Let’s look back about 30 years…

…and see how little has changed.

Today’s track is a rap classic. Something most of you will have listened to on the radio during longer car-rides. Its beat and voice and rhythm are quite distinct and the (very good) flow adds to the character. It’s also a song where it adds much to the experience to really listen to the lyrics.

So, this time… The main body of my post will be behind the video. Enjoy and try to immerse yourself a bit.

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five – The Message [The Message] | 1982 | Hip Hop (Old School)

[expand title=”Lyrics”]It’s like a jungle sometimes it makes me wonder
How I keep from going under
It’s like a jungle sometimes it makes me wonder
How I keep from going under

Broken glass everywhere
People pissing on the stairs, you know they just don’t care
I can’t take the smell, I can’t take the noise no more
Got no money to move out, I guess I got no choice
Rats in the front room, roaches in the back
Junkie’s in the alley with a baseball bat
I tried to get away, but I couldn’t get far
‘Cause a man with a tow-truck repossessed my car

Don’t push me cause I’m close to the edge
I’m trying not to lose my head,
ah huh-huh-huh [2nd and 5th: ah huh-huh-huh] [4th: say what?]
It’s like a jungle sometimes it makes me wonder
How I keep from going under
It’s like a jungle sometimes it makes me wonder
How I keep from going under

Standing on the front stoop, hangin’ out the window
Watching all the cars go by, roaring as the breezes blow
Crazy lady livin’ in a bag
Eatin’ out of garbage pails, she used to be a fag-hag
Said she danced the tango, skipped the light fandango
The Zircon Princess seemed to lost her senses
Down at the peepshow, watching all the creeps
So she can tell the stories to the girls back home
She went to the city and got Social Security
She had to get a pimp, she couldn’t make it on her own

[2nd Chorus]

My brother’s doing bad on my mother’s TV
Says she watches too much, it’s just not healthy
“All My Children” in the daytime, “Dallas” at night
Can’t even see the game or the Sugar Ray fight
The bill collectors they ring my phone
And scare my wife when I’m not home
Got a bum education, double-digit inflation
Can’t take the train to the job, there’s a strike at the station
Neon King Kong standin’ on my back
Can’t stop to turn around, broke my sacroiliac
A mid-range migraine, cancered membrane
Sometimes I think I’m going insane,
I swear I might hijack a plane

[3rd Chorus]

My son said: ”Daddy, I don’t wanna go to school
Cause the teacher’s a jerk, he must think I’m a fool
And all the kids smoke reefer, I think it’d be cheaper
If I just got a job, learned to be a street sweeper
I’d dance to the beat, shuffle my feet
Wear a shirt and tie and run with the creeps
Cause it’s all about money, ain’t a damn thing funny
You got to have a con in this land of milk and honey”
They pushed that girl in front of the train
Took her to the doctor, sewed her arm on again
Stabbed that man right in his heart
Gave him a transplant for a brand new start
I can’t walk through the park, cause it’s crazy after dark
Keep my hand on my gun, cause they got me on the run
I feel like a outlaw, broke my last glass jaw
Hear them say: “You want some more?”
livin’ on a seesaw

[4th Chorus]

A child is born with no state of mind
Blind to the ways of mankind
God is smiling on you but he’s frowning too
Because only God knows what you’ll go through
You’ll grow in the ghetto, living second rate
And your eyes will sing a song of deep hate
The places you play and where you stay
Looks like one great big alley way
You’ll admire all the number book takers
Thugs, pimps, pushers and the big money makers
Driving big cars, spending twenties and tens
And you wanna grow up to be just like them, huh,
Smugglers, scramblers, burglars, gamblers
Pickpockets, peddlers even panhandlers
You say: “I’m cool, I’m no fool!”
But then you wind up dropping out of high school
Now you’re unemployed, all non-void
Walking ‘round like you’re Pretty Boy Floyd
Turned stickup kid, look what you’ve done did
Got sent up for a eight year bid
Now your manhood is took and you’re a
Maytag Spent the next two years as a undercover fag
Being used and abused to serve like hell
‘Til one day you was found hung dead in your cell
It was plain to see that your life was lost
You was cold and your body swung back and forth
But now your eyes sing the sad, sad song
Of how you lived so fast and died so young

