Posted by
Jim Goad
• 06.29.12 01:00 am

Kings of the Old School: Grandmaster Flash (fist up) and the Furious Five.

I consider myself the world’s first wigger as well as the world’s first ex-wigger, which I feel gives me a unique perspective on the state of modern hip-hop.

The first hip-hop 12-inch I bought was 1983’s “Break Dance-Electric Boogie” by West Street Mob on Sugar Hill Records, followed shortly afterward by Run-DMC’s “It’s Like That” backed with “Sucker MC’s.”

I used to listen to a hip-hop show from Drexel University by a black student who called himself Jam Master Jay (no, not that Jam Master Jay) and one early Saturday morning while driving my cab after buying a nickel bag of coke and a nickel bag of weed (yeah, you could get $5 bags back in the early 80s at the corner of 5th and Jefferson in N. Philly at 7AM), JMJ pretty much blew the lid off my skull when he played “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel.” I still don’t think anyone ever came close to Flash as a DJ, nor do I think anyone has ever matched his primary rapper in the Furious Five, Melle Mel, as an MC.

As a lifelong fan of drone music and rampagingly gay-ass concepts such as musique concrète, I was fascinated by this new form of music that took the best eight seconds of music that had already been recorded, looped it, added sound effects and beats that sounded like gunshots, and then tossed in some angry guys from the NYC boroughs (it rarely seemed to be Manhattan) speaking—rather than singing—over it all. Even though most of the people—at least the white ones—I knew at the time dismissed rap as a stupid fad, I knew it would be the next big thing in music because it was a huge innovation in the way music was made.

I remember reading the lyrics to Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s “The Message” in a copy of the New York Rocker and being impressed that the words went on for what seemed like a dozen pages, whereas you could fit the lyrics to an entire Circle Jerks album on a strip of fortune-cookie paper. Not only could GMFF5 kick the living shit out of the Circle Jerks in a street fight (a very important indicator of musical quality), but they were also far more skilled with words.

I wiggered my wonderful way through most of the 80s as a naive young white-male journalism student and then a naive white freelance journalist, interviewing such old-schoolers as LL Cool J (possibly the biggest asshole I’ve ever met), Kool Moe Dee, Big Daddy Kane, Melle Mel, Kid Frost, KRS-One, Ice-T, Ice Cube, and Public Enemy—three times (Chuck twice, Flav once).

I think things started going sour when the beats slowed down and the lyricists got lazier—the first time I heard an EPMD song, it sounded like they were on Thorazine. And then came the humorlessly corny black-nationalist tripe such as X-Clan, Poor Righteous Teachers, and Intelligent Hoodlum, which didn’t exactly make me feel welcome, but I could have handled it if they were anywhere near as lyrically proficient as, say, Big Daddy Kane was on “Set it Off”:

(When I interviewed Kane, I asked him if I was a devil, and he said he couldn’t tell for sure.)

I loved early NWA and the Geto Boys, but then gangsta rap became little more than a ball-grabbing Tard Contest. The last rapper I heard that I thought was lyrically talented was Suga Free.

And then came Southern rap, which with very few exceptions (Outkast, Ludacris, and, of course, Bling Daddy Caddy) was the final stage in hip-hop’s lyrical atrophying. Whereas a Grandmaster Flash song might have 5,000 words, a typical Southern rap song has 10 words chanted 500 times. Way back when, it was all about the lyrics—at any given time, at least half of a rapper’s lyrics were about how good his lyrics were and how he could battle any other MC to death with his rhymes. These days the few lyrics that are left are plodding and dinosauric and dumb-diddy-dumb-dumb. Even worse, hip-hop songs now have lots of singing in them, for fuck’s sake! Back on LL’s first album in 1985, he started one track saying, “Look girl, I’m not gonna sing ’cause I just don’t do that.” I thought the whole not-singing thing was a given. I thought that was part of the agreement. They’ve broken the contract.

Worst of all is any hip-hop not created by full-blooded sub-Saharan shrieking Bantus. White people should be permitted to enjoy hip-hop, but it should be unlawful for them to create it under any circumstances. So no, I don’t want to check out your art-school friend’s new rhymes, especially if he or she sunburns easily. I honestly think these pale, clueless neo-minstrels are far more insulting to black people than anything I’ve ever said or done. The only gifted white rapper from here to eternity was always, and always will be, Vanilla Ice. Period. End of discussion. Point, set, match. Shut your mouth. Stick a tampon in it and make me dinner.

So I’m mildly depressed that rap became more and more retarded over the past 25 years, but so has American culture, so fuck all of you—as well as all o’ y’alls—I’m-a go bump some T. La Rock and Chill Rob G while lifting rusty steel weights and softly blowing kisses at myself in the mirror.



New School: Soulja Boy says “duh” for the camera.

