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Posted by Robert
Rap News Network
10/4/2004 7:42:38 AM

Tags and topics realted to this article include Various Artists.

If you went to a South Bronx block party in the early '70s, there was a good chance the sound-system was plugged into a hole the enterprising DJ had busted into the base of the nearest streetlight.

Because in the beginning, when the pioneers of hip-hop wanted power, they had to steal it.

These days, hip-hop doesn't have to steal the power; hip-hop is the power. Last week, hip-hop artists accounted for 10 of the country's Top 20 singles, and six of the Top 20 albums. And with the Sept. 14 release of "Suit" and "Sweat," Nelly became the second act in Billboard's chart history to have albums debut at No. 1 and No. 2, simultaneously. (Guns N' Roses was the first.)

Thirty years after DJ Kool Herc started spinning records in the Bronx, the music of the streets has become a pop-culture superhighway, cutting a wide swath through the fertile fields of music, film, television, fashion and advertising. But if you want to see what this groundbreaking genre has gained and lost on its journey from the pavement to the pinnacle, that big picture is as close as your small screen.

For the good news, tune in to VH1 tonight for the first installment of "And You Don't Stop: 30 Years of Hip Hop." Packed with choice performance footage featuring everyone from Grandmaster Flash to OutKast and commentary from the likes of Ice-T, KRS-One, Missy Elliott and Eminem, this five-part documentary series tracks the history of hip-hop from its block-party birth to its emergence as an entertainment force of Godzilla-like proportions.

Tonight's episode – the first of two that were made available to the press – is a loving tribute to the Cold Crush Brothers, DJ Hollywood, Afrika Bambaataa, and all of the unsung heroes who got the party started. It is also a reintroduction to hip-hop's resourceful, hardscrabble roots, before they got run down by a fleet of Cadillac Escalades.

"The thing about hip-hop that is so exciting to contemplate is that it emerged from a community that had very, very little in the way of economic resources," says series producer and writer Bill Adler, who was the former publicity director for Def Jam Records.

"Nobody had an instrument, so they decided that the turntable would be an instrument. Nobody bothered to sing. Give them a microphone, and they'd just start rhyming. All of that speaks of tremendous creativity and people making exciting use of few resources."

Later episodes will deal with the darker side of hip-hop, including the controversial rise of gangsta rap and the deaths of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls. For these first two hours at least, "And You Don't Stop" is all about the joy of discovery and the ecstasy of the beat.

But if you follow the music-video channel's documentary with a look at hip-hop music videos, you will discover that the glow of the past makes the present look mighty dim.

How bad can it be? Try this handy test. Tune in MTV or BET or the digital-cable MTV Jams, and see how many minutes pass before you see a hip-hop video featuring three or more of the following images:

Loving shot of a shiny Escalade or Humvee; close-up of artist's jewelry; slow-motion shot of artist throwing money in the air; overflowing champagne bottle; rump-shaking women in hot pants or bikinis.

If you make it for more than 10 minutes without being run down by a parade of bleeps, bling and booty, go out and buy a lottery ticket, because this is your lucky day. From LL Cool J's "Headsprung" and Terror Squad's "Lean Back" to Lil' Flip's "Sunshine" and Young Buck's "Let Me In," the latest crop of hip-hop videos shows a lack of imagination we haven't seen since the Great Interchangeable Hair-Band Invasion of the late '80s.

Thirty years after hip-hop pioneered the art of turning something old into something fresh and new, too many keepers of the flame are flushing their considerable resources down a golden drain. If video hasn't killed the hip-hop star y

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