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hip hop goes back to the blues

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Alf
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Jul 16 2010 15:17
hip hop goes back to the blues

This is what I have been going on about for some time now - although until today's Guardian article I knew nothing about Skip McDonald. This is how the article starts off:

' Skip McDonald was playing a gig in Portugal, billed as just him and guitar. A fair portion of the audience had seen the billing and decided an evening of traditional blues was just what they wanted. They might have wanted traditional blues, but they didn't get it. On entering the venue, they came across a stage upon which stood not a stool, a microphone and a guitar, but a selection of samplers and computers, as well as the setup for a full rock band."The purists were outraged," says McDonald. "About 20 of them started walking out. The rest of them stayed and we got on fine. It was a particularly good gig."

He can laugh about it now, because 17 years after starting his Little Axe project, in which the old Delta blues is reinterpreted with the aid of technology, what was a revolutionary approach to an old music has become the norm. Beck and Moby took McDonald's ideas and placed them in the mainstream. McDonald, who's flattered by his imitators, would be happy with their kind of sales, but more important to him is his mission to redefine what constitutes the blues'.

****************************************
Not sure about Beck and Moby, or about it being 'mainstream' - the blues/rap fusion/synthesis often meets with complete incomprehension both by blues guys and hip hop followers. There is a whole generation between them, at least. Also, I think that if hip hop is to be salvaged, it will have to go very deeply into its history indeed - further even than the pioneering KRS1, who was still hampered by the 'Black History' mythology. Not just to Africa, but to anthropology and the origins of man (at least)

The rest of the article is at

http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2010/jul/15/little-axe-hip-hop-to-blues

Battlescarred
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Jul 16 2010 15:25

Oh dear! Time to put on a Charley Patton CD.

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Jul 16 2010 15:40

Correct version of second paragraph:

"He can laugh about it now, because 17 years after starting his Little Axe project, in which the old Delta blues is reinterpreted with the aid of technology, what was a revolutionary approach to an old music has become the norm. Beck and Moby took McDonald's ideas and placed them in the mainstream. McDonald, who's flattered by his imitators, would be happy with their kind of sales, but more important to him is his mission to redefine what constitutes the blues"

Apologies, while I was editing this the mysterious moderators spirited it away and are now considering my edits, ie how the fuck do I get the italic function to work consistently.

Anyway, my edits also intended to include putting the final words on the second paragraph, which were, appropriately, the blues. Also, because the italic function failed, you can't immediately tell the difference between the third paragraph which is mine, and the previous one, which is the quote. It may all be proof of my technical incompetence, but maybe others have had similar difficulties.

Battlescarred, you're such a stick in the mud. Respect to Charley Patton of course, especially 'High Water Everywhere', his song about the great New Orleans flood of 1927

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Jul 16 2010 15:42

The above may not be necessary, since the all-wise moderator-beings have now apparently restored my original edit.

Jenre
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Jul 16 2010 15:51

tbh i'm not entirely sure what your reasons for posting this here are..

nonetheless its nice to read a little about someone who played a role in the very beginnings of recorded hip-hop. you never hear enough about them. i bet a lot of kids probably think Jay-Z invented hip-hop.

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Jul 16 2010 17:31

I don't really see how hip hop could be salvaged or really changed by looking into Blues music, I love blues music but allot of it is just as misogynist as Hip Hop and just as obssessed with material possessions.

Theres a little bit of political blues and theres a little bit of political Hip Hop, the only difference I see is that Blues tends to be about what you wan't but haven't got and Hip Hop tends to be about what you wanted and now have got.

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Jul 16 2010 18:36

Yeah, Alf, I'm not sure what you're trying to say/do here.. you can't save an old form of music (relatively, compared to Grime or Garage or whatever) by digging up an even older form of music.

Fact is, sometimes certain types of music have their time in the sun, then they die and become legendary for a handful of people (and irrelevant/boring/past it etc for others). I think trying to preserve/resuscitate it is pointless (I'm not even sure it's dying, or just changing.. I don't believe everything that Nas says, even if I am inclined to agree with him a bit on this). I'd even go so far as to say it comes from an idealist (rather than materialist) view of culture..

One thing I used to look at was the Democracy and Hip-Hop blog. I rarely agreed with everything (or even a lot of it, I think they misunderstand a lot of Marxist concepts) but it was an interesting read. Anyway, I hadn't looked at it in ages but looked at it today and found a sort of 'goodbye' post that had some bits which I thought related to this thread, like this:

Quote:
the contradictions of hip-hop music taken as a whole express the contradictions of our generation and that a change in the music MUST be based in actual organizing and movements, not by making radical hip-hop as the hip-hop Feuerbachians postulate.

Anyway, the actual article I was looking for was this, The dialectics of hip-hop. Again, bits of it are nonsense but I think it makes an interesting point about the development and meaning of a lot of hip-hop from the early 90s until the 21st century..

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Jul 16 2010 18:50

This is the History and Culture forum, no?

