Tonight at Beat Research we’ve got a special session in store: our main man, Pacey Foster, will be teaming up with heavyweight hip-hop scribe Brian Coleman to celebrate Boston hip-hop. Yeah, you read that right. And what? We rep da bean, knamean ;)
The occasion is the publication of an essay by Pace on the history of Boston’s hip-hop scene. It’s featured in a new volume, Hip Hop in America: A Regional Guide. Given that we in Boston must necessarily live in the tractor-beam of NYC, that cultural-economic vortex constantly siphoning our finest locals, Pace’s article is appropriately titled, “How Boston Rap Remained Underground.” Even so, as Pace recently told Chris Faraone of the Boston Phoenix (which published a nice piece on Pace’s project last week), hip-hop is here and long has been —
If Foster has one recurring theme, it’s that pride and even prosperity have prevailed here against the odds that weigh down any talent crop born in the shadow of New York. “I kind of went into this thinking about why Boston hip-hop didn’t happen, and what I got from everyone I spoke with was that it’s been here all along. I have the tapes to prove it.”
As I’ve detailed here before, Pace has been working hard on his contribution for some years now, interviewing many of Boston’s seminal DJs, producers, and performers, and I’m enthused that this first instantiation of his efforts has finally come to fruition. (We look fwd to — and are plotting with Pace about — future work on this rich subject, which opens into all the things that make this city great and not-so-great.)
Tonight, Pace and Brian will offer quite a sweeping take on the Boston sound. For his part, Pace will be playing some digitized nuggets he plucked from the treasure trove he found in the archives of legendary Boston radio DJ, Magnus Johnstone, whose “Leccos Lemma” show on WMBR (gwaan MIT!) in the mid-80s was the first airwaves-outpost for Boston’s locally-produced rap records — or, more often, tapes. But they’ll also range from early 80s electro jams c/o the Jonzun Crew and their ilk, through the indie (undie?) explosion led by Brick Records, 7L & Esoteric, Mr. Lif, Akrobatik and others in the mid-90s, and up to the present day.
Adding a bit of personal poignancy to the night, Brian reports via email: “I’ll be spinning mid/late 90s to mid-00s Boston tracks — the exact same jams we used to throw down on WZBC’s ‘School Beats’ show throughout that same era — with my esteemed co-hosts Rani Neutill, and the late, great Tim Haslett.”
To whet appetites, here’s a “Lecco’s Lemma Mega-Mix” cooked up last week c/o Pace himself —
Need I say more? To put it another way, nodding to our town’s biggest hip-hop hit: U Got To Have It.*
Hope to see some headz in the house. One more crucial detail: E ROOM GOT A NEW SOUNDSYSTEM!!**
* Actually, Brian Coleman pointed out to me that the “biggest” rap song outta Boston — if we’re counting in terms of sales — is not Edo’s classic banger but, rather, Marky Mark’s “Good Vibrations.” Duh.
** Also, in a bit of qualification, I should note that it’s not a NEW soundsystem, per se, so much as an augmented soundsystem. The same old craptastic speakers hang from the ceiling, though they’ve been crucially complemented by the addition of two large speakers, also mounted above, and two big subs sitting on the floor. We can still quibble and kvetch, but it’s a much improved sonic situation IMO.