  1. I’m still convinced that the final nail in hip-hop’s coffin was MC Hammer trying to go all “gangsta” and shit.

  2. Richard Roadkill Milligan says:

    I can remember my wigger days, and the sense of pride I got listening to rap. It was the fringe music, far outside the veil of mainstream bullshit. Now it’s all over-produced marketing schemes. Retards shouting retarded aphorisms over and over again over obnoxious beats that have nothing of the simplicity and technique of their forefathers. The lyrics today are absolute shit, and the singing…..Fuck me running.

    When one of the biggest rap artists out right now is a Canadian who was on a remake of a Canadian Teen Soap Opera, whose first name is Aubrey…..You’ve really got to question the genre as a whole. It’s disgusting. The only rap I can really listen to now is the classics, and some underground artists. Odd Future really stands out for their celebration of Individualism (something not seen in the new conformist rap movement) and they feel like a modern day Wu-Tang.

  3. lester says:

    I was into it from breakdancing all the way through college (90’s)sometimes more than others. I especially like/ liked Mobb Deep because they’re so spooky. I wold go to Tower Records and get a new cassette pretty and it was amazing stuff: Nas, Artifacts, Organized Konfusion. At some point somewhere around AZ’s “Suger Hill” it started to get corny and i stopped following what was going on thuogh I still here som cool stuff. I think Andy Milonakis and Riff raff and those guys are doing something cool with white rap, too.

    Del Tha Funky Homosapien – Catch A Bad One



  5. Ryna says:

    I attended a high school in sub-urban Canada that was located across the street from a country club from 1996-2001. I went through our yearbook and counted 40 black kids from over 1500 students in my final year there.

    There were a lot of seriously confused kids I went to school with, people free-styled in the parking lot. I agree, white people should not create hip-hop music.

  6. This. Right here. Is Jim’s. Swag.

  7. “Bitch I look like Goku” Rap died the day it began including half-cocked Dragon Ball Z. references. No Homo.

  8. tommy gun says:

    2012 has been a great year for rap. a$ap mob is tite and so is 2chainz. imo. but to each his own.

  9. Lemme break it down for you:

    Golden Age of Hip-Hop was 1986-1991.

    Juice Crew
    Ultramagnetic MC’s
    Gang Starr
    Kool DJ Red Alert on 98.7 Kiss FM
    De La Soul
    Public Enemy

    Even stuff like the X-Clan and Brand Nubian was excellent, and they hated whitey more than anyone.

    However the shift happened when NWA showed up. Even though Philly’s Schooly D was the first real ‘gangsta’ in hip hop, NWA were its Beatles. Overnight, all conscious/Black Nationalist hip hop went out the window as the entertainment industry saw gangsta as a very marketable and lucrative form of teen rebellion.

    Guns, bitchez, and bling sold easier, and ‘street cred’ by way of violence became the gateway towards these riches. It was less intelligent than what hip hop was moving towards with the likes of the 5 percenters and other assorted nationalists, and because of its wide appeal the only way to go was towards the lowest common denominator.

    This ended up in awful, awful shit like Puff Daddy and his crew which completely destroyed any credibility that the genre still had.

    Listen to this denunciation of the industry by Kool Keith and Tim Dog –

    The last great hip hop was GZA’s “Liquid Swords”.

    *this all comes from a non-wigger who realized immediately as a very young guy that acting black and dressing black is not for white people, and for whom the rise of Public Enemy was a double-edged sword as it was accompanied by the Rise of the Wigger.

    I vividly recall being one of the very few guys in my area into hip hop back around ’86-88. And then Tone Loc and Young MC came out with their awful songs and every faggot Italian Gino started telling me how much they liked hip hop :)

  10. Drew Gordon says:

    These myriad problems with music aren’t restricted just to the genres of rap and hip-hop these days (nor were they ever). The music producers with their ‘professional production sounds’ have taken over the management in all strata of the industry and so the ‘music business’ seems to be a purely middle-class aspirational occupation for the artistes-of-today. The fact that records from twenty or thirty years ago often sound as good as those of today, and more importantly hardly sound dated in-the-slightest, doesn’t help matters much. Global-computerisation has only advanced the spread of homogenized audio-technological stylings and the consequent familiar ‘production sounds’, so it is the age of ‘Glee’ and recession.

    The ‘dumbing down’ of ‘mainstream rap’ probably began way back when with ‘I Wanna Be A Drill Intructor’ and the like but then I’m not really qualified to judge/opine, never having been a massive follower of the genre.

    Melvins did a sweet cover of a Paul McCartney and Wings song on their new album, and ‘Rock of Ages’ is really terrible, but I expect there’ll soon be a ‘hip hop’ (I think we call it ‘urban’ now in the UK) musical equivalent of that ‘Glee’-esque hair metal freakshow soon enough, like ‘8-Mile’ but actually worse, or better, depending on the casting. Is ‘Precious’ an inspirational hip-hop broadway musical yet? The horror.

