Monthly Archives: March 2008

Teaching The Hats We Wear

A teacher’s job goes well beyond the curriculum. It actually doesn’t even start with the curriculum. It starts with something a lot simpler. But simple things are often the hardest things to teach. Math is easy in comparison to the lessons that I want my students to leave my classroom with at the end of June.

I want my students to be able to function in society. I want them to be able to develop academically and personally. I want to help them develop aesthetically. And I want them to realize their full potential.

One of the ways to do this is to educate them about the hats that we wear. For instance, we all speak and behave differently depending on where we are and what situation we are in. A lot of students don’t think this is the case.

I have a lot of different hats but my students only seem to see me as a teacher who knows everything. By Grade 4 they need to realize that I don’t. I admit to making mistakes, and believe me, I certainly have made them in the classroom.

Role-playing is a great way to show students about the hats we wear. We can role-play how we would act for the queen, the prime minister, the reverend, our best friend, a police officer, the mayor, etc.

I think kids are actually looking for very specific guides and they often don’t get them elsewhere. I try to teach how to problem solve, how to resolve conflicts, and how to get along with people. These things may take away from my time teaching math, science, and social studies but they are equally important. They don’t need to be marked but they do need to be taught.

Year Two of My Five-Year Mission

So I guess today officially starts year two of my five-year mission. I had a plan when I started this blog. I wanted to develop my name as a writer. I wanted to write as much as I could over a five-year period with the goal to have some of my work published at the end of the five years.

Here is how I made out so far.

1) My Blog

My blog is going strong. I have maintained my posting schedule and have gotten a fair amount of comments and traffic. My blog isn’t blazing up the Internet. It isn’t a super popular site but that wasn’t my goal. I just wanted to have a vehicle to write and develop an audience. I think I have done that. It doesn’t need to be huge.

2) A Screenplay

I wrote a screenplay entitled Stealth about a young college kid who gets into some trouble when he decides to paint a tribute to his mom on the side of a store. I would love to see it produced someday. I am proud of this story.

3) A Verse Novel

I also wrote a 24,000-word verse novel entitled After the Fact. It is about a man who has a hard time getting over the demise of his relationship. I really like how this one turned out and have had a few positive responses from some family and friends who have read it.

4) A Young Adult Novel

I then wrote a young adult novel entitled 4 Wheels and a Piece of Maple. It is about an aboriginal boy in a Northern Ontario reserve who wants to become a professional skateboarder. He has many challenges to overcome, mainly the fact that there is no pavement on his reserve. He works hard and doesn’t give up and starts a movement that extends well beyond his small community.

5) I am currently working on my most ambitious project to date. It is a novel about a wanderer and I am currently about half way through it. I have written 130 pages and it is about 47,000 words long so far. This story is a bit of a challenge to write. I don’t want to get into any story details about it. I’m keeping that close to my chest for now.

It has been an amazing year. I surprised myself with how much I have accomplished. I am hoping that I will be able to get something published soon. This summer, I am going to look into publishing more seriously. So far, I have just been enjoying the writing. I already have an idea for my next book too. I think I can fairly call myself a writer now. I’m glad that I found this outlet.

Blog Birthday

Silent Cacophony turns one today. Happy Birthday!

It’s almost hard to believe that it has been a year since I made my first post. I really enjoy blogging. I hope you enjoy reading it.

I want to thank everyone who has ever supported me or left a comment. I don’t think I would be doing this still without all of you. My sincerest thanks go out to;

ECD, Silverfish, Leese, Alexis, Chipazoid, Karen, Amarpreet, Stephanie, Anonymous, Lisa, Secret Simon, Vienne, Dawn, Kat, Laura Stamps, Lizzy Dizzy, Em Soden, HeiressChild, Mended Meanderer, DA, Melissa, and Ammietia.

And if there is anyone else I forgot to mention, please forgive me.

And to the other readers who never leave a comment but continue to show up and read, Thanks.

