Public Enemy # 1

The character and music of PE were intended to challenge the status quo of the white ruling class.  For PE, Hip Hop was a soundtrack for a social rebellion: defiant raps were meant to spark action while a scathing musical backdrop rejected all conventional notions of “music.”

All aspects of PE- production techniques, songwriting methods, even nicknames- were calculated concepts to convey Public Enemy’s call for a social and musical revolution.  These elaborate conceits proved Hip Hop music embodied more than just boasts and festive rhymes.  PE established that rapping and making beats was a culture that would allow voices previously unheard to contribute to the betterment of society.  This idea is no different than what Bam and the Zulus instituted ten years prior.  Rather than in Bronx high schools, Public Enemy’s stage was worldwide and aided by widespread media coverage.

PE lent legitimacy to all Hip Hop DJs, MCs, rappers and producers who followed for not necessarily the same radical reasons.  Through PE and other groups of this era, Hip Hop was understood as a cultural force to be reckoned with as the culture began to redefine social norms, political viewpoints, and the commercial possibilities of Hip Hop.  From the late 1980s on, whether a rapper posed “gangsta,” “thug,” or “playa,” his or her brand of Hip Hop music became synonymous with inner city youth, specifically young black men. The 2004 documentary And You Don't Stop recounts Public Enemy's significance at this pivotal time in the development of the Hip Hop culture industries:

1.    Chuck D

Took the title of “The Hard Rhymer” or symbolically, “Blackman”

a.     Confrontational, roaring vocal style, similar to Run DMC
·      Chuck D’s booming voice shouted over Bomb Squad beats emphasized metaphorically how the voice of Black Americans have traditionally been silenced
b.     Hijacking modern media sloganeering techniques, Chuck D wrote songs promoting complex political and cultural viewpoints in sharp, accessible song titles or rhymed verses.  Burn Hollywood Burn,” “Night of the Living Baseheads,” or “Welcome to the Terrordome” read like newspaper headlines.
·      Chuck D coined the widely used 1980s/90s sound bite stating that “Hip Hop is Black CNN”; meaning, Hip Hop covered the ignored plight of urban blacks and minorities in Reagan’s America.
·      William Jelani Cobb's To the Break of Dawn: “Their singular genius lay in the fact that [Public Enemy] recognized rap music as a form of media at a time when the most astute practitioners of the genre were just getting hip to the idea of music as a business”

c.     Speaking as the average “Blackman,” the oppression and racism indicted in Chuck’s songs did not have to be necessarily experienced by himself.
·      William Jelani Cobb: “The lyrics themselves were politically charged double entendres- as if an MC had returned to the tradition of the Negro spirituals that slaves encoded their messages of subversion”
-  pg 61, To the Break of Dawn

·      Simon Frith theorized that popular music discourse serves as a representation of COMMUNITY.  Chuck D purposely attempts to be a spokesperson for young Black America.  In "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos" Chuck D takes the perspective of an incarcerated objector to enlistment.  The video and his lyrics relay the brutal experience of prison and a proposed escape:

2.    Flavor Flav

a.     As “hype man” or "Joker" for PE, Flavor balanced seriousness of the group with comic, outrageous behavior. 
·      With dark sunglasses, extravagant outfits, and symbolic “clocks,” Flavor’s mystical joker personality was highly entertaining.
b.     As goofy as he behaved, in song, video, and concert, Flavor’s rhymes always complimented Chuck D’s vision  
·        Indirectly, Flav represented untapped potential within black youth, the ability to transition from the ‘hood to Hollywood, from lawlessness to knowledge of self.  He was Public Enemy’s “Id” to Chuck D’s “Ego”
·        Simon Frith's ideas are useful here as well.  As Flavor represents a means to help listeners manage their PUBLIC and PRIVATE lives.  

