The Playlist Series: Songs You Will Hear at an African American Family Function
Sister Sledge: “We Are Family” Frankie Beverly & Maze: “Before I let Go” S.O.S. Band: “Don’t Stop the Music” Slave: “Just A Touch of Love” One Way: “Cutie Pie” Patrice Rushe: “Forget Me Nots” The Isley Brothers: “For the Love of You” Juvenile: “Back that Ass Up” Curtist Mayfield: “Pusherman” Al Green: “Let’s Stay Together” Stevie Wonder: “Isn’t She Lovely” R. Kelly: “Step in the Name of Love” Luther Vandross: “Never Too Much" Shalamar: “Make That Move” Teena Marie: “Square Biz” Kool & the Gang: “ Get Down On it” Sugar Hill Gang: “Rappers Delight” Earth, Wind & Fire: “Reasons” Strafe: “Set it Off” The Gap Band: “You Dropped A Bomb on Me” Chic: “Good Times” Montel Jordan: “This “is How we Do It” Evelyn Champagne King: “Love Come Down” Club Nouveau: “Why You Treat Me So Bad” McFadden & Whitehead: “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” Sly and The Family Stone: “Family Affair: Al Green: “Love and Happiness” Switch: “I Call Your Name” 68 Boyz: “Tootsee Roll” The O'Jays: “Love Train“ Carl Carlton: "She’s A Bad Mama Jama” The Whispers: “Rock Steady” Johnny Kemp: “Just Got Paid” Kool & the Gang: “Celebration” Ohio Players: “Love Roller Coaster” Al Green: “Tired of Being Alone” Marcia Griffiths: “ Electric Boogie (The Electric Slide)” Roger: "I Want to Be Your Man” Ohio Players: “Fire” Earth, Wind & Fire: “September” The Commodores: “Brick House” Michael Jackson: “Billie Jean” Chaka Khan: “Ain’t Nobody” Whitney Houston: “I wanna Dance With Somebody” Parliament: “Flashlight” DJ Casper: “Cha Cha Slide” Zap: “ Computer Love” The Whispers: “And the Beat Goes On” S.O.S.: “Just Be Good to Me” Frankie Beverly & Maze: “Happy Feelings” Cameo: “Candy” Vaughan Mason & Crew: “Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll“ Guy: “I Like” Cheryl Lynn: “Got to Be Real” Cupid: “Cupid Shuffle” The Gap Band: “Outstanding”
shimmy shimmy ya - ol’ dirty bastard // mama said knock you out - ll cool j // juice (know the ledge) - eric b. & rakim // panther power - tupac // ain’t no half steppin’ - big daddy kane // ny state of mind - nas // scenario - a tribe called quest & leaders of the new school // hip hop hooray - naughty by nature // flava in ya ear (remix) - craig mack & notorious b.i.g., ll cool j & busta rhymes // cool like that - digable planets // 1000 deaths - d’angelo & the vanguard // wesley’s theory - kendrick lamar // g.o.m.d. - j. cole // somewhereinamerica - jay-z // king kunta - kendrick lamar // everything is everything - lauryn hill // the people - common // inner city blues (make me wanna holler) - marvin gaye // move on up - curtis mayfield // they don’t really care about us - michael jackson // freedom - beyonce & kendrick lamar // be free - j. cole // strange fruit - billie holiday // flowers (instrumental) - j. dilla
Hello from the dark side- Royish Good Looks // F.U.N Song-Spongebob Squarepants // Never gonna give you up- Rick Astley // We will rock you- Queen // Our house- Madness // The boys are back in town- Thin Lizzy // You’re my best friend- Queen // Clique- Kanye West, Jay-Z & Big Sean// Jump- Van Halen // Footloose- Kenny Loggins // We can’t stop- Miley Cyrus // No limit- 2 Unlimited // Sorry for party rockin’- LMFAO // Tacky- Weird Al Yankovic // September - Earth,Wind & Fire // We are the champions- Queen // Rappers delight- The Sugarhill Gang // Live while we’re young- One Direction // Boogie wonderland- Earth, Wind & Fire // Ladies Night- Atomic Kitten // We like to party- Vengaboys // Call me Al- Paul Simon // Space Jam- Quad City DJ’s // Kung fu fighting- Carl Douglas // Last friday night- Katy Perry //Get ready- 2 Unlimited // Bohemian Rhapsody- Queen // Everything is awesome- Tegan & Sara and The Lonely Island
Sylvia Vanderpool Robinson (March 6, 1936 – September 29, 2011) was an American singer, musician, record producer, and record label executive. She was best known for her work as founder/CEO of the hip hop label Sugar Hill Records. She is credited as the driving force behind two landmark singles in the genre; “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugarhill Gang, and “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five.
As the decade wore on, what would become the culture of hip-hop was making itself known across the city via the sides of subways or in the parks with guys breakdancing. Then, in 1979, The Sugarhill Gang scored a hit with Rapper’s Delight. For a kid looking for something that was not the endless syrup of disco, the beats of rap were like a thunderstorm. By the early 80s, I was turned on to Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five and their track The Message. It was all revelation.
Now flash forward 40 years. For a couple of years I’ve been hearing about the musical Hamilton. My general response was: “A rap musical about the guy who wrote the Federalist Papers. That could be interesting.” Then, a few weeks ago, I finally dialed up the soundtrack on Spotify.
Lots of people have written lots of words about the brilliance of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton as an interpretation of American history. I’ll spare you my thoughts on that (but, oh man, is it brilliant!). The main point today is more focused: the use of hip hop’s musical mechanics to light up a specific kind of narrative like, for example, a post-revolutionary war cabinet meeting. The pieces are all so damn good. Turning constitutional conflicts into rap battles with serious attention to historical policy details is definitely a new and awesome idea.
But that new and awesome idea in Hamilton is really just an extension of what was happening with The Message all those years ago (Grand Master Flash is both an associate producer and major character in The Get Down). It is, in fact, another development in the ongoing process of creation that began in 1977 in Queens and the Bronx. That is, after all, how art works. New ideas emerge, take root and grow into rich ecosystems of culture. Seeing that arc is what I’m struck by in watching The Get Down and listening to Hamilton. It’s the trajectory of human genius and human creativity.
It’s also a trajectory that’s played out in science.
Let me give you one example. In 1687, Isaac Newton wrote his masterwork Principia where he presented (among other things) his three laws of mechanics. These were mathematical rules for articulating the relationship between forces and motion. The laws were revolutionary. For the first time there was a way to tie cause to effect in a clear, mathematically precise way. With Newton, humanity saw that the same laws governing the falling of stone also controlled the motion of the planets.
Scientists built quickly on the edifice Newton constructed. The language he gave them proved flexible enough to let them create — to extend his ideas to new applications. But Newton’s language was also a little clunky. It was kind of hard to work with it in complex situations. That was why, over the next 200 years, new formulations of Newton’s basic laws would appear. First there was Joseph-Louis Lagrange and, later would come the work of William Hamilton. Both physicists invented new ways of embracing Newton’s insights. But their work also led to even deeper and more far-reaching insights into things like the nature of symmetries. If I was reaching (or perhaps overreaching) for a comparison, I would say that Run DMC is to A Tribe Called Quest as Newton was to Hamilton. New directions, taken within a given form, open new worlds that then wait for their own exploration.
It’s always this way with the human imagination. We are both radical and conservative. What happened in the Bronx in 1977 was a beginning. What happened with Isaac Newton in 1687 was a beginning. What Lin-Manuel Miranda created with Hamilton was another beginning, but it built off New York 1977 just as the 1837 physics William Hamilton created was an expansion of Newton.