Author: Harry Allen

  • Big Daddy Kane: The AfraKane King

    1988 Village Voice article by Harry Allen about Big Daddy Kane

    On Big Daddy Kane’s record cover, three Nubian hand­ maidens in a regal, Greco-Ro­man fantasy tend to the every wish of the Cameoed King. Long Live the Kane (Cold Chillin’) one whispers as she leans over his shoulder, proffering a goblet of Calvin Cooler. Pause, then flip over this bad, blood-filled, basement-party album. Centuries later, […]

  • Black Metropolis: Strangers in Paradise

    1987 Village Voice package, BLACK METROPOLIS, looks at "encounters five black writers had with people in several of New York's black communities"

    Of Homeboys, Homelands, and the Island I guess it made odd sense that my talk with Hank didn’t occur while we walked about the side streets of Freeport (where I live), or Roo­sevelt (where he lives), or Hemp­stead (a focal point for both of our towns), reminiscing about our lives in these places. It occurred […]

  • Hiphop Nation: Calling Dr. Strangelove

    SHARP HK-9000 BOX MOST LIKELY TO ACCIDENTALLY START A NUCLEAR WAR Am I lying? Even the name sounds like some kind of supercomputer. HAL’s little cuz, no doubt. SPECIFICATIONS, y’all. Price: $299.95. Length: 33 inches. Width: 9 inches. Height: One foot. Weight: 32.5 pounds, without batteries. And that’s until you decide you wanna rock “Two, […]

  • Hip-Hop Nation: Power to the People

    Hip-Hop Radio: Power to the People January 19, 1988 It’s appropriate that the first, the only, place I heard the Audio Two’s last record, “I Like Cher­ries,” was on The D.N.A.-Hank Love Ra­dio Show (WNWK, 105.9, Sunday, 2 to 4 a.m.). As the self-proclaimed “Under­ground of Hip-Hop,” D.N.A.-Love is in­deed a minority in a minority, […]

  • LL Cool J Eats His Own Lunch, and a Few Other Things

    Exit 13 is LL Cool J’s final album for Def Jam, which released his debut, Radio—dare I say it?—nearly a quarter-century ago. So at this, the culmination of his career, it isn’t surprising to find the rapper defiantly affirming the supremacy and vitality of his legacy. “Launched the greatest label in the history of rap/And […]

  • The Roots Bury the Leader

    The first couple of times I listened to Rising Down, the Roots’ ninth (!) album, I couldn’t stop wondering if this was actually their last contractual release for Def Jam. There’s a longstanding tradition of artists using albums to douse legal obligations, tossing them together from the odds ‘n’ ends they have lying around. Remember […]

  • Today’s Mathematics

    Quality Control, Jurassic 5’s 2000 debut album, refined a sound forged in the heat of battle: on the unforgiving stage of Los Angeles’s Good Life Café, during the early 1990s. There, originally working as two separate and unrelated units—Rebels of Rhythm and Unity Committee—the musicians engaged in the jam sessions that, for Black music, are […]

  • Jam Master Jay, 1965–2002

    As both a technician and craftsman, DJ Jam Master Jay (a/k/a Jason William Mizell), who was murdered last Wednesday night at the age of 37 by an assassin’s single bullet, will probably be remembered less for the showy innovations and poly-hyphenated tricks that mark the modern “turntablist” arsenal than he will be for a personal […]

  • Not Your Superwoman

    “Taco Day,” rapper Jean Grae’s Columbine-inspired fantasy, from ex-Company Flow DJ Mr. Len’s 2001 solo album, Pity the Fool, would have made her name—taken after the mutant Marvel Comics X-Men telepath and telekinete’s—one worth remembering, even if it had been her only contribution to the game. A 9:14 dirge, plodding with the drone of inevitability—Philip […]

  • Alien

    If there was a Black goth planet in some parallel universe, Busta Rhymes would be its evil emperor: the person who, in an MTV remake of The Defiant Ones (The Real Defiant Ones?), you’d handcuff to Marilyn Manson. In a recent Q&A, Busta hails M&M as an artist with “no limitations,” and Manson’s autonomy as […]