Wednesday, August 23, 2006

And You Don't Stop YouTube

I would be remiss if I didn't bring this to people's attention.

Someone on YouTube has posted the entire 5-hour VH1 documentary on hip-hop. I highly recommend everyone check it out. Although the second-half of the film focuses too much on the genre's sensational aspects (gangsta rap, west coast vs. east coast, Eminem), And You Don't Stop: 30 Years of Hip-Hop is a thoroughly entertaining and enlightening program.

If you only watch one YouTube segment, make it part 2. The beginning introduces DJ Kool Herc, the "inventor" and propagator of hip-hop music. It's a fascinating look at hip-hop's burgeoning at the parks and apartments in South Bronx. From Herc, the documentary goes on to describe the influence of the popular music during that time. Specifically, the kind of music being played in the late 70s as well as the records the music was played on.

As Chuck D. of Public Enemy explains:
Hip-hop came out with its use of disco. The disco era was almost like the belief in the 12" record. And the 12" meant extended play, which means the music can go on and on and on till the break of dawn.
What hip-hop DJs attempted was to take the "good parts" of a disco song (i.e. the parts people dance to) and extend those parts by "cutting" records.

Cutting a record involves two turntables connected to a mixer. Each turntable plays the same record. The mixer switch is set to only play music from one turntable. The DJ will play a beat on the first turntable, then switch the mixer to play the same beat on the other one. While the beat is playing the second time, the DJ spins the first record back to its initial position. After the second beat plays the DJ switches to the first record and replays the beat again (the third time overall), while simultaneously backspinning the second record. Repeat the process as desired. Anyway, back to And You Don't Stop.

Much of early hip-hop music was actually filtered disco, cutting the familiar beats in new and creative ways. And no one has ever cut records better than Grandmaster Flash (see, or better yet, hear "The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel"). For the next two minutes, Flash clearly describes the DJ's objective to cut on time in order to seamlessly blend and extend beats:
So mathematically I was saying to myself, "Well, if I can figure out how to take the music that I love -- where the break was so short -- expand them particular sections and make them as long as I choose to," that would really be the way to go... I was a manual sampler.
At the 5:30 Flash demonstrates cutting with two copies of "Apache." At the 5:45 mark is Flash's cutting of the "Freedom" beat. Notice his hands: one moves the mixer switch while the other backspins the record.

Next, the documentary describes the rather humorous and unintentional way scratching was discovered by GrandWizzard Theodore.

Now DJs could cut and scratch their own music. All that was missing was the words. Then emerged the early MCs of hip-hop (Busy Bee, Lovebug Starski, DJ Hollywood and others). As Eddie Cheeba, another early MC, surmises at the end of part 2, "This was the beginning of hip-hop." And it hasn't stopped since.

No comments: