The Cultural Impact of Bottle Service in New York Nightlife

By Gamal Hennessy

If the rumors are to be believed, Rhianna might be single handedly responsible for altering nightlife culture this year. The bottle throwing brawl between Chris Brown and Drake, allegedly over her, has shut down W.I.P, sparked statements from the City Council, the NYPD, the State Liquor Authority and the newly formed Hospitality Alliance.  It remains to be seen what will come out of this controversy, but it is clear that for better or worse, changes in the bottle service dynamic will have a direct impact on nightlife culture itself that should be considered before any sweeping changes are made.

Historic Origins of Bottle Service

The practice that is now referred to as bottle service began in Post War Japan, where sake bars began to serve seated soldiers whole bottles of liquor at once, instead of constantly shuffling back and forth with drinks. What started out as simple efficiency evolved into a motivation for club reservations in Europe and finally a barrier to entry in New York, Miami and Las Vegas. The popularity of bottle service grew for two reasons; the economic benefit to the operators and the social benefit to a specific type of patron.

Economic Impact of Bottle Service

Everyone knows that the difference between the cost of a bottle of liquor in the store and the cost of a bottle in the club can easily be several hundred dollars, but not everyone knows why. Bottle service has nothing to do with liquor. It is about real estate and social prestige that has no realistic relationship to the actual cost of the liquor. When you order bottle service you are also assigned a specific geographic area that is far more valuable to the operator than the bottle. Each table they sell represents a specific stream of revenue. If bottle service was really just about liquor, the bartender would hand you the bottle and send you to stand in a corner.

The value of that real estate can be fundamental to the bottom line of any venue. A recent Harvard study called “Marquee: The Business of Nightlife” claimed that while only 40% of patrons on any given night might buy bottle service, that group accounted for more than 80% of the nightly revenue. From an economic standpoint, that means that the reduction or elimination of bottle service from New York nightlife would make it difficult for many venues to remain open. From a cultural standpoint, a severe contraction of the market could alter the basic activity and interaction that people have when they go out, regardless of whether they buy bottles or not.

Psychological and Social Impact

Patrons don’t pay for bottle service because they don’t know how much a bottle of vodka really costs. They buy bottle service because they perceive several benefits in this nightlife ritual:

  1. It is a temporary display of wealth that sends a message to potential lovers, rivals and associates.
  2. It is a source of ego gratification that can give the buyer a higher sense of worth relative to the rest of his or her normal daily routine
  3. It is a method of segregation that patrons use to separate themselves from other groups in a venue.
  4. It is a security blanket that patrons can use to feel safer in what might otherwise be a foreign or uncomfortable situation.

Ironically, it is social and mental aspects of bottle service that are the source of the problem. When celebrities, or any group, enjoys a feeling of entitlement they are more prone to act out in an anti social manner, especially if they feel there are no consequences. If a bottle throwing melee breaks out and the club is punished instead of the celebrity fighters then that feeling of entitlement is reinforced. We shouldn’t be surprised if they engage in similar behavior in the future.

Is This the End of Bottles?

There have been rumors and theories floating around about the end of bottle service from the time that it became a staple in nightlife culture. The most recent prediction of its demise has come in the wake of the economic crisis but the number of venues that provide bottles has not decreased significantly.

Can new regulations and laws hurt bottle service in ways that the economy couldn’t? Is it possible that we could see the practice altered, curtailed or eliminated from the nightlife landscape? To the best of my knowledge that decision hasn’t been made yet. I do know that if local officials are attempting to send a message to the nightlife community, that message needs to be sent to the people actually fighting and not the location that the fight took place.

 

Bottle service isn’t the main problem in the Brown/Drake fiasco; uncontrolled male aggression and fragile male egos are the main problem. We can’t solve that problem by legislating away bottle service. Take away the bottles and boys will find something else to fight with.  The most adequate response to promoting safety and security in nightlife is not to ignore the fanatics and punish the operators. If there is video of the crime, check the video tapes. Prosecute the bad actors in criminal and civil court. If the venue is found to be complicit in the events that occurred, then punish them in addition to everyone in the fight. To simply close the club and let the celebrities walk away empowers other fanatics to engage in similar behavior without fear of the consequences and they’ll do it with or without bottles.

Have fun.

G

Hip Hop Love from Tokyo to New York: The Nightlife Culture Interview with DJ Mika

By Gamal Hennessy

Being a DJ in New York isn’t easy. In addition to learning the technical skills, you have to navigate your way though bar owners, promoters and patrons who often don’t appreciate you. It takes a lot of passion and confidence to thrive in this world. Many people want to DJ but can’t deal with that kind of stress.

Now imagine adding a move to the other side of the planet and learning another language to the obstacles between you and pursuing your dream of spinning behind the decks. How many of us would be willing to face all those challenges to reach our goals? That is what DJ Mika has been able to accomplish. NCI caught up with this old school DJ fresh from her performance at Hot 97 Summer Jam to talk to her about hip hop and living in nightlife culture.

Vital Statistics

  • Name: DJ Mika
  • Hometown: Ibaraki, Japan
  • Inspirations: DJ C2, DJ Jazzy Joyce, DJ Muro, DJ Mitsuru, DJ Maru and DJ JUNE
  • Last Performance: Hot 97 Summer Jam Interscope booth
  • Next Local Performance: Resident DJ Tues to Saturdays at bOb bar (235 Eldridge St.)

NCI: How were you first introduced to hip hop music growing up in Japan? What is the first artist you remember listening to?

Mika: My older brother has always loved hip hop music. Growing up with him and the music he listened to made me hip hop fan! LL Cool J probably had the biggest impact on me. The first songs I remember hearing were “Jinglin’ Baby” and “Round the Way Girl”.

NCI: What made you decide to start DJing? How did you learn to mix?

Mika: My brother and I spent a lot of time listening to CD mixed from other DJs. At a certain point, I wanted to make my own CDs. I didn’t know how to make them, but I knew I wanted to learn. So, I bought equipment and I started to learn by my self at first. After I came to NYC, I learned DJing from artists who taught me what they knew especially DJ C2. I always appreciated the time they took to help me.

NCI: What made you decide to come to New York? Was it difficult getting a DJ job here?

Mika: After I made my first mix CD, I didn’t think it was very good but I loved it because it gave me the confidence to become more involved in hip hop music. I started to dream about DJing for more and more people.  That’s when I decided to learn more about real hip hop culture and come to NYC.  I’m lucky because the friends I met here helped me a lot to get DJ job and always supported me.  I really appreciate that.

NCI: How did hip hop fans treat you when you began to DJ in New York?

Mika: Most people showed me a lot of respect, but sometimes it’s twice as hard because I’m Japanese and a girl.  It took a long time for me to establish myself. But, I think now I finally get respect for my set and not just because I’m a female DJ. J

NCI: What is the best part of being a DJ in New York? 

Mika: When I decided I wanted to become a street DJ, I knew the best place to do that was in New York. That’s where it all began. Now that I’m here and spinning on a regular basis, I am living my dream. What is better than that?

NCI: Is there anyone you want to shout out?

Mika: I’d like to thank everyone for reading this interview. I want everyone to know how much I love being a NYC DJ.

I also want to give special thanks to DJ C2, DJ Jazzy Joyce, Starshell, DJ JUNE, DJ Smooth, Taq , Mitsuki, and all my friends!

Also, thanks to General, Nadia, from It’s Done Promotions, Rome from Badboy Records, Daniel from Drity  Magazine, DJ Emmo, Harmen, DJ Fortune, Espinoza from Cajo communications, Powaradio crew, ATS from the Rock Steady Crew, DJ Technic, Dreatraxx from Hoodstarz, my Japan Crew, identity bar crew, Rock and soul crew, Jemiho , DJ CHURCH, DJ Rawbetaz, DJ Krazie Charlez, DJ Max Carnage, Malik, George, Greg from bOb bar, Eli, Fred The Godson, Beats by Dre and DUB. (I can’t write everyone’s name but I want to say THANK YOU for everyone who supports me!!!)

Have fun.

G

Must Be the Music: The Nightlife Culture Interview with DJ Herbert Holler

 

By Gamal Hennessy

Music is the heart of nightlife culture and DJs are the people who keep that heart beating every night in New York City. This week, NCI is proud to present three interviews with unique DJ’s filling clubs and dance floors all over the city. We begin with a pioneer of nightlife culture and the creator of the Freedom Party, DJ Herbert Holler.

NCI: You have been involved with nightlife culture for almost 10 years now. What do you see as the biggest difference between the environment you found in 2004 and what you see now?

HH: I’ve actually been involved with nightlife culture for 18 years now, if you can believe it. I started in 1994 promoting Giant Step parties. I was one of those dudes standing outside near the Cube on Astor Place, handing out flyers. (Ahh…The good ol’ days!) The main difference in the culture between then and now is that today, the culture itself has been turned into big business—molded, processed, and mass produced. There are “parties” everywhere. There are individuals calling themselves “DJs” and “promoters” everywhere. They’re pumped off the assembly line like bags of chips, so of course quality of the nightlife suffers. There’s still a culture, though, just not one with as much significance as before.

NCI: You told me that it is harder to figure out why people come to a party than to figure out why they stay away. What are some of the reasons people won't go out to a party and how have you learned to deal with those factors?

HH: There’re lots of reasons why someone may not come out. It could be location of the party, costs associated with attending (admission, drinks, food, transportation, etc.), what they’ve heard or not heard about the party, the kind of music played, maybe they’re tired, maybe they have to get up the next morning for whatever reason…The list goes on. I never know what’s going on in the minds of potential patrons, so I just try to make it as enticing as possible by taking away these obstacles. I choose venues that are easy to find and get to, I don’t charge a lot of money to walk in the door nor do I fuck with venues that hit you over the head at the bar. I make sure the music played is the BEST music in town (of course). I do my events on weekend nights so everyone can come out. I make sure I get the word out as much as possible, build as much buzz as I can, so people get excited and everyone’s talking about it. Etc., etc..

NCI: Explain the philosophy behind the Freedom party. What were you trying to create when you started and what have you learned about people and music as the party has developed?

HH: Freedom was created to, basically, help preserve NYC nightlife culture. Marc Smooth, DJ Cosi and I felt the BEST way to do this was to bring music back to the forefront. Make it about the music and the dance floor, and that in turn would work everything else out, from vibe to price. (Music is the answer!) Parties were mostly about attendees and how much money was spent. Freedom is about what’s being played. We completely flipped it around when we started in 2003. Today, we’re learning that a “classic” record’s excitement depends on what age group you have on your dance floor. “Funkin’ For Jamaica” was a big record for us when we started 9 years ago, and now, we barely play it. Most of our big records are from the later 80s, early 90s, and that has everything to do with how old the people dancing are.

NCI: You described the music that you play as music that has stood the test of time or will stand that test. What do you hear in a song today that tells you that song will last? Where do you find your new music or your musical inspirations now?

HH: For me, it’s pretty easy to determine whether or not a song will stand the test of time: Does it have soul? It’s that simple. Does the record have a soul? A heart? A spirit? Melodies help, but melodies alone don’t make classics. The song has to have an identity, tell a story, DO something other than pull out pop devices and clichés. Most people think Isaac Hayes or Al Green or James Brown when they think of soul. But I think soul can be in anything. Dubstep, electro, commercial dance music, pop…All these things CAN have soul, and I find when they do, they stick around a lot longer. (Adele, Gotye, etc.)

NCI: Where do you see nightlife culture in the next 10 years? What will social entertainment look like in 2022 and will you still be a part of it?

HH: That’s too big of a question to answer on just one page. Shit…You can do a whole thesis paper on the future of nightlife culture. In brief, I guess…Nightlife culture will still be here, and perhaps it will find new breath, a new raison d’etre. Cycles play a big role in lots of different things. Perhaps we’ll enter a new cycle and see a revival in the respect and preservation of the culture. Maybe we’re entering one now. Regardless of where it will be, I will most likely be there with it. After all these years of spinning records and putting together parties (soon-to-be operating/owning), it’s safe to say that this is my calling.

Links:

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/herbertholler

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/herberthollerpage

Soundcloud: http://www.soundcloud.com/herbertholler

Vimeo: http://www.vimeo.com/herbertholler

Subsriptions: http://www.tinyurl.com/subscribe2holler

Web: http://www.herbertholler.com

Have fun

G

Where is the 21st Century Protest Music?

By Gamal Hennessy

I was recently having a drink with a veteran rock musician, discussing the changes in nightlife and music over the past two decades. At one point, she asked me “Is this generation of musicians protesting anything with their songs?” She said it as a rhetorical question but I think it’s a question that deserves attention from a cultural standpoint, especially since there are several factors that influence the music we listen to when we go out.

20th Century Protest Music

Modern social movements are identified with music that captures the spirit of that protest.

