VOLVO, which gets Jacked repeatedly while the Ford hurtles, happily, to the source of the noise. Not to the station’s broadcast booth on a campus across the river, nor to its transmission towers in the suburbs, but rather to Raja Productions in North Dorchester, where black kids from Boson’s now-integrated high schools-Latin, Madison Park, Jeremiah Burke, Manhattan-cut demos and dream of being bigger than even the radio’s new friend, a young man named School D who right now, at speaker-damaging volume, sounds darn big. “Before we start this next record… ,” Schools saying.
The record In question Is called “Slinging Rapper,” a brief, bloody tale of ghetto retribution from Side 2 of Schools Smoke Some Kill. The black areas are cut away from the white areas a federal judge ruled in ’74, and evidence is everywhere that nothings changed since then. On the southbound left of the Fitzgerald Expressway pass 20 blocks of grim Irish-Catholic housing projects, the western border of Belfast, complete with Sin Feint graffiti and murals depicting a glorious united Ireland, a neighborhood where the gadfly will get his fibula busted for praising the 74 court order that bused “Them” from wherever it is “They’ live-the
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Third World fear carriages-into 97-percent-white South Boston. On the Expressways right is the place the fibula-busters are talking about: the simultaneous northern border of Haiti, Jamaica and Georgia; a territory that maps of Boston call North Dorchester. Uniting the two sides of the Expressway is just about nothing. Both neighborhoods are tough and poor. Both hate the college world across the river, which, because of Boson’s rotten public schools, they will never see as freshmen.
And kids from both neighborhoods can do this hating to the beat of undergraduate radio, which this fine ironing features suburban kids with student debt broadcasting the art of a ghetto Philadelphia roughly their age, once much poorer than they, but now, on royalties from Smoke Some Kill, very much richer. Not that the shared digging of black street music Is news, or even new: twenty years ago, when Morgan v. Hennaing, Boson’s newborn v.
Board of Education, was Inching through the courts, and even dark-completed Italians were sometimes unwelcome In the Irish precincts east of the Expressway, kids In Boson’s Little Belfast sang along with James Brown over the radio I’m black and I’m proud Say it loud I’m black and I’m proud! ” Except that halfway through the infectious funk, the crosscuts realize what they’re saying: Jesus Christ, “I’m proud to be black” fear shortcakes, like when you’re in the porno store, you know, and you get lost or something and you find yourself in the men’s part, you know? To the part for men in the part that’s about men, Jesus, and you get the hell auto there. And so they hum/mumble the suppressed parts “Say it loud I’m mom hum proud Mum hum hum proud! ” But rap isn’t funk, rock or Jazz, and the vast crossover move, broadcasting “ghetto’ music over college radios to ghettos of a different color, is no simple reenactment of past crossovers. How, for example, does the sing-along fan of Smoke Some Kill mumble his way through these lines: “Black is beautiful Brown is sick? Slick? Stiff? Yellows K But white anti sit. Raja Productions, modestly headquartered in a mixed black/Hispanic Field, Corner section of North Dorchester, is as follows: * One (1) four-car garage fitted with dubbing and remaining gear worth more than most of the rest of the real estate on the block; * One (1) touch-tone telephone (leased); * Two (2) Chevy Blazers, vanity-plated RAJAH and RAJAH, each equipped with cellular phones and slick tape decks (also leased); * One (1) VS. with Kathleen Turner’s Body Heat cued up on the morning in question; * Most importantly, eight (8) promising acts under binding contract.
If, as has happened to many local labels, Raja were liquidated to satisfy creditors, these would be the pieces. But there are stores of value in the converted garage beyond the reach of the auctioneer’s gavel. School D, the original Signifying Rapper, looms irresistibly from the pages of rap “fanzines” Hip-Hop and The Source; and Raja’s prime, unmentionable asset is the consuming ambition of the artists in its stable to be the next School D. Or the next Ice T, or Cool Moe Dee, or L. L. Cool J. , or hover’s the special hero of the kid cutting the demo.
On this particular morning, Late vs.. Van White” and “10% Ids”-since today is Tam-Tam’s day and Tam-Tam is, at 16, a tough girl in the MS Late mold who, like MS Late, can dance, look good, and tell men to beat it, all at once. Or so claims Tam-Tam’s producer, promoter, and Dutch uncle, Gary Smith, who opened Raja on Martin Luther Kings birthday, ’89, with his older brother Ante. Ante, the elder statesman, is 25. Gary, 22, runs the company while Ante travels with his boyhood-friend-turned-boss, quadruple-platinum, Prince-derived rapper/singer, Bobby Brown.
