Hip Hop Roots

Artist: Tommy Boy Presents...Title: Hip Hop RootsRating: 4 StarsReviewed by: Mark Cilantro

Hip-hop is changing. By most accounts the art form that we all recognize is bordering on 30 years old. That means that most of the fans who read these reviews and go to jams in Central Park were toddlers when the records I consider classics were created. Fans who were 5 years old when “Straight Out The Jungle” (that’s by The Jungle Brothers) dropped. To some of these cats Public Enemy is the band whose members included that crazy dude on VH1 and that political commentator from Air America. But this piece is not one of those ‘you whippersnappers don’t know what real Hip-hop is.’ I think the fact that people have know idea who Bob James is is great. It means our culture is growing. And growth is good.

Books like “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop” and the ego trip crew are creating a proper written archive for our culture’s struggles. More importantly, the creators of the culture are writing the record. Not the spectators. Which leads us to the topic of the day Hip-Hop Roots (Tommy Boy).

This compilation of classic breaks is presented by Tommy Boy, himself, Mr. Tom Silverman with the help of the legendary Jazzy Jay, one of the pillars of the Zulu Nation. The fact that these two men are behind this compilation is cause enough to generate a purchase. Jazzy Jay was the right hand of Bambaataa in the formative years in the South Bronx. While Bam was ‘”The Master of Records” Jay was the top soldier spinning the platters. It is safe to say that Jazzy Jay’s (and many others) courage and vision created the template for the modern DJ.

On the professional side Tom Silverman is without a doubt one of Hip-hop’s unsung heroes. His Tommy Boy imprint is responsible for numerous genre defining moments. Coolio, Queen Latifah, De La Soul, Prince Raheem aka The RZA, Stetsasonic (and their DJ, Prince Paul), Digital Underground (and their roadie Tupac Shakur), Naughty By Nature, Everlast, House of Pain and of course the Soulsonic Force first recorded for Tommy Boy.

So when these cats give a lesson on Hip Hop Roots, pay attention.

The album highlights Hip-hop’s diverse pedigree from rock to funk to 60’s pop. There are two selections from the James Brown camp which illustrate The Godfather’s ubiquitous presence in Hip-hop. Lyn Collins’ “Think” which is the basis of Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock’s “It Takes Two” and James’ own “Give It Up or Turn It Loose” which the Jungle Brothers sampled for one of my all time favorites. (The drums have been sampled more times than I can mention.) Sample royalty Bob James shows up with the excellent “Take Me To The Mardi Gras” which Run-DMC rocked for the Jam Master Jay tribute “Peter Piper”.

The one selection that flipped my wig was David Bowie’s “Fame” that the Bomb Squad used for PE’s “Night of the Living Baseheads”. That is an ill ear that turned this glam rocker’s 3 second intro into one of the most important Hip-hop songs ever written. Tom and Jay also slipped in the stupid funky Cymande’s “Bra” that De La used on “Change In Speak” one of the many gems from 3 Feet High and Rising.

As the original Hip-hop sound splinters into its many disparate pieces it is necessary for us all to get a history lesson. Not to claim one interpretation superior to another but just to remember. Remember the work that entrepreneurs, DJ’s, MC’s, former gang leaders, writers, dancers and fans put in some 30 years ago in the former war zone of the South Bronx.

Go get this record and study your lessons.