Herc Your Enthusiasm (2)

By: Dallas Penn
July 30, 2013

rappers delight

Second in a series of posts analyzing and celebrating old-school hip hop.

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SUGAR HILL GANG | “RAPPER’S DELIGHT” | 1979

I got bodyguards, I got two big cars that definitely ain’t the wack
I got a Lincoln Continental and a sunroof Cadillac
So after school, I take a dip in the pool which is really on the wall
I got a color TV so I can see the Knicks play basketball

If you grew up in New York in the 1970s, the first rap song you heard on the radio was probably “Rapper’s Delight.” The extended version of the song was exactly like what you would hear during the summer at a park jam, where the electricity went in and out and the police rolled thru to shut everything down. But this was the realness. Radio was the legitimacy to the dream is what we squarely believed. The dream was to escape from poverty. Rap was aspirational music to the fullest. Sure. gospel is also aspirational music but who the hell wants to die just to get to heaven. Rap was going to heaven right here on Earth.

Big Bank Hank’s verse is incredibly, ridiculously aspirational. He has two cars. The Lincoln Continental was good enough by itself. No one would front on you if you drove that down the block, but then he also has a Caddy with a sunroof. Hank is balling and shot calling. And then after school he takes a dip in the pool. I love that he is still going to school with all of his wealth. This man still has priorities. And how would you know how to keep your pool chlorinated without an education. The fact that pool is on the wall defying the laws of gravity doesn’t bother me too much. Maybe Hank hasn’t taken a physics class yet?

But then the ultimate in luxury is having a color TV. This line rings out louder to me than any other. I enjoyed the black and white television in my parent’s house. It had a decent picture. The antennae had broken off so my dad stuck a coat hanger in its place and the dial to change channels had broken too so I had to use a vicegrip, but it worked fine otherwise. Rap music meant I didn’t have to be poor any longer. My poetic prowess could earn me a swimming pool on my wall.

“Rapper’s Delight” is leagues away from the gangsterism which would come to dominate the themes of rap songs a decade later when the audience for rap wanted to be able to go on a ghetto safari from the safety of their Sony Walkmen. When rap music was directed at the earholes of those of us in the ghetto we didn’t need to hear how rough and tumble things were in the streets because we lived there everyday. We wanted to hear the songs about swimming pools on ceilings and color televisions in every room. We wanted music with aspirations of something better in life.

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12″ VERSION

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2013: HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM (old-school hip hop tracks): Luc Sante on “Spoonin’ Rap” | Dallas Penn on “Rapper’s Delight” | Werner Von Wallenrod on “Rappin’ Blow” | DJ Frane on “The Incredible Fulk” | Paul Devlin on “The Adventures of Super Rhyme” | Phil Dyess-Nugent on “That’s the Joint” | Adam McGovern on “Freedom” | David Abrams on “Rapture” | Andrew Hultkrans on “The New Rap Language” | Tim Carmody on “Jazzy Sensation (Bronx Version)” | Drew Huge on “Can I Get a Soul Clap” | Oliver Wang on “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel” | Douglas Wolk on “Making Cash Money” | Adrienne Crew on “The Message” | Dart Adams on “Pak Jam” | Alex Belth on “Buffalo Gals” | Joshua Glenn on “Ya Mama” | Phil Freeman on “No Sell Out” | Nate Patrin on “Death Mix Live, Pt. 2” | Brian Berger on “White Lines (Don’t Do It)” | Cosmo Baker on “Here We Go (Live at the Funhouse)” | Colleen Werthmann on “Rockit” | Roy Christopher on “The Coldest Rap” | Dan Reines on “The Dream Team is in the House” | Franklin Bruno on The Lockers.

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

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2014: KERN YOUR ENTHUSIASM (typefaces): Matthew Battles on ALDINE ITALIC | Adam McGovern on DATA 70 | Sherri Wasserman on TORONTO SUBWAY | Sarah Werner on JOHNSTON’S “HAMLET” | Douglas Wolk on TODD KLONE | Mark Kingwell on GILL SANS | Joe Alterio on AKZIDENZ-GROTESK | Suzanne Fischer on CALIFORNIA BRAILLE | Gary Panter on SHE’S NOT THERE | Deb Chachra on FAUX DEVANAGARI | Peggy Nelson on FUTURA | Tom Nealon on JENSON’S ROMAN | Rob Walker on SAVANNAH SIGN | Tony Leone on TRADE GOTHIC BOLD CONDENSED NO. 20 | Chika Azuma on KUMON WORKSHEET | Chris Spurgeon on ELECTRONIC DISPLAY | Amanda French on DIPLOMA REGULAR | Steve Price on SCREAM QUEEN | Alissa Walker on CHICAGO | Helene Silverman on CHINESE SHIPPING BOX | Tim Spencer on SHATTER | Jessamyn West on COMIC SANS | Whitney Trettien on WILKINS’S REAL CHARACTER | Cintra Wilson on HERMÈS vs. HOTDOG | Jacob Covey on GOTHAM.

