One of my favourite moments in film, is not even about film. It’s about something I love. In the movie Brown Sugar, the premise for the story is set by an excellent opening sequence when did you fall in love with hip hop?
And that’s a question I love asking. So let me ask you When did YOU fall in love with hip hop?
For me there was a very distinct moment. My frustration at the lack of radio airplay for what I deemed quality funk, soul or reggae prompted me to complain to the BBC, the music press and to anyone who would listen. I couldn’t just turn on the radio and hear something I liked.
It was 1981. Reluctantly listening to John Peel’s Radio 1 show in my bedroom one evening, a track came on that was like nothing else I’d ever heard. Extracts of songs by the likes of Chic (Good Times), Blondie (Rapture), Queen (Another One Bites the Dust), were being furiously mixed together with guys rapping and a scratching sound.
It was Grandmaster Flash with his single, The Adventures Of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel. A DJ once said, when he first heard hip hop, it was like everything he’d ever wanted to hear, but hadn’t known it. For me, that sums up perfectly that first experience.
The impact of having a DJ based tune as my first hip hop inspiration has also set a deep legacy for me personally as to what hip hop is about, and indeed should be about. ‘My’ Hip Hop started as a musical DJ experience, and only when I bought Flash’s album with the Furious Five, which also contained the big single, The Message, did I appreciate that MC’s also bring very strong lyrics to the table.
That early influence set me on a path of listening to constructive lyrics, but I’ve never forgotten the place of the DJ in hip hop. But one thing I’ve always recognised, is that hip hop is different. I would never define hip hop as a ‘genre’ of music. While ‘hip hop’ is used broadly as a term to define many pieces of music that I wouldn’t personally consider worthy of that label, TRUE HIP HOP stands tall as something bigger than a genre of music. That may take on different meanings to different people, but for me an integral element is the demand for change, revolution, equality and social justice.
But also, don’t forget the DJ.
So over to you. When did YOU .fall in love with hip hop?