Thanks to all the great blog writers who I have visited and commented on your blogs. Blogging has been a great experience that I plan to continue for quite some time.

Happy Birthday Silent Cacophony!

First Time on The Winter Road


People who don’t live in the far north probably have no idea what a winter road is. The truth is there are a lot of communities in northern Ontario that do not have a road running into them. These communities have airstrips and for most of the year, this is the only way into the community.

In the winter when the lake freezes, a winter road is maintained and operated so that people can drive out of their communities. So for a few months every year, the people who live in these communities have another way out of town. Driving is cheaper and allows the residents to transport heavy and bulky objects that would be really expensive to ship by air. Communities depend on the winter road to bring up all the fuel and building materials they will need for an entire year, until the road is reopened next season.

Being from southern Ontario, I was always cautioned to stay off the ice. I wasn’t allowed to play on the ice or to walk over it. I had heard stories about people falling through the ice and drowning. So when I decided to go visit some friends up north this long weekend, I was a little leery of going on the winter road. Driving over a frozen lake just didn’t sound like a good idea to me. Fortunately, I was in the passenger seat for this trip, and my friend told me that it was perfectly safe. So we set off over the frozen lake in his pickup truck.

It was quite unlike anything I had ever seen before. There aren’t any road signs and the road can be a bit bumpy in places. You cannot go too fast on it either because that can create waves under the ice.

The road is maintained and plowed. The snow that has fallen all winter makes it look like the road is actually lower than the rest of the lake. You need to be careful to stay on the road so that you don’t get stuck in a snow bank on the side. You come across big eighteen-wheeler trucks, such as this one I snapped a picture of as we passed it.

My friend let me drive for a few kilometers too. It felt a lot different than just driving on a snow covered road. I’m sure that I’d get used to it if I had to do it all the time, but the truth is, it was a bit scary. If I wasn’t with a good friend who drove on it often, I don’t know if I would’ve been comfortable at all. But it is seasonal life for a lot of people. And it was beautiful being out there in the middle of nowhere on the frozen lake.

Jericho – Perfect Television


I have satellite television and was thus able to watch the season finale of Jericho last night. This is television at its finest. It was absolutely perfect.

The writing on this show has been stellar since the very first episode last season. The story has been compelling and the action and suspense has risen with each new episode. I can’t say enough good things about this show.

Season 1 is now on DVD. If you haven’t seen this show before, go out and buy it. You won’t be disappointed. I know that I was ecstatic to see that we fans were able to save this show from cancellation last season. They sure did right by us too.

This second season told the next chapter of the series perfectly. It wrapped up the story line in a great way and still left us wanting more. I hope and pray that there will indeed be a third season. The story can definitely continue for another season or two.

The show airs again tonight and on the weekends on Space here in Canada. If you missed it last night don’t fret. I won’t give away any plot information or spoilers. Just support good television. Watch it. Buy it. Demand more of it.

Thanks.

Improving Self Through Others

When I was younger, I used to put myself down at every available opportunity. I did it in what I thought was witty and funny ways. I did it so much that it actually became a problem. I then found a girl that I really liked and a relationship developed. She wouldn’t let me put myself down anymore. I kept trying but she wouldn’t put up with it.

In teacher’s college, I was placed inside a great teacher’s classroom. He really challenged me to change as well. I first went into his classroom talking like I did in everyday life. He told me that as teachers we need to model good English and that it was important to do so. At the time, I thought he was just harping on me. He would actually count how many times I said, “gonna” in the course of a lesson instead of the proper “going to.” I tell you it was quite illuminating to see the ridiculous amount of tallies he showed me. I couldn’t believe it.

I tried to stop saying “gonna” in the classroom. I tried to stop putting myself down in other aspects of my life. Both my ex-girlfriend and my associate teacher helped me to do so. They wouldn’t put up with anything less. At the time, I absolutely hated it but now I can see that they did me a favour.

