I have been woefully lacking in public appreciation for the homey Jay Smooth and all he’s done on his various sites over the years. As an orator, Jay’s that cat you wish you could sound like, the guy who breaks everything down real simply, respectfully, in a way that always makes sense. Today, he talks about people with a fatalist attitude towards politics, or when T-Pain met Hannity.
In 2007 I was living in a cozy one-bedroom apartment in Kingston, Ontario, unemployed and more than a little lonely. I had left the only city I’d ever known to hang onto a girl, a decision I’ve never regretted for a moment, but the repercussions of which started to press on me once I realized the business owners in a college town were not eager to give work to someone who would be bailing at the dawn of the Christmas rush, plus I had no social circle to speak of besides a cat and the beautiful woman I shared a home with. I was writing a blog for a newspaper back home, which tossed enough money to cover my share of the rent but not much else. So I spent a lot of time online, searching out things to watch or listen to or read about. One of the things I discovered was Samurai Champloo.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a person’s first art. Not the first art they create, but that first art they embrace, independent of their parents’ influence. I’ve mentioned here at least half a dozen times that hip-hop and rap captured my imagination at an early age, but what I’ve been thinking about lately is the type of hip-hop and rap that made me a lifetime enthusiast. If Run-DMC and the Fat Boys brought me in [I fully believe the Fat Boys were just as important as Run-DMC in exposing the suburbs to hip-hop], the Native Tongues were the acts who won my heart.
The Native Tongues were a collective of likeminded rap artists in the late 80s who ushered in what would now probably called ‘conscious rap’. Anchored by the Jungle Brothers, A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul, the Native Tongues provided an alternative to the political bombast of Public Enemy and the frustrated rage of NWA. Put it another way: if PE was Metallica and NWA the Sex Pistols, the Native Tongues were prog-rock.
De La Soul was Pink Floyd. And ‘De La Soul is Dead’ was ‘Dark Side of the Moon’.