2012: KIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (Captain Kirk scenes): Dafna Pleban: Justice or vengeance? | Mark Kingwell : Kirk teaches his drill thrall to kiss | Nick Abadzis: “KHAAAAAN!” | Stephen Burt: “No kill I” | Greg Rowland: Kirk browbeats NOMAD | Zack Handlen: Kirk’s eulogy for Spock| Peggy Nelson: The joke is on Kirk | Kevin Church: Kirk vs. Decker | Enrique Ramirez: Good Kirk vs. Evil Kirk | Adam McGovern: Captain Camelot | Flourish Klink: Koon-ut-kal-if-fee | David Smay: Federation exceptionalism | Amanda LaPergola: Wizard fight | Steve Schneider: A million things you can’t have | Joshua Glenn: Debating in a vacuum | Kelly Jean Fitzsimmons: Klingon diplomacy | Trav S.D.: “We… the PEOPLE” | Matthew Battles: Brinksmanship on the brink | Annie Nocenti: Captain Smirk | Ian W. Hill: Sisko meets Kirk | Gabby Nicasio: Noninterference policy | Peter Bebergal: Kirk’s countdown | Matt Glaser: Kirk’s ghost | Joe Alterio: Watching Kirk vs. Gorn | Annalee Newitz: How Spock wins

2011: KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (Jack Kirby panels): Douglas Rushkoff on THE ETERNALS | John Hilgart on BLACK MAGIC | Gary Panter on DEMON | Dan Nadel on OMAC | Deb Chachra on CAPTAIN AMERICA | Mark Frauenfelder on KAMANDI | Jason Grote on MACHINE MAN | Ben Greenman on SANDMAN | Annie Nocenti on THE X-MEN | Greg Rowland on THE FANTASTIC FOUR | Joshua Glenn on TALES TO ASTONISH | Lynn Peril on YOUNG LOVE | Jim Shepard on STRANGE TALES | David Smay on MISTER MIRACLE | Joe Alterio on BLACK PANTHER | Sean Howe on THOR | Mark Newgarden on JIMMY OLSEN | Dean Haspiel on DEVIL DINOSAUR | Matthew Specktor on THE AVENGERS | Terese Svoboda on TALES OF SUSPENSE | Matthew Wells on THE NEW GODS | Toni Schlesinger on REAL CLUE | Josh Kramer on THE FOREVER PEOPLE | Glen David Gold on JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY | Douglas Wolk on 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY | MORE EXEGETICAL COMMENTARIES: Joshua Glenn on Kirby’s Radium Age Sci-Fi Influences | Chris Lanier on Kirby vs. Kubrick | Scott Edelman recalls when the FF walked among us | Adam McGovern is haunted by a panel from THE NEW GODS | Matt Seneca studies the sensuality of Kirby’s women | Btoom! Rob Steibel settles the Jack Kirby vs. Stan Lee question | Galactus Lives! Rob Steibel analyzes a single Kirby panel in six posts | Danny Fingeroth figgers out The Thing | Adam McGovern on four decades (so far) of Kirby’s “Fourth World” mythos | Jack Kirby: Anti-Fascist Pipe Smoker

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What do you think?

  1. Two posts in, the heart of what sections off a golden age — and the important reminder that rap only became “commercial” (rather than economically just) after it was primarily for the consumption of those outside its community — the distorted reception of people listening on the other side of a mountaintop they (in my case, we) have no need to look over.

  2. Excellent look at “Raper’s Delight” and great to see Dallas Penn making moves in a new venue… Makes me want to throw on my old Bill Cartwright throwback jersey and wonder what happened to Sly Williams anyway?

  3. It didn’t really take a mountain — in my teen neighborhood it was more like two blocks that separated two worlds — but you’re right @dallas the power of hearsay and social fantasy on the majority side was strong…just not the world-changing *type* of creativity that artists like the Sugar Hill Gang can marshal…

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