Friday, June 26, 2009

497. Yo! Bumrush the Show- Apparently it’s the Sergeant Peppers of Hip Hop (or maybe the Revolver).

Album: Yo! Bum rush the show.
Artist: Public Enemy.
Year: 1986
Genre: Hip Hop
1. You're Gonna Get Yours
2. Sophisticated Bitch
3. Miuzi Weighs a Ton
4. Timebomb
5. Too Much Posse
6. Rightstarter (Message to a Black Man)
7. Public Enemy No. 1
8. M.P.E.
9. Yo! Bum Rush the Show
10. Raise the Roof
11. Megablast
12. Terminator X Speaks With His Hands

I think part of my problem is that I thought bumrushing a show was a bad thing. “Well we completely bumrushed that show- the bass player was crap, the keyboard player fell asleep and at one point I panicked completely and started singing polka songs”. Apparently I was wrong and bumrushing a show is actually a good thing. Which just goes to prove how much of a Hip Hop guy I’m not.

Public Enemy’s Yo Bumrush the Show is the first hip-hop album I’ve ever listened to. In fact it’s the first time I’ve really heard hip-hop in any forum other than blasting out of a nearby car. So with an open mind I threw on the earphones and cranked Public Enemy’s debut album into my brain.

My first surprise was that I didn’t have to make any allowances for the year. I was expecting an album recorded in 1987 to sound like it was over 20 years old. Bumrush doesn’t sound like a product of its time. It could have have been recorded last year. Surprise number 2 was Vernon Reid, the guitarist from Living Colour whose presence suggested a level of instrumental prowess that I’ve never associated with Hip Hop.

While there may be a long list of names on the credit list, Yo! Bumrush the Groove is all about the rapping of Chuck D and Flava Flav, who share lead vocal duties. Vernon Reid and the other musicians are lost in the background among the 4 people credited with “programming” (either drums or synths) and “scratching” which is supplied by two lads called Juice and Terminator X. Consequently the “band” isn’t something that I can get especially inspired by. There are no lead breaks, nobody takes a solo and the musicians don’t lock together to supply a groove of any kind. But that’s okay because that’s why they’re there: as backing for Flava Flav and Chuck D. This is Hip Hop, if this show is going to get bumrushed it’s not the band it’s the man with the mic in his hand that’s going to get this party started. In other words if you don’t like the rap stylings of Mr Flav and Mr D you might as well stop listening right now.

I won’t get stuck into the tedious and overblown debate about rap lyrics. There are those who claim rap is a poetry that expresses the human condition as authentically as Byron or Shelly ever did. While there are some in the other camp who think it’s all just senseless rhyming filled with sexism and male posturing and the main contributors to gang culture in the world today. I’ve always hated the idea of scapegoating music for society’s problems and I struggle to appreciate poetry anyway so I’m not really going to lay down an argument on either side. All I know is that I’m not really the sort of guy who can appreciate rap lyrics. It’s all about a lifestyle that I just don’t understand. The closest thing I’ve ever had to a posse are my childhood Star Wars figurines. I don’t drive a 98 Oldsmobile, I catch trains. I’m hardly a Public Enemy and even if I did have an uzi if it weighed a ton I couldn’t pick it up let alone fire it. It’s music written with a specific audience in mind: those who either possess or else aspire to a certain lifestyle. Those of us outside that culture just find it hard to get on board.

I’d like to say that I appreciate the ability to string rhymes together but that always sounds really patronizing doesn’t it? It’s the sort of thing academics say in order to appear less out of touch: “It really is a most original use of iambic pentameter that shows a clear understanding of both structure and narrative.” The truth is that I just don’t get it. Having said that I find Rap less painful than I thought it would be. The sort of music that really gets on my nerves is mindlessly repetitive and catchy at the same time- tunes that get stuck in your head and won't shift. There’s none of that on Yo Bumrush but nothing I can really latch onto either. Hopefully I’ll have more sensible things to say when I’ve heard another rap album later on in the count-down and can make some point of comparison.

Highlight: Probably the opening track.
Lowlight: That feeling you get around track five when you think “This is going to be like this for the whole album isn’t it?”
Influenced by: Grandmaster Flash I’m assuming.
Influenced: Apparently anyone who has ever rapped since.
Favourite Amazon Customer review quote: Actually Amazon’s reviewers were quite subdued about this release but I did find a review from Q magazine that said this: “...just the first, in retrospect almost shy, step on a remarkable journey...”
-Almost shy? Shy? Are you kidding? What about lyrics like: “My style is supreme - number one is my rank, And I got more power than the New York Yanks.” How bashful is that?

So did Public enemy leave you feeling bumrushed or is it just a load of rap? Let me know below.

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed reading this. I think that you've bumrushed this article - you see, I'm already learning about hip hop. Keep it up.