In "911 is Joke" Flavor condemns law enforcement humorously, walking that fine line of outrage and disbelief.  The private injustices and tragedies black Americans experience within the criminal justice system historically have not been punished publicly:

3.    DJ Terminator X and The Bomb Squad, the production team

a.     Music as uncompromising and extreme as the subject of Chuck D’s lyrics

b.     Consciously sought to deconstruct “white” definitions of music by creating sonic collages of rhythmic noise

Hip Hop was not deemed music by the trained ear, then the Bomb Squad found this criticism perversely inspirational. As Eric Sadler admitted, with PE’s music, the group wanted to “destroy shit, we want to fuck music up”

Detonation: Hank Shocklee of the Bomb Squad 

c.     DJ scratches often used musically in intros, breaks, or bridges
d.     Bomb Squad sampled black musicians and black leaders of the 1960 / 70s to connect Hip Hop with “Pro Black” ideological movements of the past.
  • By sampling the JBs or Malcolm X, PE brought the history of Black America into a new context
  • The lives and deaths of MLK and Malcolm X, the legacy of slavery, and America’s unspoken history of violent racial prejudice were just as relevant to the late 1980s as they were to the civil rights era. James Brown’s political activism and uncompromising funk represented a social progressivism pop music had seldom seen. Utilizing the samples of these men and women either behind microphones or drum kits, placed Hip Hop directly in succession to Black American’s rich history of resistance and triumphs in the face of social and economic adversity.
  • Frith: popular music shapes our popular MEMORY and organizes our sense of TIME and HISTORY
In "Can't Truss It" the voices of Richard Pryor, Malcolm X are brought into the same context as Chuck and Flavor's lyrics. With an equal sense of history, the visual images parallel a slavery plantation and the industrial factory, the strange fruit of lynching with Rodney King's public beating at the hands of the LAPD:

4.    The Security of the First World / The S1Ws
S1Ws: “The Black Panthers of Rap”
a.     Wearing Army fatigues, yielding Uzis, marching to the beat, the “S1Ws” reinforced PE’s militancy with physical presence.
b.     Professor Griff, “The Minister of Information,” leader the S1Ws, was the organizational influence behind “Unity Force.”
·      UNITY FORCE” was a Martial Arts and Black Islamic organization formed in Long Island during the early 1980s which had worked with the Spectrum City sound system.
·      With over 50 members at one point, the group’s purpose was to teach a disciplined physical and mental self awareness program for young black men. 
·      The Public Enemy’s initial goal was to use Hip Hop music as a vehicle for the “S1Ws” agenda.
c.     Griff and the S1Ws functioned as the “road crew,” managing stage and security for Spectrum City and early Public Enemy events.

d.     Griff’s penchant for careless, inflammatory anti-Semitic remarks revealed Public Enemy’s limited, disorganized political vision. (Public Enemy publicist Bill Adler explains further in linked video above)

5.    Public Enemy Logo

a.     The logo, designed by Chuck D, envisioning an S1W caught in the cross hairs of a rifle, captured the belief that black political leaders and activists have been targeted and killed by the US government throughout the 20th century.
b.     Further, PE and the logo represent a prevalent theme in Hip Hop that began in “The Message,” promoted by PE, and carried on in raps by Tupac, Kendrick Lamar and scores of others: young Black men of America are under attack by police, urban decay, poor educational institutions, and limited economic opportunity.

Poet, musician, singer songwriter Gil Scott-Heron
provided inspiration for PE in sound and image

  •       PE was featured in an FBI report to Congress examining "Rap Music and Its Effects on National Security" in September of 1990. The above video "Night of the Living Baseheads" highlights the band's brand, creativity and perhaps not so sensational idea that the Public Enemy was the target of hate groups and law officials
II. Def Jam Tells You Who I Am”: Marketing Revolution

1. The Revolution will be televised 

a.   While other Def Jam acts sold more (Beastie Boys, Run DMC, and LL Cool J), between 1988 and 1991 however, Public Enemy’s music, videos, lectures, and concerts attracted controversy not only in the music press but in the political arena as well.
  • During the fallout from Griff’s Washington Post interview even PE single releases “Fight the Power” and “Welcome to the Terrordome” were scrutinized by the media and religious watch dog groups alike.

