I was asked on Quora to give a list of my favorite hip-hop songs, because what better source is there than a forty-year-old white dad? (I am literally a mountain climber who plays the electric guitar.) I did grow up in New York City in the 80s, and I do love the music. But ultimately, I’m a tourist in this culture. For a more definitive survey, ask Questlove or someone. These are just songs that I like.
The first time I heard Manu Dibango’s “Soul Makossa” was courtesy of Motorcycle Guy, a prominent Brooklyn eccentric who drives around on a tricked-out motorcycle bedecked with lights and equipped with a powerful sound system. I encounter him every so often and he’s always bumping some good funk, soul or R&B. One night, he was playing what I thought was an extreme remix of “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” by Michael Jackson, with the end chant slowed down and pitch-shifted radically. As it turns out, I got the chronology reversed. Here’s Manu Dibango’s song:
We were on our way to Grand Central, on the first leg of our trip north for Thanksgiving. A girl sitting near us on the 4 train had her headphones cranked to where I could recognize the beat as the one from “A Milli” by Lil Wayne. I could also make out that there was a female vocalist singing on top. It sounded pretty cool. I put it out to Twitter to see if anyone knew what it was. Rafi Kam hipped me to Joya Bravo’s freestyle in the back of a dollar van. It’s not the one I was looking for but it’s much better, you do not want to miss it.