Chuck D, Large Professor, & Nas Celebrate How Youth Have Shaped Music Throughout History (Video)
Revolt TV has launched a new series called “Breaking Genres,” which aims to examine the divisions within music, particularly as it relates to the varying labels used to define genres and subgenres. The multi-installment program is delivered in documentary form, with each episode examining a different aspect of the music industry and the role of human behavior in its organizational structure. According to the series’ website, the program takes a detailed look at the ways in which “labeling music made it easier to talk about and to sell to more targeted demographics,” while also pursuing the notion that “dividing music has also meant dividing people.” The docuseries premiered on November 16, and with five episodes to its name, “Break Genres” will “frame, foment, and stoke a conversation on the state of genre-based thinking in music, incorporating exclusive interviews with pioneers of the movements.”
In its latest episode, the show examines youth movements throughout history and how they impact the formulation of distinct microcosms within music, and how genres like Disco, Grunge, Hip-Hop, and Punk Rock fed into each other. Featuring input from artists representing a handful of distinct genres, Hip-Hop’s voice is represented loudly by 50 Cent, 9th Wonder, Chuck D, Fab 5 Freddy, Just Blaze, Large Professor, Nas, Pharoahe Monch, Raekwon, Rick Rubin, Swizz Beatz and others, all of whom spoke to the incredible power of young people. The episode’s title, “From the Streets Up,” traces the development of musical culture from its roots in youth enclaves, a segment of the population who have historically created and defined the trends that mainstream culture eventually buys into. Revolt’s roster of contributing guests could not exemplify that development any more perfectly; all of the aforementioned began exploring Hip-Hop as teens (and even younger in some cases); from Chuck D’s revolutionary influence with Public Enemy to Cee Lo’s pivotal role in helping to bring Southern Rap to the forefront with Goodie Mob, these artists and many others like them helped to bridge youth movements with music in new and genre-defining ways.
“Everything derives from the streets, it’s always going to be street-based,” says Large Pro at the top of the show. Around the 5:00, Disco’s arrival onto the scene is unpacked, which naturally spills into the earliest days of Hip-Hop and the roles New York City youth like Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, and others played in its growth. “When I helped introduce what we know of as Hip-Hop culture, that was creating a new genre, if you will…but it was also in defiance of what had pre-existed,” says Fab 5 Freddy. Shortly thereafter, Rick Rubin explains his sense that, at the time, “Hip-Hop and Punk Rock felt very similar,” setting the stage for a conversation about how seemingly divergent youth movements were in fact working to unite young people through music. However, Rap music was beginning to be “looked down upon, as if it wasn’t music,” says Chuck D. As it grew into what Nas describes as a “competitor’s sport,” the street culture of the youth began to take on different forms, which would eventually translate into subgenres within Hip-Hop. “The seeds for this change were planted in the mid-80s,” says the narrator, as images of KRS-One and Run-D.M.C. splash across the scene. Eventually, the discussion arrives at an intimate look at the development of the label “urban” to describe Hip-Hop culture, and all of its negative connotations. Just Blaze asks the thought-provoking question of “what happens that music you deem as ‘urban’ starts traveling outside of the urban populace? All of a sudden, you go to a Wu-Tang show, and it’s 80% White kids.”
Although only 24-minutes long, this episode of “Breaking Genres” manages to touch upon a host of issues ranging from the role of New York City dance-clubs, how the youth began to divide Hip-Hop into separate sects, the commercialization of the culture, and much, much more. Check out the entirety below. Viewers should note there is a glitch around the 2:16 mark which solves itself by skipping forward to around the 3:00 mark.