Also, if I posted it on libcommunity, I might get too much beef.....

perhaps I am being romantic but I do think hip hop began as a real expression from the streets, as with the Jurassic Five: taking it back to the concrete streets, with live emcees....The political/critical strain was crucial to the whole thing, but most of the music got recuperated by gangsta-ism, MTV, and the rest. Blues is also a sigh of the oppressed in its essence.

In response to Ed: virtually all Afro-American music (and thus most of modern popular music) descends from the blues via one branch or another. If we are going to be dialectical about this, then to reinvigorate anything you have to go back to the roots and return at a higher level. Charley Parker, I believe, was critical of the fact that some of the young jazz musicians in his day didn't have sufficient grounding in the blues.

gypsy
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Jul 16 2010 18:48

thought you had seen this video there for a minute alf.

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Jul 16 2010 18:54

I know that one - Nas and his Dad. Not bad, but I always thought he should have tried rapping to the same beat his Dad was playing to....

Mos Def has done some interesting stuff as well.

Boris Badenov
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Jul 16 2010 20:32
Battlescarred wrote:
Oh dear! Time to put on a Charley Patton CD.

cool

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Jul 16 2010 20:38

This is closer - Brother Ali, 'Uncle Sam Goddam'

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OO18F4aKGzQ

mateofthebloke: someone told me you were Vlad the Impaler risen from the grave, is this so?

Boris Badenov
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Jul 16 2010 20:51
Alf wrote:
This is closer - Brother Ali, 'Uncle Sam Goddam'

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OO18F4aKGzQ

mateofthebloke: someone told me you were Vlad the Impaler risen from the grave, is this so?

Tis so. I just wanted to be cool like everyone else and go under a nom de plume. I now see it's not working so great.
Anyway, have you heard Buck 65? He's got that whole blues-rap thing going on. A bit hipsterish, but not bad.

Mike Harman
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Jul 16 2010 21:56
Ed wrote:
Fact is, sometimes certain types of music have their time in the sun, then they die and become legendary for a handful of people (and irrelevant/boring/past it etc for others).

Couldn't agree more with this, music is tied to particular social/historical phenomenon. Blues as a historical genre is at the root of most American popular music (and a lot of genres which aren't or never were pop music). While it's possible to trace more or less direct continuities between genres historically, and also to find at least aesthetic commonality between genres which have no direct relationship (folk musics which developed more or less independently but may have similar characteristics in terms of rhythm, pitch, timbre or whatever), most music which tries to directly make connections between recent and older genres just comes under eclecticism for me - same as most attempts at 'fusion'. Sometimes that leads the people doing it into new areas - but when that happens the resulting music usually ceases to be obviously identifiable as either of the genres that spawned it, as opposed to straddling both. Doesn't mean it can't be fun to listen to or decent music, especially live (where there isn't quite the same range of choice as recordings), but that's not the same thing as being discussed here.

This is where I nearly admit I think music became decadent in the ICC sense in 1974 wink

Mike Harman
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Jul 16 2010 22:13

The Buck 65 one just sounds like watered down early-'90s trip-hop to me. Listenable but nothing new in it.

gypsy
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Jul 17 2010 09:05
Alf wrote:
I know that one - Nas and his Dad. Not bad, but I always thought he should have tried rapping to the same beat his Dad was playing to....

Mos Def has done some interesting stuff as well.

admit it you prefer the blues to hip hop =p

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Jul 19 2010 17:13

Mate - the piece by Buck65 was psychically disturbing indeed, but not exactly what I would call the blues.

ally says "admit it you prefer the blues to hip hop". That's because hip hop's mama is fat.

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Jul 19 2010 20:59
mateofthebloke wrote:
Alf wrote:
This is closer - Brother Ali, 'Uncle Sam Goddam'

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OO18F4aKGzQ

mateofthebloke: someone told me you were Vlad the Impaler risen from the grave, is this so?

Tis so. I just wanted to be cool like everyone else and go under a nom de plume. I now see it's not working so great.
Anyway, have you heard Buck 65? He's got that whole blues-rap thing going on. A bit hipsterish, but not bad.

Yeah, some of Buck 65's stuff is really good, (although Le 65isme, while musically one of the best things I've heard by him, does always make me think of a certain repeatedly-banned libcommer wink ), I think Alabama 3 are sort of exploring similar territory, maybe? And fuck, I totally had a conversation about something similar the other day about someone else doing this kind of stuff, completely can't remember who it was now though).
ETA: Oh, apparently it was Why?, can't really comment on that cos I don't really listen to them myself though.

Dannny
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Jul 20 2010 06:37
Quote:
you can't save an old form of music (relatively, compared to Grime or Garage or whatever) by digging up an even older form of music.

Erm, why not? I don't really agree with the pop historiography that states punk "saved" rock music by taking it back to its rawer primitive form but you can see where it's coming from. Likewise dance music tends to reinvigorate itself by stripping away the fripperies and getting back to the bare beat.

