Hip-Hop's Influence Goes Beyond Music
By Bruce Britt
So I'm shaking my booty Thursday night at the GRAMMY Foundation's Word Revolution: A Celebration Of The Evolution Of Hip-Hop event and it hits me — hip-hop culture has come full circle. The tight-fitting styles that defined hip-hop's early days are back in vogue, while much of the best new rap shares the same innovative crossover sensibilities that marked the classic hits of Run D.M.C., M.C. Hammer, De La Soul and more (think contemporary rap eccentrics such as Kanye West, Drake, Kid Cudi and Nicki Minaj).
Anyone requiring proof of hip-hop's retrograde thrust need look no further than Thursday night's event, which took place at the art deco-styled Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles. Marking the GRAMMY Foundation's 13th annual Music Preservation Project, the event showcased a lineup that teamed old-school standard-bearers (Naughty By Nature, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Arrested Development, Everlast, MC Lyte, and Phife of A Tribe Called Quest) and new-guard artists (Musiq Soulchild, Chrisette Michele, Lil Mama, and Marsha Ambrosius).
The resulting show was a loose-limbed chronicle of hip-hop's evolution through music, video, dance, and live commentary, connecting the dots of rap's development in ways that were joyous, raucous, mellow, educational, and revelatory. For example, Recording Academy and GRAMMY Foundation President/CEO Neil Portnow introduced archival footage showing an old man spitting rhymes about World War II. Word to your great-grandmother!
The momentum never let up, thanks in large part to expert pacing and powerful musical accompaniment. The latter was supplied by Adam Blackstone's backing band, which included a two-piece horn section and dual percussionists. Can you say "bottom end"?
You want memorable musical moments? How about the Beat Freaks dance crew b-boying, popping and locking as if they had time traveled from 1984. Phife of A Tribe Called Quest's fiery interpretation of the classic "Check The Rhime," while turntablist DJ Jazzy Jeff provided his own history lesson, mixing pop originals (such as Michael McDonald's "I Keep Forgettin'") with the sampled rap hits they inspired (in this case, Warren G's smooth 1994 smash "Regulate").
Appropriately enough, the night often seemed like a Jeep cruise down Memory Lane. Arrested Development performed their '90s hits "Mr. Wendal" and "Tennessee." Boston rapper Everlast made the crowd literally hip-hop with his version of House Of Pain's 1992 classic "Jump Around." MC Lyte rhymed about her desire for a "Ruffneck" lover, while rap-centric vocalist Michele — she of the angelic face and the equally heaven-sent voice — illustrated hip-hop's jazz roots with an urbanized interpretation of Nat King Cole's "Unforgettable."
But it was Naughty By Nature who supplied the evening's most galvanizing moment. Singing along to the group's 1993 hit "Hip Hop Hooray," it felt like we were all taking part in some beautiful urban ritual. Like tipsy patriots at a sporting event, we proudly bellowed the national anthem of rap, paying props to a vital musical genre that continues to sustain us through good times and bad.
The GRAMMY Foundation will host Word Revolution: A Celebration Of The Evolution Of Hip-Hop — the 13th Annual GRAMMY Foundation Music Preservation Project — on Thursday, Feb. 10 at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles. The event will feature live musical performances and historical footage from preservation archives.
Performers will include GRAMMY winners Arrested Development and Chrisette Michele; current GRAMMY nominee El DeBarge; 9th Wonder and Marsha Ambrosius; Beat Freaks from "America's Best Dance Crew"; DJ Beverly Bond; DJ Jazzy Jeff; Kid Capri; Lil' Mama; MC Lyte; A Tribe Called Quest's Phife Dawg; DJ Skee; and Recording Academy Texas Chapter President Paul Wall, among others. The evening's musical director will be producer/bassist Adam Blackstone.
Word Revolution: A Celebration Of The Evolution Of Hip-Hop will explore hip-hop as an art form, and celebrate the invaluable contributions of the genre and its influence on the American cultural landscape. Produced by the GRAMMY Foundation in conjunction with Centric, a BET Network, and sponsored in part by Classic Wines of California and Jackson Limousine, this GRAMMY Week celebration will promote the GRAMMY Foundation's mission of recognizing and preserving our musical past, so that future generations can continue to benefit from an appreciation and understanding of those contributions.
General admission tickets are $25 each. For tickets and information, click here or contact 866.811.4111.
The 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards will take place live on Sunday, Feb. 13 at Staples Center in Los Angeles and will be broadcast in high definition and 5.1 surround sound on the CBS Television Network from 8–11:30 p.m. (ET/PT). The show also will be supported on radio worldwide via Westwood One, and covered online at GRAMMY.com and CBS.com, and on YouTube. For updates and breaking news, please visit The Recording Academy's social networks on Twitter and Facebook.
Thanksgiving is upon us and if there's one thing that's filling the minds of Americans everywhere, it's food. And what pairs better with delicious food than, well, delicious music? Whether you're looking forward to smashing pumpkins for warm pumpkin pie, adding some jelly to your roll or making sauce out of cranberries, we have music that will satisfy your appetite. Or at least give you some new ideas for your Thanksgiving menu.
In honor of the biggest eating holiday of the year, we present you a tasty selection of appetizing artists, plus a side dish of edible songs.
