Forty years ago this week, Cindy Campbell hosted a back-to-school party at her parents’ Bronx apartment (1520 Sedgwick Avenue, to be exact). Her 16-year-old brother Cliff, an aspiring DJ and noted graffiti artist otherwise known as Kool Herc, was in charge of the music. Inspired by DJs of his native Jamaica, Cliff would extend the “break” of a song by juggling between two records, providing an optimal soundtrack for the increasingly popular practice of break dancing. It was at the Campbell’s party on August 11th, 1973, however, where Cliff broke down songs by James Brown, The Incredible Bongo Band, and Booker T. & the M.G.’s, only to pass the mic to his friend Coke La Rock, who then began shouting overtop the beat. Hip-hop was born.
In light of this monumental anniversary, the staff members at Consequence of Sound have each written a few words about their favorite hip-hop song. Note this is not a “greatest songs list” or anything like that; rather, it’s just a celebration of the genre by fans of all kinds, ranging from novice to longtime enthusiast. As you read along, we also invite you to share your own favorites in the comments section below.
Ol’ Dirty Bastard – “Snakes”
Ol’ Dirty Bastard gets a well-deserved rep for being the demented court jester of hip-hop (sorry, Flavor Flav), so much so that it’s easy to forget that his 1995 solo debut, Return to the 36 Chambers, is actually a pretty underrated gem. It’s a solo record in possibly the loosest sense of the word, as Dirty gets a lot of help from his fellow Wu soldiers, but that collaboration makes the record soar. My personal favorite track comes by way of Dirty’s collaboration with RZA, Killah Priest, and Masta Killa on “Snakes”. The track lets the Wu’s wild, off-the-cuff style fly, and ODB’s scatterbrained word association about demon beasts, salamanders, and piranhas is icing on the cake. –Ryan Bray
Kanye West – “Can’t Tell Me Nothing”
Call the attachment sentimental. In college, I got into a scuffle on Twitter with one of my best friends defending “Can’t Tell Me Nothin’” off Kanye West’s third studio album, 2007’s Graduation. He hated Kanye’s ego. I thought the value of the song was twofold: Kanye admits internal conflict resulting from fame. Also, it’s great fun to shout, “But homey this is my day!” while washing dishes. I closed my case with a link to a video of Zach Galifianakis lip syncing to it for Funny or Die. I’d like to think I won. –Erin Carson