What Does it all Mean?
Old School hip hop, three stripes, gold chains and big ass ghetto blasters eh?
That’s how it’s been written, and the guns and bling philosophy of modern rap, certainly has its feet carefully planted in reality, as hip hop remains the music of the streets. But the incubation of rapping over a beat came at fascinating time in the late seventies New York, where art was king and the idea of crossover was rampant.
So instead of the closed mentality of ‘keeping it real’ you saw boys from the Bronx rapping over uptown disco music (Rappers Delight) or icy Teutonic electro (Planet Rock). This melting pot of high end nightlife and bloc party grit also saw some unlikely individuals taking a prime role in creating what was to become an all conquering musical monolith.
One of these characters was Chris Stein, a self styled ‘nerdy white advertising geek’, who along with his partner in crime Double Dee (Douglas DiFranco) entered a Tommy Boy records competition to remix ‘Play that Beat Mr D’J by NY rappers Globe and Wiz kid. Instead of adding a new bassline or cutting up the vocal, the pair deconstructed the entire song meticulously splicing together clips of popular hits and sound bytes sourced from popular TV shows and adverts.
In today’s post –modern sampling world, it’s not that revolutionary to stick together your favourite bits of something else to create a new entity. But these were the fledgling days of sampling, and the agility and style with the duo approached the project created the now legendary Lessons One. Of course they won the competition and went on to create Lessons Two and Three, before Steinski chose to go alone, creating denser and more adventurous works as the decade progressed.
Of course the problem with nicking other peoples sounds is that they are unwilling to let you put it out under your own name. So for yours Steinski’s rocking dancefloor masterpieces existed only on white label bootlegs and dusty tapes recorded from the radio.
This release package goes some ways to restoring the legacy of those sessions, a beautifully complied Double CD and accompanying booklet, ‘What does it All Mean’ contains not only the original ‘Lessons’ series, but other seminal works such as the JFK assassination track’ The Motorcade Sped on’. Disk two brings things (almost) up to date with a full length mix recorded for Coldcuts legendary Solid Steel show.
Many works of art are deigned masterpieces, but in the canon of modern music, the tracks contained here certainly out punch their weight in terms of influence. Not merely abstract works of art, Steinski also had his finger on the groove, and its safe to say fathered a musical legacy from Public Enemy, through to DJ Shadow, The Chemical Brothers and most recently 2002’s mash-up craze. Pure gold dancefloor history- ignore at your peril.