Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Proud To Be Black...The "Movement"

Remember when Hip-Hop was proud to be something? Proud to be strong men? Proud to be beautiful women? Proud to be black? Now I like a fat, brown or beige gelatenous ass bouncing ass much as the next guy but when did it just become that?

Back in 1990 when my flat top was bangin, we were all concerned about dancing and "mackin' honeys" (not "ho's" because they weren't really ho's till Snoop told us he didn't love them in '93). With your Kane's, Heavy D's, Kwame's and Kid n' Play, the good times were in full effect but we wanted more. PE reminded us It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back and it resonated through the "community" but when Brother J, Professor X The Overseer, Sugar Shaft and to a lesser extent Isis came along and said "You're black and you came here from Africa, did you know that?", it set off a short lived "afro-centric" movement.

When To the East, Blackwards dropped, it was a breath of fresh air to rap. We always had "message rhymes" from Just-Ice, KRS and PE to balance out the comedy, lover men and thugs but this was "African History 101 Rap". Dressed in tribal garb and leather medallions (which some genius made a mint from off me and my friends alone by mass producing them), they inspired a trend ridden by Tragedy, Poor Righteous Teachers, Lakim Shabazz and others. With in-house production on the entire album, the Clan relayed their message over familiar, yet hard hitting samples (Verbal Milk, Grand Verbalizer What Time Is It?, Heed The Word Of The Brother) and outright jacks (In The Ways Of The Scales which is basically Tom Tom Club's Genius of Love and M's Pop Muzik). While the music wasn't necessarily ground breaking or innovative, it was jarring and dealt with timely subject matter and as a teen, it did instill some pride in me.

Two years later they returned with Xodus with a little more fanfare but still less than stellar results (both albums peaked at #11 on the Billboard R&B charts but Xodus surpassed "East" on the Billboard Top 200 by peaking at #31 to its predecessors #97). The group disbanded after that with J forming Dark Sun Riders and X seriously taking up community activism. Sadly Professor X died in 2006 from complications from meningitis. A new Clan album was released in '07 with nary a blip on the radar.

In these days of jingle singing, buck dancing Youtube rappers (yes, YOU Soulja Boy), I often get nostalgic for the "afro-centric 90's. The listening public wouldn't get behind something like that today. We can slap an ass, "body" an adversary, make up a dance that sets the race back 100 years, we can even promote being addled to the point of being near death but...not too many people proud to be black anymore.

Oh well... "Whooo, Crank dat Soulja Boy! *vomiting*

Take some time to listen to a great album:

X Clan-To The East, Blackwards