ROK ONE’S ROK RANT #3
FAREWELL TO FAT BEATS
Hey there Lil’ Young Drake Gucci Soulja Boy,
That’s a pretty sweet outfit you got on there. I’m digging the Mishka cardigan, and I especially like the way you’ve matched that aquamarine fitted with your kicks. Who me? Yeah, I collected Nikes once, but everyone started doing it and I lost interest. That sh*t got corny real quick, kinda like the way everyone using autotune on their song is getting corny. Why one artist would want to sound like another is beyond me…
“You gotta have style and learn to be original / and everybody’s gonna wanna dis you”
Who said that? The legendary KRS-One. Who the f*ck is KRS-One? Geez, you better take a seat. This might take a while…
When I was your age (I can’t believe I just said that), biting was one of the worse offenses imaginable. People would make an effort NOT to copy each other. Trust me, I used to roll with some of the most talented MCs in New York, and each one had a unique angle of their own. We used to attend events such as the Lyricist Lounge showcases and open mic nights at The Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe, and listen to radio broadcasts like The Stretch Armstrong & Bobbito Show on WKCR 89.9, and The Underground Railroad hosted by Jay Smooth & DJ AV on WBAI 99.5 FM. If we weren’t doing that, we were probably hanging out at FAT BEATS. Fat Beats was more than just a record store, it was an all purpose Hip-Hop haven where fans and artists alike could congregate and listen to the latest heat, trade street stories, argue about who was the dopest rapper or producer, and of course, start a vicious 30 man freestyle battle outside of the shop.
I can tell you right now: This lackadaisical attitude that y’all muthaphukaz have today, this policy of mediocre acts getting over with minimal amounts of skill and large amounts of hype, would not have cut it back in the 90’s. The competition was brutal, to say the least, both in the mainstream and the underground. If you grabbed the mic or jumped on the turntables, you had to BRING IT. You couldn’t come wack, unless you enjoyed being publicly humiliated or booed off stage. In some extreme instances you might even catch a beatdown for being lame.
“See, what do you expect when you rhyme like a soft punk / you walk down the street and get jumped”
It was about constantly proving your talent to yourself and to your peers. It wasn’t all fun and games (Yawn).
Listen Youngblood, I’m not knocking your hustle. People your age know how to network way better than we ever could, and you don’t limit your horizons with a “keep it real”, “no sell out”, or “doing it just for the love” mentality. That was idealistic naivety on our part. But let’s be honest – your generation of “Hip-Hoppers” has it easy. For starters, a Black man is president (something that was completely unthinkable circa Ice Cube’s “Amerilkkka’s Most Wanted”). You have the internet, highly advanced computers, home based recording studios, and other promotional / technological tools at your disposal, that we didn’t have access to. You don’t have to worry about being tested or verbally dismantling your rivals in public. All you gotta do is dress cute, make catchy 75 BPM tracks that are basically 3 and a half minute long choruses, and then press “upload”. Would it kill you to develop some type of lyrical dexterity, substance, a respectable vocabulary, or (gasp) perhaps even make a political statement? RIGHT NOW IS YOUR TIME little DUDES. Prove to the world that you have an imagination…
What’s that? You got SWAG?!
PLEASE! Swag is what the rappers of today claim to have in order to compensate for the fact that they possess absolutely NO FLAVOR. The very concept of flavor (or flava) is completely lost on Generation Y. I’m not sure I’d ever be able to adequately explain why groups like Black Sheep, Brand Nubian or even Das EFX were so incredible. Maybe you just had to be there. Some of you have never even heard of Slick Rick, Run DMC, Public Enemy, Eric B & Rakim, EPMD, Big Daddy Kane, Biz Markie, Kool G Rap, N.W.A., De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest or The Geto Boys. For crying out loud, you guys were born the same year The Chronic came out (F*ck, I’m a DINOSAUR!), were 6 years old when Biggie & Pac died, and your idea of “old school” is Ja Rule’s second album. Wow, that sure is some impressive swag you got there.
Do I blame y’all for being so clueless? Not really (nobody chooses what era they’re born into), but I do urge all the young whipper-snappers out there to take an interest in the history of their culture, and study the achievements and the mistakes of the countless pioneers that came before them. After all, every teenage suburban pop-punk fan has listened to The Clash or Sex Pistols. All the young electronic music heads who read this blog are well versed in Kraftwerk and Juan Atkins. The nu-disco twenty-somethings all worship Larry Levan. The least you little day-glow rap bastards could do is know who KRS-One is.
Ya feel me Waka Flocka? Let the hate mail begin. Holla back Young’n…
– SOME OLD DUDE (REST IN PEACE FAT BEATS)
Gang Starr’s “Moment Of Truth” album signing in 1999 (Not visible in this photo: Kool Keith pulling up in a beamer with both of his eyebrows completely shaved off and a hot babe on each arm).
Some of my other favorite Fat Beats memories include watching Percee P peddle his home-pressed CDs, my Fondle ‘Em Records single “Certified Superior” selling over 8,000 copies, The Company Flow & Organized Konfusion live performance in-stores, and the time that Ill Bill ordered everyone in the store to stop what they were doing and listen to Canibus’s debut verse on “Beasts From The East” by The Lost Boyz. We thought he was going to be the next Nas. He wasn’t.
Peace to Joe, Eclipse, Bobbito, Rocky, Stretch, Spinna, ELI, Vaz, Amir, Natural Elements, House Of Reps, Wordsworth & Punchline, The Juggaknots, The Arsonists, Non Phixion, Black Star, Dead Prez, Pumpkinhead & The Makin’ Records Crew, J-Grand, DP One, Mazzi, Dujeous, Siah & Yeshua, The 5th Platoon, The X-Men, J-Treds, The Atoms Family, Brooklyn Academy, Hydra, Scrappy, L-Fudge, Kwest, Shabaam Sahdeeq, Ski-Hi, Spike, Tada, Metatron, Sugarcuts, Eddie ILL & DL, Live-N-Direct, Stronghold, Immortal Technique, Heineken Jones, Time Machine, Tes One and everyone else who made that era so special. I’ll carry these memories with me for the rest of my life.
R.I.P. GURU, ROC RAIDA, JOSH LINK & DJ AM.
Oh, by the way, we’ll be having a Fat Beats tribute on Tuesday. Info below…