Raja was founded in part with an investment from the 23-year-old multi-millionaire Brown, a native of Roxbury. Brown now lives in Los Angels. Ante and Gary Smith turn a healthy profit making demos at $500/tape, but the brothers aren’t in the health business. Their aim: to follow in the corporate footsteps of Defy Jam, a once similarly tiny production company run from a basement in Hollies, Queens, which since its basement days, has given America Public Enemy, L. L. Cool J. , the Beastie Boys, and much of the rest of that culture-quake called rap.
Gary Smith doesn’t compare Raja to Defy Jam, and, unlike Defy Jam’s Russell Simmons, Gary reduces pop, soul, and R&B as well as straight rap, and actually prefers R&B. But how many sophomores at nearby Jeremiah Burke can afford to dream in R&B, to front music lessons and $500 for an nth-hand sound set-up, find three friends to learn drums, bass and keyboards, and then raise another $500 to make a demo at Raja? Anybody with a larynx can rap, however, and Raja’s brisk business in rap demos pays the taxman, Boston Edison and the Chevrolet Motor Credit Corp..
Twenty minutes farther south on the Fitzgerald Expressway, across the Nipponese River and into the pricey suburbs, is the scene of John Achiever’s boyhood, more gently celebrated as Massachusetts Miracle country, where technology ventures are started at the rate of five per week, four of which will fail within 12 months. Raja’s Gary Smith is secret brother to the men of the suburban Chambers of Commerce, sharing their worries about cash flow, overhead, and the enforceability of his contracts; but Garry world and theirs are as far apart as those of Ward and Eliding Cleaver.
Worriers in suburbia fear that ballooning property values will hike taxes on computer executives’ seaside homes. In Agar’s neighborhood, property values are actually falling. Waiting less than patiently for Tam-Tam, Gary honks wick. A tall, grave girl with an angel’s heart-shaped face crosses the ghetto street and climbs into the back seat of RAJAH . She has, apparently, at least two voices, the cynical, sexy rant heard on tape this morning telling Pebbles men anti worth it, and the whisper in which she now says hello.
As RAJAH re-crosses North Dorchester, heading back to the soundproof studios to get the days work started, Gary and DC Reese hash out production details. Tam-Tam’s a dignified island in the back seat, and a shiver accompanies the thought that this could be the Motor City in ’63 with Berry Gorky and an eighty-pound teenage Diana Ross, Just voted Best Dressed at Sacs Technical High School, driving cross-town to Ask Tam-Tam about Diana Ross, and she gives a beatific smile.
She’s 16; she can remember only with difficulty the first rap she ever listened to, when rap was new and she was 8; Run-DIM or somebody, she mumbles in response to what suddenly seems a foolish question about her influences. Like most of rap’s black audience (as distinct from rap’s white audience, which is usually a decade older), Tam-Tam has no first-hand recollection of James Brown except as a source for rap. She is too young to have attended segregated schools.
She was in diapers during the violent first few months of desegregation in Boston and can’t remember the awful day in 74 when “pro-neighborhood” marchers from Irish South Boston came upon a black pedestrian at City Hall and beat him with pole-mounted American flags. Tam-Tam has star presence, and like many who do, she seems to see very little of what goes on around her, the price of the star’s intense focus on self. She reminds you of Senator Gary Hart. He, too, had star presence.
In front of a crowd, Hart was riveting; in the elevator riding up to the auditorium, he was barely there. Being barely here in the neighborhood Tam-Tam calls home is probably not such a bad thing, and perhaps her drive to be star someday is an elaborate way to wall out the now and here. Ambition is, finally, a form of hope, a scarce commodity in North Dorchester. Back in Raja’s control booth, DC Reese and producer Ralph Stacey are programming the rhythm track for what will be “Ho, You’re Guilty. Drum parts are taken from a Roland TRY-909 Rhythm Composer, a synch which electronically reproduces programmed beats on the user’s choice of drum-matrix. The TRY-ass’s keys, on a console designed to resemble, vaguely, the familiar piano, are named after the sound ACH creates-bass, snare, mid-tom, hi-tom-and the sounds are named after the actual drums which, until the TRY-909, were required to make those sounds. The TRY-909 even sports a key named HAND CLAP, making it possible for the first time ever to clap hands with a single finger, rendering obsolete the Zen Joan about the sound of one hand clapping.