  • 1991’s “By the Time I Get to Arizona” was a song in which Chuck D angrily demands Arizona honor the federally mandated observance of MLK’s birthday. To further drive home the outrage, members of PE joined an African American boycott of the Arizona tourism industry, choosing not to perform in the state. Within a year, Arizona voters relented and in 1993 the state finally celebrated its first MLK holiday.

    • All of the above guaranteed more media exposure for Def Jam and larger social acceptance of Hip Hop “music” in general as popular culture discourse that could not be ignored.

    2.     PE’s aspirations had to content to the paradox of mass market revolution

    a.     PE suggests there is rampant injustice in America; Def Jam markets a PE record as the SOLUTION.
    b.     Frith described Springsteen’s music containing a “whiff of nostalgia and air of fatalism.”  Is Public Enemy’s music the sound of the revolution or an uprising’s last stand?
    • With PE’s attempt to draw attention to MLK, Malcolm X, James Brown it became apparent there were no contemporary counterparts. The Nation of Islam had a reserved relationship with rappers and Jesse Jackson distanced himself from the Hip Hop “movement.
    • With a vacuum in black leadership that appealed to urban youth in the late 1980s, Chuck D and other rappers (KRS ONE, Ice T, Luther Campbell, Tupac, Notorious BIG) became de facto spokespersons and “role models.”
    • William Jelani Cobb in To the Break of Dawn: “That [Biggie and Tupac’s] deaths came to be seen in some quarters as ‘assignations’ on par with those of Malcolm and King illustrated not only how blurred the definitions of celebrity and leadership have become since the civil rights era, but also how few imaginative leaders have been cultivated since then. In their wake, charismatic artists were mistaken for political leadership.”

    3.     Record labels and entertainment companies attempted to market to this “unrest” in the 1990s similar to other counter cultural movements of the past
    a.  Scores of “Black nationalistic” rap groups (Poor Righteous Teachers, X Clan, Queen Latifa, Brand Nubian, Boogie Down Productions) were promoted during this period
    b.   Similar to marketing to teenage angst in the 1950s such as James Dean “Rebel without a Cause” or the Hippies of the 1960s, countercultural movements can be appropriated by Madison Ave and Hollywood to sell entertainment ventures and other ancillary products
    c.     When the currency of such artistry dissipates, a new marketing scheme is hatched.  Dr. Dre’s 1993 “gangsta rap” success The Chronic ensured a new wave of artists with a far more nihilistic world view would dominate Hip Hop discourse in the coming years.
               4.      Record companies have more in common with Adam Smith than Marcus Garvey. The                          “BOTTOM LINE” determines the success of a recording artist for a 
                        label, not cultural impact. Social and political aspirations are secondary, if not                                        an afterthought.

    The Golden Era

    “Golden Era” or “Golden Age” of Hip Hop Creativity

    From approximately 1985 to 1994 “The Golden Era” has been called as such by Hip Hop scholars, journalists, rappers, producers and entrepreneurs. From hardcore hip hop to bubblegum hip pop for over 20 years, the Golden Era has been put on a pedestal; sounds and images from this time period are a bar to be measured against or symbols employed to confirm authenticity.  In 1994, Chicago's Common (Sense) did not begin this trend but famously enshrined it in gender, equating "Hip-Hop in its Essence and Realness" with a girlfriend that he fell in love with only to have his heart broken.

