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Simon Napier Bell: the Dodgy Business of Popular Music: Gangster Rap




Simon Napier-Bell (who previously managed Wham, Marc Bolan, Japan and Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page (during his Yardbirds phase) is back in Skrufff, delivering a short series of excerpts from his must-read new history of the music business book ‘TA-RA-RA-BOOM-DE-AY- the Dodgy Business of Popular Music’. (Click here to download/ buy)



Simon Napier-Bell: “When Kool Herc first moved to New York from Jamaica in the late sixties, no one liked the reggae records he played back home so he shouted his little messages to the audience over the popular records of the day, which only ever had short breaks in them.


To do so he had to extend them, using a double turntable and an audio mixer with two identical records from which he continuously replaced the desired segment. Sometimes when he shouted over the instrumental break, someone in the crowd would shout back, sometimes with a little rhyme, “Davey D is in the house, an’ he’ll turn it out without a doubt.”


The trend grew fast, the breaks got longer and more frequent, the improvised rhymes more complex, and in 1979 came the first hip-hop rap record; it was by King Tim III and the Fatback Band.


A couple of years later came the first rap hit by a non-black artist, Blondie’s ‘Rapture’. After that the Beastie Boys, white, and Run DMC, black, sold rap to audiences all over the world. Soon, any kid speaking any language, even if he didn’t sing too well, could be a pop star by taking up hip-hop and rapping.


And the strange thing about rap was, it always had underlying humour. Even when it was angry and violent, there was usually some sly wit in it. And though it seemed like a fad that would eventually die out, it just kept on and on evolving until it finally came of age.


‘Fuck tha Police’ was a five-and-a-half minute rap musical written by Dr Dre for his group Niggaz With Attitude, a court case with a full range of characters – judge, attorney, accused and defendant.


With just a hint of Gilbert & Sullivan, the rap lyrics rhymed wonderfully, and at the end of the song ‘Judge Dre’ delivered his verdict with masterful understatement: ‘The jury has found you guilty of being a redneck, white bread, chickenshit, motherfucker.’


One of the group’s rappers was Ice Cube. “Rap music is funny,” he proclaimed. “But it’s not funny if you don’t get the joke, then it’s scary.”

Kids got the joke. Their parents didn’t.”


TA-RA-RA-BOOM-DE-AY- the Dodgy Business of Popular Music: “click here to download/ buy:













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