By Suede Jury
Damn. My dad loved a lot of music. Thanks to him, all my Sundays still feel like George Benson’s “Breezin” or “Astral Weeks” by Van Morrison. He wouldn’t make a good party DJ though; his mix game was too wild. He could switch from classical, to the Beatles, to some traditional West African high life music within the span of three songs. Wild. One time, he played this track that sounded like all those things in one. I had to ask what it was. I was a 7-year-old kid growing up in Brooklyn, and the sound was a far cry from Jodeci and “Pop Goes the Weasel” that echoed between the tenement buildings in the evenings. The answer to my question was so familiar that it surprised me. “This,” he said, “this is the Rolling Stones.”
“I lifted every lick he’s ever played. This is the gentleman that started it all as far as I’m concerned.” (Keith Richards on Chuck Berry, 1986)
“Black music was my life, and still is. Of course, there is a lot of great white music these days. But it is still Black music, where it is at, man. Black music started the revolution in the world, the so-called youth revolution – this whole change of style, of attitude, was started by rock & roll, and rock & roll is Black…” John Lennon (Jet Magazine, Oct 26, 1972)
It has been four decades since the Rolling Stones’ record “Cherry Oh Baby” (a cover tune of Jamaican musician Eric Donaldson), and their subsequent collaborations with reggae megastar Peter Tosh. Since then, the canvas of culture and its exchange have dramatically changed, but an element of controversy still looms around the topics of ownership and identity. In an interview on Sway in the Morning in January, rapper Lupe Fiasco weighed in with his opinion:
“Hip-hop culture is hip-hop culture; it’s not black culture.”
I hit pause, and took a deep breath, to calm the opinionated wave that was building in me, threatening to drown any chance of objective thought. After all, I grew up seeing Run-DMC on Sesame Street, and purple-topped vials in the gutters on Flatbush Avenue—the same kind Raekwon and Ghost would talk about—and when they mentioned family reunions and cookouts, I would think of Prospect Park, a few blocks from my building. But this interview wasn’t about me, or my youthful PlaySkool radio demo tapes. I pressed play, and Fiasco continued.