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Miscellaneous - Roots of Rap

  by Mark Rowland

published: 24 / 8 / 2007

Miscellaneous - Roots of Rap
Label: Select Label
Format: N/A


In the latest in our 'Re : View' section, in which writers look back at albums from the past, Mark Rowland writes about 'The Roots of Rap, a flawed, but funky 2005 compilation of early rap hits

This may be a slightly unusual Re:view – most people choose classic albums by a specific band, and usually they choose a record which only has good songs on it. Budget compilation ‘The Roots of Rap’ does not only have good songs on it. Some of them are a bit rubbish, in fact. Quite a few tracks are slightly over-long, and there’s a few too many tracks by the same groups. Also, I’m aware there are loads of compilations called ‘The Roots of Rap’, and I’ve probably not got the best one. Despite this, I love this record. In these days of super-rich gangsta rappers and super polished production, the original hip hop records can seem very out of date, almost comical, but there’s a lot of good to be said about them. Hip hop was originally meant to be fun – it was all about bringing people together, a way of escaping gang violence and the harsh realities of everyday life in New York. Then it was more about the DJ, the rapper only becoming the focus as hip hop made the move from the dance floor onto record. ‘The Roots of Rap’ features obvious early rap tracks such as Sugarhill Gang’s ‘Rappers’ Delight’ and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s ‘White Lines (Don’t Do It)’, ‘The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel’ and ‘The Message’ (which actually had nothing to do with Grandmaster Flash whatsoever, not that it stopped him collecting royalties for the track). It’s the less widely known tracks that really make an impact, however. ‘Hey Fellas’ by Trouble Funk is brilliant call-and-response funk, both as cool and as funny as the best 70's funk. The Treacherous Three’s ‘Whip It’ is vintage Run DMC before they even existed; the sound and structure of the song was obviously a considerable influence on Run DMC, who took the sound and made it work on an album – before them, hip hop was all about the single. Spoonie Gee and the Sequence’s ‘Monster Jam’ was sampled several times by other hip hop artists, and is used at least twice on other tracks on the album (including The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash…’). One of the best tracks on the record is The Funky Four Plus One’s ‘That’s the Joint’ – a great, funky backing with an energetic, effortless rap, switching between group chants and individuals taking turns. The second disc does let the side down a bit, with a bit too much Sugarhill and Trouble Funk to really represent all the music coming out of that scene at the time. It does have its moments though, including Lady B’s ‘To the Beat Y’all’ and The Furious Five’s aforementioned ‘Message’. It may not be perfect, but it sure is funky.

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