    Here's but a few selections of the music and videos that reminisced over HER:

    RZA of Wu Tang, “Can It All Be So Simple Then?” (1993)

     Rooftop like we bringin' '88 back” – Iggy Azalea, “Fancy” (2014)

    Flashbacks are the future in marketing, music and even comedy.  Watch as symbols of the Golden Era are used to promote Brad Pitt's latest movie by breakdancing with Jimmy Fallon or the Black Eyed Peas attempt at a comeback in 2015 or an NWA or Roxanne Shante biopics:

    So why all the nostalgia? The reasons are several. First, as William Jelani Cobb writes in To the Break of Dawn, artists were working from a tabula rasa or a "BLANK SLATE".  With maybe only a few dozen or so notable recordings by the mid 1980s, Hip Hop recording artists had creative freedom to imagine rap music in new and varied ways.  Jelani Cobb illustrates how this process emphasised originality, resulting in a “push to expand beyond the horizons of what was and could be Hip Hop resulted in a manifold of new creations.” 

    And so, when a rap recording artist of this era succeeded amongst peers, critics and in sales, authenticity was confirmed. “[Golden Era artists] had to first create their art form itself before getting down to the business of creating actual art.”  With no precedence, hip hop artists of this era not only made their first records but each release created whole new sub-genres with their efforts: pop rap, Black nationalist rap, gangsta rap, Afrocentric rap and so on. Unlike many contrived corporate rock n' roll and pop stars of the 1980s and 90s, rap music was considered "real".

    Second, there is the visceral thrill and the celebrated purity that the Golden Era was a youth movementMany of the artists were under 21 YEARS OLD, not even adults.  Many performers' approach to their careers were a special combination of being carefree with confidence, imaginative yet determined. Jelani Cobb emphasizes this unique phenomenon: “Artists spend years trying to cultivate a unique approach to their chosen form; in these golden years, a critical mass of mic prodigies were creating themselves and their art form at the same time.” 

    Sociomuscologist Simon Frith has theorized music shapes our popular MEMORY and organizes our sense of TIME and HISTORY.  Rock n' Roll criticism and fandom has has a similar romantic nostalgia for the 1950s and 1960s.  Considering these creative dynamics at play during the production and consumption of rap during this time period, it is understandable that Hip Hop's Golden Era becomes a measuring stick for the artists that follow, a reference point for innovation and aspiration. Interviews from the 2004 documentary And You Don't Stop illustrate these ideas:

    How to Succeed in the Record Business Without Really Trying

    I got a letter from a record company the other day...
    In Blues People, Leroi Jones made clear creativity does not occur in a vacuum.  However, ironically, another factor to be considered in the Golden Era's productivity was the lack of stifling corporate control. Record labels were “laissez-faire” (“LEAVE ALONE”) in their approach to Hip Hop acts on their roster. On one hand, this meant little monies were spent finding, developing and promoting rap acts. But on the other hand, as record labels signed Hip Hop artists without much scrutiny, this allowed for Hip Hop practitioners to police themselves, especially in New York City.

    Most large record labels were ill equipped to cultivate Hip Hop talent.  The wise choice was to turn to those gatekeepers who were in the know: established Hip Hop DJs, journalists, promoters or nightclub owners.  Informally, these types acted as A&R (“Artist and Repertoire”) for the label, scouting talent and guiding the creative process.  Along with promotional push of grassroots "street teams," tried and tested Hip Hop performers landed record deals with an international reach from this synergy.

    In New York City in particular, talent was vetted on the live stage and “paying dues” in front of live audiences could make or break an artist. Criteria of the time dictated an MC had to be able to “rock the house” before they were prepared to step into a recording booth. Here's an example of a young Fresh Prince and his DJ Jazzy Jeff earning their way to acclaim first on stage in New York before MTV.

    Interestingly, the competitive nature of live Hip Hop music found in MC or DJ or sound system “battles” manifested in the form of a “DIS” records or “ANSWER” records.  UTFO's "Roxanne, Roxanne" created a wave of responses in 1984, certifying controversy to be a lucrative marketing technique to promote or break an artist.

