My best guess is that my first exposure to hip hop was via the video for Run-DMC’s “Walk This Way” in 1986. Up until that time I lived in a hip-hop-free universe. I seem to recall liking the video, but it was another year or two until I actually started to explore the genre, only looking from that point forward, failing to ever go back to the genre’s roots. To be fair, that kind of retro research wasn’t so easy to do in the pre-internet era, especially given hip hop’s complete lack of positive media coverage. If I’d been in New York City or Los Angeles I’d probably have had at least some exposure to the earlier artists. But in Seattle? No.
A few weeks back we watched the documentary Conny Plank – The Potential of Noise (recommended). It traced the story of German producer Conny Plank, and it was during a section of that film that we first heard of the hip hop trio Whodini, who Plank produced in the early 1980s. Since then we’ve picked up a CD copy of their Greatest Hits, and a few days ago added this vinyl copy of 1987s Open Sesame.
While Whodini’s earlier material was more dance and, dare I say, disco influenced, Open Sesame opens with the hard-rock-riffing “Rock You Again (Again & Again)”, Whodini clearly having registering Run-DMC’s success in blending rap and rock, choosing as their base samples of Mountain’s “Long Red”. While that song definitely rocked, it lacked recognition of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” – even rock fans couldn’t easily place it. Besides which the rock-rap partnership wasn’t the wave of the future (though Public Enemy and Anthrax certainly worked well together), instead it was the emergence of gangsta rap. Unfortunately for Whodini they found the genre moving away from their dance-friendly sound, the sound that defined the rest of Open Sesame (“Cash Money” does offer some social commentary). But I’ll tell you this – I love this stuff. It’s upbeat. And it’s fun.