I don’t say “gonna” in the classroom anymore or “wanna” or “guys” or any other number of slang words and mispronunciations that many teachers seem to use. I want to thank my associate teacher for that. I don’t put myself down anymore either. I need to thank my ex-girlfriend for that.

Both of these people helped me better myself. I didn’t appreciate it at the time because it was hard. It was difficult for me to change. I didn’t want to change. But when I thought about it, it made so much sense. These things didn’t help me at all. They needed to go. And they did.

I couldn’t have done it by myself. I will forever be indebted to you both. I hope you know how much these two little things helped me. I want to thank anyone else who helped influence me in positive ways and to see a better side of myself. You might not know the good that you did for me. Those little things were not little at all. They were huge.

A Brief History of Hip-Hop Conclusion – Hip Hop is Alive and Well

Read The Introduction, Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
9 10 11

When Nas came out with Hip Hop is Dead last year it sparked a lot of debate. Some people were angry that he could say such a thing. I understood where he was coming from and agreed with him. It seemed like there was no music of any substance being produced anymore. The songs that were hitting on the charts were all empty, soulless songs that did not appeal to me in the least. That’s not to say that quality rap did not exist, it is just to say that the culture was not being properly represented in the mainstream. Hip-hop did seem like it was dead.

I think this song lyric describes it all,

“If my partners don’t look good, Malik won’t look good
if Malik don’t look good, the Quest won’t look good
if the Quest don’t look good, the Queens won’t look good
but since out sounds are universal, New York won’t look good”
– A Tribe Called Quest Oh My God from the album Midnight Marauders.

For a while hip-hop did not look good. Too many rappers were focusing on materialism. Videos seemed to be all about drugs, sex, and rock and roll. Hip-hop forgot about all of the progress it had made. It forgot about the important contributions of the pioneers that made this art for great. This mind state and artists that didn’t really have a heart for this culture hurt it terrible. They made us all look bad.

I think that Nas helped bring hip-hop back to its roots by focusing on this and by naming his album Hip Hop is Dead. He seems to have kick-started a revival here that we are finally starting to see the effects of.

Hip-hop is not dead. It has been alive and well since its inception in 1969. I would argue that the culture didn’t official come together and solidify until 1972 but that’s up for debate. Nonetheless, it is clear that hip-hop is not going anywhere. It has a rich cultural history that cannot be ignored. It’s time that we built a hip-hop hall of fame so that everyone can be familiar with this great culture.

I hope that you enjoyed this series as much as I did putting it together. Thanks for all your comments and support!

A Brief History of Hip-Hop Part 11 – East vs. West

Read The Introduction, Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
9 10

Since its very beginnings, hip-hop has had distinct regional sounds. The art form was born in the Bronx but even then there were distinct styles in three different sections of the town. In the late 1970’s DJ’s three DJs were representing the sound of their respective neighbourhoods. Kool Herc held down the west side of the Bronx, Afrika Bambataa was influential in the southeast, and Grand Master Flash took over the center portion of the city.

The Bronx is the undisputed birthplace of hip-hop. Its popularity took it worldwide but there were some growing pains along the way. MC Shan came out with a record in which rapped with pride about being from the neighbourhood of Queensbridge. BDP came out with The Bridge is Over, a battle record, to make sure everyone knew that The Bronx is what hip-hop was all about.

In time, all areas of New York became accepted in hip-hop. Rappers could claim that they were from any of the five boroughs and they would be accepted without question. It was harder for rappers to come out from any other region of the country. New York was hip-hop and it wanted to keep the music to its own.

When rap became popular, it would not be held to the city boundaries. Rappers came out from the South but didn’t get much acceptance until recently. One area where rappers were more widely accepted was from the Los Angeles area. It made sense too. LA has a lot in common with the Big Apple.

