Boogie Down Productions
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|Boogie Down Productions|
|Origin||South Bronx, New York|
|Labels||B-Boy Records, Jive/RCA Records|
|Associated acts||Stop the Violence Movement, Heather B., Public Enemy, Juice Crew, Jungle Brothers, Ultramagnetic MCs, Ms. Melodie|
Scott La Rock (deceased)
Boogie Down Productions was a hip hop group that was originally composed of Josh Bell, Ethan Osman, KRS-One, D-Nice, and DJ Scott La Rock. DJ Scott La Rock was murdered on August 27, 1987, months after the release of BDP's debut album, Criminal Minded. The name of the group, Boogie Down, derives from a nickname for the South Bronx section of The Bronx, one of the five boroughs of New York City. The group pioneered the fusion of dancehall reggae and hip hop music and their debut LP Criminal Minded contained frank descriptions of life in the South Bronx of the late 1980s thus setting the stage for what would eventually become gangsta rap.
The membership of BDP changed continuously throughout its existence, the only constant being KRS-One. The group was originally founded by KRS-One and DJ Scott La Rock, with producer Lee Smith, who was essential in the production of the songs in the group's first album Criminal Minded, being added as a member shortly after. From those beginnings, BDP members and collaborators included Lee Smith, Scott La Rock, D-Nice, Kenny Parker (younger brother of KRS-One), Mad Lion, DJ Premier, Just-Ice, ICU Channel Live, McBoo, Ms. Melodie, Heather B., Scottie Morris, Tony Rahsan, Willie D., RoboCop, Harmony, DJ Red Alert, Jay Kramer, D-Square, Rebekah Foster, Scott Whitehill, Scott King, Chris Tait and Sidney Mills. BDP as a group essentially ended because KRS-One began recording and performing under his own name rather than the group name. Original member Lee Smith, who has co-producer credit on the original 12” "South Bronx" single, was the last to be inexplicably jettisoned by KRS-One and the future new label after Scott’s death.
In the liner notes on BDP's 1992 album Sex and Violence, KRS-One writes: "BDP in 1992 is KRS-One, Willie D, and Kenny Parker! BDP is not D-Nice, Jamal-ski, Harmony, Ms. Melodie, and Scottie Morris. They are not down with BDP so stop frontin'." Steve "Flash" Juon of RapReviews.com claimed that this initiated the ultimate breakup of the group. See Also: KRS-One, Scott La Rock, and D-Nice
Cultural Influences and Impact
“The Bridge Wars”
A conflict arose in the late 80s about the origins of hip-hop, and BDP made conscious efforts in its early work to establish their interpretation of the issue. The origins of hip-hop to many, including BDP, are believed to be from the Bronx. A rival hip-hop collective known as the Juice Crew's lyrics were misunderstood to contain a claim in the song "The Bridge" that hip hop was directly a result of artists originating from Queensbridge. Boogie Down and KRS retorted angrily with songs such as “The Bridge is Over” and “South Bronx,” which started one of the first notable hip hop wars as MC Shan, Marley Marl, Roxanne Shanté and Blaq Poet all released songs featuring verses personally attacking KRS and Scott La Rock. The Bridge Wars, however, were only short-lived, and after the death of Scott La Rock prior to the group's second album, KRS began to concentrate on consciously focused music.
While Criminal Minded contained vivid descriptions of South Bronx street life, BDP changed after Scott's death. Producer Lee Smith was dropped and KRS-One adopted the Teacha moniker and made a deliberate attempt at creating politically and socially conscious Hip-Hop. BDP was hugely influential in provoking political and social consciousness in Hip-Hop however the group was sometimes overshadowed by the political hip hop group Public Enemy.
The Jamaican influence present in Criminal Minded is well illustrated by the use of the "Mad Mad" or "Diseases" riddim started in 1981 with reggae star Yellowman's song "Zunguzung." BDP used this riff in the song "Remix for P is Free," and it was later resampled by artists such as Black Star and dead prez. As an album regarded by many as the start of the gangsta rap movement, Criminal Minded played an important role in reaffirming the social acceptance of having Jamaican roots. BDP referenced reggae in a way that helped to solidify Jamaica's place in modern hip-hop culture.
