parodies by nacrowe
when i did an episode on the influential NATIVE TONGUES HIP HOP collective back the spring of 2020 i decided pretty early to expand from the core group of affiliated members DE LA SOUL, A TRIBE CALLED QUEST, THE JUNGLE BROTHERS, QUEEN LATIFAH, CHI-ALI, MONIE LOVE, BRAND NUBIAN, COMMON, MOS DEF and THE PHARCYDE to also include like-minded peers such as BLACK MOON, SOULS OF MISCHIEF, LEADERS OF THE NEW SCHOOL, BLACK SHEEP and MAIN SOURCE as well as later acolytes like KANYE WEST, JURASSIC 5, THE ROOTS, N.E.R.D. and OUTKAST.
part of that was to showcase its CULTURAL and POLITICAL influence both at its peak as a movement in the early 1990s, but also as a common thread in modern HIP HOP that has continued unabated to currents artists. had i had more time with the playlist i could easily have expended it to include the likes of SOCIALLY CONSCIOUS modern rappers like RUN THE JEWELS, LITTLE SIMZ, J. COLE, VINCE STAPLES, NIPSEY HUSSLE (R.I.P.) and KENDRICK LAMAR among others. its a vein of a talent that marches all the way back to beginnings of HIP HOP with the likes of AFRIKA BAMBAATAA and KRS-ONE.
there are times where i feel jaded and bored with music in general and it is during those periods when i go back and listen to a lot of the artists highlighted on this episode. the inventive WORDPLAY, HUMOR, SONG CONSTRUCTION and INCLUSIVE INTENT is still as powerful today as it was back then. im not saying i wish that this era would repeat itself in our modern cultural climate, but i do feel that the values exemplified therein of EMPATHY, CURIOSITY and DIVERSITY would be most beneficial in what feels like a POLITICAL and CULTURAL MOMENT that we all are being squeezed together with an ever-tightening vice grip. it feels like the UNITED STATES is hurdling fast towards a future fraught with peril and derision.
listening to NATIVE TONGUES artists, their peers and their acolytes still feels fresh and above else an act of hope. or maybe i am being naive. definitely.
photo & text by nacrowe
RED HOT + BLUE: A TRIBUTE TO COLE PORTER (CHRYSALIS, 1990) was a compilation album spearheaded by the RED HOT ORGANIZATION that raised funds for worldwide AIDS research, relief and awareness efforts.
and im not gonna lie, the reason this compilation stands out to me almost 30 years after its release is DAVID BYRNE's cover of "DON'T FENCE ME IN." growing up in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, my early musical memories revolve around car rides with my father in which he would play MORRISSEY / THE SMITHS, THE KINKS, THE STRANGLERS, THE BEATLES and TALKING HEADS. DAVID BYRNE's former band is most definitely a formative influence for me and this rendition of the COLE PORTER standard with its heavily syncopated LATIN (BRAZILIAN?) rhythms was another example of BYRNE's ability to organically utilize textures from global traditions without sounding paternalistic or hokey (like say PAUL SIMON).
i was in KINDERGARTEN when this compilation came out and it was my introduction to the idea of AIDS, and really just the concept of disease in general. i remember my parents explaining to me how it was raising money to help people for a disease with no cure, which was pretty heavy for a little kid.
going back and revisiting the compilation there are several standout performances from the likes of KIRSTY MACCOLL with THE POGUES as well as NENEH CHERRY, DEBBIE HARRY with IGGY POP, U2, TOM WAITS, k.d. lang, and the JUNGLE BROTHERS(!). its hard to imagine now how talking about AIDS was at one point taboo, but it was. and its pretty amazing that these artists, all pretty seminal in their own right, took a stand for an underserved community that was suffering and in need of help and destigmatization.
if you havent already, RED HOT + BLUE: A TRIBUTE TO COLE PORTER is definitely worth revisiting. just goes to show the quality of the songwriting of COLE PORTER, which really is a surprise to no one. there is a reason he is so celebrated among musicians of all genres.
parody by nacrowe
tonight's new episode of DEER GOD RADIO at 8PM on MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC is focused on the NATIVE TONGUES movement in HIP HOP from the late 80s early 90s that brought together ideas of PAN-AFRICANISM, nonviolence, individuality and (courtesy of PUBLIC ENEMY's THE BOMB SQUAD) a whole new aesthetic when it came to production and the copious use of samples. definitely an interesting period that paved the way for CONSCIOUS RAP and backpacking in general as a cultural force. check out the #streaming show later tonight!
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO as well as other MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC shows like MAKE HER SPACE, NOWHERE FAST, THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW and CLASSICAL-ISH WITH NUTMEG are available here at the DEER GOD website.
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