephney (early Def Jam Executives), Questlove (artist and writer) and 9th Wonder (educator). Along with a few other record executives and DJ’s, I was asked to submit 100 songs that I felt were worthy of being on this important piece of hip-hop history. I was pleased to see that many of my selections made the cut and are on SMITHSONIAN’S ANTHOLOGY of HIP-HOP and RAP.
Previously Smithsonian Folkways released extensive collections on Folk Music and on Jazz. For their third historical release they decided to celebrate the newest voice and dominant genre of music…HIP-HOP and RAP.
Here is the link to my feature from August 16, 2021, with more interesting details about the making of “SMITHSONIANS ANTHOLOGY of HIP-HOP and RAP” GREATEST HITS – Violet Brown Told Me
Here is a short video that will tell you a little more about this important piece of hip hop history and how it came to be. Hear it straight from the mouths of Chuck D of Public Enemy and MC Lyte
I am going to borrow from my friends Naughty By Nature and shout-out…..
“HIP HOP HOORAY”
Over the next few weeks…and possibly months I am going to celebrate the genre of music that has fueled my being, my soul, my passion, and my extensive career in music. I am celebrating rap music and the elements of the culture that is known worldwide as HIP HOP.
Do you know about the…HOLY TRINITY of HIP HOP?
Hip Hop as we know it today, is felt and heard everywhere. It is a cultural movement and a global phenomenon. Its strength and power has influenced all of the arts. Hip Hop is a tremendous part of our pop culture. We see traits of hip hop in the marketing and growth of business, our sports and even our politics. I often hear politicians and news casters quoting rap lyrics.
In the mid-seventies I was a club DJ that played all genres of music. This job was a natural progression for me since I collected records as a child and accumulated an enormous collection. If I heard a song and loved it, I had to find and have that record. I began by collecting 45 rpm records (vinyl) and quickly evolved into collecting LP’s (long-playing albums).
When I purchased an album, I would listen with undivided attention and full intension to find the songs that moved me even more than the hits on the album. I always found songs that I considered to be hidden gems. There were many people just like me that were doing the same thing. There were DJ’s and producers in New York that took these unknown “album cuts” and re-created new songs by sampling certain pieces of the song. Dance and Hip Hop music seemed to sample songs much more than other genres.
For me, my life changed in 1979, when I first heard a song called “Rappers Delight”. This was the first commercially successful rap song by “The Sugar Hill Gang.” It was the first rap song to hit the Billboard charts as a Top 40 hit. When “Rappers Delight” hit my ears it quickly got my attention. Then in 1982 another song hit my soul and blew my mind. The song was “Planet Rock” by “Afrika Bambaataa and the Soul Sonic Force.” Upon hearing this song, I had to have it, right away. I found it and played it in the club the very next time I was in the DJ booth. At first the crowd just listened and about a minute later they started moving towards the dance floor.
At the time “disco” dance music was still immensely popular, so “Planet Rock” marked the change of the way I wanted to rock my dancefloor. This became a signature song for my DJ sets each night I performed at the club. It has now been 40 years since the release of Planet Rock, and we still use this song on the weekends at a fitness class at the beach and that crowd loves it too.
Planet Rock was created by Bambaataa and the producer Arthur Baker after bonding over their love of the group Kraftwerk, which were pioneers in electronic music and popularized the genre. I also loved Kraftwerk, so Planet Rock was music to my ears and a new addition to the soundtrack of my life. After hearing Rappers Delight and Planet Rock I wanted to know EVERYTHING about RAP MUSIC….THE HISTORY & ROOTS OF RAP….THE ORIGINS….THE ORIGINATORS….WHERE & WHEN IT ALL BEGAN.
As I went on my quest to learn more about the music that shook me to my core, I read and heard many different stories. The stories were always similar from where it all began. So let me take you to the borough in New York City where it “DID” begin …….
It was the seventies and while all the glamorous people and celebrities were dancing the night away in the clubs of Manhattan NY to disco music, the Bronx was on fire with gang violence, murder, drugs and “REAL FIRES.” South Bronx had the worst fire devastation in the country. There were blocks of burned-out buildings. Jobs were scarce and the livelihoods of the people were at an all-time low. South Bronx was only 4.7 miles from Manhattan yet the difference in the lives of its people were starkly different.
Let me introduce you to one of the first originators of Hip Hop……DJ KOOL HERC. (the Founding Father of Hip Hop)
The South Bronx clearly needed something to bring the city together. A local DJ known for house parties that could sometimes be violent decided to take his parties out of the house and into a local recreation center.
On Saturday, August 11, 1973, the first “rec-party” took place at 1520 Sedgwick Ave in the South Bronx. A hand-crafted flyer billed it as a “DJ KOOL HERC PARTY….Back To School Jam.”
