Verb’s Top 5 Hype Men: Bobby Byrd

“But my last choice –my favorite—all time Hype Man—
Bobby Byrd
Listen to them James Brown records from the 60s—On Sex Machine–he’s the guy sayin’
“Get on up” after James says “Stay on the scene” –“Get on up”
Sex Machine don’t work—none of these old James songs work without him
“Stay on the scene! Get on up! Like a sex machine! Get on up!”- Verb from HYPE MAN p. 84

Verb’s last and favorite of his top 5 hype men is Bobby Byrd!

Bobby Byrd was long time Hype man, and co-vocalist to James Brown.  He is best known for his performances in Licking Stick – Licking StickGet Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine and Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved. Bobby Byrd and James Brown met in a Georgia youth detention facility where Byrd’s local baseball team played the prison team of which Brown was a member. It was Bobby Byrd’s family that sponsored his release and took him in afterwards

Check out the video of James Brown and Bobby Byrd performing “Sex Machine” and you will get a great picture of what Verb is describing in the play:

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Misogyny in Hip Hop

A lotta my girls come up to me sayin’ “Oh I just like the beats. I don’t listen to what they sayin”

Them beats open you up and you just let everything seep in. When you breathing it in—all the language, these words– they creep in like second hand smoke.

One of my favorite artists is Dr Dre and he’s rough on the ladies, man. I swear I don’t even register it.

I’m so like “Ooooh how he get his drums to slap like that?!”

or

“Daaaaayyyyum—the EQ on them overdubs”

— Peep One in HYPE MAN, p. 41

When Peep says Dr. Dre is rough on the ladies, she’s speaking to the issues that Dr. Dre presents in his music and relationships with women, but also to the pervading misogyny in hip hop music and culture more broadly. Not only is this behavior excused and accepted, it also makes navigating the industry exceedingly difficult for women like Peep One who are trying to make a career in music.

“Hip hop has always had a serious problem with the female gender. Most of the time women are viewed solely as a visual accessory or sexual object. This is nothing new, right? I mean, how long has it been since Dr. Dre assaulted Dee Barnes? And the list of incidents in recent memory goes on, including Famous Dex, Ian ConnorKodak Black and let’s not forget Chris Brown, who managed to get off or get over in the court of public opinion, becoming a worldwide icon again thanks to people’s short memories and attention span not to mention their willingness to overlook violence against women.”

(Read the full article here.)

Check out Dr. Dre being “rough on the ladies” in his song “Bitches ain’t shit” below:

 

“Bitches ain’t shit” is only one example of the many songs where male hip hop artists have expressed aggressive sexual and physical violence toward women. Some prominent highlights also include:“Me So Horny” by 2 Live Crew, “Big Pimpin” by Jay-Z f/ UGK, “One More Chance” by The Notorious B.I.G., “Slob on my Knob” by Three 6 Mafia, “Wait (The Whisper Song)” by  The Ying Yang Twins“Who knew” by Eminem, “Culo” by  Pitbull, and, “Bitch Suck Dick” by Tyler, The Creator f/ Jasper, Taco.

All of these artists have been, and continue to be, hugely successful in the hip hop industry, largely because of a die hard fan base that defends them no matter what. And because American society normalizes misogyny and violence against women, especially in pop culture and music,  many fans keep listening and push push past the lyrics to hear only the beat. But, as Peep One says, it doesn’t mean those messages don’t enter our subconscious — they truly do creep in like second hand smoke.

 

Music Appropriation: White Rappers Respond

The stylistic appropriation of black music by white artists, like Pinnacle, is one of the main thematic threads that weaves throughout Hype Man. Appropriation, as defined by Cambridge English Dictionary, is “the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture.” In the play,  Verb directly challenges Pinnacle on his responsibility to black culture as someone who benefits from their cultural innovations. Rappers in the commercial hip hop scene have wrestled with these same concerns and many have spoken publicly about how they approach the issue as artists. Here’s a selection of some of those comments:

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Mackelmore in Concert

“You need to know your place in the culture. Are you contributing or are you taking? Are you using it for your own advantage or are you contributing? I saw a tweet that said, “Hip hop was birthed out of the civil rights movement.” This is a culture that came from pain and oppression. It was the byproduct [of white oppression]. We can say we’ve come a long way since the late Seventies and early Eighties, but we haven’t. Just because there’s been more successful white rappers, you cannot disregard where this culture came from and our place in it as white people. This is not my culture to begin with. As much as I have honed my craft…I do believe that I need to know my place.” – Macklemore,  Rolling Stone Magazine 

