Strange Confessions: I have a story for every favorite genre of music or band that I like, of the origin for how I discovered them, except for one: rap.
I’m going to be one of those old men who drive their grandchildren crazy with stories of no great importance about the time I chose not to go waterskiing, or the dream I had in grade school about ruining my school uniform and the only back up clothes the nuns could provide was a washcloth, or how I loved playing with elaborate doll houses and that made me think for a time I could be an architect, or about the first time I ordered fajitas at Papacita’s in Houston, or how I had the longest birthday ever when our family flew to Hawaii.
Yup. I’ve led a pretty eventful life.
Then I’ll pull out my little, ancient ipod, plug it into the nursing home speaker system, and introduce them to all the songs from my yesteryear. All the other residents will either roll their eyes in exasperation or clap for the little bit of diversion in their day-to-day existence at the home, because Mr. Mayo has locked himself inside the control room with his grandchildren sharing with them what he thought was the best and most unappreciated music of his day. I’ll tell them about how I heard “The Statue Got Me High” on some radio station as I was driving myself to work one day, and that we didn’t have the internet back then to find out who it was, but I actually had to call the radio station to find out who it was. I’ll share with them my rebellious moments at Judge when we’d wander the halls blasting Judas Priest and Rainbow, and that “Long Live Rock ‘n Roll” was the first album I acquired through illegal means. I’ll speak of my old friend and how he owned a death metal record shop, and the day he suggested I might like some of this Apoptygma Berzerk.
“Hey Papa, tell us about how you discovered this band, Eric B & Rakim.” they’ll request of me.
“You know what kids,” I’ll say, “I have no dern-blasted idea how I got into Eric B & Rakim. There was a period of time from about 1988 to 1991 that I really got into rap. I had no friends who were into it, there was no rap stations in Utah at the time, I didn’t hang out in Hip-Hop clubs getting down to the rhythm. How in the world did I discover I liked rap? In fact, the only “rap” that was out at the time or was popular was those stupid Beastie Boys and that “Party” song made me gag.”
Hold up here for a second… I just got a flashback. College, Utah State, dorm room of… what’s his name… Mexican kid with thin mustache and dude who hung out at the fraternity who was from California, who told us about playing basketball and used the phrase, “Get that **** outa here nookie,” when blocking a poorly tossed shot. Also, that fat New York dude who told me to forget about finding a girl who was saving herself for marriage… Boy, that came flooding back in a hurry. I can still see him holding up that cassette of IceT’s “Rhyme Pays.” I went out and bought “Power” soon afterward. IceT was overtly violent, anti-authoritative and super-sexualized.
I wonder about my state of mind back then. I’ve written a couple of stories about being at Utah State and how depressed and needy and lazy I was. My life was ripe to be introduced to something that had so much definitive self-assurety overflowing, especially in terms of those guys I knew and the music they introduced me to. But it was later when I was gone away from all that, I bought Public Enemy’s “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” and “Fear of a Black Planet.” Those albums were angry and loud and racist. I was a loser white kid, in Salt Lake City, Utah, who just lost his grant at college and started working retail. How could I relate to all this?
And then I found Eric B & Rakim, my favorite. These guys were it man. The rhymes, the beat, the tempo, the lyrical mastery, and most of all: the lack of racism, sex, violence, and drugs. I, somehow, found this album, “Paid in Full” and found it fascinating. I had to have more. Then I got “Follow the Leader”: a Hip-Hop album masterpiece. I listened to this tape over and over again. I couldn’t get enough of it. For those few years, I was a rap fanatic, but not of the stuff that was coming out in the pop-culture. Those albums that had females in bikinis on the covers were not for me. And there was a lot coming out back then. Those few years were the age of transition for most music. The glam-metal scene was turning to grunge. The New Wave genre was fading and combining into other aspects of dance and rock. The hard metal music, much appreciated by me, was shooting off into differing categories or just plain getting old. Rap was gaining mainstream popularity, because those albums appealed to the suburbanite teen who wanted to buck the system and find a new place, a new rebellion, a new message. With rap, especially, you see the fruits of today what was planted in the past. When I hear a rap song now, all I think of is that horrible transition it went through back then, and I want no part of it. Eric B & Rakim were of a different, emerging sort that rapped about murdering and drugs, but from the standpoint of all that referring to… rapping. It has rhythm, it has hook, it is fun to listen to and to try to rap along to. Even years later I find myself rapping a line or two or three from twenty plus years or so ago. I still listened to Public Enemy, but less so then EB&R, and IceT? He was gone, I couldn’t stomach much of that for long.
One day, my best friend and I were in Raunch Records scoping out music. He was of the death metal scene, and I just went along with him because we were probably going out to eat or to the comic shop. Somehow or another I found out about a band called 3rd Base and bought it at Raunch. It was more than likely my only purchase there. That album signified the end of my rap phase of life. I don’t remember the music at all, I just remembered, I, was, done. The End.
But I do recall Eric B & Rakim fondly. In fact, I just purchased Follow the Leader off of itunes. I’m trying to get my kids to like it, but they are all, “Ugh, Can you turn this off?” I explain to them that if they meet someone in the future that is a true rap connoisseur/historian and they tell them they know of Eric B & Rakim, the person’s sock will be blown clean off… Whatever that means.