The 1980's signaled the end of an era in which
funky music was at its high peak of popularity.
Bell bottom pants, gold chains, and sequined jumpsuits
were replaced by Member's-Only jackets, spike-covered leather
bracelets, and parachute pants. The drug of choice became
cocaine, instead of cherry wine. The advent of synthesizers
brought us electrified, New Wave music.
Indeed, Funk was a troubled scene in the 80's. The entire
musical spectrum could be summed up in one word... SIMPLE.
Up and coming digital technology was to blame. Horns,
Hammond organs, and even drums were replaced by synthesizers.
Yet the essence of funk was highly dependant upon the very
variations which simply cannot be recreated by a keyboard. A
skilled horn player can play a single note 200 times in a row,
and by controlling the pitch, vibrato, dynamics, and many other
subtle elements, it will NEVER sound the same twice. Conversely,
no matter how many times you plunk that same note on a keyboard,
it will ALWAYS sound exactly the same.
As such, many funksters were subject to, as Dr. Funkenstein
puts it, "the Pimping of the Pleasure Principle", forced to
compromise their sounds in a funk-unfriendly environment
in order to make it.
Some say this was darkly bad. Others really get into the
new sounds that were spawned. The point is that funk didn't disappear;
it simply trickled down into new forms.
I'm not quite certain how rap got started, though I believe
it evolved from street corners in urban areas across the
United States. I recall watching the boys rap in my
Junior High locker room. They'd stand in a large circle,
one guy in the center rapping while another guy beatboxed.
Just as the rapper was finished, he'd point to someone
else in the circle who would jump in rapping with a smooth,
This interplay of rapper, beatbox, and a DJ who would spin
beats and scratch made its way into an industry. Rap has been
criticized by those not in-the-know as being a
talent-less avocation. Not true. Rap is very poetic and syncopated,
a kind of spoken-word mixed with funk, performed best by those with
quick, slippery lips and a keen mental thesaurus.
THE BEAT BOX: Now virtually extinct, it was popularized by
The Human Beat Box of "The Fat Boys", Doug E. Fresh of "The
Get Fresh Crew", and to a lesser extent, Ready Rock C of "DJ
Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince". A good beatbox would spit,
gasp, pant, and pluck his cheeks to create a seamless beat...
a beat that often will rival any drum machine.
SCRATCHING: Scratching is still heard in modern hiphop, but not
nearly to the extent that it was heard in rap. Scratching
in old-school rap is the equivalent to the guitar in your basic
rock song. A number of raps have no rapping in them whatsoever...
only one long scratching solo. A good DJ would spin the record
back and forth, move the fader up and down, crossfade from one
record to the next at riduculous speeds. Several prominent
DJ's include Jam Master Jay from "Run DMC", Cut Creator from
"LL Cool J", and DJ Jazzy Jeff.
SAMPLING: Sampling is still a key feature in hiphop, and is the
most direct connection of rap to funk. Though raps such as
MC Hammer's "You Can't Touch This" consist of a loop that persists
throughout the entire song (in this case, "SuperFreak" by Rick James),
many old-schoolers used a variety of short samples punched in here
and there. LL Cool J uses James Brown on "BAD". Run DMC uses
Trouble Funk on "Raisin'Hell". The Beastie Boys throw in all
sorts of samples, including the Meters, Tower of Power, and Barry
Although rap became increasingly more political into the 90's,
80's rap was generally whimsical...silly and adolescent, covering themes
such as escapades with freaks and skeezers, fashion, and of course,
the assertion of being THE BADDEST RAPPER AROUND.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
NO LINKS HERE YET... Please send me
links to Web pages dealing with 80's rap.
ESSENTIAL OLD SCHOOL RAP
LL Cool J
DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince
Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five
Doug E. Fresh
Go Go is non-stop, interactive funk straight from the original
Chocolate City... Washington, D.C. It came along in the late seventies
with Chuck Brown, the "Godfather of Go Go" (although Chuck Brown and
the Soul Searchers have been around since the late 60's) and saw its
heyday in the mid 80's. Go Go features a high level of percussion, breaks
and bridges, spontaneous chants from the audience, and a montage of
lyrics and chants headed up by a quick-lipped MC, which by the grace
of FUNK flows together seamlessly into a three hour, non-stop jam.
The improvisational interplay of audience and band does not lend
itself well to studio recording; the best recordings are found on
live releases and bootlegs.