Friday, November 25, 2005

Hip-Hop, Postmodernism and the Art of Appropriation

Listening to 1988's Rebel Without a Pause, from Public Enemy's Greatest Hits: Power to the People and the Beats, I'm struck by the Bomb Squad's production: spare, propulsive, radical; it still sounds innovative, incendiary and alien today. Public Enemy's unique "musical" manifestos (avant-politico-punk-funk-noise-rap) resemble alien artifacts when compared to the anodyne "hos, guns and money" corporate crap and MTV-driven mediocrity masquerading as rap music these days.

I wanted to know how Hank Shocklee, and his Bomb Squad co-conspirators, came to fashion such strange soundscapes. So I Googled straight to the heart of the matter:

Listen to Hank Shocklee, from Public Enemy's Bomb Squad, the most formidable crew of sound engineers working in the '80s: "We don't like musicians, we don't respect musicians.... We have a better sense of music, a better concept of music, of where it's going, of what it can do." For "wall of noise" practitioners like Shocklee, the goal was all about organizing sound--all kinds of sounds--into new constructs. Music in the conventional sense was just one building block among others--a found object that could be filtered into the mix, not unlike a shard of newspaper print pasted into a Merz collage by Kurt Schwitters.

Princes among thieves: sampling the '80s - hip hop music

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