Next time you search the Cornell Library catalogue, don’t be surprised if you stumble across names like “Funky Four Plus One” or “The Treacherous Three” alongside “functional analysis” and “trials (treason).” The 8021 range is now home to Kroch Library’s newly acquired Born in the Bronx hip-hop archive, which was inaugurated last weekend with a groundbreaking conference on the origins of hip-hop culture.
Johan Kugelberg, a Swedish music journalist who formerly collected punk memorabilia, began putting the archive together in 1998, when he was introduced to hip-hop by a godson.
“He started bringing over records, and they kicked my ass,” he remembers. “I told my wife, ‘this is what I’m going to be doing for the next 10 years.’”
Remember Johnny Kemp? Hi-Five? Father MC? Basic Black?
No? Well, here’s your chance to catch up.
These artists, along with others like the better-known Keith Sweat, Guy and Bobby Brown, performed a style of R&B called “New Jack Swing.” Born at right about the same time as most of us were (in the late ’80s), New Jack Swing represented the moment that the hip-hop generation claimed R&B as its own.
This long-overdue compilation finally gives this music the credit it deserves. Collected here are consummate examples of the genre like Guy’s “Groove Me,” Weckx-N-Effect’s “Rump Shaker,” featuring a young Pharrell, Color Me Badd’s glorious “I Wanna Sex You Up” and plenty of forgotten classics.
[img_assist|nid=32525|title=Adam Vana ’09|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]Adam Vana ’09 doesn’t mind if you don’t call him a musician. “I think DJs who insist on that are just insecure,” he says. One of Cornell’s most prolific practitioners of electronic music, Vana prefers to use the word “prosumer,” a concept that fuses the roles of producer and consumer.
Vana, along with fellow Cornell DJ Dan Bailey ’08, has a residency at Le Poisson Rouge on Saturday nights at Collegetown’s City Style Salon and Sake Bar. An equally talented DJ with a complementary style, Bailey plays alternate weekends. Since its introduction this summer, Poisson Rouge has become one of Collegetown’s few dependable non-top 40 club ventures.
One of the strangest fads in recent music has been the “disco revival,” epitomized by Hercules and Love Affair’s heavily hyped debut. This “revival” is “strange” and a “fad” because disco’s influence is neither; the racist, homophobic legacy of the reactionary “disco sucks” backlash of the ’80s overshadows the truth about this music.
Drum machines? Synthesizers? Rap? DJs as artists? All these now-standard music modalities owe their ubiquity to disco. Unfortunately, it is no surprise that the current revival emphasizes a gimmicky Italian subgenre over the music that sprung from mostly gay African American communities in the mid ’70s.
In 1983, hip-hop label Tommy Boy sponsored a remix contest, based on an unsuccessful track called “Play That Beat Mr. D.J.” by the now forgotten G.L.O.B.E. & Whiz Kid. Winners of $100 and a t-shirt were Double Dee and Steinski, not up-and-coming DJs, but low-level advertising workers in their 30s, patient enough to edit sound the old-fashioned way — by cutting up tape.
Lupe Fiasco Is Just One Great MC – And He's Honest, Too
Twenty-four year old Chicagoan Lupe Fiasco’s emergence this year was by many measures an anomaly in hip-hop, or pop music generally. A rapper who skateboards rather than drives a Benz, who is more likely to reference Akira than Scarface, who doesn’t drink, who wears glasses, and who has said in interviews that he prefers jazz to hip-hop, Fiasco is defiantly eccentric—a nerd, really. He is out of place in today’s pop landscape as he might have been in a high school boys’ locker room, surrounded on the CD racks by ostentatious gangstas and brooding, tough white guys.
“All the fresh styles always start off as a good little hood thing … look at blues, rock, jazz, rap. I’m not even talkin’ about music—everything else too. By the time it reach Hollywood, it’s over. But it’s cool—we just keep it goin’ and make new shit.”
No one could blame our generation if we said we were sick and tired of Bob Dylan. In 1997, while we American kids first became preoccupied with those postmodern feminist ironists from the U.K., the Spice Girls (no joke) — the old man put out Time Out of Mind, his first honest-to-goodness album since he ended his convoluted and abortive religious journey, converting to Christianity then into Judaism then out of all of it (the religion was not good for his music, say most).
Game theory is the new fashion among economists and political scientists; a logical/mathematical practice that reduces everything people do to, as the name implies, a game. Extremists of this theory describe us all as players, operating on a set of rules and goals, but we really become more like game pieces, manipulated by a metaphysical structure that there is no escape from. One is reminded of the hero of Darren Aronofsky’s Pi, who destroys himself in his obsession to reduce all of existence to numbers. It is a bleak outlook that is all the more disturbing for its correspondence with contemporary politics, with cynical leaders manipulating people like pawns in the sick game that is the global economy.