In Three Words: Fresher, Reach, Barriers.
Hip-Hop Evolution is back on Netflix with it's 2nd season. If you didn't read my review on the first season of the Netflix Original Series, done ALL the way back in January 2017, be sure to peep the link here.
I will admit that I didn't really see a second season of this show coming. It's why I didn't think much of the first season. It was a good foundation for more seasons but on it's own it's mostly things that have been covered extensively with a few interesting titbits sprinkled throughout. I didn't expect the people at Netflix to really give this show a chance to expand and cover ground that other documentaries sometimes gloss over. But they proved me wrong! Here we are, with a second season of "Hip-Hop Evolution". I'm excited for it.
Knowing that S2 is a thing now, the show can really spread it's wings and look out to cover the parts of Hip-Hop the mainstream rarely care about. This is definitely their overall message when they start in Florida of all places to look at the roots of "Southern Rap". We're not talking about the Atlanta Trap sound, we're not even talking about Outkast! We're going right to the beginning. We're talking about Uncle Luke, 2 Live Crew and how their notoriously nasty lyrics sparked a National conversation about exercising Free Speech. And as it turns out, their case actually held weight. It went to Federal Court, meaning that if they lost, it would have been a massive blow on Hip-Hop and any music that dare to push the boundaries on what you can say on wax.
Luckily they won but it is fascinating how 2 Live Crew were one of the first boundary pushers in that sense. Obviously we all know about NWA and their fight with the law, but 2 Live Crew really made it a social conversation. Uncle Luke did all the right things and this episode really does well in covering his background and made it relevant to the overall narrative of him starting the group and battling in Federal Court.
That was the majority of the 1st episode. We then went to Houston, Texas to find out how Geto Boys were born and how UGK only became who they were because Geto Boys created the door. The beginnings centre around Willie D and how he took his love for boxing into the battle rap circuit, stating that "I don't come out of there with a headache!". There was a little mention to J Prince who formed several iterations of the Geto Boys before sticking with the trio we know; Willie D, Scarface & Bushwick Bill.
There was another overriding theme about this episode, which was how New Yorkers didn't really mess with Southern Rap until "Mind Playing Tricks On Me". Obviously in that time, NY was the only place where Hip-Hop was truly accepted. If you weren't born in the Five Boroughs, you had some invisible barriers to hurdle. Geto Boys were the first to manage it.
The first episode set a good tone for the rest of the season. For episode 2, we headed to the Bay Area & Oakland. Not quite LA, but just as unique. Immediately the episode states that "We don't look to NY for what to do. We do it our way." Both episodes talk about having the "DIY" attitude. "Nobody has done this? Alright, I'll do it!"
The first person to have that thought was Too $hort. The DIY attitude was so genuine with him. Talking about how he'd go all around The Bay and sell his tapes, one writer said that "Everybody would have a story about how they got their Too $hort tape". He distributed his own tapes and got extra for "Special Requests", taking down somebody's name, the colour of their car and putting that on cassette just for them. Too $hort was a human Patreon! Shout out to Freddy B who was his partner at the time. You know I loved the fact that $hort was mad inspired by Blaxploitation films. And you can totally see how The Mack gave us Hip-Hop's first connoisseur of Pimp Culture.
The next stop in our Bay Area trip was the underground dance scene. And with that came MC Hammer. Now, it's interesting knowing Hammer's reputation now but back then he really gave people a permission to unwind. At that point it was the height of the crack epidemic. He was the first one that made Hip-Hop, pop. Less focus on the bars, all about the dance, entertainment. We crap on Hammer for selling out, but look at today! Shoe deals, endorsements, it's a thing!
Then came E-40, who was initially panned because of his unique flow. I can't really explain it. He goes slow, then speeds up and then slows down in 3 bars. It's something you need to hear to understand. But as we know, he's a legend of the game, people caught on. He really was in between Short & Hammer, he spat game, but also kept it funky.
Now from the beginning of this episode, the Black Panthers come up frequently. With The Bay being the home of the Panthers, the area was all about black empowerment. In comes Paris, "The Black Panther of Hip-Hop". He's the more underrated of the group, but he really encapsulated the empowerment attitude that black people had. The term "Gangsta with a Cause" was a real good way of describing Paris' content.
The final part was Digital Underground and 2Pac. DU were yet another set of people that caught inspiration from somewhere and made their own unique sound. They were P-Funk with Hip-Hop beats. Now as I say that, you wonder how the hell did Pac end up with DU? He was close to heading up a Black Panther chapter in Atlanta. Imagine that. He was close to quitting music and dive right into Black Activism. Everybody involved knew that Pac & DU was a temporary arrangement (Look up "Same Song) but they, and Oakland for that matter, gave Pac a ground to stomp in and the rest is history. It's really cool that the final thing said in this episode was Pac basically saying he reps for Oakland. Because if you ask most Hip-Hop fans, they would say LA. When it was actually Oakland that took him in first.
Let's just stop for a second and round up episode 2. Too $hort, MC Hammer, E-40, Paris, Digital Underground & 2Pac. Go away right quick and listen to each artist's most popular song. And then realise that A) They ALL come from one area in Southern California and B) ALL have their unique sounds, personalities and influences.
I've realised that I have done a lot of words for only half of this season, so I'm splitting the review in to two parts! Click here for Part 2 of my review.