I'm overdue for a hip-hop news roundup, but it's all so lame. Instead of wasting time talking about dead guys on Rick Ross's lawn, let's warp back 20 years to when rap was still new and terrifying. I dug up dozens of articles from February and March of 1992, and stuff of great consequence was happening in those months: Public Enemy was feuding with Pulitzer-winning columnist Clarence Page, the sale of "erotic recordings" was being restricted, and pioneering hip-hop single "I'm Too Sexy" was edged off the top of the charts by Mr. Big. But, whatever, I'll just focus on the dumb stuff.
The Grammys had only been honoring rap for a few years, and not everyone was sold on the genre yet. When NATALIE COLE's "Unforgettable" won Record of the Year during the February 26 ceremony, Pennsylvania's Reading Eagle newspaper blamed rap for driving audiences back to the past:
What does all this mean? Some would suggest that the recordings of today have less to do with music and more to do with rhythmic war chants. There certainly is no melody in what is euphemistically called "rap music."
Rapper MARKY MARK's first big tour was met with similar pessimism. Said a reviewer for the Saint LouisPost-Dispatch:
Marky Mark strutted, rapped, and danced his way through an hour of genuine rap-styled pabulum. His music has none of the danger of many of the more politically oriented rap acts, and despite a penchant for displaying the top of his boxer shorts in public, he comes suitably scrubbed for his juvenile following.
Even more damning, from the Los AngelesTimes: "If VANILLA ICE is the Pat Boone of rap, Marky Mark must be its Andy Gibb." Remember when DONNIE was the famous one? He was doing some rapping of his own that same week. In response to allegations of lip-syncing from a former NKOTB music director, bad-boy Donnie composed a withering rap attack. A BostonGlobe account reprints the rhymes (?):
"I got somethin' to say about all this nonsense goin' on/I heard a sucker say we didn't sing on the records," Wahlberg snarled. "He ain't nothin' but a sucker." (As Wahlberg later told a fawning [Arsenio] Hall: "I wrote that rap on the plane last night. I practiced it in the bathroom. The stewardesses thought I was crazy.")
The PhiladelphiaInquirer's Roy H. Campbell wrote a piece on the Council of Fashion Designers of America awards in New York, and his keen eye for rap trends led to this eerily accurate prediction:
"NOSE EARRINGS? Here's a fashion prediction. Before long, many young men will be sporting earrings — in the nose. My prediction is based on recent music videos that have featured male hip-hop recording artists and rappers with earrings in their noses. All the members of one rap group had hoop earrings in their noses."
Elsewhere in high society: MC HAMMER was still rich. He made a splash with his own racehorse -— uh, for a minute. From a New York Times account:
The first to pull up stakes was Dance Floor, owned by the rap-music star Hammer, who thrilled the crowd of 29,433 spectators at Gulfstream Park with his cheeriness, his red suit and suspenders, and his willingness to sign autographs endlessly. Hammer's colt was flown back home to California early this morning with a defeat and a medical problem on his record: some blood was found in Dance Floor's trachea.
Took me a few reads to realize it was Hammer in the suspenders, signing autographs, not the horse.
DAVID THORPE | dthorpe[a]phx.com