Vibes and Stuff

July 15, 2011

The first rap tape I ever owned was G Funk Era by Warren G. I dubbed it from a friend and was hooked from the jump. The drums, the kicks, the loops, the samples, the funk, the rhythm, the bass. Not to mention the rhymes. And I had to listen to it discreetly because my parents had read in the paper that “Gangsta Rap” was poisoning the ears of our nation’s youth. Needless to say, that fueled my obsession even further. (To be honest, until I heard G Funk, the only curse word I had heard on an album was when Eddie Vedder said “fuck” on “Jeremy”). Soon I was spending almost every cent of my weekly allowance on rap records: Doggystyle, Me Against the World, Illmatic, Reasonable Doubt, 36 Chambers, Liquid Swords, ATLiens, Strictly Business, Stakes is High…. and Beats, Rhymes and Life.

Fast forward almost fifteen years to last Friday night. The adolescent in me was geeking the fuck out when I went to see Michael Rapaport’s new film about A Tribe Called Quest. It’s a loving tribute to one of the most influential groups in the genre’s history and a celebratory portrait of an era in music the likes of which we may never see again. Sure, Tribe had their troubles as a group, but that shouldn’t diminish the impact they had on everyone from Pharrell to the Roots. A lot of people bitch and moan about the state of hip hop today and don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to throw a parade for the next Waka Flocka record. But that doesn’t mean we still can’t enjoy all of the gems that hip hop has given us throughout the years. If nothing else, go see Beats, Rhymes and Life because it’s a poignant reminder of what hip hop is supposed to be: creative and fun. Then go listen to Low End Theory again and pretend it’s the first time. Boomin in ya, boomin in ya, boomin in ya jeep…

The Wackness generated so much buzz at Sundance this year—even taking home the Audience Award for Dramatic Film—that I was unable to see it at the festival. I finally caught it yesterday during its New York City theater run at the Angelika Film Center on Houston St. I had been eagerly anticipating the film, largely due to its setting: the summer of 1994 in New York, an era in which the city was still viewed as a gritty and dangerous place, a perception then-new mayor Rudi Giuliani was eagerly trying to alter. I was also excited to see the film for its soundtrack, overflowing with mid-90s East Coast hip hop including tracks from Nas, Mobb Deep, Wu-Tang, Tribe and Biggie. In the summer of 1994 I was 12, and like most summers, I spent a week or so in the city visiting family. I listened to rap almost exclusively back then, and for me hip hop provided the perfect backdrop for a city I viewed as immense, exhilarating and intimidating.

It was with this mindset that I watched The Wackness, and left the theater having seen my favorite movie of the summer thus far. The film tells the story of two lost souls: Luke (Josh Peck), a student graduating from high school, and Dr. Squires (Ben Kingsley), a psychiatrist and the father of Luke’s love interest, that form a friendship as they battle their demons, deal with women and try to grow as men. (Luke also deals Squires weed). The story has heart and is laugh-out-loud funny, particularly with the slang-heavy dialog full of words like fly, dope and fresh. It also made me want to get a boombox and switch back to cassettes. The soundtrack was the icing on the cake, and paid a lot of respect to Biggie, whose debut Ready to Die was released in ’94.

In honor of The Wackness and Notorious, here are some classic vids from Ready to Die:

“Warning”

“Juicy”

“One More Chance”

I had some other things that I wanted to write about tonight, but now I’m too tired. Instead, here are some gratuitous old school hip hop videos. I think I might make this a Sunday night tradition. Could be fun…

Tribe Called Quest – Electric Relaxation (filmed at Square Diner in Tribeca!):

Nas – It Ain’t Hard to Tell:

Souls of Mischief – 93 ’til Infinity: