Boogie Down Productions – “9mm Goes Bang” (March 3, 1987): B-Boy Records
Formed in the Bronx (the ‘Boogie Down’) in the mid 1980s, BDP was made up initially of MC KRS-One (the name was his graffiti tag) and DJ Scott La Rock. La Rock was working as a social worker at the Franklin Avenue Men’s Shelter in the Bronx when he met shelter resident KRS-One. KRS-One initially dismissed La Rock as just another social worker, but the two struck up a bond when KRS-One arrived at a party to find his social worker behind the DJ equipment, and the duo soon began working together.
In SYDLHH: Part 1, we looked at some of hip hop’s earliest influential tracks. As mentioned therein, the DJs ruled the roost in early hip hop, and most artists got their start wanting to be DJs. In fact, even Jay-Z notes in his memoir/book of annotated lyrics Decoded that he first wanted to be a DJ. It didn’t take long, however, for MCs to take the hip hop crown, and with just a few exceptions (e.g. J Dilla, DJ Screw, the RZA, DJ Premier) they’ve never given it back. In SYDLHH: Part 2 we will look at some of the earliest MCs and how they furthered the growth of the genre. I intended initially to limit this overview to just one post, but there is simply too much to say about the 8 MCs I want to cover, so Part 2 will go up in two posts (and even limiting it to two posts requires me to repeatedly remind myself that this series is just an overview).
Some facts about me: I’m white (a full fledged WASP actually); I’m middle class; I’m in my 30s; I’m a father; I live in the midwest; and I love hip hop. It’s that last one that surprises people. Due to the first five things listed I’m not supposed to like hip hop, even though I’m a huge music fan. Nonetheless, whether it’s Golden Era East Coast, hardcore West Coast, southern, indie, or otherwise, if it falls under the hip hop umbrella there’s a good chance I listen to it.
The simple reason people are surprised by my hip hop fandom is it’s not ‘my’ music. Hip hop, rose from the streets to tell the stories of the street. Meanwhile, I’m about as ‘street’ as a labradoodle, and can’t pretend to relate to hip hop’s stories through personal experience. Those stories, or at least the ones many people identify as wholly representative of hip hop, are largely made up of hustling, gang banging, and the like, and involve violence, drug dealing, misogyny, and other things utterly alien to my suburban, midwestern upbringing. Obviously songs of this type are a subcategory of the broader hip hop spectrum, but the real problem with the assumption that I wouldn’t be a hip hop fan is the underlying presumption that just because I haven’t personally experienced these things I have no interest in the art that is being created as a result. Good art should challenge its audience in some way and hip hop often does so by confronting its listeners with hard truths.