A Salute To James Brown – The Godfather of Hip-Hop
Tuesday June 03rd 2014,
Filed under: Crates,Features,Great Moments In Rap,The 70's Files,Unkut Originals
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While the rap world falls over itself in the never-ending J. Dilla circle jerk, today would have marked James Brown’s 81st year if he was still with us. Considering just how hard he worked during his life, it’s amazing that he lived until 73 – a lesser man may have perished mid-splits. According to his long-suffering friend Bobby Byrd, JB and Tina Turner once shared a stage at the Five Four Ballroom in LA where they spent the entire night attempting to outdo each other by jumping off the piano into the splits and whatnot! Yet the only mention of JB I’ve seen on the rap internets has been egotripland posting couple of JB tribute mixes courtesy of DJ Scratch and J. Period. So let us take a minute to recognize and realize just why James Brown is the alpha and omega of this hip-hop shit….

Various hack music historians have drawn connections of their own to the origins of hip-hop music, but this is clearly a case where academia can get stuck to far up it’s own ass. Steven Hagar got the answer straight from the horse’s mouth in his ground-breaking 1984 book, Hip Hop: The Illustrated History of Break Dancing, Rap Music, and Graffiti:

Many critics have drawn parallels between the development of rap and reggae, a connection that is denied by Kool Herc. “Jamaican toasting?” said Herc. “Naw, naw. No connection there. I couldn’t play reggae in the Bronx. People wouldn’t accept it. The inspiration for rap is James Brown and the album Hustler’s Convention.”

Not only was JB the inspiration for the music, but his legendary moves also played a large part in the development of breakdancing:

“There was no such thing as b-boys when we arrived, but Herc gave us that tag. Just like he named his sound system the Herculords and he called me and my brother the Nigger Twins. He called his dancers the b-boys.” Despite their age, Keith and Kevin soon established themselves as the premier performers at Herc’s parties. “When we danced, we always had a crowd around us,” said Keith. “We wore Pro-Keds, double-knit pants, windbreakers, and hats we called ‘crushers.’ One of us would always have the hat on backwards and we both had straws in our mouth.” During the week, the twins spent hours working on new routines, inventing steps that would amaze the crowd. “James Brown had a lot to do with it,” explained Kevin, “because he used to do splits and slide across the floor.”

But just what exactly is it about Mr. Brown’s music that is so essential to rap? Lifelong fan Pete Rock, who’s nickname and short-lived Soul Brother record imprint were both modeled after JB, also agrees that without James Brown, hip-hop music as we know it would not exist:

“He’s been an influence to everyone. He’s the reason for hip-hop music – period! That’s it! He was it! He created ‘Boom! Bap!’ He created that! He made that. James Brown is definitely the creator of hip-hop because he’s the creator of “the one” and the snare hit, and the one and the two. “On the one” – that was important to him, and he wanted people to know how that’s done and what he was listening to in his head. I have the DVD where he breaks it down how he figured out how to make the drum beat! He figured it out. It’s ill, man. I love watching that DVD. It’s called Soul Survivor.

Pete even goes as far as to imply that the Godfather of Soul may have passed on some of his genius to him in person:

“I met James Brown when I was seven years old. My mom took me to a concert in Mt. Vernon, New York. He came and performed and me and my younger brother met him. My younger brother was six and I was seven and we met James Brown. It was crazy! When we met him I think he passed something on to me. I wasn’t the same after I met him. I went to his funeral – just standing there, lookin’ at him for a good hour. I was standing right next to his casket.”

Not only did James Brown inspire Kool Herc to create hip-hop, invent the “Boom! Bap!” drum rhythm and inspire break dancing, he’s also provided a wealth of breaks and samples that continue to drive great rap to this day. And yet where is due? No James Brown? No Prince or Michael Jackson (and definitely no Justin Timberlake or Pharrell). And, even more importantly, no “Rebel Without A Pause.”

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6 Comments so far
Leave a comment

well written.bow down to da god.

Comment by swordfish 06.04.14 @

just listening to the dj scratch mix – it’s amazing!

j.rocc’s james brown & friends mixes are also highly recommended.

Comment by m'eggz pee 06.04.14 @

Truly the first Rapper!! One of the Greatest to ever do it on every level salute to the Godfather of Soul and Godfather of HIPHOP.Still No Father Shaheed rest in Peace shout out on hear so unkut you ant no better if you don’t Recognize your own community thank about it. Get some PRT Vids on hear ASAP!!!

Comment by DialTone 06.04.14 @

All good things come to those who wait and all that…A Tribute To Father Shaheed of PRT

Comment by Robbie 06.04.14 @

both mixes are incredible (Scratch did an even iller one a couple years back) … and i think James was born on May 3, not June 3

Comment by RBi 06.05.14 @

JB is GOD!!!!! I own everything by him I could ever get my paws on.
Read every book and bought every documentary I ever saw.
Oddly enough HIP HOP music is what drove me to James Brown.
When I was young I knew some of his stuff because of my Ma Dukes was a fan and even saw him in 1966 at the Apollo.
But it was the samples of his music in 86, 87, 88 and 89 that made me wanna go and find all his stuff.
I have a record of James live where he does a 20 minute version of ITS A MAN’S WORLD.
Amazing. James is HIP HOP!!!!
The JBs are HIP HOP!!!
Hip Hop without James Brown Samples would be worse than no Rakim, KRS, Kane, G Rap, Lord Finesse, LL , Run DMC and Public enemy.
Imagined if they never existed???!
Same as if James Brown never made music.
He was a golden glove boxer. Thank God he didn’t stick to boxing.

Comment by Dj Davito 06.05.14 @



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