Monday, April 23, 2007

A Tribe of Fingers All On One Hand

So I promised ya'll some New York rap, and here it is. You know the deal: complex rhyme schemes, vivid pictures of life in the projects, painful, overwhelming, grimy, claustrophobic...

Oh... oh wait no. I'm givin' ya'll some fun danceable shit. Whoops.

Proto stunna shades?

Jungle Brothers - "Acknowledge Your History" featuring Vinia Mojica

Jungle Brothers - "Doin' Our Own Dang" featuring Q-Tip, De La Soul & Monie Love

Jungle Brothers - "Kool According To a Jungle Brother"
Done By the Forces of Nature, 1989

Jungle Brothers - "Promo No. 2 (Mind View)" featuring Q-Tip

I do love dark, complex New York-style hip-hop as much as the next guy, but I just haven't been in the mood lately--I go in phases. But no matter what my mood, there's one thing I always love:

Native Tongues.

Whenever I have a white person who needs to be upped on rap music, this is who I use. Yes, the Native Tongues, that wonderful conglomeration centered around De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, and the Jungle Brothers. Without a doubt one of rap music's best extended crews, the Tongues were playful, friendly, and creative, without sacrificing skill, braggadocio, or afrocentrism. Now, I could write so very much on De La or Tribe, and probably a good deal on Latifah, Monie Love, Black Sheep, and even Chi-Ali--but today, it's all about the J. Beez.

Of the mighty Tongues triumvirate they are definitely the most under appreciated, even if they were also the first to drop a record. There's a reason for this, of course, I mean fact is they aren't as skilled as De La or Tribe. But they make it up with fun and loads of swagger... not to mention that they aren't exactly lacking in skills either. But while 3 Feet High and Rising, The Low End Theory, and many others are often held up as classics, I don't know what the overall hip-hop head consensus is on 1989's Done By the Forces of Nature. (Best believe if I was making a top 25 list for Straight Bangin' this'd be on there.)

I wonder if generally this or 1988's Straight Out the Jungle is considered to be better. Because Jungle's got all the singles ("Straight Out the Jungle", "Jimbrowski", "Black Is Black", "I'll House You", and of course "Because I Got It Like That") yet Nature is, I think, one of the most cohesive rap records ever... and it only came a few months after 3 Feet High and Rising essentially created the cohesive rap record. What's more, while perhaps not the most technically astounding piece of work, Nature just makes me feel good in a way few albums do.

The intrinsic problem with a cohesive record is that it gives me a gang of trouble in picking just a few songs to post. But "Acknowledge Your History" is a good example of the J. Beez dropping some real knowledge. The "red's for the blood" refrain at the end is one of my favorite things ever. "Doin' Our Own Dang" is one of the best posse cuts, and a great picture of the Native Tongues at the heighth of their little era. "Kool According To a Jungle Brother" is the kind of track you only get on a record that is specifically not a collection of singles, and it closes the album beautifully. That's all I need to say.

Nice guy that I am, I put up one of the Native Tongues rarities I've got. "The Promo" on the Jungle Brothers' first record was just what the title said, a promo for the next act, showcasing Q-Tip as he rapped about how great the upcoming Tribe record would be. A great song. I found "Promo No. 2" in those old glory days of Napster (when it was the only file-sharing around, and I pretty much just used it for obscure b-sides) and so I have no idea what it was originally a b-side to. But who cares where it came from, it's 80's Tongues shit.

So there you have it... that came out much longer than intended. Maybe sometime in the future I'll write a post about why 1997's Raw Deluxe is actually pretty good, even if I'm the only one who thinks so.
I know this brother, smoooooth like a cat.
So I looked in the mirror, and I patted him on his back.

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