  • Various artists including James Brown, Bob Marley, Aretha Franklin, Sly and the Family Stone and Bob Dylan supported the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.
  • Musicians like Gil Scott Heron, Marvin Gaye, Joan Baez and The Doors wrote songs protesting the Vietnam War in the 1970s
  • In the 80’s, the Police, U2, Prince and Bruce Springsteen released protest songs concerning various issues while rap music grew out of protest songs from artists like Grandmaster Flash and developed with groups like Public Enemy, NWA, and the Beastie Boys.
  • Rage Against the Machine, Living Color and the Fugees were three of the most prominent protest groups of the 90’s.

There have been a few other established artists using their music as a platform since then, but the end of the 20th century saw a decline in the socially conscious popular mainstream songs that were present in every other decade.

Reasons to Sing…or Not Sing

It’s not as if American musicians can’t find social and political issues to fuel their music. Ten years of war in two countries, the struggle over same sex rights, bank bailouts, Occupy Wall Street, Trayvon Martin, online privacy invasions, right wing fundamentalism, sexual identity debates…there seems to be plenty of inspiration for protest music.

But does modern culture discourage that type of expression? When many musicians have to be their own PR and marketing department, can they deal with the backlash that might come from a protest song? When so many artists are struggling to get a deal or utilize corporate distribution, can they afford to stick it to the Man? When militant political sensitivity in the media is combined with a 24 news cycle and social media, can any musician or artist afford to hold any strong political or social position? Have we created an environment where every artist has to behave like a politician running for office if they want to sell music on iTunes?

To Sell…or Not Sell

There is still plenty of protest music being made around the world. The Arab Spring, political developments in African countries and drug related terrorism coming out of South America are all the subject of protest music. There is also a strong element of American protest music in underground rap, rock and alternative music. But outside of a few isolated cases, mainstream American music seems to have fully embraced escapism to the detriment of the protest song. Since several social movements once grew out of nightlife culture, does this lack of protest music mean there will be a lack of social change emerging from bars and clubs in the future? If so, nightlife culture can’t be a strong catalyst for social change until the next wave of protest music fills the bars.

Have fun.
Gamal

Life Beyond Robotz: A Nightlife Culture Interview with Ko-Lition

 

 

In spite of persistent claims that both nightlife and hip hop have been ruined by a lack of creativity, there are still artists and operators in the underground pushing nightlife culture to the next level. Two performers who are making a name for themselves in the world of live hip hop are the brothers DeLorean and Karl. We sat down with them to talk about their music before their next big show at the Knitting Factory this week.

• Genre: Hip Hop/Jazz/Electro-Soul

• Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

• Inspirations: A Tribe Called Quest, Kanye West, Digable Planets, Maroon 5, Jay-Z, Lupe Fiasco, Biggie, Tupac, 

• Previous Performances: Ko-Lition TakeOver Santos Party House!

• Latest Project: Debut album 'Love Jazz Robotz'

• Next Local Performance: May 24th, 2012 'Ko-Lition TakeOver The Knitting Factory'

NCI: Talk to me about the philosophy behind your music and how it compares to the current generation of music?

KO: Part of the idea behind the concept of robots is the assembly line model that we all have to subscribe to in our daily life. We go to work every day, we load up our spreadsheets and contribute to the process of making things work. It is an existence that can feel very mechanical, very robotic.

Even when you talk about creating music and being in the music industry, there are methods you need to adopt and things you need to do if you want your music heard. There are elements of it that are very much like a machine. If you don’t conform to that model then getting your music heard is almost impossible. Of course, there are artists like Prince or Radiohead who can challenge prevailing industry models after they have been established. But nowadays even mainstream artists like Drake have to give their music away for free at some point to get their music out there. Part of Must Be Robotz is an exploration of that reality.

NCI: So the song is basically a critique on the forces of conformity in music and life in general?

KO: We don’t dislike current forms of music. Our music is hip hop with a jazz foundation, but we can get into the more electronic forms of rap. We even get down with dubstep and other types of electronic music. There is a lot of good stuff out there.

Our message is more than just a critique. We’re not attacking people’s lifestyles or society or the music industry. Part of what we are saying is that you need to find your way to enjoy the life you have. Maybe the price you have to pay for your fun and your individuality is your job. That’s how you can afford to do the things you want to do. We have to handle our own management, marketing, booking, legal stuff and production to be able to get on stage at places like Santos and the Knitting Factory because that’s where we can share our music.

NCI: What is it about performing that is so attractive to you?