In 1994, Bad Boy Records owned the New York sound. The record label was home to one of the biggest rappers of all time, The Notorious B.I.G. Meanwhile, on the West Coast, Death Row Records had a hot star by the name of 2Pac. These two MCs used to be friends. They had a falling out and it became public. Since Biggie was the biggest thing in New York and 2Pas was the biggest thing in LA, the media hyped up the beef between the two as an East Coast vs. West Coast battle.

The East Coast vs. West Coast was akin to a hip-hop civil war. It was almost expected that you needed to chose a side and remain loyal to it. The sounds coming from both coasts were quite unique and had a lot to offer. Hip-hop should not be dismissed because of geographical reasons. But the media fueled this battle, the regional mindset that hip-hop sprang forth from fueled this battle, and the fans bought into it.

Hip-hop history had always been intricately tied to battling. It didn’t feel wrong at the time. Unfortunately, it went horribly wrong and both generals of this civil war fell victim to it. 2Pac was murdered and a few months later Biggie was murdered as well. Both murders have gone unsolved for over ten years.

Hip-hop has learned to be more accepting of regional sounds now in light of the tragedy of losing two of the best rappers ever. We can hear distinct regional sounds now not just from the East Coast and West Coast, but also from the South, the Midwest, Chicago, Atlanta, Canada, and many, many more. The sounds are often distinct enough that you can tell where a record was made from the vibe of it. While this isn’t always the case, the regional influences have had quite an effect on the music being produced today.

Next up – The Conclusion of this 12 part series

Too Attached to Image

I find a lot of people are taken aback or surprised by the fact that I am so passionate about hip-hop. I don’t seem to fit the typical audience. It throws people off.

I love hip-hop music and culture but I try to remain open to other forms and genres of music. I think that this is important. I remember that I used to declare, loudly, to anyone who would listen, that music I did not like, “sucked.” I don’t do this anymore. I try to keep an open mind when it comes to music.

I think I know why people have a negative view towards hip-hop. I have blogged about this several times but I think it really boils down to this one thing. People are critical of musical genres because they have a stereotype about the audience and they don’t see themselves as fitting that image.

Students have often asked me why I don’t look like a rapper. To that, I always say, “And what does a rapper look like?” It sparks an interesting discussion. I can show them photographs of me as a teenager when I very much did fit the image of a rapper. Now that I am older and a professional, I make sure I dress the part. I think teachers should look nice and dress well.

Of course, I have also been asked why I dress up for school. I like to wear ties to work. I think it puts forth a good image for the school, students, and staff. I don’t really think about it. It seems like the right thing to do.

Maybe we are all too attached to the image we have of ourselves. I dress well at school because I am working. If I were to be on stage and performing some of my rap songs, I might dress differently, I might not. I don’t think that fans of a musical genre need to fit into an image of the stereotypical audience. Like what you like, and don’t be afraid of the image you perceive to be associated with it.

I listen to rap, I live and die for hip-hop but you would never know it from how I dress. Is that okay? Is that acceptable? I think it is.

Album Spotlight # 6


2Pacalypse Now by 2Pac

This is the debut album from “the greatest emcee to ever touch a mic,” at least I have been proclaiming that ever since I was first introduced to this amazing artist.

There is something intangible about his music. It could be the raw emotion that he seems to evoke on every single song he appears on. It could be the intensity in which he delivers his music. It could be his versatility to rap about anything and make it sound like it is near and true to his heart. He can do some of hardest ganster rap you could think of and then turn around a do a song uplifting woman, as he did in Keep Your Head Up.

From the first time I heard him on Digital Underground’s gem This is an E.P. Release, 2Pac shined. Shortly thereafter, I saw the debut video from this album, Trapped. The video was striking for a few reasons. Number one, I was a fan of Digital Underground and Humpty Hump was signing the hook on this new song. Number two, I was already a 2pac fan from his appearance on Digital Underground’s Same Song and love to sing along with it. Number 3, the video had a grainy look to it, great lyrics, and was completely different than anything I had heard from Digital Underground.

