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Various Artists: Big Apple Rappin': The Early Days of Hip-Hop Culture in New York City 1979-1982

Various Artists: Big Apple Rappin': The Early Days of Hip-Hop Culture in New York City 1979-1982

Label:Soul Jazz
Release Date:2006
Genre:Hip Hop/Rap

By Michaelangelo Matos | Posted 4/5/2006

The phrase “old school” was getting a little long in the tooth, so thank goodness someone codified the first few years of recorded hip-hop as the “disco-rap” era. As the term indicates, the earliest rap records now sound less groundbreaking than transitional, a continuation of the endless grooves of disco singles. To modern ears accustomed to even lousy rappers being able to stay on beat, plenty of pre-Run-D.M.C. hip-hop just sounds flimsy—endless chorus-less tracks, usually at a minimum of six minutes. The era’s greatest single, the Funky 4+1’s “That’s the Joint,” clocks in at 9:23.

“Joint” isn’t on this new double-CD of vintage raps—its quicksilver nimbleness would only upset the record’s gleefully amateurish balance. Despite compiler Johan Kugelberg’s liner notes railing against “novelty records” released in the wake of the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight,” that’s what most of these 16 cuts are, and it’s hardly a problem. In a post-Rakim world, no one dares to be as matter-of-factly sloppy as Jamaica Girls’ “Rock the Beat” or Xanadu’s “Sure Shot,” but the trade-off is that few records of any sort have the same effusive, nearly drunken charm.

That goes more or less equally for everything else here, including the collection’s most atypical (and best) record, Brother D and the Collective Effort’s “How We Gonna Make the Black Nation Rise.” Over a replayed version of Cheryl Lynn’s “Got to Be Real,” the song calls for revolution in the bluntest terms imaginable: “Your party may end one day soon/ When they’re rounding niggers up in the afternoon . . . Prepare now or get high and wait/ Because there ain’t no party in a police state.” But even here the feeling is so loose you’d never guess a police state was around the corner.

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