KO: When you are on stage you are at your most vulnerable. When you go up there and pretend to be someone you are not, the audience sees right through that and they will reject you. You have to be willing and able to put yourself out there and expose yourself to really connect with the crowd. It doesn’t matter if you have to open raw emotional wounds in your lyrics, freestyle a few bars because you forgot your lines or work around the fact that the band has spontaneously decided to go into an extended solo jam session. When you’re on stage the rigid predictable life is gone. You are more alive because things are uncertain and unpredictable. 

NCI: Is that why you use a live band instead of a CD in your act?

KO: That is a big reason for it, but that isn’t the only reason. Some of our major hip hop influences like Digable Planets did their shows with live bands and that was a big inspiration to us. There are some sounds that have a special quality when you hear them live and we want those sounds in our show. But the biggest reason is the spontaneous energy that comes from live music. The crowd gets hyped up from a guitar or drum solo in ways that never happen if you just pop in a CD. We call our record company See Music Live because that is one of the best ways to escape the monotony of what we have to go through every day.

Have fun

G

Links
www.kolitionmusic.blogspot.com

www.soundcloud.com/kolition

www.facebook.com/kolitionmusic
www.reverbnation.com/kolitionmusic

www.youtube.com/Kotubetv

www.twitter.com/kolition

 

Nightlife Culture Expo Recap Day 3: Rakim Celebrates the Rise of Hip Hop Music

 

The energy for that night had been building up for 25 years.

In 1987, the Paid in Full Album was released and helped start a new age in hip hop music. Up to that point, hip hop was rarely on the radio. It was an underground sound that filtered down out of the Bronx to dominate block parties and after hours clubs. It was a fad. It wasn’t real music. It wasn’t going to last.

In 2012, hip hop music dominates the pop charts and popular culture on every level. It has altered the American language. It has evolved into different sub genres and migrated around the world. Now there are Egyptian rappers making protest songs as the soundtrack to the Arab Spring. Hip hop artists own fashion houses, liquor companies and multibillion dollar sports franchises. At this point, a significant part of American culture is hip hop culture and artists like Rakim made that possible.

The people at Sutra’s Expo party last Friday grew up with songs like My Melody, Microphone Fiend and I Ain’t No Joke. They knew the words to Rakim songs in the same way that house heads know their anthems, jazz men know their standards and religious people know their scriptures. Even with the abrasive posturing and aggressive attitudes sprinkled into the crowd, the night felt more like a spiritual ritual and less like a musical performance. The crowd surged when he took the stage. They chanted the lyrics with him and strained to capture his image on their iPhones. I just took in the positive energy of the room that had been nurtured in New York City for 25 years.

I only got to talk to Rakim for a moment after his amazing performance. Hip hop groupies are dangerous ladies and I try not to get in their way. I thanked him for performing at the Expo and for everything his music has done for me personally and hip hop in general. He was gracious and cool with his response. He thanked me for remembering him and wanting him to perform. I laughed to myself when he said that. Considering the impact he has had on hip hop culture, nightlife culture and American culture who else would offer a better performance?

Have fun.
G

   

 

Sutra Celebrates Seven Years as a Hip Hop Icon



By GamalHennessy

Most clubsin New York City do not last very long. Normally, a club can go from thehottest place on Earth to closed in 3-5 years. For a club to last more than 5years and still be relevant is a rare and wonderful thing.

Clubs thatstay opened the longest rely on good management and a reputation for particulartype of music. There is a club on the corner of 1st Street and 1stAvenue that is still going strong after 7 years.  Its owner has been a strong supporter ofnightlife culture who has built a haven for both underground and mainstream hiphop at a club called Sutra. I sat down with Ms. Ariel Palitz on the seventhanniversary of the space to discuss the impact that it has had on the LowerEast Side, nightlife and the culture of New York City.

GH: What was the goal when you firstopened Sutra? How close have you come to achieving that goal seven years later?

AP: I spenta lot of time in Bar 16 as a patron before I bought it and opened Sutra. Iloved spending time there because of the type of people I met and the vibe ofthe place. When I became the owner, I wanted to keep that spirit. I wanted aplace where different types of people could come and have a good time. I wantedto have different types of parties and different types of music. I wanted Sutrato represent underground New York. We had that vibe from day 1. It didn’tmatter if we did bhangra parties, soulful house sets or hip hop parties. Thegoal was to always to celebrate the diversity of New York and we were always ableto pull that off.

GH: I know you have a lot ofdifferent types of parties, but I’ve always seen Sutra as a hip hop spot. A lotof that has to do with the people who perform here. It’s a long list thatincludes Funkmaster Flex, Questlove, Mos Def, Slick Rick, DMC, Just Blaze and alot of others. When did you first realize that the hip hop industry embracedSutra?

