Rap and hip hop has been repudiated by some for being overtly violent and misogynistic. While some of this reputation may be deserved, I think sometimes a cigar is just a smoke.
I’m not an expert when it comes to hip hop. I do understand, as with most musical styles that, once popularity sets in, major labels start pumping it out like cheap cheese. It seems to me that the best of the genre still comes from the underground.
33onethird is part of that same underground.
They have released a CD, Scratch Off The Surface, which uses the lingua franca of hip hop to create a message that has been universal since the 60s.
For all the chest-beating, rat-a-tat verbosity and rhythmical gymnastic fantastic that encompasses rap, one can look back superficially to the theme of the TV show, The Monkees, or deeper – to the MC5 – to see similar attitudes.
For an example, check out the track March Of The Ants, the standout track of this CD in my opinion, as it combines both critique and expression.
A drone, a clone that seldom thinks on its own /made up of metal and wires instead of flesh and bone /all he knows is his program his function is rote/he doesn’t make the decisions he only does what he’s told.
The lyrics of this song fuse social commentary through poetry to good effect. Adding a sample of a children’s version of The Ants Go Marching, as an introductory segment, creates an audio reference, nearly a non sequitur, until the original song kicks in.
Whenever I hear a song that uses samples, rather than think copyright infringement, my mind fixes on the modernist movement that brought together separate media ideas to create a new, unified expression.
If you have the right eyes and ears, you can recognize this legacy in hip hop. 33onethird has expressed the best qualities of the form in this recording.
Using samples from movies such as Fight Club, Blow and Office Space, tracks segue using a similar device that we recognize when a novelist inserts thematic quotes at the beginning of a chapter.
“Throughout my lifetime, I’ve left pieces of my heart here and there. And now, there’s almost not enough to stay alive. But I force a smile, knowing that my ambition far exceeded my talent. There are no more white horses or pretty ladies at my door,” from Blow.
I particularly like the bit about “no more white horses”, perhaps as a tip of the hat to a town that spawned members of this group. Although Whitehorse has a committed hip-hop community, I can totally understand how an ambitious artist might forsake our peaceful paradise for a career move to the bright lights of Vancouver.
It is a brave new world out there, and though the clothes and hairstyle has changed, it is the attitude that has remained the same.
“Everybody’s talkin’ bout a new sound. Funny, cause it’s just rock and roll to me.”
Check out 33onethird at www.myspace.com/33onethird.The CD, Scratch Off The Surface, can be found at Triple J’s Music or by contacting the band.