Political and Social Activism
From its start, BDP was impactful in both the development of hip-hop and giving a sincere voice to the reality of life in the South Bronx, a section of New York City that is clouded with poverty and crime. With its debut album Criminal Minded, this early hip-hop group combined the sounds of LaRock's harsh, spare, reggae-influenced beats and KRS-One's long-winded rhyme style on underground classics such as “9mm Goes Bang” and “South Bronx,” the album's gritty portrait of life on the streets (as well as the firearms that adorned its cover) influenced the gangsta rap movement that began in earnest two years later.
The influence of BDP in the creation and development of gangsta rap highlights the cultural significance and impact of the type of music BDP and other early hip-hop artists like it created. This subgenre of hip-hop is most closely associated with hard-core hip-hop and is widely misinterpreted as promoting violence and gang activity. This misinterpretation or stigma is closely related to Boogie Down Productions and the general purpose behind their underlying themes of violence. For instance, the cover art of Criminal Minded displays the two artists in this group brandishing drawn guns and displaying other firearms. This is not an encouragement of the violence described in BDP’s music, but rather a portrayal or hinting at the violence present in the South Bronx as a means of expression, escape, and even condemnation. This album art is not meant to advocate for violence but to challenge the conception of a criminal, to assert that those who are really criminally minded are those who hold power. This conflicts with the general stigma surrounding gangsta rap, which thrives off of displaying messages of violence in such a way that it doesn’t challenge these social ills, but rather supports them through the culture of the music.
The music of BDP became significantly more politically astute after the death of disc jockey Scott La Rock, KRS-One’s mentor and partner. La Rock’s death symbolized all of the injustices that BDP reacted to and lyrically described in their music, and thus inspired KRS-One, now the only original member left in the group, to become more passionate about the relevance of the message of BDP’s music. He went on to publish four more albums under the title of Boogie Down Productions, and each one was increasingly innovative and expanded from the thuggish imagery of Criminal Minded and began to explore themes like black-on-black crime, and black radicalism, using a riff on the words of Malcolm X, “by any means necessary”, which became the title of the second BDP album, and still remains as one of the most political hip-hop albums to date. It was in this album where KRS defined himself as the “teacha” or “teacher” symbolizing his emphasis on educating his audience members and fans about relevant social issues surrounding the African-American experience.
During his time in association with Boogie Down Productions, KRS-One joined with other rappers to create the Stop the Violence Movement, which addressed many of the issues brought about through BDP’s music and is the most conscious effort displayed by KRS-One and Boogie Down Productions of political Activism and engagement. The movement created the single “Self-Destruction” in 1989 through the collaboration of hip-hop artists Boogie Down Productions (KRS-One, D-Nice & Ms. Melodie), Stetsasonic (Delite, Daddy-O, Wise, and Frukwan), Kool Moe Dee, MC Lyte, Doug E. Fresh, Just-Ice, Heavy D, Biz Markie, Public Enemy (Chuck D & Flavor Flav) with the aim of spreading awareness about violence throughout African-American and hip-hop communities. All proceeds from this effort went to the National Urban League.
- Criminal Minded (1987)
- By All Means Necessary (1988)
- Ghetto Music: The Blueprint of Hip Hop (1989)
- Edutainment (1990)
- Sex and Violence (1992)
- Juon, Steve. "Sex and Violence Review", September 22, 2008.
- YouTube: Remix For P Is Free—Boogie Down Productions
- Marshall, Wayne. "Follow Me Now: The Zigzagging Zunguzung Meme", May 10, 2007.
- Iverem, Esther. "Violent Death Halts Rap Musician's Rise." The New York Times 31 Aug. 1987: 1. Archives. Web. 15 Sept. 2014.
- Nielson, E.. ""Can't C Me": Surveillance and Rap Music." Journal of Black Studies 40.6 (2010): 1254-1274. Print.
- "KRS-One." Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience, Second Edition. Ed. Kwame Anthony Appiah, Henry Louis Gates Jr. New York: Oxford UP, 2008. Oxford African American Studies Center. Wed Oct 15 21:07:46 EDT 2014. <http://www.oxfordaasc.com/article/opr/t0002/e2252>.