As Roy Ayers progressed into the 1980's, he strayed further away from what could be labeled as traditional Jazz and proceeded to spin the musical color wheel, as his 1983 album Lot's of Love touched on almost every soulful genre and sub-genre you could think of, from disco, to afro-beat, to even rap. It is also noteworthy that this is when Roy Ayers released this record on UnoMelodic Records, which was a label of his own. Most of those before-mentioned genres are familiar to Roy Ayers fans, but Roy Ayers experimenting with rap may be a bit foreign to a casual Roy Ayers fan.
We all know that most styles of fashion and most genres of music repeat themselves, as we have seen different eras come and go, only to return. It is difficult to say that a specific genre will not come back to be all the rave, but I think it is safe to say that the formative ages of rapping will remain in the very late 70's and early 80's. As we all know, rap music received great criticism throughout the music industry during its conception, but some artist, even some of the most noteworthy, embraced it and incorporated it into their music. Here are a couple examples of some artist to dabble in the realm of Hip Hop in its early years:
Stevie Wonder – Do I Do
This fabulous 10 minute groove session provided by the great Stevie Wonder is a timeless classic. There's no argument there. In 2011, this is still a staple in many DJ's repretoir, as it is the perfect blend of upbeat disco funk and house. A casual Stevie Wonder song may know this song, and may no it well, but they may not have heard the entire song. If you hear this song live, the DJ might mix out of the song before the end, and the new-age A.D.D. music fan may not be able to sit through a 10 minute song, but when you get into the 8 minute mark of the song, you get a real funky break beat, with drums and bass, but it is only fitting that music's most influential man begins to break out in rhyme, a freestyle even. Is there anything Stevie Wonder can't do?
Teena Marie – Square Biz
Similar to Stevie Wonder's Do I Do, Square Biz by Teena Marie is a funky, disco, party record that can still get a dance floor active, and will go down as one of the heaviest disco funk, R&B songs ever. Lady T. does it like no other, and her impact in music and even the African American culture is extremely noteworthy. As mentioned before, the similarity in Do I Do and Square Biz is mid way through the disco funky groove, there is the signature, distinct drum break down (around the 3 minute mark), and that can only mean one thing. Lady T. grabs the mic and spits her bars as if she was part of the Juice Crew. She even includes the battle element when she says “…I heard a boatload of other ladies rap, but they got nothin on me..”. The element of battle has been and still remains a constant throughout Hip Hop history.
Herbie Hancock – Rock It
There is no question that Rock It by Herbie Hancock is one of the most influential songs in Hip Hop history, as it focuses heavily on the DJ as opposed to the emcee. As this Jazz Master would repeatedly reinvent himself throughout his storied career, this was an iconic song that crossed over to many genres. It was Hancock's performance at the Grammy's, featuring Grandmaster DXT that inspired many of forefathers of today's DJ movement, including the legends Q-Bert and Mix Master Mike. This performance showed what the person making *wiki wiki* sounds was actually doing, and how he was doing it, and it introduced Hip Hop to millions of people, including those who had no idea what it was before, and the youth who helped shape the culture for years to come.
Roy Ayers – Drive
This is not the Roy Ayers that we are used to hearing, and to be frank, it's probably not our favorite Roy Ayers sound, but for this song, he was a rapper, and he did it well. Roy Ayers has rivaled anyone when it comes to versatility, merging genres, and reinventing himself, including the before-mentioned Stevie Wonder and Herbie Hancock, and his experiment with rap is proof of his open-mindedness, ability to adapt, and his confidence to make music that he wanted to make, despite what his peers might have said. It might not be the Roy Ayers we know well, but it is Roy Ayers nonetheless…Roy Ayers the Rapper!
Artists that may have been out of their element when experimenting with rap should be recognized as a part of the formative years of the Hip Hop movement. They may not have been the best lyricists, or the most informative wordsmiths by today's standards, but the constant was that they did it with a good spirit, as it invoked a fun, jovial, feelings, that catered to a party atmosphere.
As the undertone of mainstream Hip Hop focuses on materialism, misogyny, and violence, we can listen to these songs and remember a time when Hip Hop was less refined, but it was music that everyone could enjoy. As we all know, Hip Hop has been through various changes throughout the years, and we can hear the beginning stages of rap incorporated in the music of some of the most talented musical minds to have ever lived. In today's rap world, it's common to say “You can't get on without a co-sign”. If you have Stevie, Teena, Herbie, and Roy co-signing an art form, there is no doubt that it is the future.
Written by: Haylow