Swami Baracus boots up the de Lorean and transports you back to an era that time forgot in “Attack of the Rap…”
Like all children growing up watching Wac-A-Day, eating Snickers when it was called Marathon and whiling away our weekends searching for mushrooms on the NES… I loved and will continue to love the music of Michael Jackson. No single figure has ever monopolised my interest in music through an entire decade, but I, like many, was captivated and drawn towards anything and everything he released. It summed up the magic of the 80s.
Cue the beginning of the 90s, and the landscape was changing. It’s almost like life, music and culture had been administered a massive dose of anabolic steroids. Saturday morning shows were now in glossier hi-tech studios, the NES was now the SUPER NES and even Michael raised his (already high) standard of videomaking with Black Or White and Remember The Time. This period coincided with a sway towards a more rebellious, carefree lifestyle for the youth in general, reflecting the fashion, mood and angst of a generation. It also spawned my initial curiosity-based interest in rap…
Now during this period, if anyone had asked me who’s your favourite rapper, it would’ve been a ‘take your pick’ scenario between Kid N Play, MC Hammer and, of course, John Barnes on New Order’s World In Motion. It was a genre of music that was now becoming more prominent in the charts, albeit the more bubblegum pop variety. We look back with great distaste and quick to differentiate ourselves away from it, but there’s not many growing up during that era that can’t recite a few ‘bars’ from Ice Ice Baby. Once shows like Fresh Prince and A Different World entered our primetime TV slots, rap was becoming an integral factor of youth culture. It was around this period that I first picked up a pencil and scrap paper, and dabbled in some pathetic attempt at rapping… to be fair, it generated a little schoolground attention and I innocently felt a sense of accomplishment with my ‘work’.
The inevitable peer pressure environment of school means social acceptance becomes of upmost importance to any adolescent. But despite all attempts at integrating Bhangra into my cassette deck, it just wasn’t me. So I continued to champion the MJ cause and catch the occasional Top Of The Pops for a regular dose of new music to use as conversational material with my fellow students. However, one such chat alerted my attention instantly out of curiosity, intrigue, shock and bewilderment… ‘yo, have you heard those rap tunes where the guys are swearing??‘
Swearing? In rap?? That just wasn’t possible… How could I even envisage the Fat Boys ever mentioning the F-ing B-words? Looking back on it, I think I didn’t WANT to believe it, purely based on protecting my innocence. However, the prospect of hearing music with profane, controversial and misogynistic lyrics was like watching a psychological horror film… you almost didn’t want to do it, but the sheer intrigue gets the better of you despite any potential repercussions. I had to hear this for myself, so I persuasively asked one of my friends to make me a compilation of these tracks and awaited this with almost apprehensive anticipation. A short time later, I was handed a cassette with the label ‘Rap Attack’ on it. I’m not sure where or if this tape is still in my possession, but it changed my life musically and culturally for good.
From the offset, the initial track When The Sh** Goes Down by Cypress Hill set a precedent for the rest of the compilation. B-Real’s high-pitched nasal tone was almost hypnotically stapled to the deep Muggs production, and the lyrics, content and delivery were unlike anything I’d experienced before. Almost immediately that sense of enlightenment was combined with a slight regret that I hadn’t come across this material previously… but I assumed I’d have a lifetime to make up for it. Next up was Tribe’s Can I Kick It, followed by Naughty By Nature’s OPP, two classic tracks from different ends of the spectrum but both immediate head-nodders. B-Real returned for a guest verse on Funkdoobiest’s Wopbabalubop, a familiar sample given the Hip-Hop touch on a hard beat. One of the refreshing aspects of this compilation was the diversity in tracks. PM Dawn sat closely to House Of Pain, whilst Arrested Development’s Mr Wendal was succeeded quickly in order by Onyx’ Slam. This cassette was almost an initiation that covered all aspects of the Hip-Hop demographic, and unlike compilations now, was more appreciated as a whole rather than the sum of all parts.
Needless to say, this tape was rinsed more thoroughly then a Boston Party tea-towel. I was memorising Domino’s Ghetto Jam lyrics despite struggling to understand the lingo. I felt more connected to anything Guru from Gang Starr was referring to even though our lives drew absolutely no parallels. I’d obviously heard of Public Enemy, LL Cool J, De La Soul and Run DMC, however experiencing their music for the first time left me annoyed at what I’d been missing out on. Aside of Salt N’ Pepa, the only other track I’d actually heard before was Kriss Kross’ Jump, but even this was stamped with a Hip-Hop seal of approval, courtesy of a Pete Rock remix. Overall, the overriding emotion to stem from this compilation… was hunger. The need for more. Almost drug-like. I literally had to seek the next ‘hit’…
Its been a ridiculous amount of time since, and I’m still an addict today. Rehab’s not going to fix this illness, and why should it? A few years after first hearing the tape, I realised I couldn’t go on listening to the music without having a go myself. I still find it difficult to comprehend how Hip-Hop aficionados fail to do the same! However it set me on a path musically, that I’ve never looked back on and wouldn’t. I do wonder if MJ would’ve forgiven me for the abrupt sway in allegiances… though having sailed that ship himself with collaborations including Heavy D, Notorious BIG and umm, Shaq… I think we can call it quits.