The admission for ladies was 25 cents and gents were 50 cents. Such a low price to be a part of history!
This party had about 50 attendees and when the word got out about all the fun and great music, future parties had people lined up around the block to get in.
Herc did NOT play the disco found in the clubs of NYC. He played the music that he loved which were mostly deep album cuts that most people did not know. He played the hidden gems of Soul, Jazz, and Funk albums. But he put his own twist on the songs. He loved the breaks of songs which were often the parts that made you want to “dance harder.” So, he extended the breaks in the songs to go longer and play louder. He was known for isolating these breaks and repeating them seamlessly over and over. His continuous “breakbeats” were also known as DJ Kool Herc’s, Merry Go Round beats.
Break-beat definition A repeated sample of a drumbeat, usually forming a fast syncopated rhythm, used as a basis for hip hop and dance music.
DJ Kool Herc is now known as the “Father of the DJ Breakbeat”
In 2017, a section of Sedgwick Ave in The Bronx was renamed by NY Mayor Bill De Blasio as “HIP HOP BLVD” to honor the Birthplace of Hip Hop and the legacy of DJ Kool Herc.
It was at Kool Herc’s parties where guys started dancing against each other (battle dancing). They were doing a unique style of dance which became known as break-dancing or breakin’. The guys became known as B-Boys and it was not long until the girls joined in, and B-Girls were also claiming their fame on the dancefloor too. Take a look….
How the Bronx brought breaking to the world – YouTube
Coke La Rock, becomes the “Life of the DJ Kool Herc Party”
Coke La Rock was a friend of Kool Herc who jumped on the mic at Herc’s parties to give some basic shout-outs to people in the party. After his first party, Coke began to get more energetic and animated on the mic. He began to rhyme in his shout-outs and messages. With Kool Herc’s amazing music and unique style of spinning music, and Coke La Rock on the mic, the parties doubled in size each time they rocked a party together. Soon there were very long lines to get into the DJ Kool Herc parties.
From the East side of town comes another originator, pioneer, and emerging star of the early days of hip hop… Afrika Bambaataa (The Godfather and the spiritual father of Hip Hop)
Afrika Bambaataa was born Lance Taylor and he grew up in the Bronx River Projects. His mother was part of the Black Liberation Movement, and she also had a massive collection of records. Gangs surrounded the projects and Lance was soon a member of the largest and most feared gang in the city, the Black Spades. It was his job to recruit new members. He had respect from people in the Bronx and other gang members. He was able to cross turf and build relationships with other gangs to grow the turf and members for the Black Spades. Lance was smart and he could bring people together. He loved music, and books…he also had a thirst for knowledge.
When he joined an essay contest and won, he was given a trip to Africa, After going to Africa and also seeing the movie “Zulu” he wanted to create solidarity and unification in The Bronx just like the Zulu’s did in Africa. He changed his name to Afrika Bambaataa and started a new group in the city which he called the “Bronx River Organization.”
He brought forth young leaders from all the organizations throughout the city. Young, dynamic leaders from local churches and schools. He recruited DJ’s, MC’s, B-Boys, B-Girls, and Graffiti Artists to come together and join his group. He then persuaded many of the Black Spades to join another new group that he founded called the “Universal Zulu Nation.” He brought knowledge to the group. He wanted all members, no matter what their background was, to learn the history of their ancestors.
Since Bambaataa had access to a huge and eclectic record collection, he too started having parties at the “Bronx River Community Center.” His first party was in 1976. He wanted his parties to unify the streets and to bring peace to the city. Everyone was invited regardless of color or where they were from. He definitely lured the people in with his brilliant music and DJ skills, but they got so much more by being around young positive people with a new mindset.
Bambaataa preached his core values of Hip-Hop which were, peace, unity, love and having fun. He was named the “Godfather” of hip-hop for his formation of the Hip-Hop movement in Europe, Africa, and Asia. There are several stories about who created the term Hip Hop. Most reports say that Keith “Cowboy” Wiggins a member of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five or the Bronx rapper and DJ “Lovebug Starski” coined the name “Hip Hop”, but Afrika Bambaataa was the first one to name the whole culture “Hip Hop” through his Universal Zulu Nation.
It was around 1989 when I was asked by Afrika Islam and Ice T, to join the Zulu Nation as a Zulu Queen with some other amazing women from Los Angeles. At the time I was also a DJ in the Reggae Room at their club called “United Nations.”
Here is an old flyer and you will notice some legends that were also part of the club and the Zulu Nation
Afrika Islam, DJ Caz, DJ Yutaka, Curtis Harmon (who was a famous Mix Master at the first all hip hop radio station “1580 KDAY” in Los Angeles – and now known as Muhammad Abdulsalaam).