Lamb Of God
Paul McCartney And Wings
Black Eyed Peas
Bowling For Soup
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Jelly Roll Morton
"All That Meat And No Potatoes," Fats Waller
"Fried Chicken," Nas Featuring Busta Rhymes
"Jambalaya (On The Bayou)," Hank Williams
"Hot Tamales," Santana
"Ham 'N' Eggs," A Tribe Called Quest
"Soul Food," Goodie Mob
"Pork Chop Sandwich," ZZ Top
"Green Onions," Booker T. & The MG's
"Sixteen Saltines," Jack White
"The Honey Roll," Elton John
"Cornflake Girl," Tori Amos
"Diced Pineapples," Rick Ross
"Peaches," The Presidents Of The United States Of America
"Gray (For My Mashed Potatoes)," Dee Dee Sharp
"American Pie," Don McLean
"Birthday Cake," Rihanna Featuring Chris Brown
"Cherry Pie," Warrant
"Cinnamon Girl," Neil Young
"Orange Crush," R.E.M.
"Raspberry Beret," Prince
"Pour Some Sugar On Me," Def Leppard
"Ice Cream Man," Van Halen
What's your favorite recipe for a mouthwatering artist or song? Let us know by commenting below.
(For a complete list of 53rd GRAMMY Awards nominees, click here.)
From old school to new school and beyond, there is power in numbers when it comes to rap artists and the GRAMMYs, in particular, the multitude of rap artists who have performed and won GRAMMYs.
The history of rap music and The Recording Academy dates back to 1988, when the genre was officially recognized with the addition of its first category: Best Rap Performance. In more than two decades since, this union has evolved to reflect the explosion of rap in not only the music industry, but our culture worldwide.
If you aren't convinced, take a good look at this year's nominees for Record Of The Year, arguably one of the highest-profile GRAMMYs. Three of the five nominated songs are rooted in rap/hip-hop: "Empire State Of Mind" by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys, "Love The Way You Lie" by Eminem featuring Rihanna, and "Nothin' On You" by B.o.B featuring Bruno Mars. And one of the other two nominees, "F*** You," is by part-time rapper and full-time singer Cee Lo Green.
It's an impressive feather in the cap of a genre that continues to gain momentum as we head in to the second decade of the new millennium.
The genre's modest entrance at the GRAMMYs came when D.J. Jazzy Jeff And The Fresh Prince's "Parents Just Don't Understand" took home the first Best Rap Performance award in 1988, winning against the likes of J.J. Fad, Kool Moe Dee, LL Cool J, and Salt-N-Pepa. The category has since evolved into the makeup of the current Rap Field, which contains five categories: Best Rap Solo Performance, Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group, Best Rap/Sung Collaboration, Best Rap Song, and Best Rap Album.
Of course, this evolution wouldn't have been possible without the groundbreaking work of now-classic rap artists such as the Sugarhill Gang, DJ Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, Run-D.M.C., and Kurtis Blow, among others. A hall of fame-bound list of artists has since followed these trailblazers to find a pot full of GRAMMY gold.
In 1998 Lauryn Hill helped take rap to the next level at the GRAMMYs, cleaning up with five awards for her album The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill. Hill not only became the first rap/hip-hop artist to win Album Of The Year, she became the first female solo artist to win five awards in one night. Rap hadn't just arrived at the GRAMMYs. It was also taking care of business.
The GRAMMY Awards that have taken place since have only provided an exclamation point for this bold statement.
Highlights include Eminem's Album Of The Year nomination in 2000 for The Marshall Mathers LP and his live telecast performance of "Stan" alongside the legendary Elton John; OutKast's big night in 2004, when the Atlanta duo won Album Of The Year and Best Rap Album for their double-disc masterwork Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, and Best Urban/Alternative Performance for "Hey Ya!"; Kanye West's eye-popping 10 nominations in 2005, which were spawned from his 2004 album, The College Dropout, and eight and six nominations in 2007 and 2008, respectively; and Jay-Z's GRAMMY trifecta in 2009, winning awards for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration, Best Rap Solo Performance and Best Rap Song.
West stands as the top GRAMMY-winning rap artist in history with 14 statues, followed by Eminem (11) and Jay-Z (10), though Eminem's 10 nominations this year could tip the scales in his favor after Sunday.
Culturally, the rise of these multitalented artists continues to prove how meaningful and authentic the messages behind the music can be. For example, Eminem chronicles life changes for the better on his 2010 album Recovery.
And not to be forgotten is the remarkable story of Jay-Z, who has risen from the crime-riddled streets of New York to his well-earned perch in the rap penthouse, along the way earning critical acclaim and album sales in the millions. His 2009 album, The Blueprint 3, and the ubiquitous radio smash, "Empire State Of Mind," are further evidence that rap is only getting bigger and more important at the GRAMMYs.
As the 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards approach on Sunday, Feb. 13, the artists in the mix for rap honors run the gamut of every subgenre within rap's ever-widening scope, from veterans such as Eminem, Jay-Z and Ludacris to newer players on the scene such as T.I., Drake, Big Boi, Bosko Cutty, and Mouche, plus acts that sit on the cutting edge, such as B.o.B, Common, the Roots, and West.
No matter who emerges on top, rap has impressively grown from its organic origins of emcees kicking it with beat boxes in Queens, N.Y., in the late '70s to an enormously popular, globally important art form and cultural touchstone. And driving home the point that there is power in numbers, The Recording Academy's voting members have stood up, listened, and acted to give the genre just representation within the GRAMMY Awards process.
(On Feb. 8 the GRAMMY Museum will host an exclusive premiere for Hip-Hop: A Cultural Odyssey, its latest exhibit showcasing the history of the genre through listening stations, video footage, rare photographs, and original artifacts. Attendees will include industry entrepreneur Russell Simmons and artists Afrika Bambaataa, Kurtis Blow and Everlast, among others. For more information on the exhibit, visit www.grammymuseum.org.)
(Matt Sycamore is a Pacific Northwest-based freelance music writer.)