In the original 30 for 30 I did this as Teddy Riley and Dr. Dre in a tie for #23 on the count down. I still think that Teddy Riley as the poster boy of New Jack Swing and Dr Dre as an emblem for the hip hop of the early 90’s appropriately encapsulates the music that has influenced me. However at this time I want to also acknowledge the heritage of that music back to Motown, funk, classic R and B music etc, as my appreciation for the genres has expanded with age, and, lets be honest, the early 90’s sound was a fad. It has some classic staying power, but it’s all very “dated” and definitely not timeless, where as I would argue much of the black musical heritage that came before it is timeless. And an old skool old soul like me appreciates classic and timeless and tends to ignore and discredit the new and trendy. But not when I was 10 years old.
So as much as I would like to share my many thoughts on the artist’s intentions, motivations and execution of each of my many many favorite songs, I know nobody cares. So I will just link to YouTube videos of my favorite artists and songs from the period and genre. (Your welcome!)
But first I will hazard a brief comment on the elephant in the room, and in current American society......
For my entire lifetime Black Americans have dominated all the athletic and entertainment roles that I have loved, emulated and aspired to, and they have continued to grow in influence in other all other aspects of society from science to religion to politics. I grew up with Martin Lither King day and Black history Month as a fixture on the calendar.
I was the proverbial “White kid who wanted to be black.” This came mostly from playing basketball and then being attracted to the related hip hop influences that surrounded the game. My favorite shows were Family Matters and the Fresh Prince it Bel Air. What I was told time and time again from white people is that “black people hate you for wearing Fubu and listening to rap.” But the few black people I encountered in Eastern Washington didn’t seem to consider me and my Fubu pants and Snoop dog albums of any consequence. I am not sure that racial relations in this country have ever been good, but I’m not sure they are actually worse today than at any other point in my lifetime thus far, and I do take an optimistic view that our current racial climate is actually an indication of progress.
Progress comes in waves and attitudes can shift within those waves. Sentiment about the role of white people in the progress of the black communities towards equality can oscillate between “white people, you created this mess, now what are you going to do about it?” and “No, thanks white people, you’ve done quite enough damage already, just sit down and we will take care of it from here.”
In my arrogant and meaningless opinion what we are witnessing in this country is a shift in the attitudes of Black Americans toward white Americans from a strong later in the 90s to more of the former in the present moment. Thanks to the progress made by the Black American community in my lifetime (growth of black business, president Obama, lessons learned from Katrina etc) white people are now in a position where their active support of Black America and equality can make a big difference. This is a change and unsettling for people like me who have spent their lives just staying out of the way and trying not to make things worse.
If Rock and Roll music is about freedom and independence; fast women fast cars and the open road, or as Jack Black put it in School of Rock: “Sticking it to the Man,” then I have always defined rap music as being about Arrogance in the face of Oppression: A sentiment all Black Americans must ascribe to out of necessity, but at this time in history, a stance all Americans can take. (That was a hell of a run on sentence, 1 semicolon, 2 colons, 5 comas. 6 separate clauses. Good luck diagramming that Mr. Poole).
Ok, now it’s time to get down on it!