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Hip Hop Extended Intro

November 5, 2012

Delores Fisher Reflections On Hip Hop

Ever have one of those summers? You know, a teenage girl with a father who seems to enjoy letting you know that he feels your every boy infested wandering thought? And a mother whose eagle eyes extend through the back of her head, around the corner, down the street, and into every conversation you have with your girls? Yea, one of those summers . . . My big brothers, high school athletic heroes who worked out until muscles pored through their T-shirts, worked as daddy’s enforcers, “BOYS BEWARE.”

My brothers’  icy stares could make my hippest boyfriend cringe in fear. My sister whose beauty and gleaming social tiara announced princess status, emanated young men and pubescent boy’s respectful reverence and smiles where ever she went kept my boyfriends in check with a saintly sisterly smile. “That is my baby sister, you know.” If they got past the front guard, they then had to meet my dad and ask for permission to date me one on one. Parental background/family checks usually left me dateless in the suburbs.

And,there was me, growing three inches that summer. My uncomfortably apparent social awkwardness drew an odd assortment of pubescent church boys, nerds, misfits, social activists and a nouveau riche socialites who kept our friendship in a deep closet of phone calls, and note passing in class or church, but no public dating once my siblings got wind of their interest in me. Add national racial, gender, and generational social-civil unrest,(read riots, picketing, protests); what a recipe for black suburban female adolescent angst. Retreating by degrees into music, my solace and weapon of choice, the summer of 1968 was barely tolerable.

That summer, switching my listening preference from Classical music and Motown to Stax, opened my aural world. The music experiment of Jim Stewart, his sister Estelle Axton and later Al Bell resulted in a local Memphis southern sound that eventually became global.1  Oh, I still enjoyed Mozart,Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Diana, Eddie, Stevie, and Smokey, but once I heard Otis Redding’s, Sam and Dave’s voices, it was on.

Otis Redding could sing a dance tune so hard, dancing tone’s own part groove all across the living room when no one was home was way far “legit.” He could also wail a ballad to sing along to when your love had done you wrong.

Of course you know Kanye and JayZ’s take on this classic song. They appreciate a classic soulful tune too:

Now, Sam and Dave . . . .whoooooooooooooo.

Sam and Dave’s voices were not the polite suave sound of our suburban surroundings.  Their raw, gravelly masculinity resonated an emotional realness of southern African American musical aesthetics . Their sound sang late night prayer meetings,  family evenings singing a capella old metered Dr. Watt’s hymns in stifling heat, wooden plank porches, pallets on life-worn  floors, chittlin’s, community picnics with peach cobblers, church fish fries,  juke joint gin, corn pones and greens. They sweated dancing on your stage. They opened their collars and sometimes loosened a few shirt buttons. Sam and Dave were like . . . . James Brown times two before his funked out sound and persona on “The Payback” and “Rapp Payback”!

They sang HARD!!! It wasn’t always pretty; it was singing with a heart -edge on the real of scarring experiences. And Booker T and the MG’s instrumental back up created a house band groove that was part rock, part blues, with chicken smothered with onions and gravy plus some butter biscuits early southern Funk.2

The Stax sound, a racial collaboration, was edgy, youthful, party, plaintive, love embracing and angst driven. It was born in a region where freedom songs dared to challenge the norm of oppression. Its raw grittiness was one contributing sonic essence that breathed across decades onto northern urban  Hip Hop and Rap(for instance Linda Lydell’s  “What A Man”) .

And of course the Salt and Peppa and En Vogue blockbuster hip hop flavah remake:


Stax Records dared to glow bright against a hell storm of racial hatred and gender oppression. It’s flow is present in historic and today’s Rap. Our world was very different then. . .Or was it?

Delores Fisher Reflections on Hip Hop

Remembering . . .Musewoman, Delores Fisher

1. Rob Bowman, “Stax,” in African American Music: An Introduction (Part II Issues of Mass Mediation), eds. Mellonee V. Burnim and Portia Maultsby, (New York: Routledge, 2006), 452-489.
2. Ibid., 457. Isaac Hayes and the Memphis Horns also contributed to Stax’s south Memphis sound.

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    • “Delta”

      Keep researching. Quite a few books and websites exist now that offer valuable info.
      You could contribute to the growing discipline as a future scholar. Hope the presentation went well.

      Delores Fisher


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