The finished “Ho, You’re Guilty’ will sound lush with percussion, melody, and instrumental breaks. Not one human musician will be employed in the recording process. Each percussion line is programmed onto the mixing board as a separate track: a snare track, a bass track, a clap track, etc. Reese has been studying the classics lately, too, biz: James Brown’s Dead on the Heavy Funk from shish, including the ageless groove, “Funky President,” in which James announces his third-party candidacy.
Some of Bobby Bard’s Dead guitar, and a holy moment when James exhales rhythmically, have been isolated from a store-bought cassette of Dead, re-recorded on clean tape, then re-re-recorded onto a computer-readable memory diskette from which the sample is retrieved and altered by Ralph Stacey using a Roland D-50 linear synch. The guitar and the exhalation then go, as altered, from the synch to yet another of the UT of these 24 strands. As Reese and Ralph Stacey mix the 24 tracks onto one master tape, Tam-Tam sips lemonade in the corner of the booth.
You ask her if she is interested someday in learning about the obscure digital technology the two men manipulate on her behalf. She doesn’t seem to register the question. “The other career besides rap I’d like to pursue is modeling,” she says. “I’m five-seven. That’s the perfect height for a model. ” Mixing takes the rest of the day. Producer Ralph Stacey at one late point corners you with a flinty stare and an uncomfortable question: “Why do you want to write about AP, anyway? ” It is lucky that at that minute Reese is done mixing.
Tomorrow the Raja staff will tape Tam-Tam’s vocal track and lay this over Reece’s rhythm track. Then the sound will be “fattened” with stacks of horns, guitar hooks, bells, canned applause, and whatever else they decide to take from other tapes or work up on the Rolando. The final demo tape of “Ho, You’re Guilty’ will then be shopped to the 20 major, minor, and tiny labels who might release the demo as a 12-inch single. Everyone’s ready to call it a day. Gary Smith’s already huddled with some new want- be stars in Raja’s reception area.
Reese plays the mixed rhythm track once through over the big speakers in the control booth, and Tam-Tam immediately stands, modeling forgotten, utterly alert. Reese gestures to her with maestro hands. She raps at an absent Antoinette in the hard, sexy voice you haven’t heard since this morning, extemporaneous but on beat: “I’m a female You’re Just a fairytale. ” The small-w we here are two white Boston males: one native, one oft-transplanted; both residing in Cambridge, a dim, ethnic-Portuguese neighborhood whose gentrification we abet. M. Is an attorney with a taste for Jazz, Blues, funk; D. Radar student and would-be drifter who watches TV instead of sleeping. Our cultural tastes and interests are day and night. They converged only lately, when Ad’s stereo arrived UPS and we discovered we shared an uncomfortable, somewhat furtive, and distinctively white enthusiasm for a certain music called rap/hip-hop. * About our passions and discomforts we could determine only that they were vague & distinct contexts and catheter brought to bear across the same ethnic distance on the same thing. For instance, we agreed that real or serious rap is not FAD or Tone Loc or
Beasties, Egyptian Lover or Fat Boys, not experiments or foreshadows or current commercial crossover slush. “Serious” rap-a unique U. S. Inner-city fusion of funk, technician reggae, teen-to-teen “hardcore” rock, and the early ass “poetry of the black experience” of Nikkei Giovanni, the Last Poets, etc. -has, since its late-ass delivery at the record-scratching hands of Africa Bumboat and his Zulu Nation, Sugarbird Gang, Cool Here and his automated Hercules, and Grandmaster Flash, always had its real roots in the Neighborhood, the black gang-banger Underground. Black music,
We concurred as to the where’s and when of rap’s begetting-mid-to-late ass’ South Bronx house parties; then, by decade’s end, block parties, with municipal electric lights tapped for a power source, literal dancing in the streets; by ’82, regular rap- houses and then “floating clubs”-the Rosy every Sunday, The Boron’s Disco Fever HTH-everybody Breaking to a new musical antistatic being fashioned from records and turntables and an amateur Ads ad-lib banter; a very heavy reggae influence at the beginning; the more rhythmic pure rap an offshoot, its brisker, sparer, backseat signed for Breakneck, and the smooth-rapping portrayer who Just didn’t want to shut up when others’ music was on.