    As lead by KRS ONE and MC Shan, one of the more significant rivalries of this era was between the Bronx's Boogie Down Productions and Queen's Juice Crew.  You love to hear the story again and again:

    Note KRS ONE's comments on his sudden arrival and new found responsibility: “I found myself representing the Bronx… I didn't realize what a record did for pride… the Bronx was alive again.” Keep this in mind when considering Public Enemy's career and how Hip Hop artists of the Golden Era became quasi-political figures.  Willingly or not, the lyrics and ideologies of many artists of this era became thought of as representations of Black urban youth.

    The record industry also benefited unwittingly by the bare-bones, do it yourself aesthetic of Hip Hop music production.  Prior to sampling becoming cost prohibitive in the late 1990s, rap records were produced inexpensively with innovative recording techniques.  Bambaataa's “PLANET ROCK” provided a blueprint: popular breakbeats and DJ routines could be reconstructed and reimagined into a new song form.  William Jelani Cobb explains further: “At best, [Hip Hop artists] take pre-existing scraps of sound and color and compose them into entirely new piece of art.  At its worst, the new production amounted to musical plagiarism.”

    Before sampling litigation marginalized the technique, a clear gesture was being made attempting to highlight records of old as useful in a new context.  Stetsasonic explain in “Talkin’ All That Jazz”:

    “Tell the truth, James Brown was old / 'Til Eric and Rakim came out with ‘I Got Soul’
    Rap brings back old R&B / And if we would not, people could've forgot”

    Jelani Cobb continues: “[Sampling] technology transformed used record bins into aural scrap yards, and that long-neglected album collection gathering dust in the attic into a vinyl encyclopedia of sounds.” While borrowing, covering and outright stealing of songs, vamps, chords and lyrics can be found in any American popular music form, never had an entire genre dedicated itself to carrying the torch of artists, music and movements that had long disappeared in the public imagination. Plagiarism aside, one can argue by championing a sampling approach to music making, Golden Era rap artists assisted in introducing blues, jazz, soul and rock n' roll to a new, younger audience

    "Just a mad cool out... It's about 5 o'clock in the morning"
    Famed D&D Studio was known for its "raw" sound
    For the record labels, this meant low investment, high yield. Rather than using LIVE musicians, technicians, song writers and established producers, Hip Hop records from the Golden Era were often conceived by DJ and MC’s spontaneous creativity. With the aid of a single engineer, a turntable, sampler and a drum machine, Hip Hop artists created records within weeks, reducing the costs of studio time and paid professionals. Jelani Cobb explains this unique occurrence: “The emerging sound of Hip Hop managed to be both elemental and technological simultaneously.”

    The term Golden Era certainly sounds like a subjective measurement but a variety of factors have at the very least revealed this era in Hip Hop music as being unique in how it was produced, overseen and consumed.  Evidenced in the lyrics of Wu Tang, Nas and Biggie, offspring of the Golden Era, every good thing comes to a close.  Even KRS ONE lamented in 1993: “But all along, I'm still lookin' around / And all I can see are these rap groups fallin' down.”

    By the mid 90s, the record industry became more savvy, milking the above formula for all it was worth, prompting veterans of the culture to wonder what happens when you're outta here.  More significantly, the next generation of MCs in the 1990s were the children of crack cocaine, survivors of the surrounding violence of the epidemic and resulting mass incarceration.  The sound and intent of rap music would be forever altered leaving the Golden Era to be a distant memory.


    The New School 1982 - 1986

    The New School:
    The Boogie Down comes downtown, Bam takes Hip Hop worldwide
    MCs to rap a "Message" with a social purpose
    and Run DMC crown themselves Kings

    For the purposes of this discussion, we will consider the "Old School" the period of Hip Hop at its inception from 1973 to 1981.  When thinking of this time frame, the Old School marks where Hip Hop birth at Kool Herc's first parties in '73 at the Sedgwick Housing Projects in the Bronx to the emergence of Bambaataa's Zulu Nation, Grandmaster Flash's DJ mastery and MC crews in the late 1970s.  It would also include the first recorded efforts of Hip Hop whether it be the dubious smash hit "Rapper's Delight" or the early recordings on Enjoy Records.  Kurtis Blow emerged from this era as the first Hip Hop recording star that straddled both legitimacy and commercial success.

