Last month was African-American Music Appreciation Month, formerly Black Music Month. It was first declared so by Jimmy Carter in 1979, in case you were wondering. Now I thought about doing a post to celebrate, and was reminded each time I opened iTunes, but thought one cannot encapsulate all the great music contributed by our African-American population. I also thought about some of the most terrible music that was made by a select few African-American artists, a lot of rife with derogatory lyrics directed towards women. But I did want to, at some point, do a post which paid tribute to some of the great spoken word artists, those who married their poetic perspective with music, sound and rhythm. To me that is a wonderful coupling.
I’d like to preface my choices with a brief story which speaks to the mindset with which I curated the following collection. Several years back, when I was still a young silly thing (as opposed to be being an older silly thing :D), I was working and listening to some rap music. My friend and I were busy completing our necessary task when a coworker was passing by, he stopped and immediately went into this tirade about today’s music compared to the music of yesteryear. He went on to critique our generation and how compared to his generation we didn’t really have much of a purpose. I didn’t know how to respond and I sat there nonplussed. When he left we determined that he must have been having issues with his daughter and as a result channeled that anger towards us. However it left me thinking about my generation, and how at the turn of the century everything was so easy for us, we really had every modern convenience to take for granted. Which isn’t to say that racism is dead and gone, it’s unfortunate that I can’t say it really. But at least the general consensus is that racism is bad and there are laws that try to support that stance, small steps I know.
Today things are not perfect, and far from ideal for many. My friend and I were chatting the other day about the current state of affairs, especially for where we live and how something had to change. I thought of those changes that need to occur, how they may be the same type of changes which were spoken about in the 60’s and 70’s. So I’ve cultivated a brief list of what I think of as Urban Poetry, spoken word which tells of the environment.
Gil Scott Heron’s The Revolution Will Not Be Televised is a classic, I’ve also posted an interview with the poet where he speaks about this piece. To me this is the birth of rap. A friend once tried to convince me that Blondie’s Rapture was the birth of rap, he failed completely and utterly.
And while Marin Gaye was a singer, what he sang about had great potency.
I’m hoping that someone remembers this song, check out the ghetto blaster.
While this isn’t a song of great substance, but it’s a classic and thought to include it.
Common carries on the legacy of spoken word, chronicling the history of hip-hop here as well as echoing my friends sentiment.
Black Star’s collaboration of Mos Def, Talib Kweli and Common reminds me of great jazz artist when they used to group together to make magic happen.
Mos Def, he funny, and right…now who wouldn’t want to grab a drink and chill with Prez Mos Def?
I love Mos Def, but sometimes his albums are so long, I kind of think that my post is getting like that. Yikes…almost done…
Let’s wrap this up with old and new. Common went to The Last Poets to have them contribute to the single “The Corner”. Oh this reminds me of New York, most folk would spend time sitting on the stoop of their home watching folks go by, people would come up and chat.
And yes kkkkkaaarrraaazzeeee Kanye is in there too.
I know I began this post saying it would be brief and it turned into this. But in comparison to all that is available, this is brief. And I know I missed quite a few. Feel free to let me know who you’d add.