The Hip Hop Files:  Photographs 1979 – 1984 is a book of photographs and interviews by Martha Cooper, an American photojournalist who worked for the New York Post in the 1970’s and 80’s.  She is most well known for documenting the graffiti culture in the 1970’s.  This collection paints broad picture of the youth involved in the birth of hip-hop in New York.

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Below is the inspiration costume designer Amanda Atunes is drawing from to build the costumes of How We Got On.

If this doesn’t make you nostalgic for the 80’s, then not much will.

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HWGO Album Covers

Posted: June 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

As part of the press for How We Got On, the initial photo shoot yielded the following pictures.

They were made to emulate popular album covers of the time.  Meet the characters of How We Got On.

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In Concert:  Any time Hank, Julian or Luann, perform their raps. This is a manifestation of how they feel/ what they imagine.

– Idris Goodwin, How We Got On

Because How We Got On takes place in an era before YouTube and cell phones that can record video, some rap videos depicting concerts in the mid-to-late 80’s aren’t in great abundance.  However, in 1987, Def Jam launched a tour featuring LL Cool J (see below videos).

Also, the tail end of the documentary The Show (which can be seen in its entirety in an early post on this blog HERE), culminates in some great hip-hop concerts– though again:  it’s production date falls after 1988.

LL Cool J – Live 87 Def Jam Tour (pt. 1)

LL Cool J – Live 87 Def Jam Tour (pt. 2)

Public Enemy – Def II Tour

And though it’s dated a bit later than the events depicted in How We Got On, I like this video of Method Man and Redman due to their swagger and interactions with the audience:

Concerning the repetition: Lines that repeat should be performed with the same inflection and tone each time – these are not characters repeating the same lines because other characters are not understanding them, these lines are being spun back and replayed, spun back and replayed, spun back and replayed, spun back, spun back, spun, spun, spun and replayed by Selector.

The Drowsy Chaperone is a musical with book by Bob Martin and Don McKellar and music and lyrics by Lisa Lambert andGreg Morrison. It is a parody of American musical comedy of the 1920s. The story concerns a middle-aged, asocial musical theatre fan; as he plays the record of his favorite musical, the (fictional) 1928 hit The Drowsy Chaperone, the show comes to life onstage as he comments on the music, story, and actors.

During the act one finale, the musical theatre fan accidentally bumps the record player, causing the performers, music, and dance to repeat.  Below are a few examples of this moment.

(Pardon video quality…)

Skip section starts at 6:40:

Skip section starts at 5:50:

Skip section starts at 5:50 (also):

John Henry

Posted: May 30, 2013 in Uncategorized
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LUANN: John Henry? That’s your –nom de plum?

HANK: Yeah.

LUANN:  That’s a weird rap name.

HANK:  Don’t you know the story of John Henry?

– How We Got On

John Henry is an American folk hero and tall tale. He worked as a “steel-driver“—a man tasked with hammering a steel drill into rock to make holes for explosives to blast the rock away. He died during the construction of a tunnel for arailroad. In the legend, John Henry’s prowess as a steel-driver was measured in a race against a steam powered hammer, which he won, only to die in victory with his hammer in his hand.

The tale of John Henry has been used as a symbol in many cultural movements, including labor movements and the Civil Rights Movement.

John Henry is a symbol of physical strength and endurance, of exploited labor, of the dignity of a human being against the degradations of the machine age, and of racial pride and solidarity.  During World War II his image was used in U.S. government propaganda as a symbol of social tolerance and diversity.

– Bicknell J (Spring 2009). “Reflections on “John Henry”: Ethical Issues in Singing Performance”. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism67 (2): 173–180.

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Below is a a copy of the lyrics from one of the oldest versions of folk song (a traditional steel driving song) about John Henry from, more can be found HERE:

     1. John Henry was a railroad man,

He worked from six ’till five,

“Raise ’em up bullies and let ’em drop down,

I’ll beat you to the bottom or die.”

2. John Henry said to his captain:

“You are nothing but a common man,

Before that steam drill shall beat me down,

I’ll die with my hammer in my hand.”

3. John Henry said to the Shakers:

“You must listen to my call,

Before that steam drill shall beat me down,

I’ll jar these mountains till they fall.”

4. John Henry’s captain said to him:

“I believe these mountains are caving in.”

John Henry said to his captain: “Oh, Lord!”

“That’s my hammer you hear in the wind.”

5. John Henry he said to his captain:

“Your money is getting mighty slim,

When I hammer through this old mountain,

Oh Captain will you walk in?”

6. John Henry’s captain came to him

With fifty dollars in his hand,

He laid his hand on his shoulder and said:

“This belongs to a steel driving man.”

7. John Henry was hammering on the right side,

The big steam drill on the left,

Before that steam drill could beat him down,

He hammered his fool self to death.

8. They carried John Henry to the mountains,

From his shoulder his hammer would ring,

She caught on fire by a little blue blaze

I believe these old mountains are caving in.

9. John Henry was lying on his death bed,

He turned over on his side,

And these were the last words John Henry said

“Bring me a cool drink of water before I die.”

10. John Henry had a little woman,

Her name was Pollie Ann,

He hugged and kissed her just before he died,

Saying, “Pollie, do the very best you can.”

11. John Henry’s woman heard he was dead,

She could not rest on her bed,

She got up at midnight, caught that No. 4 train,

“I am going where John Henry fell dead.”

12. They carried John Henry to that new burying ground

His wife all dressed in blue,

She laid her hand on John Henry’s cold face,

“John Henry I’ve been true to you.”

Manhattan native Kool Moe Dee became an underground rap pioneer in the 70s and later broke out as a star as part of the group Treacherous Three. He became even bigger as a solo act, scoring a monster hit with “I Go To Work” and becoming one of the architects of the New Jack Swing sound that dominated radio in the late 80s.

It aired July 16, 2012.

Style Wars is a 1983 documentary on hip hop culture, directed by Tony Silver in collaboration with Henry Chalfant. The film has an emphasis on graffiti, although bboying and rapping are covered to a lesser extent. The film was originally aired onPBS television in 1983, and was subsequently shown in several film festivals to much acclaim, including the Vancouver Film Festival. It also won the Grand Jury Prize: Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival.

JULIAN:  You know how the guys on YO! MTV Raps, like, how they are. They’re just like, you know – I’m the shit!

Yo! MTV Raps was a two hour television music program, which ran from August 1988 to August 1995 through its original Yo! MTV Raps name and later by Yo! (until 1999). The program was the first hip hop music show on the network, and produced a lively mix of rap videos, interviews with rap stars, live in studio performances (on Fridays) and comedy.  It is considered to be integral in the rise of hip-hops popularity in America during the late 80’s and early 90’s.

Yo! The story of Yo! MTV Raps is a 2012 documentary program produced by VH1 chronicling the history of the show while featuring highlights from its run.  It can be viewed in its entirety at THIS LINK!