Scott La Rock
By: Tom Nealon | Categories: HiLo Heroes, Hip Hop, Music

Before there was an East Coast and West Coast feud, before NY and LA and long before Biggie and Tupac, there was the Bronx and Queens. Engineered deftly by Scott La Rock (1962-1987), DJ and founder of Boogie Down Productions, the rivalry — an explosive mixture of genuine dislike and good-for-business diss — ruined MC Shan, made KRS-One, and indirectly killed La Rock. Alternately hailed and vilified as the creator of “gangster rap,” what La Rock really created was a new way of depicting the streets: not criminal, but criminal-minded; chronicling, yet not committing — not one foot in each world, but both feet in something else. The feud with Queensbridge worked out great but circuitously led to a non-hip-hop-related beef with a gang in the South Bronx that got La Rock killed. (The gang didn’t appreciate the intricacies of the real and the simulated with which La Rock was working.) La Rock’s death made KRS-One into an activist, giving BDP a legitimate claim to starting gangster rap and underground hip-hop. But it’s La Rock’s beats, which have never lost their immediacy, that live on: the skeletal entropy of “Poetry,” the AC/DC samples on “Dope Beats.” Listen to “Remix for P is Free” and you can actually hear Blackstar being born. KRS-One kept La Rock on the credits for the subsequent BDP albums, and his echoes really are there, scratching from the void.

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HIP HOP ON HILOBROW: HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM series (25 posts about old-school hip hop) | DJ Kool Herc as HiLo Hero | Gil Scott-Heron as HiLo Hero | Slick Rick as HiLo Hero | Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels as HiLo Hero | Afrika Bambaataa as HiLo Hero | Biz Markie as HiLo Hero | Eric B as HiLo Hero (forthcoming in November) | U-God as HiLo Hero | Slug as HiLo Hero | Adam Yauch as HiLo Hero | Ghostface Killah as HiLo Hero | DJ Run as HiLo Hero | Flavor Flav as HiLo Hero | Scott La Rock as HiLo Hero | GZA as HiLo Hero | Schoolly D as HiLo Hero | Aesop Rock as HiLo Hero | Notorious B.I.G. as HiLo Hero | Melle Mel as HiLo Hero | Rick Rubin as HiLo Hero | Rakim as HiLo Hero | Ol’ Dirty Bastard as HiLo Hero | Madlib as HiLo Hero | Talib Kweli as HiLo Hero | Danger Mouse as HiLo Hero | Kool Moe Dee as HiLo Hero | Chuck D as HiLo Hero | Dizzee Rascal as HiLo Hero | RZA as HiLo Hero | Cee-Lo Green as HiLo Hero | Best Ever Clean Hip Hop

On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Inez Haynes Irwin, Dr. Seuss, Scott La Rock.

READ MORE about members of the Original Generation X (1954-63).

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Tom Nealon runs the online rare bookshop Pazzo Books specializing in early printed books, cookery and literature. In his spare time he works on barbecue techniques in the test pit in his backyard. He can be found at pazzobooks.com and @pazzobooks on twitter.