Happy Anniversary, Sugarhill
Have you ever went over a friends house to eat and the food just ain't no good? I mean the macaroni's soggy, the peas are mushed, and the chicken tastes like wood?
With those and about 3,000 (yes, 3,000) other words, The Sugarhill Gang created what is widely regarded as one of the most influential rap songs of all time. "Rapper's Delight" came out in September of 1979, and as you can see by the lines I quoted above, it was largely about indigestion.
The verse I sampled goes on to describe how even if you run out on your friend's mother trying to feed you "ugly food that stinks," your friendship will still prevail. That's a nice message.
The song also discusses DJing at a club, the size of Superman's genitals, and about 85 similes and metaphors for how much Wonder Mike, Big Big Hank, and Master Gee are all, apparently, great. Unlike anyone wearing pantyhose, right, Superman?
Since it's the 25th anniversary of the release of the bang bang boogie, I thought I'd use my column space to look at some of the rap we've seen since.
Five years after Rapper's Delight, Run DMC released their debut album, with the single "Rock Box." Rock Box is about how Run DMC is great and everyone else sucks. "I'm great and you suck" is a common theme in rap, though not often found in other genres of music. (It'd be a bit odd to hear a country western singer crooning about sucker MCs perpetratin a fraud.)
Flash forward to 1990, a year that spawned MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice. They had more lyrics about how they're great and other people suck than a Run DMC album and more rhinestones than a year's worth of Bedazzler commercials. It should be illegal to rap about how great you are if you've ever used a bedazzler.
Vanilla Ice's "Ice Ice Baby" is about being great, but also has a nice interlude about running away from both gunfire and hot chicks. And a very nice tribute to Miami, a city full of both gunfire and hot chicks. MC Hammer's "Can't Touch This" is also about how great he is, while encouraging people to dance so they can lose weight. Really. Maybe he used to be a big guy himself - that's why his pants never fit.
"Nuthin But a G Thang" came out two years later, and, while also detailing how great Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre were, also taught listeners how to deal with hookers and uppity women. This is when mainstream rap really started deviating from discussing indigestion.
15 years after Rapper's Delight, Tupac released "Thug Life," his third of twelve albums, seven of which were released after he died. "Pour Out a Little Liquor" was a song about pouring out part or all of a 40 to remember fallen homies. That's actually a tradition started by Jews, who take away a drop of wine for each of the ten plagues on Passover. When Sammy Davis Jr. died, the streets were covered in Old English and Manischewitz.
Right around that same time, The Notorious B.I.G. AKA Biggie Smalls AKA Chris Wallace AKA Fat Guy in a Little Coat released "Big Poppa" about how much he enjoys his various nicknames. They original chorus was supposed to be "I Hate It When They Call Me Christopher."
20 years after Rapper's Delight and about ten after Vanilla Ice, Eminem became the first good white rapper. The lyrics to "My Name Is" read a bit like a therapy session, discussing Eminem's parental issues, fear of commitment, and frustration with the school system. The song also talks about how Dr. Dre thinks you should buy the album.
In the meantime, Puff Daddy AKA P. Diddy AKA Sean Combs AKA New York County Inmate #348-KL-12 released a lot of songs that had already been released. While the beats were old, the lyrics were brand new, and generally consisted of P. Diddy telling us that he's great and everyone else sucks. Also, apparently, money is really annoying.
And that brings us to the current and terribly overplayed stuff. Like Nelly's "Hot in Herre," made much more stylish because it has an extra r in the title. The song, like Rapper's Delight did before it, oddly references Sasoon jeans (everything comes back in style). But Nelly also references having a stripper's pole in the basement and how no one can stop his juice. A far cry from a song about indigestion.
Here's to 25 years of hip hop the hippie to the hippie. I left out a good deal of Hip Hop history, including my four favorites: Tribe Called Quest, Outkast, Jurassic Five, and some kid I saw once free-styling on the F-Train.
And if you disagree with my taste, let me just remind you that I'm great and you suck. Steve Hofstetter is the author of Student Body Shots, which is available at www.SteveHofstetter.com. He can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.