Good-Bye Scott La Rock

On August 27, 1987 it was the end of a beautiful era, and the beginning of a horrible trend. That day, we lost Scott Sterling. Loving father. Community activist. Social Worker. Hip-Hopper ‘til he breathed his last. What we gained was unfortunately the first major death in Hip-Hop.

Hip-Hop was still very new then, at least on a mass scale. Run and them was blowing it up past the Bronx, but the feeling of it all was so new. I lived in the Bronx back then, and we were so proud of “South Bronx”. It was a source of pride in the face of images of Ft. Apache, and poverty and graffiti. BDP was like a good PR company, and that song was a history lesson, funky fresh in the flesh. Sandwiched between Patterson projects to the south and Melrose to the north, he was talking about my hood. Then KRS closed out with

“Cause if you don’t well then your nerves will become shocked/

And that would leave the job up to my own Scott La Rock, and he’s from…”

I can still remember the news paper article. I believe it was from the Post, in the middle of the issue. We didn’t garner cover status back then. I don’t believe it made the TV news, but I never watched much TV. My mom was the first one that showed it to me. We were kinda quiet on the block that day. Rappers were larger than life and so invincible back then. Only now, they weren’t.

We’ve had, it seems, so many since then. Some accidental (Trouble T-Roy), some of dubious circumstance (ODB) some of horribly murderous acts (Soujah Slim). We’re almost anesthetized to it, but we sensationalize it. All tragedies of differing magnitudes across our culture, but we have become macabre and perverse, celebrating the omega, rather than the alpha; the ending rather than the beginning.

We celebrate Washington’s birthday, and Martin Luther King’s birthday. In doing that we commemorate their lives and what they would mean to the world. I doubt many people know what date comes before the hyphen but September 13th and March 9th resonate instantly among the Hip-Hop community. But is that right?

Tupac has been dead for over a decade. B.I.G. for a decade. We are so wound up in their deaths that rarely do we appreciate their lives. It always ends with their ends. Much of our music is stuck trying to emulate or tribute, and we have lost sight of what’s next. Death is supposed to release, not encumber. We hold on to our dead with so much force that we don’t have free hands to reach for what’s next. You say good-bye, but who says hello?

Scott Sterling’s death was a true shock, and a true loss. He helped people change aggression to creativity. He was the hand that pulled up, not the foot that stomped down. And in his memory, BDP honored that legacy and switched gears to one of upliftment. Peculiar however is their remembrance of Scott La Rock. “SCOTT La ROCK LIVES!” They chose to make their body of work a living monument and organic testament to his memory and his service. He lives in their rhymes. He lives in their hearts. He lives in the energy that they gave on every stage performance and every album they record. With Scott Sterling we celebrate life. He was ahead of his time.

And so with this, we say good bye to all dead rappers. As a staff and as keepers of the flame, we at will no longer remind you yearly of subtraction. We are all lessened by loss and the subtraction of that weight should uplift, not bog us down in both creativity and scope. We shouldn’t mark our editorial calendars yearly with death pieces, when these people contributed to the living evolution of both the music and the surrounding culture. So from here on out, we’re done. Maybe a 10 year retrospective. Maybe the overarching effect of peripheral things associated to the lives of some of them. But no more. We owe you more than that. We owe ourselves more than that. Most importantly, we owe them more than that. And as it is, the first shall be the last. Good-bye Scott Sterling, and good-bye to all who fell after you, who have enriched our lives and contributed to our development as a culture and a movement. Scott La Rock Lives!

Hip-Hop forever.