    Not only does the following two part ABC news report overview the roots of rap and this early period effectively, it is the first televised news coverage of the emerging Hip Hop scene from uptown:

    Ironically as national news and audiences began to learn about Hip Hop, there was questions about the sustainability of the culture outside of New York or even within it. By 1982, parties in the Bronx start losing popularity.

    There is speculation that the original hip hop audience started to “grow up”; Hip Hop’s first generation began to seek jobs, settle down. Others who continued to contribute to the culture sought for more; parties in your old high school gymnasium or local community center were losing favor. Founding Hip Hop DJ Kool Herc had all but disappeared by the early 1980s after being stabbed at one of his own parties. As this video clip explains, the potential for violence was ever present at "Old School" Hip Hop events.

    As for recording industry, record labels generally treated rap records as novelties without artistic potential, a fad presumed that would soon meet its demise as popular disco had by 1980.  “Between the 1979 release of ‘Rapper’s Delight’ and 1983, the music was perceived as a cute Negro niche market” according to William Jelani Cobb inTo the Break of Dawn.

    Like a lifeline, occurring essentially at the same time these challenges persisted in 1982, the Punk and “New Wave” music scene of downtown Manhattan and the Bronx Hip Hop movement began to intermingleNew avenues of artistic and economic growth for Hip Hop music and culture appeared in the form of breakthrough recordings, videos and feature length movies.

    New Wave”, like the punk music which it sprung forth from, sought a new approach to creating pop music. Punk championed a “Do It Yourself” attitude that shunned music training for sheer energy and aggression. Punk and New Wave bands from Europe and NYC also moved away from the rock ‘n roll’s predictable "guitar gods" and drum solos. 

    Producer Martin Hannett mixing & matching
    drum machines, keys, & guitars
    Choosing to use synthesizers and drum machines, New Wave songs were often danceable with moody, obscure lyrics- a darker, futuristic disco sound. New Wave songwriters also drew musical inspiration from Reggae, Disco, and R&B, mixing elements of those genres into their music. Talking Heads, New Order, Duran Duran, Depeche Mode and The Police are the perhaps the most recognized bands of this genre. 

    There was an undeniable synergy when these crowds met despite the culture clash. Punk's outlaw and confrontational passion as well as New Wave music’s appreciation and “borrowing” from other music genres was in line with the spirit of the Hip Hop movement:

    As New Wave artists began to "check out" Hip Hop performances, Hip Hop benefited by gaining a new audience that produced broader artistic possibilities and potential for securing more lucrative performance venues or recording ventures.

    For example, after the success of "Rapper's Delight" and the growing recognition of graffiti as a rebel art form, the well known New Wave group Blondie gave Hip Hop performers recognition and a platform that to this point in Hip Hop history had not been realized yet. See video for more details:

    Notable moments of 1982 that shape the development of Hip Hop culture as it emerged from the Bronx to international recognition:

    Fab Five Freddy salutes pop art icon Andy Warhol

    1.  Hip hop DJs, MCs, writers, breakers, “activitists” start to rub elbows with record industry executives and learn the in and outs of the downtown Manhattan club scene. Fab Five Freddy (graffiti artist, party promoter) and Russell Simmons (party promoter, manger of Kurtis Blow and Run DMC) are especially instrumental in getting hip hop acts into downtown clubs. The video below chronicles Uptown artists mixing with Downtown audiences with Afrika Bambaataa and the Zulu Nation often bridging the gap.

    2.  Malcolm McLaren, former manager of the infamous UK punk group The Sex Pistols, invites Afrika Bam’s and the Zulus to open for his New Wave group Bow Wow Wow @ the Ritz. McLaren later promotes the World’s Famous Supreme Team, a Black Muslim hip hop crew of radio DJs and MCs.

