We all know I’m not the best at keeping up a series of posts, so we’ll see how long this one lasts. My latest and greatest attempt is this new “Blast From the Past” series, which is basically me going over hip hop goodness that brings me back to that special time in my life when hip hop was like the girls I was with, clean, pure and innocent. Okay, not really, hip hop back in the days had a cutting edge to it, it was fresh, new, and never afraid to push the boundaries and make some new and creative. It was my “adolescence” and it’s what my memories are made of. So this series will be just me talking about certain things from hip hop’s illustrious past
Coming from an area that wasn’t a mecca for hip hop, or black culture for the most part, while growing up my exposure to hip hop came in the form of Yo! MTV Raps, when it started up in August of ’88. Before Yo! I was left with whatever MTV and the mainstream was inclined to play (RUN DMC, LL Cool J, Fat Boys, Beastie Boys) along with some occasional joints from Whodini, LA Dream Team, or Bobby Jimmy that the local radio station might sneak in late at night. It was on that first Yo! episode, which was hosted by Run DMC, that I taped and watched the videos religiously every morning before school. One of the videos was Boogie Down Production’s “My Philosophy”.
It would be my introduction to KRS and the BDP crew. I wasn’t exposed to the Criminal Minded album that dropped a year earlier. Videos were a big thing, at least to me, back in those days and it was this slick video that really helped me fall in love with the track. An all black and white video, it’s grainy look just adds to the overall aesthetics and feeling that the visuals are portraying. From the initial “So you’re a philosopher?…Yes, yes, yes….” vocal sample to kick things off, I would almost get goosebumps. Later I would learn that the picture that is shown at the start of the video is none other than DJ Scott La Rock, who was murdered almost a year to the date of the first showing of Yo! MTV Raps.
With that, the music kicks in with some scratches, some heavy kick drums, deep bass lines and the funky sax samples. Then, after the first line of KRS’ first verse, shit stops and the Blastmaster goes at it a capella with emphasis on certain words, all while posing in front of a jeep. How fuckin’ b-boy is that? The first verse is the home to some classic lines, such as the ever popular, “ KRS-One is just the guy to lead a crew right up to your face and dis you…” As a 15 year old kid, I thought it was nuts. In fact, I was somewhat disappointed when I bought By All Means Necessary to find out the first verse on the LP wasn’t a capella like the video. I was a kid, what did I know?
The video continues on after the a capella first verse in dramatic fashion. The BDP crew looks like it’s running through the streets of NYC, then rushes a stage. That’s when Kris kicks into the second verse. Again, I was in awe of how raw and while I didn’t really how hip hop was supposed to be, it was authentic to me. To me, this video was what hip hop should be, the visuals made me want to know more about the culture.
Lyrically, what KRS was kickin’ would get drilled into my mind. It’s a song I know word for word to this day. It also dropped nuggets of wisdom, gave names for me to check out, such as Kenny Parker, D-Nice, Scott La Rock, and of course you had DJ Red Alert all up in the video, someone I would learn about later. There of course is the curious subtle jabs to “Kings”, which one has to wonder if it isn’t directed toward the Kings of Rock of the time, Run DMC. It’s already been stated that BDP threw some no so subtle jabs to the trio on Criminal Minded.
More images around the city are shown through out the video, as things wrap up with KRS spitting the last few classic lines as the energy builds up then, BAM, it’s over. It was those images that prompted me buy By All Means Necessary from the Sam Goody’s in the local mall around November that year. While it’s not my favorite BDP album (Criminal Minded and Sex & Violence gets that nod) and only “I’m Still #1″ matches the intensity of “My Philosophy” (okay, “Ya Slippin’” is a personal favorite as well) the album is still a classic and one of my favorites of the classic year of ’88. I have many of fond memories replaying my VHS cassette with the video on it each morning before school. It’s a song that the video will forever be entrenched in my mind….