Quote:
most music which tries to directly make connections between recent and older genres just comes under eclecticism for me

Intrigued as to which genres of music don't do that though? Aren't all genres of music amalgams of pre­-existing ones, albeit often enabled by advances in technology? Certainly some particularly hamfisted attempts to weld one type of music on another come to mind but that nevertheless remains the basic process in the development of music, at least since the war.

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Jul 20 2010 10:31

Agree with Danny. Part of the problem with The Youth of Today is that, even more than previous generations, they have been systematically cut off from history by a culture which sells an image of perpetual newness. Any form of music which wants to go forward has to develop an understanding of its roots, its history. That isn't eclecticism, which is just chucking things together at random.

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Jul 20 2010 11:36
Alf wrote:
until today's Guardian article I knew nothing about Skip McDonald.

Skip McDonald has been around for ages. Of course he is famous from the rap thing and the Sugarhill Gang, but I remember seeing him back in the 80s when he was in a band called Tackhead. He has done loads of really varied stuff though, including a tribute single of Kenny Dalglesh.

Devrim

Boris Badenov
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Jul 20 2010 19:31
Alf wrote:
Agree with Danny. Part of the problem with The Youth of Today is that, even more than previous generations, they have been systematically cut off from history by a culture which sells an image of perpetual newness. Any form of music which wants to go forward has to develop an understanding of its roots, its history. That isn't eclecticism, which is just chucking things together at random.

I think you may be generalizing a bit there, Alf. I know plenty of young people who take an interest in prewar blues, early rock, first wave ska, original punk rock and post-punk/dance, 90s hip-hop and so forth. Sure the majority don't, and the "culture which sells an image or perpetual newness" is very much successful, but that doesn't mean it is totalitarian.

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Jul 21 2010 07:01

Agree with you entirely mate. There is a minority, and probably a growing one, which is trying to get deeper into musical roots, just as there is a growing politicised minority trying to re-appropriate the revolutionary past. However, the rubbishing of history in today's culture is still a real phenomenon and we are faced with it 'politically' as well as 'culturally'.

Battlescarred
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Jul 21 2010 08:44

Yes, there are young people listening to blues, old timey, bluegrass, folk and rockabilly etc. I've met some, Maybe I am wrong but the fact that this is happening at the same time as the growth of a radicalised minority seems to be connected as it seems to have been in previous periods of radicalisation.

Mike Harman
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Jul 21 2010 10:27
Alf wrote:
. Any form of music which wants to go forward has to develop an understanding of its roots, its history. That isn't eclecticism, which is just chucking things together at random.

Nah my point was a lot of music which claims to being going back to its roots is more or less indistinguishable from eclecticism. Developing an understanding of music historically is different from its direct appropriation and use. Does the guitar and harmonica sample in that Brother Ali video and political lyrics really distinguish it that much from the juxtaposition in the Nas one?

gypsy
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Jul 21 2010 14:43
Alf wrote:
Agree with you entirely mate. There is a minority, and probably a growing one, which is trying to get deeper into musical roots, just as there is a growing politicised minority trying to re-appropriate the revolutionary past. However, the rubbishing of history in today's culture is still a real phenomenon and we are faced with it 'politically' as well as 'culturally'.

Alf I prefer the blues to modern day hip hop. Most people get fed commercialised stuff these days.

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Jul 21 2010 18:17

Battlescarred - You are not wrong

Hungry56
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Sep 14 2011 13:22

I've been listening to Kendrick Lamar non stop over the past two weeks, and he made me want to dig up this thread, especially this song, 'Heaven and Hell'. It's not going back to the blues, but to gospel. Thematically, and it has a psuedo call-and-response thing going on, and the organs sampled. Hip hop fans need to check this guy out, he's the only contemporary musician I'm excited about.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YgzginmZeQw

Battlescarred
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Sep 19 2011 08:47

Well, as I said previously, I welcome the tendency among a section of youth to listen to these authentic forms of music and in the process begin to break with the commercialisation of music. Hopefully, this will be part of a process of general radicalisation. I know it was for me when I was studiously and reverently listening to the hard to found items I could manage to borrow or listen to on pirate radio back in the 1969s.( everything from Leadbelly and Brother John Sellers to virtualy inaudible re-issues of Blind Blake and Blind Lemon Jefferson all the way over to Fats Domino )
What is important here though is that this youthful minority, after listening to these superb forms of music, -some of the greatest art that humanity has created- then start making their own music, not slavishly copying but creating new forms relevant to their own interests.

proletarian.
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Sep 19 2011 14:08

Not hip-hop per se but I came across an interesting album at the end of the nineties mixing Jazz, Drum n Bass and R n B and other stuff. Very varied album.

Quote:
There is a minority, and probably a growing one, which is trying to get deeper into musical roots, just as there is a growing politicised minority trying to re-appropriate the revolutionary past.

Indeed, fighting with the Dubstep and the spectre of decomposition...

Interestingly (or not) I bought the album cos 'Buckshot Lefonque' were the theme of a modern Les Mccann song (the name escapes me) - who is better known for his classic 'Compared to What' with Eddie Harris.

Just for laughs...those Acients of Mu Mu (KLF) struck again...

Some 'Acid Brass'