I understand that I have no idea what I’m talking about, because I don’t know hip hop, especially early ’80s hip hop. And I know these guys are supposed to be a bit of a joke. But I feel like I’m listening to a different record than a lot of other people, especially the critics who don’t love this.
To be fair to those critics, much of what I think is so singular about this record is on “Jail House Rap”, a stunning, 8 and a half minute message track featuring a piano solo by (I believe) Don Blackman, and the three rappers, beat-boxing and a bare bones rhythm track. Now, I have no idea if something like this existed already in hip hop. But even in the pop rock world, leading off a supposedly comedic debut record with something like this would be daring. Here it seems just outrageously ballsy to me. It kind of blew my mind and put me in a much more open frame of mind for the rest of the record.
Sure, sometimes they’re juvenile but at least they’re having a good time. And I think there’s real commitment to their aesthetic, which is pretty minimalist, and allows the listener to focus on the rapping and beat boxing. (Check out those song lengths. There’d nowhere for these guys to hide if they weren’t good at what they do.)
Frankly, it’s hard for me to listen to this and understand why so many people don’t take them seriously. Maybe it has something to do with how they were discovered, maybe it has something to do with the fact that they have a sense of humour, or maybe it’s just their size and their cover art, and most people have judged them without giving them their due. But to the extent that I like hip hop, I really like this and I’m impressed. I honestly wanted to rate it even higher but the number of reviews that don’t take it seriously suggests that I am missing some badly needed context. (Such as that nothing here is particularly original or well-done compared to other hip hop in 1984.)
What do I know anyway?