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Rudy Ray Moore & Hip-Hop Pre-History

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Examining and attributing influence to figures from rap’s pre-history that had an “influence” on actual rap history always feels like leap. You’re either idealizing the creation of the genre as totally outside of most other things and compartmentalizing all the differences between Tapper Zukie and Kool Herc or you kinda admit the influence even though it’s almost always a stretch. You can hear Gil Scott or Last Poets and be like, “I see how this is like rapping” but it’s just still not rapping and it’s weird.

And then, there’s the slippery slope thing of like, why these can be considered influences and not like a ton of white, rap-like stuff from way earlier, and then before you know it, you’re like some aged English teacher trying to hip the young kids to like, Lord Byron or some shit and arguing the really stupid thing that rap is just poetry, which it just ain’t.

But whatever your feelings on rap pre-history, Rudy Ray Moore’s connection to rap is pretty solid. The over-the-top filthiness of Ghostface, Too Short’s freaky tales that always have some moral edge to them, Devin the Dude’s conflation of Southern rap dirty jokes and century-plus old–let me put my professor glasses on—characterizations from the black diaspora, and Schooly D’s “Signifying Rapper” being an update on Rudy’s “Signifying Monkey” itself an update on a pre-reggae toast/routine/rap, are obvious touchstones.

See, Moore’s influence on rap is beyond “he put rhyming words in order before it was formally called rapping” but a whole big mess of more interesting and harder to put your finger on stuff. His Dolemite character and persona is like the “multiply your real persona times ten and run with it” formula that most rappers work with today and if I wanted to be douchey, I could say Dolemite’s one of the inventors of “swagger” because it wasn’t just that Dolemite told really hilarious jokes, but it was as much the way he told the joke and in many ways, more about the way he told it. Nearly all his jokes weren’t his own, variations on dirty jokes you heard your whole life, spruced up to be even more outrageous than you’re anticipating.

It’s all about self-aware exaggeration in a Dolemite routine, women with pussies so big a truck literally drives inside them, little kids that know more about pussy eating than I do, etc. etc. A weird mix of “adult” stuff and the like, cartoony, quasi-Tall Tales imagination with some kind of lesson or moral flip to it.

That is how Rudy Ray really put his stamp on rap. That thing of talking like everybody else and appealing to so-called “base” thoughts of the “lowest common denominator” (but really just where most of our brains are most of the time), but being kinda humane and almost morally serious at the same time.

While most people will rightfully point interested parties towards the movie Dolemite or Rudy records like Eat Out More Often, I wanted to highlight two of my favorite, slightly lesser-known Rudy Ray Moore projects.

-Petey Wheatstraw (1977) directed by Cliff Roquemore (Libra)

The thing is, short of the actually terrible Avenging Disco Godfather, Dolemite is by far the least entertaining of the Dolemite movies. Directed by D’urville Martin, who tried to make the movie absurd and also sort of like a “normal” movie, Dolemite lags and doesn’t have the immediate, who-gives-a-shit feeling of the later Dolemite movies.

Starting with Human Tornado, Cliff Roquemore took over and he made the movies really crazy in a way that stopped winking at itself and just fucking went there. When Roquemore’s credit pops-up on the screen, it accompanied by a small, parenthesized “(Libra)” which always reminded me of Underground nutbar director Robert Downey Sr. sticking “A Prince” at the end of his credit, because Roquemore’s working on the same exact absurdist level as Downey-and since film critics are just now getting around to taking Downey seriously, expect at least a hundred years before a Cliff Roquemore retrospective.

There’s too many great things to talk about in the movie, so real quick: The Devil represented by an old black guy in bright red track suit, appearances by Wildman Steve and Leroy & Skillet, a really incredible soundtrack (which was re-released a couple years ago and isn’t too hard to find, lots of ridiculous Devil make-up and a ton more.

Luckily, this scene happens to be on YouTube, so you’re spared a long, over-written description of one of the funniest fucking scenes of all-time:

-Afros, Macks, & Zodiacs (1995?)

This is basically a party video back when party videos still existed. Two hours of old “blaxploitation” trailers with the occasional interjection by Rudy Ray Moore surrounded by pretty busted girls half-telling one of his classic jokes. At the end of the video, Blowfly and a bunch of other surprises show up too. Here’s a clip of one of those dirty-joke interjections (fuck anybody who disables embedding by the way).