We agreed, too, on rough chronology: amateur house-partiers giving way to professional Ads, pioneers; they, too, then overshadowed by new art-entrepreneurs, former Breakers, failed singers, gag-majorettes; then the rise of “Indies,” the tiny independent labels that keep most new music on life- support-Sugar Hill, Jive, Tommy Boy, Wild Pitch, Profile Records, Enjoy-then, after King Tim Ills “Personality Joke and Sugarbird Gangs “Rapper’s Delight,” an entree into urban black radio; then to underground “Mix” radio; then corporate levels, digital technology, very big money, the early-ass talent that became an early Scene’s cream- Spooning G. And Sequence, Eric Fresh, Unknown DC, Egyptian Lover and Run-DIM. Then, Spring ’84, the extraordinary Midas touch of Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons’ Defy Jam label (now under contract to CBS) from which sprang a mid-ass stable of true stars, in the Underground-public Enemy, L. L. Cool J, Slick Rick, the still-unparalleled Eric B. And Racism-and L. A. ‘s alternatives: Cool Moe Dee, L. A. Dream Team, and others.
And now, at decade’s end, an absolute explosion of rap-as-pop, big business, MAT, special fashions, posters, merchandise, with only a few big, new, cutting-edge acts- L. A. ‘s N. W. A. , Philadelphia School D, Imam’s 2 Live Crew, De La Soul’s House-blend of rap/funk/]jazz-remaining too esoteric or threatening or downright obscene to cross all the way over and cash in with big labels. By ’89 rap is finally proving as “important” (read also lucrative) to an anemic shock-and rebellion-music industry as Punk was an exact decade ago. This was all Just data. We agreed on it, and on how it as curious that we both had such strange, distant facts down cold. Our point of departure, essay-wise, was always less what we know than what we felt, listening: less what we liked than why.
For this attempt at an outside sampler we plunked down and listened to thousands of hours of rap, trying to summon a kind of objective, critical, purely “aesthetic” passion that the music itself made impossible. For outsiders, rap’s easy to move to, hard to dissect. The more we listened and thought and drank beers and argued, the more we felt that the stuffs appeal for two highbrow, upscale whites was Just plain incongruous. Because serious rap has, right from the start, presented itself as a closed show. Usually critical questions of culture, context, background and audience reduce quickly to vexed questions about prepositions. Not here. No question that serious rap is, and is very self-consciously, music by urban blacks about same tonal for same.
To mainstream whites it’s a tight cohesion that can’t but look, from outside the cultural window, like occlusion, clannishness (sic) and inbreeding, a kind of reverse snobbery about what’s “defy” and And WASP-only country clubs. Serious rap is a musical movement that seems to revile whites as a group or Establishment, and simply to ignore their possibility as distinct individuals-the Great White Male is rap’s Grand Inquisitor, its idiot questioner-its Alien Other no less than Reds were for McCarthy. The music’s paranoia, together with its hermetic racial context, helps explain why from the outside it appears to us Just as vibrant and impassioned as it does alien and scary. Other incongruities.
Rap is a “music” essentially without melody, built instead around a digitally synthesized drum- and back-beat often about as complex as five idle fingers on a waiting-room table, enhanced by “sampled” (pirated) “crush roves” (licks or repetitive chord-series) conceived and recorded by pre-rap rock icons, the whole affair characterized by a distinctive, spare, noisy, clattering “style” whose obsessive if limited thematic revolve with the speed of low-I amperage around the affirmative circuit of the MS/rapper and his record-scratching, sound- mixing Ashcan Panda, the D]. The rapper (the guy in the cameo cut or Kananga hat, pricey warm-up, unlaced Aids, extra thick gold chain or oversized medallion) offers lyrics that are spoken or bellowed in straight, stressed, rhymed verse, the verse’s syntax and meter often ordered for rhythmic gain or the kind of limiting-for-rhyme we tend to associate with doggerel about men from Nantucket. The lyrics, nearly always self-referential, tend to be variations on about half a dozen basic themes, themes that at first listen can seem less alien or shocking than downright dull.
Egg: Just how bad/cool/fresh/defy the rapper and his lyrics are; Just how equally UN-all-these his music rivals are; how troublesome, vacuous and acquisitive women are; how wonderful it is to be “paid in full” for rapping instead of stealing or dealing; how gangs are really families, ‘canines constant bad news. And, in particular, how sex and violence and yuppie toys represent perfectly the urban black liveried to late-ass American glory. The masks are many, too many for anything really but direct aural inspection: rap personae can change frequently even within single albums, the rapper delivering Hard, violent Black Nationalist communique on one cut, dubbing against Trinitarian steel drums on another, basking in big label eclat on a third, cracking a head and then defy outwitting someone muscled and dumb, cooing to his “pitch” and then on the flip side, threatening to go get his gun again if she can’t learn who’s boss.
