how i wrote in 1987
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music friday: run-d.m.c, "rock box"

Tomás Summers Sandoval had a blog post the other day about the 20th anniversary of Dr. Dre’s The Chronic. He wrote:

I remember it as an album that moved the entire world of hip hop firmly into the mainstream. I’m sure this is an overstatement that has a lot to do with where I was in my life at the time (in a “white” college struggling to find my place in the world). But I remember feeling that “The Chronic” made rap part of “American music.”

Tomás and I exchanged a few emails. In those emails, I wrote, “I’d say ‘Walk This Way’ was the song that moved hip hop into the mainstream, except I realize that ‘Walk This Way’ (and ‘Rock Box’, for that matter) brought rock to hip hop. Dre just made his sound, without making such an explicit connection to the mainstream, and his success meant G-Funk WAS mainstream, just as you describe. The earlier songs connected with a wider audience without really asking anyone to move outside their comfort zone (i.e., lotsa hot-shit geetar). The Chronic convinced us to just climb in.”

Well, I ended up watching the old “Rock Box” video, which was the first rap video to be played on MTV. It sounds as good as ever, and Eddie Martinez adds the hot-shit geetar. What I had forgotten was that the legendary Professor Irwin Corey appears in the video. Corey was 70 years old at the time … he’s still alive, 98 years old now, still funny, still full of radical politics. I wondered how Run-D.M.C. came across the Professor, but then I remembered he was in Car Wash. I’ll bet that’s where they first discovered him. Anyway, “Rock Box”:

And here’s a very lo-fi clip of The World’s Foremost Authority in 1966, answering a two-part question:

Finally, for further evidence of Prof. Corey’s influence on African-American culture:

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