Thursday, July 16, 2009

Crooklyn/Return of the Crooklyn Dodgers

If you were into hip hop in 1994, there are a couple songs that you hear that transport you right back to that time. If you are the guy who wrote and directed The Wackness, those songs are "Around the Way Girl" by LL Cool J (1990), "Just a Friend," by Biz Markie (1989), "Can I Kick It" by ATCQ and "Summertime" by Jazzy Jeff and Will Smith (both 1991). Plus, you also used words like "wackness."

If you were me, "Crooklyn," by Special Ed, Masta Ace and Buckshot, is the quintessential 1994 East Coast hip hop song.

What is great about this song and video? What ISN'T great about it? First of all, Mike Tyson and Michael Jordan both represent the BK. (Never mind that MJ moved to N.Carolina when he was a toddler.) I'm not sure if this video was directed by Spike Lee or not, but it sure looks like it. Everything about the look of the video is cool: the "Soul Train" footage, the tours of the best parts of Brooklyn -- which make you want to visit -- and the fact that the black and white scenes don't look like some kind of pseudo artsy crap, like most of the B&W footage in rap videos of that era.

Crooklyn - Special Ed, Masta Ace, Buckshot

The coolest part of this is the way they combined three different eras of hip-hop and made it all sound current. Special Ed hadn't had a hit in five years when this came out, and here he flows better than ever as the grizzled veteran. Masta Ace had been building a solid career since "The Symphony," and was kind of the established journeyman. And Buckshot, coming off his succes with Black Moon, is the new-jack at this point.

The interweaving of the lyrics and references to the '70s and childhood and all that made this one a constant spin in my boombox in the nine-four.

Just one year later, when the guy who wrote and directed The Wackness was just discovering N.W.A for the first time, Spike Lee came out with ANOTHER movie and commissioned yet ANOTHER song, this time with three completely different guys who would bring the "Return of the Crooklyn Dodgers."

This time around, the grizzled vet was Chubb Rock, the established journeyman was the cone-headed Jeru the Damaja and the rookie was O.C. This time they called themselves Crooklyn Dodgers '95. This song/video was decidedly grittier than the original -- as Clockers is a decidedly more violent movie than Crooklyn -- but they did interpolate the "we did it like that and now we do it like this" element from the original song. Chubb mentions areas like Flatbush, Bushwick and Bed-Stuy, all neighborhoods that make white people roll up their windows. He also mentions taking back Ebbets field; don't tell the Chubbster (worrrrd up) that Ebbets was torn down back in '60.

Both Jeru and O.C. put out two very very good albums in the 1990s: Jeru had The Sun Rises in the East and The Wrath of the Math, and O.C. made Word...Life and Jewelz.

The lyrics don't have the same nostalgic resonance, but they are still pretty gritty. Jeru says "Chips that power nuclear bombs power my Sega." Christ I hope our bombs are better than that. But 'Ru does end the song with "Peace to the East New York, Perverted Monks and Mike Tyson," which reminds me every time why I love/miss him so much.

I was hoping that a new generation of Crooklyn Dodgers would be spawned every year. (In 2009 we could have Lil Fame, Vast Aire and Skyzoo!) But 'twas not to be.


By the looks of this this concert from June 2008, they still got it!

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