And You Don’t Stop (Part I)

Even if you don’t like rap and hip-hop, give this post a chance. I know Jose has quoted Jay-Z and met Rakim, Dan‘s spotlighted a homemade Jay-Z poster, and Taylor loves Eminem and Ice Cube; I’m counting on you (& similar-minded folks) to help me out here and in the next post. The rest of you might learn something new.

I was introduced to rap the same way as many other white suburban kids my age – when Run-DMC and Aerosmith collaborated on a cover of “Walk This Way.” I was 9 and in fourth grade, and I ate it right up – that was my gateway into hip-hop.

By the time I hit high school I was discovering the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Clapton, Hendrix, and focusing on rock music, but in that five-year span from 1986 to 1991 I’d absorbed a lot of rap (mostly via Yo! MTV Raps)*, including Eric B & Rakim, Kool Moe Dee, KRS-One and Boogie Down Productions, EPMD, Digital Underground (featuring a pre-solo success Tupac), Ice-T, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, N.W.A., and my personal favorite, Public Enemy.

My inability to musically multi-task as a teenager shut me off to a lot of great stuff of all genres, I’m sure, and I regret that. Even with my blinders on, though, I managed to pick up on Cube, Snoop, Dre, Del tha Funkee Homosapien, the evolution of the Beastie Boys, and later, Biggie, Busta Rhymes, and Wu-Tang Clan.

These days, in addition to the classics, I’m listening to Madvillain and Little Brother, both of whom I discovered through eMusic.

There’s a reason I’m posting this, to be revealed in Part II. For now, I’m just trying to stir the pot a bit. If you’re with me, drop me a comment – who are your picks for top rap artists?  Who’s out there right now that’s good that isn’t getting radio play?

*I’m showing my age – I’m so old I remember when MTV showed music videos. 🙁


  • I’m so old I remember when MTV first started..with Video Killed the Radio Star. BTW…my 12 year old has that song downloaded on her IPod..go figure. So, I’m so old I really don’t like rap. I remember the Aerosmith song as an original and didn’t like the remix. Hopefully your next post will help me out more.

  • You linked the right guy:

    Joell Ortiz, Talib Kweli come to mind right off the top of my head. Jean Grae and Strong Arm Steady work for me, too. My thoughts also turn to Saigon, Immortal Technique, and Joe Budden. I do have an East Coast bias, though, because as far as “underground” that’s all I hear.

  • Not an unknown, but a superlative rap– Runaway Love (Ludacris/Mary J. Blige). Masterpiece of form, seriously.

  • Well, i’m so old i don’t even know a single rap artist hot at the moment, so there! And I think i’m younger than you……..ok, i’m not old, just incredibly DORKY. Currently I’m required to listen to KidSongs Very Silly Songs every afternoon, and in the car mandatory listening is the soundtrack from the old school Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer movie. Notice I don’t say those are MY choices, but all I hear right now! Can’t wait to see where this is going……….

  • Dunno where you’re going with this, Damian, but if you haven’t already read it, Tom Woodward’s Rap For English is the best post of its type I’ve read. Jose and I drop into the comments.

    PS. SOULJA BOY!!1!

  • @lisa & @kate: Age is immaterial – music is music. I listen to the kiddie music for my kiddie, but I make sure we split time. For every 10-20 minutes of Laurie Berkner we listen to, we then get an equal amount of Marvin Gaye or Beatles or what have you. Gotta start ’em young!

    @jose & @dina: Thanks for the suggestions; I will check all of them out. Talib in particular; I’ve heard a lot about him, but he slipped my mind in the context of this post.

    @dan: Thanks for the link – I hadn’t seen Tom’s post. This actually isn’t moving in a classroom direction, believe it or not, but some of the points that you and @jose brought up in that thread are on my mind here.

    Would you believe I’ve never heard “Soulja Boy”? Am I missing out on some major cultural milestone here or what?

  • Seconding Talib Kweli over here. And even though his last couple of outings haven’t been all that interesting, Gift of Gab (from Blackalicious) is totally worth checking out. Jay-Z, of course, but I also like The Streets (especially A Grand Don’t Come for Free)–worth checking out if you can handle English (like as in British) rap.

  • Rap corrupts the soul, dirties the extremities, and feels oh-so-good between the sheets.

