Monday, July 28, 2008

I Can Break It Down Like Whatever You Want

I knew Hip Hop Karaoke this past Friday at the Gladstone hotel here in Toronto was going to be interesting, I just didn't know how crazy fun it was going to be. Never mind the sheer joy and positivity of being in a room with like-minded individuals all enjoying some classic music from years past, but imagine a karaoke night where everyone in the building cares about what's happening onstage.

This isn't like when you go to the bar with hour buddies and you're talking and drinking and somebody goes up and you all casually turn your head and say, 'Oh, she's doing Love Shack,' then go back to whatever you were doing. At HHK, all eyes are on the stage, singing along, throwing their hands in the air and waving them without much concern.

Highlights included:
--The dude who kicked off the night with Biggie's 'Kick in the Door.'
--The bridal party doing Kanye's 'Golddigger.'
--The mom-to-be, looking ready to drop child at any moment, ripping some MC Lyte.
--Infinite Kung-Fu creator [and former Windsor boy, IIRC] Kagan McLeod busting 'Reign of the Tec' by The Beatnuts.
--The girl who had to wait for like, three songs because they couldn't find the instrumental, and when they did, crushed 'Doo Wop' by Lauryn Hill, rapping and singing. Super nice.

But really, everything was a highlight, because I was in a room of people who all knew the words to 'Scenario' by A Tribe Called Quest, and that's never happened before.

Staying with hip-hop theme for a minute, I picked up a copy of Brian Coleman's book Check the Technique this weekend as well.

See, the thing is, when you were a kid in the 80s and 90s buying rap tapes, like I was, it was like the early days of rock and roll. Rap didn't get press in the magazines, so these people were mysteries, and their albums didn't give you any information either. All you ever got were some production credits, shout-outs, maybe a comic if you bought a De La Soul album. But never any insight into how the album was made: no pics of the studio, no stories on the process, not even endorsements from gear manufacturers. No liner notes, essentially.

This is what Coleman looks to provide: liner notes for over 30 classic hip-hop records, from the Run-DMC's Raising Hell to Wu-Tang's 36 Chambers. How does he do it? By interviewing the people who were there. So you get KRS-One talking about Criminal Minded; Pos, Dave and Prince Paul discussing 3 Feet High and Rising; Ice-T going over Power: one chapter, one album, track by track. At 21 bucks for just under 500 pages, it's a steal of a book for anyone who remembers throwing on your Raiders hat [like Chuck D did] and listening to the Jungle Brothers on your way to school.


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