This was 2Pac’s first offering and I know plenty of people who can’t understand why I love this album so much. 2Pac did grow as an artist and you can hear that growth in his later recordings. But this record will always be special to me. Trapped remains one of my all-time favourite songs. This album is a classic to me.

I think there is still a great debate over the greatest rapper of all time. I don’t think we necessarily need to crown anyone. I just think that it is important to acknowledge the greats. 2Pac has had a long and successful career. He has shown longevity in a field where not many artists can. He has released album after album of great material. He has witty wordplay, great delivery, and covers a wide variety of topics in his songs. He has been and continues to be an influence to rappers everywhere.

This album introduced us to a great talent. Had 2Pac’s life not been cut tragically short, I am sure that he would still be on top of his game. He was just beginning to show us his amazing talent on the big screen as well. There would have been no denying his stature as one of the best of all time on record, the stage, and the screen. His presence is still felt and I know that I still mourn our loss. Rest in Peace Tupac Shakur! You are missed.

Conversation Builds Vocabulary

This was an idea thrown out there during a recent workshop I took on Supporting Adolescent Reading. As soon as I heard the presenter say, “Conversation builds vocabulary,” I knew she had something there. I have known this all along, although I have never really thought about it.

I have never spoken down to children in as long as I have been working with them. I speak to them much the same way I would speak to an adult. I have conversations with children and really listen to what they have to say. I use the same language and choice of words I would with a friend. I always thought I did this out of respect. Children deserve to have respectful conversations with adults. Now I can see that it also serves another purpose, it helps children learn.

Conversation builds vocabulary. Speaking to children respectfully and engaging them in good conversation exposes them to all sorts of words and conventions. It models appropriate speaking and listening behaviour. It shows them that what people think and say is important. And yet it is something we probably don’t think about.

How many parents have good quality conversations with their children? How many parents just constantly criticize or yell at their kids instead? I know that some parents never even really speak to their children. It is sad.

I remember when I used to work as an after-school supervisor. Most parents would come to pick up their children and quickly rush out the door. One parent in particular wouldn’t even get off of her cell phone when signing out her kid. She would motion at him and expect him to just come without any discussion. It didn’t matter what her son was doing at the time. In contrast, I had one parent who would always come in and sit with his daughter and see what she was doing. He would stay and play with her for a few minutes, or talk to her about her day while she finished her activity. This was great to see. I loved to see parental involvement like that. Unfortunately, I didn’t see it very much.

So I think we need to encourage parents to speak to their children more often and to have good quality conversations. I see this happens more with grandparents, but children don’t always have access to their grandparents. And parents will often feel like they don’t have the time. This, however, is just an excuse. Children deserve to have your time. Give them as much of it as you can. It really is the most important thing you can give them.

A Brief History of Hip-Hop Part 10 – The Production

Read The Introduction, Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
9

Rap songs started out simply enough. It was what the DJs had available. They had record players and they had plenty of records. That was all that was needed, at the start. DJs could extend the break of the record to make a repetitive loop of one part of a song. In this manner, an eight bar break could be extended indefinitely.

When the turntable became an instrument and DJs worked hard to improve their sets with technical tricks, the emcee became very important. It wasn’t long before the emcees were improving as well. They tried to outdo each other with rhymes on the microphone. They wrote longer and more complex verses, and soon began to write actually songs.

Now, song production came to the forefront of the culture. The first rap songs were done over a break of a record that was looped repetitively over and over. Since many of the rappers were using the same records, they need to do something to set themselves apart from their peers. Drum machines, sequencers, and synthesizers were soon used to create the backdrop of the song.

Afrika Bambaataa used an eclectic mix of synthesizers, drum machines, and samplers to create an electronic sound. This funky electronic sound created a new genre all of its own but his experiments with sound collage mixing influenced hip-hop culture.

Producers would “sample” a portion of a record to borrow a sound or loop to create a new composition. This was similar to what DJs did when they extended breaks but with the advent of the technology, sounds could be easily layered on top of each other. This way a rapper wouldn’t just be rapping over a break, there would be other sounds added to it.