In 1982, Bambaataa formed his group “Afrika Bambaataa & the Soul Sonic Force” and signed to Tommy Boy Records. This was the same year that this group changed my life with their monster hip hop classic, “PLANET ROCK”
The next major originator and pioneer to emerge was “Grandmaster Flash” (the Grandmaster of the turntables)
His birth name is Joseph Saddler and as a young boy he had a strange fascination with electronics and especially with anything that spun around. He could watch wheels and dryers spin for hours. He loved watching his father’s turntable spin. He did not understand how the music came off of that black disc and into his ear drums, but he loved it.
His father also had an extensive collection of records.
In school Joseph learned to repair electronic equipment. He understood how electronics worked. He would take things apart and put them back together again. He built his first DJ & sound system from old parts and speakers he found around his neighborhood. He started experimenting with turntables, mixers, and speakers. He too learned to isolate beats and could stop records in certain spots to create a fresh, alternate version of the songs. He soon was so good with records and equipment that he could masterfully control and maneuver his records to create new sounds. He played his turntables as if they were musical instruments…
THEY WERE HIS INSTRUMENTS!
This is how he became “Grandmaster Flash” and how he became the inventor of “the quick mix theory” which included the backspin, scratching, and punch phrasing. He was able to loop and repeat the best dance and exciting parts of songs. He is also known for blending drum breaks and beats from other genres into his songs and he was a master at mixing records. He was reverently dedicated to his craft and “Flash” made DJ’ing a science.
Grandmaster Flash connected technique with technology and created hysteria on all his dancefloors.
Grandmaster Flash also formed “Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five” in the seventies. After signing with Sugar Hill records the group had a string of successful rap hits and anthems. Their biggest song was “The Message” released in 1982. This classic has been deemed one of the greatest rap songs of all-time. In 2002, “the Message” was chosen by the Library of Congress and added to the National Recording Registry. In 2007, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five were the first hip hop group to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
Now you have been introduced to the “HOLY TRINITY of HIP HOP”….DJ KOOL HERC…AFRIKA BAMBAATAA & GRANDMASTER FLASH.
Coming soon…More Hip Hop history lessons and the origins of some of the GREATEST Hip Hop groups, artists , albums, and films of ALL-TIME
Music Documentaries – The biggest sub-genre of documentary film making for good reason.
Everyone loves music and many of us have favorite genres of music and favorite artists. I suppose this is why “music documentaries” are the biggest sub-genre of documentary films. We all like to take a closer look into the lives of our favorite artists and the music they create. We want to know everything about “our artists” or our favorite type (genre) of music. Great documentary filmmakers have a responsibility to paint a full and truthful picture of their topic and in this case, artist, band, or genre of music.
Many people make documentaries and often upload them to YouTube but there are some filmmakers that work on their film for years and they also have big budgets to create the “perfect” documentary that will please the fans and often get them to the theatre.
Documentaries “document” reality, history, and periods of time. They educate while also entertaining us. I personally can’t get enough of documentaries. They have grown to be my favorite genre of films. They are usually made by experts and authorities on certain topics but what I admire most is the heart and love that most of the filmmakers pour into their documentary films.
I love MUSIC……..
Music has been my life and my savior at times. It has been with me through happy and sad times. I made music my career since it is something I knew best and loved the most. I am living proof of the old saying……..
“If you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life”
I also love sharing music with others. I am “beyond” pleased to share some of my favorite “music docs” with you. I hope you will take the time to watch the film trailers that I have included. Even if you are not a fan of the artist or the genre you can learn something about each one of them….And who knows, you may find something new that you will soon LOVE!
HERE ARE 22 OF MY FAVORITE MUSIC DOCS!
Summer of Soul
(…Or When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)
This film won 2 Academy Awards in 2022 for “Best Documentary” feature and for “Best Music Film”
Director Questlove’s music documentary explores and reclaims the legacy of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival: a watershed six-week event of the civil rights movement.
An incredible look into the twilight days of the Beatles
Gaining access to 60 hours of footage shot for the 1970 album and making-of documentary “Let It Be,” and utilizing innovative restoration techniques, Peter Jackson delivered an astonishingly comprehensive window into the twilight days of The Beatles. John, Paul, George, and Ringo are revealed as never before. This is 7 3/4 hrs. on three discs and I still wanted more.
If you are a Beatles fan or know one, this documentary will be an amazing addition to any music collection….If you want to give a meaningful gift, it just does not get better than this! “GET BACK” IS A MUST HAVE!
Plus the lifestyle brand that is killing it in the pop-culture world.
