Hip-Hop Did Not Begin How You Think It Did

Categories: History

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To hear most people tell it, the history of rap goes like this:

MCs were originally rapping primarily to showcase their DJs. That is, until Sugar Hill Gang put out "Rapper's Delight" in 1979. It was the second rap record of all time, and an enormous hit, proving there was a market for rapping on wax.

From there, Kool Moe Dee battled Busy Bee and changed how rappers could rap, Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel put out "The Message" -- changing what rappers could rap about -- and Run-DMC released "Sucker MCs (Krush Groove 1)," which changed how rap could sound.

At the start of it all, of course, was DJ Kool Herc's 1973 block party in the Bronx, which effectively birthed hip-hop as we know it.

Those are the bullet points, but they don't answer the question: How did rapping get started in the first place?

See also: The History of Rap's Oldest Cliche

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Robert Christgau's Five Favorite Pazz & Jop Essays

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In 1971, the Voice hosted what music editor Robert Christgau then dubbed "the first and last annual Pazz & Jop Critics Poll," receiving 84 ballots (of which only 39 came from what he described as "legitimate critics," or "human beings with more access to print media than a lonely attack on Led Zeppelin III in a high school newspaper in Minnesota, which was one credential proferred") and splitting the results across two music sections. Who's Next won by a wide margin, its 540 points easily topping Sticky Fingers's 332 and Every Picture Tells a Story's 319. The prominence of legacy artists led Christgau to complain of a "creeping auterism" by which "fave raves of yore... are trotted out like so many Frank Tashlins to receive a great art award for their annual wheeze."

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Shitty Band Names: A History

Categories: History

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Timothy Norris
Portugal. The Man
It's widely known that band names, which once were mainly nouns and sometimes even gave you a sense of what the artist's music sounded like, have devolved into an apocalypse of in-jokes, cleverness, punctuation, and strange capitalization. It's almost impossible these days not to look at a festival lineup without feeling dumber for the experience.

But how exactly did the exercise of musical moniker application devolve into a no-man's land of pretentious cacophony? How did we get from The Byrds to 3OH!3? From the Rolling Stones to Fartbarf? Below, we trace the descent decade by decade.

See also; These Are the Worst Band Names in Indie Rock

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Controversy Surrounds Punk Plaque Hanging in Niagra

Categories: History

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Jessica Bard/Courtesy of the New York Hardcore Chronicles
Todd Youth with Agnostic Front in December 1983 at A7.
An unlikely crowd of middle-aged punks gathered in the back room at Niagra (112 Avenue A) on October 9 as part of the CBGB's Festival. Now a bar that attracts a mainstream, post-college crowd, Niagra was, on that night, home to a misfit '80s reunion for NYC punks, complete with Jimmy G. of Murphy's Law as the party's DJ.

Maybe unknown to tourists who take iPhone pics of the Joe Strummer mural on the wall outside, Niagra's back room used to be called A7, a room with a kitchen-tiled floor that was the birthplace of New York's hardcore scene.

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Cos and Effect: The Bill Cosby Hip-Hop Samples

Categories: History

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MC Bill Cosby
This Saturday, September 7th at the Westchester County Center, comedy legend Bill Cosby will be performing his time-tested classic brand of stand-up. From the stage to the television to on record, The Cos has touched several generations with his many comedic gifts. His impact is clear even on the hip-hop generation, who've expressed their admiration through incorporating snippets of his work into their songs. In honor of Mr. Cosby returning to the area, here are our picks for the most memorable Bill Cosby hip-hop samples.

See also: A Very Long Conversation with Comedian Reggie Watts About Williamsburg, Touring with Conan, and Brian Eno Birthday Parties That Is Totally Worth the Read

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What's Up With Hip-Hop's Obsession With the Suzanne Vega Hit "Tom's Diner"?

Categories: History

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YC the Cynic
Last week, Bronx MC YC the Cynic unleashed his brand-new Oliver Eid-directed video for "God Complex," the debut single from his forthcoming Kickstarter-funded release GNK, produced entirely by Frank Drake. A notable element of the song is YC's incorporation of Suzanne Vega's "Tom's Diner" into his flow. A favorite tune of hip-hoppers for many years, we spoke to YC about his new video, successfully funding his album through Kickstarter, and his opinion on some of our favorite "Tom's Diner"-channeling jams.

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Meet Music's Next Superstar: Shia LaBeouf

Categories: History

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Shia feelin' some feelings in a Sigur Rós clip
Last week, actor and LSD-enthusiast Shia LaBeouf and synth-pop duo Future Unlimited debuted the gloomy video for "Haunted Love" directed by none other than everyone's favorite Michael Bay leading man. LaBeouf has had many an odd foray into music video. From a thirty-minute musical of interpretive dancing to sad Icelandic piano music, let's look back at some LaBeouf deep cuts and no longer regret that his film Disturbia and Rihanna's song of the same name were not related.

See also: The Top Five Music Videos Directed By Razzie Award "Winners"

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The Five Best NYC Rap Albums That Never Happened

Categories: History

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Nas
This week, while we've taken a loving look back at the finest album-length offerings that the home of hip-hop has contributed to the genre, we're also reminded of the empty spaces in our record collections where masterpieces should sit. It's heartbreaking enough that rap in an album form didn't catch on until long after The Crash Crew had an opportunity to record a proper full length, but the feeling of flipping through old issues of The Source and seeing advertisements month-after-month of rap albums that were never released made us feel like abandoned children. The music industry is a cruel place, and these surefire smashes never reaching store shelves is perhaps the most torturous evidence why. These are the five best New York rap albums that never happened.

See also:
The Top 20 NYC Rap Albums of All Time: The Complete List

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Ralph McDaniels Celebrates 30 Years of Video Music Box

Categories: History

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"Video Music Box's" Ralph McDaniels
New York is not only the birthplace of hip-hop culture, but the home of the first television program to broadcast rap videos. Video visionary Ralph McDaniels launched "Video Music Box" 30 years ago and now, three decades and a global phenomenon later, the hip-hop nation is ready to celebrate. Among the events focusing on the anniversary is tonight's All Hail the Queen: A Tribute to Women in Hip-Hop event that looks to bridge hip-hop's generation gap with performances from today's up-and-coming female MCs paying homage to the ladies on the mic that paved the way. We spoke to "Uncle Ralph" about how his game-changing program came to be.

See also: Ralph McDaniels Keeps Hip-Hop Culture Moving Forward

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Five Important Moments in the Career of Philadelphia Freeway

Categories: History

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Freeway
This Monday one of Philadelphia's favorite sons, Freeway, performs at the Highline Ballroom. One of the most consistent MCs for over a decade, the sheer volume of quality Freeway tracks makes it easy to forget he's had one of the more interesting career trajectories of any rap artist this millennium. As he preps for the release of his new album Diamond in the Ruff on Babygrande, let's take a look back at Freeway's wild ride.

See Also:
- Freeway Preaches to the Choir
- Is Roc-A-Fella Coming Back?


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