AP: Therewas a night early on when Questlove was in the DJ Booth spinning and BlackThought and Mos Def just jumped in there and started freestyling.  We had no warning but everyone in the roomloved it. It has such a raw energy about it. It felt very natural. There was nohype, no drama no problems. Everyone was just flowing with them. I sat back atthe owners table and knew it was special.

GH: Were there a lot of nights likethat?

AP: Yes. Alot of artists come to Sutra to experiment on a live crowd. You can put outmusic on the internet, but nothing beats getting the reaction of people in theclub. Artists like Just Blaze and Tony Touchknow that. They’ll come and drop new beats and hooks and samples all the timeand then we’ll hear those same elements in top 40 songs 6 months later. Sutrahas been the birthplace for a lot of new music.

GH: What has been the most successfulparty Sutra has had over the years?

AP: We’vehad quite a few long running parties, but Toca Tuesday has to be the crownjewel. Tony is truly a professional artist and it is people like him that keeppeople coming back week after week. He is one of the reasons Sutra has been sosuccessful.

GH: What are the other things thathave helped Sutra last so long when so many other clubs don’t?

AP: We nevertried to make people feel like they didn’t belong or they couldn’t come in. Wewon’t turn your friends away because of their race or anything else. We don’ttry to force bottles on everyone. We throw parties that people enjoy. We’vealways been able to attract talent that people wanted to see. We have a goodrelationship with people on the block and in the neighborhood. All those thingshelp keep the doors opened.

GH:  So what’s next for Sutra? Do you plan to keepit opened for another 7 years?

AP: Iactually put Sutra on the market for sale this week, partially to coincide withthe anniversary. I had a goal in mind when I opened Sutra and I’ve achieved it.I love Sutra and the impact it has had on my life and the life of the communityand culture, but I have other goals, new businesses and new ideas for the Sutrabrand. Once I find the right buyer, it will be time to move on.

GH: How do you think Sutra willchange once you sell it?

AP: Ideally,the new owner would inject new energy into the place but still keep theinclusive spirit I inherited from Bar 16 and developed in Sutra. Ultimately Idon’t know what the new incarnation will be, but I will do everything in mypower to make sure that it will be a benefit to the quality of life forneighborhood, the people and New York.

GH: Do you think artists who havestrong ties to the spot might buy it? Rappers have bought venues before…

AP: Owning anightclub is a very different business than being a rapper or a DJ, but ifsomeone in the industry would want to take it over that would be great because hopefullythey would be able to infuse the same great talent and great vibe that has keptSutra alive this long

Have fun.
G

Rakim at the Blue Note Celebrating the Birth of Modern Hip Hop

by Gamal Hennessy

When I was in high school in 1986, I rode the A train from Queens into Brooklyn to get to class. I would listen to my mixtapes (real mixtapes with an actual cassette player, not an iTunes download) on the long ride of all the hip hop songs I patiently stayed up late to record off the radio. Late night radio was one of the few places you could hear hip hop back then. At the time, older people and people who thought they knew music decided hip hop was a fad. They wouldn’t support it on mainstream radio. If it was going to die out in a few months, why bother with it?

Hip hop has clearly lasted longer than a few months.

Last week Rakim and the Roots did a show at the legendary Blue Note to celebrate 25 years since Paid in Full album ushered in the era of modern hip hop. Paid in Full was different from other hip hop albums at the time because its songs had a format that was radio friendly and a structure that was more musically complex. Rakim lead the way for other rap artists like to move into the mainstream in radio, music videos, TV, movies, fashion and other staples of American culture.

During the show, Rakim explained how he grew up as a saxophone player who translated John Coltrane‘s musical flow into his lyrics. His revelation went against the prevailing myth that hip hop artists didn‘t have any musical training. QuestLove, the drummer for the Roots, described his experience in music school when Rakim’s album showed him that rap wasn’t an alternative to music or a rebellion against music. It was music. Even stars like Dave Chappelle came out of self imposed exile to testify about the huge impact Paid in Full had on him while he was growing up.

Hip hop has had a huge impact on world music over the past 25 years, but when the show was over, I wondered who people would be remembering in 2036. Will artists like Drake, Kanye, and Lil Wayne be seen as pioneers opening up new elements of modern music or will someone else release a Paid in Full for the next generation?

Have fun.
G