    Wait – can I say that?

    Time to get my boom game on.

  • @jeff: I’ll definitely be checking out Talib Kweli – I think he & Blackalicious have some stuff on eMusic, and I have some downloads I have to use by Sunday. Ditto for The Streets.

    Keep your pimp hand strong, @ken.

  • Damian,

    You KNOW I’ll be following this conversation!

    I’m so old I remember when HBO showed “music videos”.

    Rock on.


  • oh, forgot to say that my 6th graders are in love with soulja boy???

  • I dub this the coolest teacher blogger conversation ever. Hands down. If I knew how to put the badges people have given me in the sidebar of my blog, I’d make a new award! It would have a picture of the blues brothers on it.

    I think I’m a lot like you, Damian, I heard rap — “absorbed” is a good word for it — in high school, but my memories were of Digital Underground, Run DMC, and LL Cool J (and Vanilla Ice) in addition to the obligatory Aerosmith/Run DMC thing. I remember “My Posse’s On Broadway” and “Baby Got Back,” and “The Humpty Dance.”

    Then my attention was turned to classic rock, and I was lost in The Floyd for a WHILE. (Among some others, too. But Floyd was the shit.)

    Then I re-discovered rap through Ice Cube’s “Predator” album. I found Eminem and took a class called “Life of Tupac Shakur”

    I have no idea what’s going on now, except for the random song here & there that I get from kids.

    @ken That decription… woah!

    @kolson You rock. You’re so funny!

    The first video I remember on MTV is “Oh Mickey, You’re So Fine” by Tony Basil, about 30 seconds before my dad called and had MTV blocked by the cable company. The next MTV I saw was “Beavis and Butthead.”

  • @diane: This is me using my PLN to provide you with some examples (to be forthcoming in Part II)! Glad you stopped by.

    @taylor: I haven’t thought of “Posse on Broadway” in YEARS. I damn near wore out my copy of “Swass” in 6th grade; when Mix-a-Lot got big a few years later, I was able to say I knew him when! I’m not much interested in Top 40 hip-hop, which is why I’m looking for suggestions here (this was confirmed when some of my sophomores played “Do Your Chain Hang Low” for me earlier this year – ugh…). Looking forward to doing a ton of “research” this weekend.

    Good news: Talib Kweli, Gift of Gab, Blackalicious, & Immortal Technique all available @ eMusic. Any specific album suggestions?

  • Talib’s Quality and Eardrum, and Reflection Eternal, along with Blackstar’s self-titled album, Immortal Tech? ANYTHING! Err, Common’s Like Water for Chocolate or One Day It’ll All Make Sense, Ghostface Killah’s Supreme Clientele and Fishscale, Public Enemy’s It Takes a Million To Hold Us Back … damn, I’m not going to stop. By the way, as others have said, that Bionic Learning discussion was good. I think I linked it in 2 of my posts about rap, so feel free to check those out as well.

  • Nice one, @jose; thanks. I was able to get Talib Kweli’s Right About Now and Jean Grae’s Bootleg of the Bootleg EP, but haven’t had a chance to listen yet. Will check out Common, IT, et al. after my downloads refresh tomorrow.

    Good call on Nation of Millions, but I’ve owned that album in one form or another since 5th or 6th grade, when I dubbed it off a friend’s dubbed copy! (since upgraded to CD)

  • Be careful now. Right About Now is deceptive. Some good songs on there, but it isn’t as good as the ones I mentioned as a whole. I hate to admit that, too, because he’s one of the first rappers I’ve ever met and one of the most humble too.

  • Yes! It’s about time geeky white boys started expressing their enjoyment of socially-conscious hip hop. Personally, I’m a big fan of Mos Def (though his more recent offerings haven’t been stellar). I enjoy Talib Kweli, Common (who seems to be getting more main stream notice), Jurassic 5, Ozomatli (they have some rap), Pharoahe Monch, Boogie Down Productions, and even some Scarface.

    As far as albums, I think Mos Def & Talib Kweli are BlackStar is probably my favorite of all time.

  • Interesting discussion Damien, I am a B-boy. Have always loved the Beastie Boys. Their rhymes and beats always get the body moving.

    Did you leave out MC Hammer on purpose? c’mon he even had a Cartoon. How about Fresh Prince & DJ Jazzy Jeff?

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