  11. aesk47 says:

    LOL @ people over-analysing hip-hop… and thanks for the breakdown of the “golden age”! Now take that backpack off and go do something more productive. Riff Raff is the best thing to ever happen to rap. Penis.

  12. lester says:

    aesk47- his verse is the best one on Neat-o. Debbie is my favorite of all those characters though.

  13. Gavin says:

    I honestly don’t get how anyone can not like “Go”
    You listen to that on your headphones while riding a motorbike and you feel like you’re on a fried chicken rocketship.
    Or “Get Buck”
    he’s not sampling 80s pop songs. He’s got the local high school band and the local church choir. He’s bragging about being so good at selling crack he “can service Whitney Houston AND Bobby Brown.” Then, if he gets too fat, he goes to jail. Southern rap is

    Is it possible to not like “Rubberband Man”? All I ask when anyone makes anything is that they’re honest. This asshole is bragging about having the same amount of savings as a kindergarten teacher (“a couple hundred grand”)

    Three 6 Mafia, Crime Mob, Project Pat. How does anyone not like Southern rap?

  14. Jim Goad says:

    Jesus Christ, those were all awful. Like drinking three cups of Retard Juice.

  15. John says:

    What kindergarten teachers have a couple hundred grand in savings? Like elderly ones that never do anything ever?

  16. BB says:

    I was with you until the white exclusion part. New hip hop definitely sucks.

  17. lester says:

    I can see where Goad is coming from. Without psychoanalyzing too much it seems like he is a writer and he likes stuff that’s kind of cerebral.

    what’s a motorbike?

  18. Milo says:

    The only rapper I ever respected was Blowfly, he invented rap and he kicks ass.

  19. Hecta tha ho protecta says:

    Good weed sold for $25-30 an eighth in the late 80s and into 91. (California)
    The price doubled not to long after Cypress Hills’ debut album.

  20. Vinnie says:

    Gavin sorry canucks dont get hip hop never will and jim youre buggin if you think epmd is wack.

  21. Jim Goad says:

    Bejeebers Vinnie, am trippin’, too? Am I perchance also buck-whylin’? I take it you’re suggesting I should max and relax? Very mackadocious of you, my friend homie.

  22. […] More Goad: What the Hell Happened to Hip Hop? “I remember reading the lyrics to Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s “The Message” in a copy of the New York Rocker and being impressed that the words went on for what seemed like a dozen pages, whereas you could fit the lyrics to an entire Circle Jerks album on a strip of fortune-cookie paper.” […]

  23. Lair says:

    Shall I dare to explain this one? Whatever the fuck hip hop is at this point, an excuse for the Steven Q. Urkels of the world to be high all the time and get tattoos, has a lot to do with this whole DIY thing. The rectangular goat pupiled Kids of today want fame to be as easy and accessible as possible, that’s why half these new rappers out can barely deliver their verses where they rhyme “ball” with “ball” and sprinkle “swag” through out like it doesn’t sound as if they’re excited to cop some shitty weed. Rapping well tells kids “you can’t do this like me, I am dope/ill/skilled out”, what they want to hear is that all being a famous rapper takes is having an iPhone with some recording apps and a quirky twitter account. Wearing your little sister’s pants helps too.
    And of course never underestimate the suburban white kids need to feel like they have a non-threatening black friend who wears goofy clothes and smokes loads of weed with them.

  24. ASDF says:

    Isn’t most modern hip-hop music crunk(Black redneck hip hop)? The funny thing is young white chavs are making it better than black rednecks.

  25. lolatu says:

    Pretty obvious what happened to hip-hop. It got assimilated by the borg corporate mind. Fucking chewed up and regurgitated as a steppin fetchit parody of its former glory. There’s still good underground being made, but you’re going to have to work your google finger to find it.

    Your stance on white rappers is actually a insecurity projection in the form of reverse-reverse racism. In fact you won’t find a single one of those MCs you listed who won’t say that Eminem is a lyrical genius. And while the Beastie’s first album (Cookie Puss notwithstanding) might have been a bit of a piss-take on hip-hop at the time, their seminal album Paul’s Boutique is about the most complex and enjoyable lyrically and musically of any of their peers.

  26. Victoria says:

    You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be really something that I think I
    would never understand. It seems too complex and very broad for me.

    I am looking forward for your next post, I’ll try to get the hang of it!

  27. Jeff says:

    You made a somewhat decent argument until you stated that white people can’t be hip hop artists. What the fuck is that all about? Certainly there’s the occasional suburban white-kid who’s music smacks so hard of cultural appropriation that you’d think they hated their own skin (Iggy Azalea, anyone?), but if the music produced by whites is lyrically sincere and based off actual life experiences (i.e. Eminem, Brother Ali, for instance), it’s perfectly fine. Not every white hip-hop artist is some upper-middle class, silver-spoon douchebag, you know.

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