[5th Chorus][/expand]

Back in the early 80s this was an observation, critique and condemnation of living conditions in US East Coast ghettos, where squalid and repressed lives were still the norm for a great part of the black population. Racial tensions were still high, the rise and march-on-DC culmination of the civil rights movement and MLK’s death still being part of living memory for many people [There are, perhaps unsurprisingly, quite a few very striking Cosby Show episodes highlighting this]. And even though the 70s saw a form of normalization in race-relations, this didn’t work everywhere. It did, however, made it easier for disenfranchised blacks to both see how much better their lives could be and gave them the opportunity to voice their dis-pleasure about this without (large-scale and officially sanctioned at least) violent back-lash. Although it wasn’t enough, as events 10 years after this would show…

Rap and Hip-Hop quickly turned into a form of expression and social commentary that young people flocked to. And for a time, it served that purpose well. It combined elements of Jazz, Blues, Soul and Rock music, blending them together with the then-upcoming new electronical instruments and recording/editing equipment [That’s the other reason why I chose this song. It’s one of those first “electronica rap” pieces.] and giving them a distinctive “black” voice, using clearly rhyme-spoken lyrics to pull focus on the artist’s message. And even then, conspiracy theorists on both sides of the racial divide spouted idiocy about how Hip-Hop/Rap were instruments created by the FBI to both keep “the blacks” docile and easily identify “uppity” troublemakers. So even before the hands-down fuck-stupid East Cost vs. West Coast gangster-rap bullshit started this genre had its rabid detractors.


We’re thirty years later.
And now the disenfranchised black US population is in the company of wide swathes of the magnanimous “1st world”.
The Occupy Wall Street movement is sweeping over the US and branching out into Europe. The EU is in financial and socio-political turmoil. India and China and all their satellite states are facing a new feature for which they will have to carefully review decades-old dogmas and “traditions”. The battle for GLBT equalization rages the world over. Even the British monarchy is finally revising its laws-of-succession to get the princesses the same succession-rights by age a prince would get. Japan only narrowly avoided doing this by the birth of a new male heir to the current house. And they were on the brink of making a princess Empress, too.

While the world is moving forward technologically like an ICE during a perfect summer day on a PR-event route, social issues (multiplied by the fight over neutrality and legality and privacy on the internet, fought by many disparate organizations the world over) seem to move on a much more glacial pace.

And the ever-growing divide between poor and rich, and the current tensions between Atheists, Christians and Muslims in Europe and the US, as well as the new racial (now the hispanics and arabs own the really short stick) tensions and the Republican Party’s unbelievable “War Against Sanity and Compassion” which targets GLBT causes without remorse, pity or even a smattering of shame in the US all provide the worst kind of kindle for the flames of extremism.

So, yes.
It’s now nearly 30 years after the GM Flash and the Furious Five were kicked into performing this song, I have to re-iterate:

Don’t push me cause I’m close to the edge
I’m trying not to lose my head,
It’s like a jungle sometimes it makes me wonder
How I keep from going under

I’m no Green. I’m no leftist. I’m no advocate against Imperialism. I’m an elitist, imperialist, technocratic jerk.

But even I really, deeply hope that these interesting times we live in see a victory for freedom, equality, democracy, rationality, skepticism, science and the middle-classes the world over. May the 1% fall from their thrones.

I bid all of you fighting the good fight my most sincere and humble sympathy. I’m with you. Even if I don’t support all of what you do all of the time.
Let’s make sure that these are not the times that lead to our own World of Darkness.

I want all the people that come after us to some-time live in The Culture. Not in Night City.

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