Today I turn 28. For the first time since my 21st birthday, I'm OK with being a year older. I'm either getting more confident with age, or more apathetic. Same thing kinda.
Anyway, I mention this not only in hopes of a comments section brimming with LOL-/OMG/HB!!!-filled sentiments, but because I think it's cool that I share a birthday with two of my all-time favorite contributors to pop music: Roxanne Shanté and Steve "Silk" Hurley (at least I do, according to their Wikipedia entries). Part of me hates to be so queer and all like, "Birthday twins!!!" But another part of me really is that queer. The latter part wins today: below is a sampling of some of their music.
Roxanne Shanté was responsible for one of the first big hip-hop novelty records, 1984's "Roxanne's Revenge," an unprovoked answer to U.T.F.O.'s "Roxanne, Roxanne." She was 14 when she cut it, and her barely pubescent voice makes for most of the novelty. The video's below -- it's a shame about the quality, but her cuteness shines through. Do I even need to add that I love how cheap this shit is? I'm swooning at the shots that catch her from the chest and up.
Wouldn't it be awesome if, instead of singing "Happy Birthday," people rapped "Roxanne's Revenge?" That's what I want, anyway. Not even the whole thing. Just a couplet! Just a, "Every time you sayin' somethin' just-a like-a this-a / It ain't nothin' that I don't wanna miss-a."
Anyway, fast forward to 1992. Shanté had made a career of calling out bitches (JJ Fad, Salt-N-Pepa, Sparky D, the Real Roxanne in a counterattack), but nothing predicted just how acidic a turn she'd take. Inspired by an appearance on a talk show (I think Phil Donahue) with other female rappers, in which Shanté felt disrespected (or not respected enough or...something), "Big Mama" called out the major female rappers of the early '90s (Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Monie Love, Yo-Yo) who, by that point, were much more visible than she was. This was sort of an articulate precursor to Flavor of Love's begin-every-sentence-with-"Bitch..." approach to communication. I love this track a lot. It's garbage-dump nasty in its funkiness (it, like most of Rox's output including "Roxanne's Revenge," was produced by Marley Marl). At this point in her career, Shanté had been rapping for so long that picking up the mic was like breathing to her. She just sounds so natural. Also, I love how far she goes with her shit talking -- this track is equally uncalled for and unabashed. She totally succeeds in her aim to agitate. (The only really regrettable bit is the homophobia directed at Lyte. "To me a butch don't deserve a mic in hand"? That's just stupid, as it eliminates about 75 percent of her competition, which she doesn't even seem to realize. Too easy, too easy.) Anyway, this kind of self-righteous indignation only works when diving off such a nimble tongue. And looking back on everything, I kinda think she was right.
I won't say too much about Chicago house producer Steve "Silk" Hurley. I already (over-) wrote about him (seriously: shut up, me!). Even though I listen to much less soulful house than I did a year ago, he's still my favorite house producer -- his balance of light and dark, masculinity and femininity, sweetness and grit, really appeal to me on principle. I've said a few times that his remix of Jomanda's "Got a Love for You" (1991) is my favorite track ever, and I think that stands -- again and again, even when I haven't heard it in months, I'm reminded of how much I love it, how catchy every single element of this track is. His remix of Ten City's "That's the Way Love Is" is almost as great. The quick cut in and out at the 2:08 point never fails to thrill me.
So yay. Girl rap and house music, two of my favorite things in the world. Happy birthday to us.