    3.Tom Silverman- publisher of Dance Music Magazine- starts Tommy Boy Records and asks Bam to record “Planet Rock.”  (See "Afrika Bambaattaa’s Message" below)

    4.  Downtown Manhattan clubs (Mudd Club, Peppermint Lounge, Danceteria, The Roxy) begin to regularly host DJ and MC crew performances, typically the Zulus and Flash.  A fictionalized account in the movie Beat Street captures this moment:

    5.  A broad spectrum of races and nationalities mix at these clubs. At some of the larger clubs, crowds of 3,000 to 4,000 people in attendance from all over the northeast, exposing hip hop music to thousands of new listeners.

    6.  New Wave songs begin to be “versioned” by hip hop acts. For example, in 1982, Tom Tom Club, an offshoot of the Talking Heads, records “Genius of Love” an ode to funk and soul music. Using the beat and / or lyrics, hip hop versions of “Genius of Love” are soon recorded or performed at hip hop shows.

    Afrika Bambaattaa’s Message

    The success of this record simultaneously revolutionized pop and hip hop music.

    1.  “Planet Rock” sampled or replayed the records Bam used in his DJ routines. Bam proved that the innovations of the hip hop DJ could create new music.

    2.  Similar to the New Wave attitude, new forms of music would be found using the newest technologies. Bam and his producers willingly used voice changers, drum machines, samplers, and keyboards.

    3.  “Planet Rock” primary use of electronic instruments further centralized the role of technology in popular American music.

    Prior to “Planet Rock”, electronic instruments as the principal tool for production of music occurred only on the fringes of popular music in the works of Kraftwerk or jazz. Most conspicuously, albums such as Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Madonna’s debut were propelled by drum machines and keyboards.

    “Planet Rock” also confirmed Bambaataa’s ideological vision of hip hop culture.

    1.  “Planet Rock” was meant as an anthem for the Zulu Nation’s philosophy: peace, unity, love and having fun.

    2.  By simply listening to “Planet Rock” you were participating in an cultural event not just a recording.

    3.  If you take Bambaataa’s record selections and the “Party People” and transport them to “Planet Rock” something special happens: here breakbeats were looped effortlessly, vocals were entertaining food for thought, and pleasure was a never ending sensation.

    4.  Bambaataa was assisted by white musicians from New Wave scene, Arthur Baker and John Robbie, confirming that hip hop music could be a means to breaking down social and racial barriers.

    “Planet Rock” inspired several New Wave / Hip Hop collaborations. Jean-Michel Basquait, a prolific SoHo artist produces the record, “Beat Bop.” The MCs of this record predate the nasal deliveries of the Beastie Boys and Cypress Hill, not to mention the “gangsta pimp” imagery of the lyrics.  New Wave eccentric, Thomas Dolby borrows his own “Blinded Me with Science” to produce Whodini’s “Magic’s Wand.” Graffiti writer Futura 2000 produced the instrumental “Escapades of…” with The Clash. With Fab Five Freddy, Blondie’s guitarist Chris Stein produces the soundtrack to Wildstyle, Hip Hop’s culture’s first cinematic manifesto.

    As described by Downtown club owner Kool Lady Blue: "It was the Reagan era and Nicaragua and talk of war and nuclear weapons. But then there was this whole thing going on in New York where it was the youth culture getting together in unity and peace and having fun. No segregation and everyone joining together. Just the opposite of what was going on politically in America."

    "Planet Rock" was a sonic boom, sending Hip Hop sounds and sensibilities well beyond the boundaries of the Bronx. But while there may have been less jams in the park, probably no location embodied the growing possibilities of Hip Hop's New School than the Fever:

    The Message

    “Planet Rock” pointed to the musical direction of hip hop music by using samplers and drum machines. “The Message” initiated the lyrical direction of hip hop music with tales of urban woe, personal struggle, or “realism.”

