Categories
Music Education

Hip-Hop’s Forgotten Punk Roots

When looking at the start of hip-hop, some genres you may think of that played a role in its sound are genres like soul, funk, jazz and even disco. However, one genre that played a large role in the start of hip-hop that has been somewhat forgotten is punk rock.

When looking at the start of these two genres merging we must first look to New York at that time. New York during the 70s saw a massive punk rock movement. This took place in places like CBGB’s with bands starting there like The Ramones, Blondie and Talking Heads. But also around that same time in 1974 DJ Kool Herc had created hip-hop in the Bronx. With the creation of hip-hop one of the things that came along with it (as well as being a massive part of the movement) was graffiti art.

Many of these graffiti artists started to gain some traction and a new young scene of artists was starting to take over. Some members of this movement were artists like Keith Haring, Futura 2000, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Fab Five Freddy. The most important man for the merging of hip-hop and punk is Fab Five Freddy and he almost deserves an article all for himself.

Fab Five Freddy was a massive hip-hop fan who grew up in Brooklyn and would become a regular of a downtown art scene for graffiti artists. When mingling with this crowd he would introduce artists like Keith Haring to new Hip-Hop DJ’s like Afrika Bambaataa where he would start to DJ parties for Haring. In Bambaataa’s words he stated that the downtown punk scene would be on of the first areas that really embraced hip-hop. More DJ’s would start to DJ downtown like Grandmaster Flash and NYU punk kids started to love it.

Around this time Fab Five Freddy would meet Debbie Harry and Chris Stein of Blondie and introduce them to this new genre starting up. After seeing Grandmaster Flash DJ and groups like Funky Four Plus One perform Blondie loved it. They loved it so much they decided to make the song “Rapture” in 1981 where Fab Five Freddy and Grandmaster Flash were forever immortalized with the line ” Fab Five Freddy told me everybody’s fly, DJ spinnin’ I said my my, Flash is fast Flash is cool”. Rapture was a massive hit and was actually the first ever song with a rap verse to go number one (The video also had a young Jean-Michel Basquiat act as Grandmaster Flash on turntables). This song was also apart of one of the songs that got me into Hip-Hop “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel” when Grandmaster Flash used his shoutout for the intro. Debbie Harry would also host SNL in 1981 and the musical guest she picked to play was Funky Four Plus One (the group they first saw rap) which became the first hip-op act to perform on national television.

Another group that would fall in love with the new genre and embrace it was punk rock group The Clash. The Clash came to New York around this time and started to love hip-hop so when they did a 8-night run of shows in New York they chose Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five to open for them. Apparently the fans did not enjoy it and Joe Strummer would have come out and get angry at the crowd. The Clash would also release a Hip-Hop/disco inspired song called “The Magnificent Seven” which gained significant play from Hip-Hop DJ’s at the time and actually predated Blondie’s “Rapture”.

This merge of the two genres would cause many significant artists to start their careers. For example Beastie Boys first started out as a punk group and would then move to hip-hop. Chuck D of Public Enemy stated that The Clash song “Magnificent Seven” heavily inspired him to take a more punk rap approach to Hip-Hop. Groups like Rage Against the Machine would also dawn a punk rap image.

Punk and hip-hop together made perfect sense due to both genres having an underground feel and both having an anti-establishment outlook. Many artists for generations after would take on the punk rap aesthetic and the merge would even remain to this day with many new artists having a very punk rap feel like JPEGMafia, Denzel Curry, Playboi Carti, Death Grips and many more.

Categories
Miscellaneous

The Unlikely Sample That Defined a Scene

One of the things that has interested me most in hip-hop is the different regional scenes that spring up in different areas of the country. One of the most unique and influential is definitely the Houston scene. Many artists make up this scene such as UGK or Geto Boys but no one defined it as much as the legendary DJ Screw.

DJ Screw’s signature style was to slow down and chop up different hip-hop records which which was called Chopped & Screwed. This sound gave the songs more of a funky and distorted sound to them and would be a huge hit in Houston. Screw would remix many songs from different rap artists and would even have his own group of rappers he remixed most often called the Screwed Up Click.

Now whats most interesting about this local scene is some of the songs that helped pioneer it. The one song that is the main star for Houston rap is “June 27th“. This song was a 35 minute long freestyle that ever since it dropped has had almost mythical status. The song was actually created in Screw’s living room for the special occasion of rapper D-Mo’s birthday who is on the song along with Big Moe, Yungstar, Big Pokey, and a few more.

Now some of the verses are good and iconic but what really made the song was the signature Chopped & Screwed beat. Now the origins of the beat are very interesting and it first starts with Kriss Kross.

Kriss Kross in 1996 was trying to ditch their “kid rapper” image they had gained with their massive hit “Jump” and with that they released the album “Young, Rich, and Dangerous” which would spawn the single ” Tonite’s Tha Night” which was a small hit. The B-side of this single was a song called “Da Streets Ain’t Right” which would make almost no impact at all. This song would have been forgotten except the instrumental is what Screw would slow down to use for the beat of “June 27th”.

Now this sample is pretty interesting in itself but what is more interesting is what Jermaine Dupri who produced the Kriss Kross songs chose to sample for “Da Streets ain’t Right”. Dupri decided that for the bassline he would sample New Wave/Pop group The Romantics on one of their hits “Talking In Your Sleep“.

Now Screw definitely didn’t know he was sampling The Romantics but when I found this out I thought it was the wildest thing because that means in a way the sound that defines Houston hip-hop and the Chopped & Screwed sound was a New Wave sample that seems like it is the furthest possible thing from the world of Houston rap.

Screw tragically passed in July of 2000 at only 29. But since his passing June 27th would go on to be a staple freestyle beat and has been remixed hundreds of times most notably Drake used the beat on his mixtape “So Far Gone” on the song “November 18th“. The date June 27th has become somewhat of an unofficial Houston holiday and a day to celebrate Screws life.