A lot of rappers started to sample portions of James Brown’s music. He remains today one of the most sampled of all artists in hip-hop. His unique sound and dance style really influenced the start of the culture so it was great to see his music become even more of an influence in the 1980s.

The technology allowed producers to layer sound upon sound, much the way Phil Spectre created the wall of sound technique for rock music. Rap music producers created walls of sound in rap music that often seemed chaotic. Some sounds would be deliberately jarring as was the case with Public Enemy’s unique sound. This chaos was seen as a reflection of the society that the music was coming from.

Sampling is really the foundation of rap music. Hip-hop started out by looping up breaks and just progressed from there. Some people outside of the culture may think that sampling is just redoing a song and being lazy but it is actually the basic core of this music form. I will agree that some sampling is lazy and uncreative. With the technology available today, sampling can be a creative and unique. We shouldn’t forget that it can still be a tool that can be used effectively to make great music.

Next up

Part 11 – East vs. West

A Brief History of Hip-Hop Part 9 – The Turntable as an Instrument

Read The Introduction, Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Hip-hop started with the DJ. This is a point that I cannot emphasize enough. From the very first block parties, DJs used record players in very creative ways. They didn’t merely play a record for people to dance to. They mixed up two copies of a record to extend the break. The used a mixer to make this switch between records seamless.

In 1975 Grand Wizard Theodore invented the scratch. The legend goes that his mom yelled at him and he accidentally put his hand on the record and stopped it from spinning to hear her. The sound intrigued him and he experimented with moving the record back and forth to create a scratch sound.

Scratching didn’t get captured on record until the 1981 release of Grand Master Flash’s “The Adventures of Grand Master Flash on the Wheels of Steel.” This release helped to solidify the turntable as an instrument and gave us a new way to describe it. DJ equipment is still often referred to as wheels of steel.

In order to scratch a record all you really need is a record player and a record. The turntable spins the record while the needle reads the music on it and sends it up the arm to the receiver. Stopping the record in mid-spin produces a sound that is like a musical note. Like any instrument, you can use a turntable to get all sorts of different notes and pitches by manipulating the sound that is on the record.

There are a few ways to manipulate the sound on the record. The first is by cutting the record back and forth at different speeds. It is important when doing this not to let the needle leave the groove of the record. This way we are working with one sound that is on the record and we are basically playing it forwards and backwards rapidly. This gives us a duffa-duffa-duffa sound. The sound drastically changes depending on what sound you are scratching on. For example, a snare drum will sound a lot different than a kick drum.

If you hook up a mixer to the turntable you can rapidly cut off the sound of the record whenever you want by moving the crossfader to the side. If you move the record rapidly and the crossfader rapidly at the same time, you can play just the forward bursts of the sound. If you move the record slowly back and forth and the crossfader quickly you get what is called a transformer scratch.

The turntable is a versatile instrument. DJs work hard learning tricks and creating montages of sounds that can be created into unique musical compositions. It is quite the show to see at DJ at work. It takes years of practice to get good at it and learn the basics. This makes it like any other instrument out there.

Next Up

The Key to Good Production

The key to good hip-hop is this – the music and lyrics need to work together. They need to enhance each other like a movie script and an actor. A script is great by itself but it doesn’t truly come alive until it is produced.

Rap music goes way beyond beats and lyrics when it is produced well, just like movies. Unfortunately, a lot of music these days is not produced well. Lyrics are haphazardly thrown over a beat and then a record is quickly released. If the producer and rapper took more time to work together we could have some amazing records out there instead of a plethora of mediocre ones.

I know that when I write, I like to write specifically for that beat. I find that the beat tells me what to say and how to accentuate my words. I never really thought that it should work the other way too.

Maybe the best way to make a song is to write to the beat to make sure that the words fit the rhythm and the flow of the music. Then the producer should go back and redo the beat to make sure that it accentuates the words and fits with the rhythm and flow of the delivery of the lyrics.