    1.  The music and the lyrics of “The Message” purposefully compliment each other. The spooky key boards and dark basslines looped w/o bridge or downbeat create a disturbing atmosphere that serves as a metaphor for the lyrics. This songwriting technique gave depth to the MC Melle Mel and Duke Bootee's verses, awarding “rap” critical praise it had never earned prior.

    2.  Music in their "Message":

    • Crisp voices mixed prominently
    • Vivid images of desperation, suffering, and poverty
    • Studio tricks: vocal over dubbing and “skit"
    • Tone: calm and determined, but disgruntled
    • Like “Planet Rock,” there was no shouting of zodiac signs over disco grooves. This record was not only different than any “rap” recording at the time, but it was a dark contrast to most popular music in general

    3.  Of note, this record did not feature Grandmaster Flash on turntables and did not even feature the original members of the Furious Five.  It was the last recording Melle Mel, Flash and the Furious Five would record together.  In retrospect, this effort was proof that a compelling lyricist matched with just a drum machine and a keyboard could spawn a hit record and a new direction for Hip Hop.

    Run DMC

    So how did a group from Hollis, Queens become self professed "ambassadors" for Hip Hop music? How were they able to become recognizable international icons of Hip Hop? Lyrically speaking, Run and DMC took a bold new approach to rhyming that was a distinctive depature from the "Old School."  

    Secondly, though this is an oversimplification, Run DMC took the musical direction of "Planet Rock" and married it with the hard hitting but catchy unwavering realism of "The Message."  Run DMC not only preserved and perfected Hip Hop blueprint from the Bronx but they gave it to the world to consume as the group's success forever married rap music as a commercial endeavor. 

    As seen in this video, Run, DMC and Jam Master Jay became international ambassadors for Hip Hop by marrying the culture with the predominate form pop at the time- rock music- and by unabashedly celebrating the emerging cultural elements of Hip Hop: DJing, MCing, breaking, graf, fashion, attitude and slang.

    Qualities and attributes of Run DMC:

    1.  Rapped with commanding, bellowing voices songs were confrontational in both style and content.  In contrast to many old school MCs’ smooth, female seeking personas, Run DMC were devastating rather than debonair.

    2.  Used primarily loud, booming electronic drum beats for music.

    New School
    Old School
    3.  Dressed like kids in the parks, unlike the elaborate costumes of old school MC and DJ crews. Run, D, and Jay sported Adidas track suits and sneakers or Kangol hats with black jeans and leather jackets.

    Bambaataa and Flash’s groups emulated George Clinton and Parliment’s extravagant costumes, clothing themselves in leathers and feathers or sequins and silk suits. To a certain degree, this was recommended by the record labels as they were more comfortable marketing a funk/disco group than they were a hip hop crew.

    4.  The group first single, “It’s Like That / Sucker MCs” displayed both a talent for “message raps” and “battling.”

    “Sucker MCs” chronicled the life of a b-boy’s rise to hip hop fame. It was hip hop’s first “rags to riches” story where hip hop music was understood as a means for fame and fortune.

    5.  Hailing from previously “unknown” Hollis Queens, Run DMC displayed swagger and unfailing confidence.  Called themselves and their music “The New School”

    6.  Had a DIY attitude that said you don’t have to be from Uptown to rock the house. Ironically, this was similar to original impulse for hip hop music: you don’t have to be at a pricey disco to dance or ignore great funk and soul bands of the past.

    7.  Ambitions were less simply winning rhyme battles at shows than a explicit goal to entertain the masses whether on record or stage.

    8.  Run DMC brought the DJ back to the center stage. Jam Master Jay had singles dedicated to him, full album cuts and was highlighted at live shows.

    9.  By adopting rock guitars for hip hop use and declaring themselves, “The Kings of Rock,” Run DMC were declaring that hip hop was the new form of popular music.