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November 15, 2007

Where Brooklyn At? Part Two

Yeah, I know...When it comes to black culture, whites will take "everything but the burden." No new thing, that. But almost twenty years after The Cactus Album, I still like 3rd Bass:

After tracking down Cactus again (one of those casualties of format change over the years) I was reminded how dense and well-woven the musical tracks had been, That had at least as much to do with its appeal, at the time, as the novelty of two Caucasian guys from Brooklyn having some flow. What it seemed to resemble was Terminator X's style with Public Enemy -- albeit with a base of older kinds of musical samples, and minus the quality of apocalyptic foreboding.

Within a few years, things would get much less interesting, and whenever I heard new hiphop on the radio it seemed to be either (1) vapid pop or (2) anemic tracks, without an ounce of creativity in the mixes, over which was the mumbling of stupid people threatening each other.

Around the same time, something called "alternative" seemed to be emerging as a niche unto itself. I hated that, too, and just ended up ignoring music almost entirely for the next ten years or so. Lately it seems like I'm making up for lost time, but largely by way of recovering whatever seemed vital when my attention shifted elsewhere.

Posted by smclemee at November 15, 2007 11:07 AM


3rd Bass! What are they doing now? You're right, "The Cactus Album" used its samples very artfully. It was also a novelty to hear a rap album that borrowed from "The Outer Limits," Steve Martin and Tom Waits more than James Brown, "Flash Light" and "Bop Gun."

From the late 1980s to the early 1990s, hip hop was pretty much the only popular music I listened to. The whole genre felt like punk and New Wave in the late 1970s, when it seemed there was a new must-listen album coming out every hour. Public Enemy, Tribe Called Qwest, Digital Underground -- the genre was exploding with creativity.

Then the gangsta rappers rolled in. For every truly talented gangsta rapper like Ice Cube, it seemed there was a legion of bums yelling about gats and hos. It wasn't the violence that bothered me -- I love crime novels, so what kind of a hypocrite would I be if I tut-tutted about the Geto Boyz while reading a stack of Jim Thompsons? -- but the tediousness of the rhymes and the vacuity of the lyrics. The gangstas blanketed hip hop like a B-52 laying down a cloud of Agent Orange, and I lost interest.

I have friends who swear there are all kinds of new groups that dismiss the gangstas and carry on the good work, but I've lost the thread.

Posted by: Steven Hart at February 2, 2008 7:19 AM