The Real Eighties: Like You Just Don’t Care

Some of my audience can take rap or leave it. Some of you just plain detest hip-hop (and some others just don’t care for pop music in general).

I’d say “this isn’t the post for you”.  But what fun would that be?


In the seventies, “black” and “white” music, at least in the mainstream, stayed firmly in its respective ghettoes – except for the fairly brief “disco” fad (which started out as a black/gay counterculture thing), R&B and white pop music were no closer than East and West Berlin.

And that’s the way it is today, too.

But in the late seventies, in and among the burgeoning rap culture in the boroughs of New York, there was a cross-pollination – more of convenience than from any artistic initiative.  The disc jockeys who played behind the rappers, looking for backup tracks, would spin anything they could find that had a good beat.

And among white artists, the rock and rollers who’d started out worshipping R&B music – the Stones, J Geils, and the like – had a beat you could hang a side of beef from.  (I mean, come on; try finding a beat in “Candle In The Wind”) and, of course, Aerosmith, who were in the seventies known as “the American Rolling Stones”.

And it was in 1986, looking for a crossover hit, that Run DMC paid homage to that extemporization, riffing on Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way”.

And that was closely followed by rap’s first #1 hit, “Fight For Your Right To Party” by the Beastie Boys – three white schlemiels from Brooklyn, backed by “Anthrax”, who represented the “whitest” genre of music there is, “Speed Metal”:

And this mash-up of white and black styles, and established white genres with what was at the time a fringe-y black style – just one of many mash-ups of styles and genres that happened in the first half of the decade – that was what made the eighties fun.

Whether you like rap’hip-hop or not.

And while middle-aged white guys are frequently the ones who didn’t care for the mix of rap and rock (or rap and much of anything), there was also backlash on the “black” side.  Old-school rapper “Schooly D” – most famous to the kids today as the guy who does the intro for “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” – built a career out of back-lashing against mixing the genres (“No More F***ing Rock And Roll”) and tryiing to cross over to the pop charts (“F*** Crossover”).  Which, in turn, also made the eighties interesting.

More genre-bending tomorrow.

8 thoughts on “The Real Eighties: Like You Just Don’t Care

  1. I don’t care for rap, probably because I’m a white guy and I am old enough that I remember watching the premiere of Blondie’s “Rapture” video and thinking “What the !@#$% is this?
    But it is sad that nothing has taken rap’s place. It was original, and there have been no new genre’s in pop music for about 30 years. Yeah, I know, grunge, ska, whatever, but that’s just rock-n-roll. There hasn’t been anything produced since Rap that, if you went back in a time machine and played it on a pop station in 1985, people wouldn’t instantly know what genre it fit into.

  2. I’ve made the comment that the only reason they dropped the “c” in front of rap was because they didn’t want to advertise the truth of what they were doing. I don’t mind rappers that can do good work, but 99.99% of today’s rap could be performed by first graders with no degradation in quality, except maybe they’d curse less.

    But unlike Terry, I liked Rapture and thought it was funny. But I like bizarre humor anyway and to me it reminded me of Douglas Adam’s work.

  3. I don’t think Blondie’s Rapture video was meant to be humorous, Nerdbert.
    If true that makes me Elvis Costello to your Ed Norton.

  4. The funny thing to me was just how much some of the urban/black music world detested Disco with a passion. PFunk wrote whole albums based on the thought that disco was an evil alien invention. I’m not sure they were wrong, (Gloria Gaynor notwithstanding – “I Will Survive” is pure awesomeness) the recent Lileks post on Paul Lynde’s Halloween disco number with Florence Henderson can only be an idea hatched in outer space.

    As for rap, I don’t hate it, but I can tell why it’s drifted out of the mainstream in the past few years. The idiots who complained about “The Man” keeping them down while flaunting their gold and misogynistic mindset ruined it for the rest of them.

  5. I always liked Run DMC. What was odd about “Walk This Way” is that Aerosmith was pretty much moribund when the collaboration came out and it jumpstarted Aerosmith’s second act, while Run DMC started to fade. “It’s Tricky” is a lot of fun — the video features Penn & Teller running a 3-card monte game.

    Don’t like a lot of hip hop, but the Beasties are good. OutKast has had their moments, too, mostly because they can (and do) sing.

  6. Pingback: RIP MCA | Shot in the Dark

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