[114] Boogie Down Productions – By All Means Necessary

12 Jun

“When some get together and think of Rap
They tend to think of violence
But when they are challenged on some Rock groups
The result is always silence.”

boogie-down-productions-114-l

I don’t hate Rap, and in hindsight it seems I never did.

But perhaps more Rap music turns me off than not thanks to the perceived subject matter – too much of it glorifies a violence that I cannot relate to, one that is a little too grim, too real.

I understand that this may be a part of the appeal for fans of the genre.

The casual sexism, the profanity, the posing and posturing I could always get past, if I’m honest, when it was done with a wink and a smile.  The Rock that I regarded as my own was guilty of the same often enough.

But I never accepted the culture of gun worship which seemed to underscore so much of the Rap that found my ears.

It is with this background, and the understanding that this recording was inspired by the shooting death of BDP founder member, Scott La Rock, that I come to By All Means Necessary.

Here is the follow up to Criminal Minded, the 1987 album considered to be the herald of the Gangsta Rap wave soon to follow.  There is an irony here since – while both albums portray a grim, gun drenched reality of the South Bronx of the day – the intent was not the glorification of this culture as seen in later artists.

Songs like “Stop The Violence” and “Illegal Business” are frank and uncomfortable discussions of the balance of socio-economic power.

That said, even just a glance at the album covers makes it is easy to see where the less nuanced and responsible messages which followed might have taken their lead.

But what about the music?  That is, after all why I’m here.

It turns out these ten tracks are varied and innovative, full of long and flowing lyrical vocals over sparse yet complex beats and samples.  While I find them uneven, with some engaging me far more than others, each song is fascinating in its own right.

I even get used to intentionally flattened tones when singing rather than rapping.  This is especially noticeably on the repurposed song snippets such as in “Part Time Sucker” (riffing on Stevie Wonder’s “Part Time Lover”), but the phenomenon occurs throughout.

It is as if KRS-One is actively highlighting the importance of the intricate and at times rambling rap verses while undermining the traditional conventions of the sung chorus.

It is strange to spend so much time listening to an album so steeped in a genre which I have actively avoided for decades, but yet again, stepping outside of my comfort zone has proved to be its own reward.

The difficult questions of political and musical revolutions which BDP leave me with are fair exchange for my dismissing this sound out of hand for so long.

Next Week:  Booker T. and the MGs – Melting Pot

Owned before blogging? No. (10 of 114 = 9%)
Heard before blogging? No. (17 of 114 = 15%)
Recommend? Yes. (94 of 114 = 82%)

 

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