For the hell of it, here’s my personal favorite trailer from the collection, which you know, has enough “rapping” in it to maybe be an influence on rap unto itself:

And the classic “Got Your Money” video…

Written by Brandon

October 22nd, 2008 at 1:04 am

EgoTrip’s Miss Rap Supreme: Episode Three


Dunno what it was, maybe it had something to do with the ton of typical reality show drama throughout tonight’s show, but it became even more clear in this episode than in previous ones (and last year’s entire season) that none of these people have any chance of an actual rap career. That, along with the dangling of the really rather small prize of 100 grand makes the show a little sad to watch- sad like the photo of Bree’s cokehead/Jimmy Buffett-fan looking dad who died when she was fourteen. The whole series is even more of an explicit joke than most reality shows, but a kind of weird sympathy occurs precisely because ‘Miss Rap Supreme’ doesn’t in any way try to look like it’s doing anything but make fun of these wannabe girl rappers. The show actually ends up being less condescending because it doesn’t try to convince all the snarky viewers that it gives a shit about these people and through that, we kind of project our own sympathies and frustrations onto the cast members. Also: No Homo on this awful PUMA ad that popped-up a few times during tonight’s episode.

As with last season, the contests, especially the ones that don’t’ involve rapping, feel like something of an after-thought. Why did the potential Miss Rap Supremes have to be part of this weird “dress like a rapper” contest/pageant? I think they should’ve had to rap in the style of the rapper they had to dress like or something. Still, it was cool that Byata dressed like Kanye West circa 2003, and Ms. Cherry’s Tupac impression was very good, in part because Tupac, with tweezed eyebrows and way-too beautiful skin kinda already looked like a drag-king.

The highlight of the show was an appearance by Too $hort which led to the contestants having to spit their own version of a freaky tale right back at Short Dog. All the girls failed because they saw what Short was doing as a gender-based version of battle-rapping when really, what Too $hort does is sexually-explicit storytellng; he’s rarely talking straight at his targets the way the girls all decided to do, which makes his raps less bragging or insulting and more like a friend telling you about the retarded blowjob he got last night or something. I know it’s a reality show and all, but it’s also a little sad to see Too $hort reduced to a filthy and offensive rapper. $hort’s got this really sensitive side (famously: “Life is/to some/Unbearable/Commit suicide/And that’s terrible”) and his verses on recent songs like ‘Bossy’ by Kelis or ‘Didn’t I Tell You’ by Keyshia Cole, show him taking on a kind of, wizzened dad-like persona, proud of these younger women. In the episode however, $hort couldn’t muster up that sympathy or pride and mainly just looked uncomfortable. Rap guest-stars on ‘Miss Rap Supreme’ and last year’s ‘White Rapper Show’ often fall-flat because the show basically confronts an older rap-legend with a bunch of terrible but earnest rap wannabes and it’s really hard to tell them to their faces about how bad they are, so you get Ghostface or Too $hort sort of stumbling through the event trying to help-out and not shit all over these sad kids. Also, rappers are really nice and kinda down-to-earth and you see that in Ghostface as he steps back and listens and looks for the good, even in the now kicked-out-twice Lionezz.

One of the interesting sidebars of this week’s episode was a kind of vague interest in race, specifically white humiliation. Late in the episode, the winning team is given the Salt-N-Pepa suite and on the bed is that vaguely Napoleon Dynamite nerd bellhop, in briefs and part of his uniform. Nicky2States begins paddling his ass and demanding he scream out “I’m black and I’m proud” and later, he’s forced to dance around; it’s like some weird scene from an early John Waters or Robert Downey Sr. movie or something. Earlier in the episode, Byata, who’s on her William Blake shit, getting these like answers to the world through her incredibly literal dreams, calls Chiba “the devil” and gets all pissy when Chiba sends it back calling her, without fully saying it, a white devil. This is something that’s been going on in all the episodes in a scene or two: The white females using their whiteness as an excuse. When D.A.B and Lionezz are picked last in the first challenge, D.A.B sort of addresses it as being “the white girl” when in fact, it’s just her talent that makes her undesirable and in an early freestyle, Byata says something about how she “cant help it” if she “sounds black”, which is a shameless and indirect way to get around race appropriation issues that no one’s even brought-up. Throughout the heated but ultimately silly argument (because again, what are they really competing for?), I kept waiting for the big joke about Chiba’s fucked-up eye and then, in next week’s episode, there it is!

Written by Brandon

April 29th, 2008 at 5:18 am