I realize that this takes time and that the music industry doesn’t always want to invest this time. Too much of the songs that make it to the airwaves are underproduced. They sound sloppy. With a little more time and effort, we could have better quality songs on the airwaves.

I don’t listen to much of what is on the radio or the video channels. Most of the hip-hop I listen to is from the underground. I like to hear intelligent lyrics with a nice flow and a good beat. Too much of the popular rap music these days is just not up to par with my high standards. And I think we need to demand the best from our music. If the music isn’t good all the way around, I don’t think we should support it or sub par music will continue to be produced. We need to demand better. It’s important.

Simplicity Needs to be Taught

The simple things in life need to be taught and understood. We have forgotten a lot of the simple things. We think simple doesn’t need an explanation, so we say nothing. Why waste our breath? Everyone knows, for a while, but then we forget. We’ve forgotten more than we know.

Some cultures are dying out. The collective knowledge of the elders is being lost because languages are dying out. Many young people are assimilating into modern culture and don’t really think that their own native tongue is an important thing to hold on to. Things aren’t passed down from generation to generation like they used to be. A lot of universal truths, natural remedies, and stories have been lost forever. It’s a shame too. To quote the rapper Shad, “We compromise who we are and run the very serious risk of losing ourselves completely.”

It seems that everything is more complicated these days. It doesn’t need to be. Let’s remember the simple truths that we have. Let’s make sure that we teach them to others so that they won’t be forgotten.

Everything is Story

If someone were to give me a test of my life, I think I would fail it. I can’t remember a lot of things that I probably should be able to. I’m often surprised when family members recall an event. I have to get them to explain in further. Sometimes this helps and I remember it, sometime I only get a vague impression of the event, and sometimes it doesn’t help at all. I don’t remember it.

I have studied psychology and have done some research about how the brain works. I know scientific terms and processes. I have seen diagrams of the brain but it doesn’t clear anything up for me. I don’t think we will ever know how the brain truly works.

I often wonder why I have thousands and thousands of songs in my head. I love music and have over 800 CDs, countless tapes, and hundreds of records in my collection. I used to tape albums and radio shows. There was a time in my life when I would buy an album or two every week. Music was everything to me then.

But why do these songs, and new ones I like, stay in my head. What makes them more important in my memory than everyday events? I think that it might be because they are intricately tied to many other things in my life.

I could tell the story of how I got interested in music. It’s a good story too. In fact, every album in my collection has a story to it. I don’t just mean the lyrics, song order, and album title. How I found each album or discovered each artist has its own story. I’m sure that the musicians have a story behind the creation of the albums as well.

One thing that I think everyone can understand in story. Everyone knows what a story is. We listen to them and tell them every single day. TV, movies, video games, conversations; they are all stories. Everything is story.

If everything is story perhaps studying story will help us to come to the ultimate answers for which everyone seeks. Science has tried to come up some answers, as have the arts and religion. So far, not one discipline has all the answers. One thing all three of these disciplines have in common however, is story.

Everything is story, and I will attempt to prove this with examples from science, religion, and the humanities. This new series on Silent Cacophony is long overdue. This theory has been with me for years, it is now time to explore it. I hope you will join me on this journey.

A Brief History of Hip-Hop – Rap Gets Political

Read The Introduction, Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

In the late 1980s, we saw a shift in the lyrical content of rap songs. This new style is referred to as political rap. The emcees started to talk about real life issues. Chuck D, of the legendary group Public Enemy once referred to rap music as “the Black people’s CNN.” His statement basically meant that hip-hop, at its root, could be used to deliver messages and educate the youth to issues that really mattered to them and the black community.

In 1987 Boogie Down Productions (BDP), with producer Scott La Rock and emcee Krs-One, came out with their historic album Criminal Minded. Public Enemy came out with Yo! Bum Rush the Show. These two albums set off a new mind state in hip-hop where social commentary and the message of the lyrics became just as important as the overall sound of the record.