If you can’t be at Comic-Con this year, you can still get together with some of your friends and share your favorite comic books, movies, and TV shows. My new obsession that began during the pandemic is collecting “Funko” figurines. I am crazy about collecting all my favorite hip hop stars, rock Gods, athletes, movie and television figurines.
I found RUN DMC figurines which I display near one of my most treasured photos with all 3 members of the group (R.I.P. Jam Master Jay).
I also just picked up the “Jordan Peele” Funko figurine since I am seeing his newest film “Nope” this coming weekend. I am sure his new film will be the talk of Comic-Con this coming weekend in San Diego, CA.
Since I know what my friends like I am buying Funko figurines that I know they would love as birthday and holiday gifts. I am getting their gifts early to avoid the dreaded holiday “out-of-stock” conditions. Right now, they are priced low and with the extra 10% off discount coupon at “Deep Discount” these are very affordable and perfect gifts.
I love when my friends take the time to choose gifts that are meaningful and special to me. Showing that you know what your friend collects or likes shows them you know them well and care about them. If you are not sure of the unique things that they are into, it’s never too late to find out. Funko figurines are an inexpensive way to give them something they will genuinely like. Their favorite music, movie, comic, or television heroes in a figurine is unexpected and a great surprise.
While browsing the FUNKO products by genres I found so many great gifts for my friends. Some friends that I bond with because of our love of music, Stranger Things, Seinfeld, Game of Thrones, Ozark, and other shows. I can’t wait to see their faces when they open the figurines of the things they love most.
I am adding the “Ruth” of “Ozark” figurine to my own collection today.
And I can’t wait to get the “Stranger Things” Funko’s into the hands of my Godson. He also loves Video Games, Anime, Sports, Marvel, DC , Horror films and even something as random as “Froot Loops.” Much to my surprise I found a “Froot Loop” figurine under the “Funko Ad Icons” category.
When I take the time to click tabs that I don’t usually visit, I often discover some real gems and treasures. By clicking “Toysand Gifts” at www.deepdiscount.com I found something unique and special for all my friends and loved ones. I can not believe how many categories and AWESOME products that are available from Funko.
Check out their vast selection of Funko figurines, t-shirts and more. Find something for everyone……and most importantly…..YOU!Just Click Here
Just in case it’s at your house…the beach…a park or even at someone else’s house, you may be the one who brings the perfect music. I assume if you are reading my blog you may be the one that is the designated DJ. It may be up to you to get the party started and poppin’ all the way till the end. YES, I said it….if you are the one bringing music, planning the playlist, or suggesting the tunes….YOU ARE “sort of” a DJ.
I feel a little qualified to help you out on this since I was a club and mobile DJ for over 26 years. I owned a DJ service that did house parties, weddings, beach parties, desert raves, bar mitzvahs, quinceañeras and any event that needed “GREAT” music. I loved rockin’ the dance floors and intensity of any type of party! When summer rolled around I was always booked and in high demand.
SUMMERTIME…..IS PARTY TIME!
I played music for all types of people and parties. So, my gigs went from spinning music at hip-hop gigs, to 70’s disco parties, 80’s new wave, country line dance parties, EDM, House, Techno, hard rock parties and more.
This summer I feel the need to talk about some of the artists that always ensured a packed dancefloor. These same artists are also great in cars as you head out on summer road trips and get-aways.
Since I often write about hip hop, I am going to mix it up and talk about 80’s “New Wave” dance music. If you love this sub-genre of rock and alternative music, I am sure you felt compelled to run to the dance floor when you heard “Rock Lobster” or “Love Shack.”
So, let’s talk, B-52’s!
This week it was announced that after 45 years, The B-52’s will be performing their final shows. They will be in select cities starting on August 22 in Seattle, WA and ending on November 13, in their home state of Georgia.
In the 80’s they were one of my most requested groups for just about any type of party or event. Their music was highly infectious. The B-52’s are known as “The World’s Greatest Party Band.” Whenever I wanted to turn up the heat on the dancefloor, they were my go-to band.
If you want the B-52’s order NOW. Due to the announcement of their farewell tour, they are selling fast, so if a title is out, it will be back again shortly. And don’t forget to use the 10% discount coupon to get even more savings off your order.
DJ’s and COLLECTORS….check out this “classic vinyl” of “Dance This Mess Around.” It’s a MUST-HAVE and now on sale for you Click Here.
Come back tomorrow to check out more….PARTY MUSIC
Until you return enjoy a few of these classic videos and feel free to dance….no one is looking!
DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince – Summertime – YouTube
Deee-Lite – Groove Is In The Heart (Official Video) – YouTube
Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock – It Takes Two – YouTube
Whitney Houston – I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Official Video) – YouTube