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Byline: Sandra Barrera and Fred Shuster Music Writers

Once it trickled out of the South Bronx, hip-hop traveled from blight to bling faster than a dope MC can rock the mic.

Emerging 30 years ago from the housing projects and abandoned tenements of an ignored, war-torn corner of New York City, the once-jarring sound of rap and its various cultural offshoots are today so accepted they account for a $10 billion industry that impacts fashion, sports, publishing, film, TV and advertising.

But long before Ford's Sean John Lincoln Navigator, Reebok's Jay-Z athletic shoe and Nelly's Pimp Juice energy drink, hip-hop's first rhymes sprouted a world away from the Cristal supernovas of the Ritz-Carlton.

``It came from a place the world had forgotten and didn't want to know about,'' says Grandmaster Flash (real name: Joseph Saddler). ``Nobody was trying to get rich. Nobody had any hope of getting rich.''

The pioneering South Bronx party DJ who in 1974 forged such now-standard turntable techniques as cutting (repeating a beat or musical phrase by moving the record back and forth) and scratching (blending different records together to create a new one) explains the new music caused only the slightest ripples at first.

``It wasn't polarizing because hardly anyone knew about it,'' said Flash, who is up for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year. ``It didn't threaten to overtake the status quo until much later. We were spinning records at community events and barbecues in the playgrounds of the (housing) projects. Hip-hop didn't move downtown for years. We were playing block parties for our families and friends.''

Hip-hop's first stirrings - including the genre's first hit, Sugar Hill Gang's ``Rapper's Delight,'' released 25 years ago this month - are illuminated in VH1's five-part series, ``And You Don't Stop: 30 Years of Hip Hop,'' unfolding all week at 10 p.m. The hourlong episodes chronicle hip-hop's unpretentious origins in the Jamaican DJ style known as toasting (spoken lyrics over reggae rhythms) through its current united states of excess, an economic powerhouse generating profits in excess of $10 billion a year.

``We knew we'd have no problem filling five hours,'' says series producer Bill Adler, a hip-hop historian, author and former rap publicist. ``It's a big story.''

The good-natured sepia-toned imagery of a time when MCs battled with microphones instead of Glocks clashes with later stages of rap's rise to prominence. As critics point out, the genre has largely devolved from such artful early peaks as Grandmaster Flash's ``The Message'' (a nonviolent, pungent cry from the streets of New York), Kurtis Blow's witty ``The Breaks'' and Public Enemy's brilliant, politicized musical dispatches into a toxic gas that glorifies the worst elements and pathologies of the black community and, by extension, the human race.

As ``30 Years of Hip Hop'' makes glaringly clear, it's difficult to remember that in the midst of hip-hop nation's relentless gunplay, glorification of prison culture, misogyny, mindless materialism - and some of the most hideous fashion blunders since elephant bell-bottoms and leisure suits in the '70s - the music was initially a peaceful force. Despite being born in extreme poverty, rap was a positive, uplifting sound with something on its mind.

``It was like finally somebody was telling the world how we live and what we're going through - that's hip-hop,'' says KRS-One (Kris Parker), leader of Boogie Down Productions, one of the most influential and socially conscious East Coast hip-hop acts of the '80s.

Part of hip-hop history, of course, is the blood spilled in its name. ``Life After Death,'' Thursday's VH1 episode, spells out the East Coast/West Coast rivalry that resulted in the murders of two of rap's biggest stars, Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur.

``We're not going to stand on the sidelines and wring our hands and decry the violence in the music, the kind of simple equation that people on the religious or cultural right make about how rap causes violence,'' Adler insists. ``On the other hand, we're not going to say that it doesn't occur, or that it hasn't occurred.''

Not coincidentally, hip-hop's bling-bling lifestyle and its chart-topping gangsta-rap cast generate more than $10 billion a year. Forbes magazine foresees hip-hop-inspired housewares, furniture, linens, food, writing instruments and even a hip-hop DVD section at Best Buy. Earlier this year, the business mag predicted publicly traded hip-hop companies and the emergence of a hip-hop entrepreneur to rival Ralph Lauren and Oprah Winfrey on its World's Richest People list. Last year, hip-hop CD sales alone hit $1 billion, mostly due to smash hits from 50 Cent and Eminem.

``It's the world's youth culture now ... it's been embraced by everybody on the planet, every race, creed and color,'' says rapper Fab Five Freddy (Fred Braithwaite), widely known as host of the '80s video show ``Yo! MTV Raps'' and a co-producer of ``VH1 Hip-Hop Honors,'' an awards show broadcast Oct. 12 following ``30 Years of Hip Hop.''

The biggest impression, though, is still felt on your iPod. Hip-hop's pervasiveness has not only blurred the lines between once-separate genres like r&b, dancehall and electronica, but rap has reached such a saturation point that a white homeboy spouting profanity in rhyme can be one of the world's biggest pop stars.

``It's really no different than any great American musical export you can name, going back to jazz, blues, r&b, rock 'n' roll and disco ... everything that preceded rap,'' Adler says. ``These are the great cultural exports of America that people all over the world glom onto because there's something about it that spells fun, that spells freedom of expression.

``It's one of the great cultural products that make America a great and sexy brand name.''

Sandra Barrera, (818) 713-3728


Fred Shuster, (818) 713-3676



What: The explosion of hip-hop culture is traced from the South Bronx to all corners of the globe in five hourlong episodes. The $2 million series takes in chats with Ice-T, OutKast, Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, LL Cool J, Chuck D and more, with historical context provided by genre pioneers Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash and KRS-One.

Where: VH1.

When: New episodes 10 p.m. today through Friday. Episode 1 repeats at 9 tonight, with other episodes repeating at 9 p.m. on the day after they premiere.

Yo! Check it

Back in hip-hop's golden age, the question was where to hear it. Today, it's how to escape it. Since rap has become so ubiquitous, the music's been diluted to the point where it's hard to imagine it was once truly revolutionary. Here's a mix tape of hip-hop's greatest moments.

``The Breaks,'' Kurtis Blow (1980)

``Rapper's Delight,'' Sugar Hill Gang (1980)

``The Message,'' Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five (1982)

``Planet Rock,'' Afrika Bambaataa & the Soul Sonic Force (1982)

``Rock Box,'' Run-DMC (1984)

``Roxanne, Roxanne,'' UTFO (1984)

``Rock the Bells,'' LL Cool J (1986)

``Criminal Minded,'' Boogie Down Productions (1987)

``Don't Believe the Hype,'' Public Enemy (1988)

``Express Yourself,'' N.W.A (1988)

``Fight the Power,'' Public Enemy (1989)

``Me Myself and I,'' De La Soul (1989)

``We Got Our Own Thang,'' Heavy D & The Boyz (1989)

``Humpty Dance,'' Digital Underground (1990)

``How to Survive in South Central,'' Ice Cube (1991)

``Don't Sweat the Technique,'' Eric B. & Rakim (1992)

``Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang,'' Dr. Dre with Snoop Dogg (1993)

``Ruffneck,'' MC Lyte (1993)

``Regulate,'' Warren G. & Nate Dogg (1994)

``Hey Ya!'' OutKast (2003)


6 photos, box


(1 -- cover -- color) RUN-DMC

(2 -- cover -- color) TUPAC SHAKUR

(3 -- cover -- color) PUBLIC ENEMY

(4) Grandmaster Flash, right, with, from left, Mr. Broadway, Raheim, LaVon, Kidd Creole, Shame and Larry Love

(5) - KRS-One



Yo! Check it (see text)
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 5, 2004

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