Straight Outta VH1 October 8, 2008Posted by Matt in music.
Tags: hip hop, music, public enemy, rap, top 100, VH1
It is no secret that the things I enjoy generally place me somewhere outside of the two standard deviations of normality for suburban-living white guys in their thirties, but perhaps this is no more apparent than in my music interests. Though this interest usually manifests itself through my love of indie rock and my disdain for popular radio, there is another form that, while its aim certainly falls outside of my demographic, I have always considered an intriguing art form – hip hop.
My recently rekindled interest may stem from the fact that I live near and work in a predominantly African-American urban area or it may have blossomed from a maturing process that has driven me to see the big picture a bit better, but, whatever the reason, my appreciation for rap and hip hop has grown over the past few years. Becoming aware of the past and current plight of the African-American community has been an eye-opening experience for this white guy from small town Arkansas, one that has, at times, caused for some painful soul-searching of my own.
The music of black America, going back to the centuries of forced servitude, has long carried with it themes of liberation and justice, a desperate cry under a sea of oppression. As the years rolled by, despite gaining some semblance of freedom, little had changed. Much of the black community seemed to be caught in an endless and seemingly hopeless cycle of poverty, poor education, crime, and violence. While many continued to speak out for social change and equality, with Public Enemy being the greatest example, something darker and more nihilistic was rising on the West Coast – a form that spoke clearly and plainly of life on the streets, with tales of guns and drugs and violence that soon took the country by storm. It’s fascinating to look at the evolution of this musical form from its underground roots in the poorest sections of America’s cities to its current status as perhaps the most popular form of musical entertainment in the country (despite my personal assertion that the quality of the past few years is sorely lacking).
VH1 has recently compiled a list which they proclaim to contain the 100 Greatest Hip Hop songs of all time. While I have disagreements with their methodology – allowing only one entry per artist may provide a more diverse swath of the genre, but it is certainly not the 100 greatest. Here is their top ten:
10. Kurtis Blow – The Breaks
9. Salt-N-Pepa – Push It
8. Snoop Doggy Dogg – Gin and Juice
7. Notorious B.I.G. – Juicy
6. N.W.A. – Straight Outta Compton
5. Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five – The Message
4. Run DMC ft/ Aerosmith – Walk This Way
3. Dr. Dre – Nuthin’ But a G Thang
2. Sugarhill Gang – Rapper’s Delight
1. Public Enemy – Fight the Power
A few observations:
It’s always good to see shout-outs to the old school, with the Sugarhill Gang, Kurtis Blow, and Grandmaster Flash, even though the Sugarhill and Blow selections sound more akin to late 70’s dance music.
I’m trying to figure out if placing Salt -N-Pepa in the top ten is out of a sense of political correctness since female rappers are few and far between, because I just can’t imagine them as an all-time top ten act.
N.W.A.’s Straight Outta Compton is a killer song that just begs to be turned up loud.
Though he is at #14, there is something inherently wrong with not including the best the West Coast had to offer, Tupac, in the top ten.
Run DMC is much better alone than they are doing a gimmick collaboration with Aerosmith. For a true rap-rock collaboration, check out Public Enemy/Anthrax doing Bring the Noize.
Public Enemy is awesome and it is my contention, despite the inane reality-shows of Flavor Flav, that they are the bar by which all of hip hop music should be measured. You could easily fill at least half of this list with their tunes, but I have to say that VH1 hit the mark with choosing, “Fight the Power” for the top spot. Chuck D’s message is one of urgency and action and his calling out of white American icons Elvis Presley and John Wayne is eye-opening to say the least.
So, what did you think of the list? Maybe I’ll do my own top ten list later…
Oh, Jeff and Smokey, the Humpty Dance is at #29. Awesome.