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Yelawolf (Left) and Eminem (Right)

“Eminem: We make jokes about it, but I don’t think we talk about it in depth. As I was listening to his music, I am not even thinking about any of that shit. It’s just the music. That’s one of the things that’s great about it. I’m not even thinking about it when I hear the music.
Yelawolf: We do poke fun of it because it’s funny. Like, he calls me White Dog.
Mikey Fresh:
Oh, you called him that on the BET Awards Cypher. I didn’t realize it was an ongoing joke?
EM: Yeah, or Beige Sheep. [Laughs]
YW: Cracker Nuts. Whatever, I think it’s kinda unspoken.
EM: We deal with it enough as it is. So now, let’s make music.
YW: Let’s make great records. At the end of the day, that’s all there is to do.”

-Eminem and Yelawolf, VIBE interview

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G-Eazy

“At the end of the day, I fell in love with making music at an early age, I’ve been doing this for 10 years and it comes from a genuine place. I didn’t grow up around all white people, I never wanted to gentrify hip-hop, I’ve never wanted to speak to an all-white audience. I’m just making music and I’m paying my bills.”

– G Eazy, The Guardian 

 

 

 

When considering these rappers’ points of view, and Pinnacle’s own point of view throughout the play, it’s clear that white hip hop artists have varying levels of understanding and complicity in the way they handle questions about musical appropriation. Is there a way to borrow from another culture while also respecting the folks who created it? As Pinnacle and Verb grapple with this question in Hype Man, it’s clear that real world rappers also have a lot to consider regarding their place in the industry.

Peep One crafts her beats

Last week we had two Boston based music producers come in to rehearsal and work with Rachel Cognata, who plays Peep One, on the art of beat making and producing. Tim Hall and Abstract Minor gave Rachel tips on how to mechanically create beats using the mixers and sound system in front of her, and also shared their individual work styles in the studio. We explored questions like: What is Peep One’s ritual when getting into her work mode? What is Peep’s work style in the studio? What does it look like when Peep is vibing with her beat?

The note that brought it all together came from Abstract Minor as she and Rachel were working on Peep One’s first individual beat making moment of the play. She said to Rachel,  “When you’re up there, YOU are the master of the beat you created. You know it better than anyone else, and it’s your job to hype it up.”

 

 

Verb’s Top 5 Hype Men: Sen Dog

“Sen Dog from Cypress Hill
“Feelin insane got no brains!”

— Verb in HYPE MAN, p. 84

Verb’s fourth favorite hype man is Sen Dog from the rap group Cypress Hill, who first came up in the West Coast rap scene of the early 1990s.

 

 

Cuban-born Senen Reyes, or Sen Dog, is most known for his performances in the Cypress Hill tracks “How I Could Just Kill a Man,” “Rap Superstar,” and “Insane In the Brain,” which Verb quotes with Sen Dog’s famous line above. While B-Real led on vocals, Sen Dog’s deep voice added a contrasting element as he barked ad-libs that went on to become memorable earworms.

Hear Sen Dog’s iconic line in the music video for “Insane in the Brain” below:

Sen Dog took a hiatus from Cypress Hill in the late 1990s to form the rap/rock group SX-10, which blended Funk and Latin influences. More recently, he’s also released music with his heavy metal band Powerflo. Check him out as the front man in Powerflo’s music video for “Where I Stay”:

The World of Hype Man: Costume Inspiration

As the team explores the musical influences and contemporaries for the characters in Hype Man, we’ve also looked at the way these influences might manifest in the costume design for the characters. Below are some of the images and cultural inspiration we’ve been referencing when thinking about Verb, Peep One, and Pinnacle’s personal style.

Kdot, Bryson Tiller, and Chance the Rapper have served as useful reference points for the casual, layered look we’re exploring for Verb.

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Some possible style influences for Peep One include Amandla Stenberg, Venus X, Slim Woods, Willow Smith, and Princess Nokia — people who feel effortlessly fashion forward, or who blur the sartorial lines between masculine and feminine.

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A leading style inspiration for Pinnacle is G-Eazy, whose look is refined and put together, but still relaxed and based on simple pieces and muted colors.

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