The following year saw the release of an album that scared a lot of people outside of the hip-hop culture. NWA came out with Straight Outta Compton. The group consisted of Dre. Dre, Ice Cube, Easy-E, Mc Ren, and DJ Yella. Their raw sound and edgy lyrics really brought forth a new style and sound that would be referred to as gangsta rap.

NWA rapped about police brutality, poverty, and the daily life of the ghetto. This style of rap had been around for a few years but had been flying below the radar, as it were, until this album was released. Rappers that made this style of music described their sound not as gangsta rap but as reality rap.

NWA’s song F*&# The Police started off a heated debate about the censorship that would continue for quite some time. These three albums were hugely influential and proved that rap music was more than just putting simple and catchy rhymes to a break.

The production values took the music to new heights as well. The records sounded more musically complex, the lyrics were really saying something and people started to take notice.

Rap music exploded in popularity in the late 1980’s. People who didn’t understand what it was at the time and called it a fad, tried to dismiss it, or censor it. Fortunately, hip-hop would prevail and prove its staying power.

Next up

Part 9 – The Turntable as Instrument

A Brief History of Hip-Hop – Part 7 Break Dancing

Read The Introduction, Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

In 1962 James Brown recorded his historic Live at the Appolo. His sound and performance really introduced a new form of dancing. In 1969 he recorded two songs that have had quite a lasting influence on hip hop culture; Sex Machine and Funky Drummer. His records emphasized the break down, the part of the record that is stripped down to the drums and only basic accompaniment.

James Brown would put a lot of energy into his shows. He would shift his feet so that it looked as if he was gliding across the stage. This style of dance was known as The Good Foot.

The Good Foot became quite popular and took on the name B-boy. It soon started being referred to as break dancing because DJs would extend the breaks using two copies of the record on two turntables. When this dance first started, there were no headspins, or aerial manoeuvres. It consisted of footwork and was actually quite complex.

Afrika Bambaataa saw the dancing as a way for young people to really accomplish something and, as such he started one of the first crews, The Zulu Kings. Soon after a number of crews were created. The crews practiced together and became quite dedicated to the craft. Break dancing battles were common. Crews of dancers would compete and try to out do each other.

In 1977, probably the most recognizable name in break dancing, even today was born, The Rock Steady Crew. They took the dance to new heights, quite literally. Their style included aerial manoeuvres and we started to see backspins, headspins, handglides, and windmills.

Break dancing wavered in popularity of the years but it has never gone away. Today’s break dancers are performers who are just captivating to watch. The routines that some of the crews do and intricate and quite complex.

Of course, we need to remember that hip-hop started with the DJ. The dancing was the whole impetus behind the birth of the culture. Break dancing clearly started in 1960s and was heavily influenced by James Brown. This is an important part of our history and culture.

Next up

Part 8 – Rap Gets Political

Don’t trust this blogger!

I’ve just been spammed in my comments. Someone sent me two links and when I clicked on either of them I got a pop-up window saying that my computer is infected. I think that this blogger is just selling software but I do not know.

I’ve deleted the comment and thought I should give you a heads up.

The blogger is listed as “doum” and the website links he sent me were http://antispy.compani.com and http://jbl-publications-yorkshire-ter.blogspot.com

Come to Grips

People look, search, invent
conceal, hide, deny
flaunt, show, try
any excuse, chance, or opportunity
they get, or come to
I say this like I’m detached,

separate,

alone,

but I’m one, two
just a number in a cacophonous crowd
One moment trying to hide, blend in, disappear
The next shouting loud,
“I’m here!”
“See me!”
“Take notice!”
cause I noticed you

My search is understated because
I believe in fate, kismet, destiny
I haven’t found her yet
but I’ve stumbled upon everything great in life thus far
my career, hip-hop, my first car
It seems like life is a journey,
show up, stay alert, make good choices
and you’ll go far.