Though any crew naturally wants its own distinctive game and face, the quintessential rap group is unsentimental, chameleon’s. This is either by weird design, or it’s a symptom and symbol of ass facelessness… Or most likely, it’s Just a good old venerable synecdoche of rap’s genre itself, one that’s now moving so fast it can’t quite fix on its own identity -? much less hold still for anything like cool, critical classification or assessment, from outside. The Mac’s Alice Toasts-queue DC hovers ever nearby over his buffet of connected turntables and the black Germans of a whole lot of digital editing & playback rush groove, and the “sound carpet,” I. E. Kind of electric aural environment, a chaos behind the rapper’s rhymed order, a digitized blend of snippets, squeaks, screams, sirens, snatches from pop media, all mixed and splattered so that the listener cannot really listen but only feel the resultant mash of “samples” that results. The most recognizable of these samples range from staccato record-scratches to James Brown and Fungicidal licks, to M. L. K. ‘s public Dream, to quotidian pop pap like “The Theme from Shaft,” Brady Bunch dialogue, and ‘ass detergent commercials. We have now read every review and essay to do with serious underground hip-hop available in every single on-line periodical except for one or two underground newsletters (biz. The City Sun, Fresh-Est) circulated in parts of the Bronx demimonde where learning about rap is as hard for white outsiders as scoring fine China White or Asks.
From the kind of sedulous bibliographical research to be expected of conscientious lawyers and PhD, the following has become clear. Outside England, where the Punk-weaned audience has developed a taste for spectacle-through- windows, for vicarious Rage and Protest against circumstances that have exactly 0% o do with them, most of what Rolling Stone calls “devoted rock consumers” (meaning we post-baby-boomers), plus almost all established rock critics, tend to regard non- crossover rap as essentially boring and simplistic, or swaggering and bellicose and dangerous-at all events, basically vapid and empty because of its obsessive self- referentially… N short, as closed to them, to us, as a music. Unrecognizable as what we’ve been trained and adverted to buy as pop…. Great to dance to, of course, but then what might the white audience for today’s mainstream expect? Rap, whether second or sterile, is today’s pop music’s lone cutting edge, the new, the unfamiliar, the brain-resisted-while-body-boogies. And that resisted, alien, exhilarating cutting edge has always been black. “What have you left me? What have I got? Last night in cold blood my young brother got shot My homey got Jacked My mother’s on crack My sister can’t work ’cause her arms show tracks Madness, insanity Live in profanity Then some punk claim that they understanding’ me?
Give me a break-what world do you live in? Death is my sex-guess my religion”* What makes this stuff so much more disturbing, more real to outsiders than the Punk Rock even those of us who remember it could never quite take seriously? Maybe even a closed music has to have some kind of detente with received custom: I always found it tough to listen straight-faced to a nihilist lecture from someone with a chartreuse Mohawk and an earring in his eyelid who punctuates his delivery with vomit and spit. All doctrine and pronouncement, exclusively anti-, this Punk of a void, nothing human to grab onto. I have no idea what a Punk performer thinks, feels, is, day-to-day… N fact I always suspected he had no day, but Just retreated to his plush coffin at cockcrow. Can you imagine a Punk with four-foot hair and spiked jacket and nose-ring, say, eating a bologna sandwich? Replacing a light bulb? Putting a quarter in a meter? Not me, boy. And even Barnum, who knew fear sells, also knew that foreshadows aren’t frightening when the freakishness supplants all resemblance. 0% affinity = 0% empathy. And fear requires empathy as much as it does menace or threat. Public Enemy and N. W. A. , Ice T and School D discomfit us, our friends, the critics we read and cornered, because the Hard rappers’ lyrics are conscientious about being of/for the real lives and attitudes of recognizable, if alien, persons.
Here’s where it’s a level up from mere spectacle: ideology in Hard rap is always informed by incident or named condition. This makes rap not only better than Punk, but way scarier. Serious Hard raps afford white listeners genuine, horse’s-mouth access to the life-and-death plight and mood of an American community on the genuine edge of IM-/explosion, an ugly new sub-nation we’ve been heretofore conditioned to avoid, remand to the margins, not even see except through certain carefully abstract, attenuating filters. For outsiders, rap is hard to dissect, easy to move to. The command is: dance, don’t understand; participate, don’t manipulate. Rap is a fortress protected by the twin moats of talk and technology.
The first is that nu style of speak-the “dialect drug,” De La Soul calls it-that rappers fashion from Jive and disseminate through record stores to all of us. Some in-words, like “fly,” meaning “functioning,” have been in coin since the beginning, now venerable as Old English because they turn up on Grandmaster Flash cuts from ’82. Others, like “dead presidents,” rap for $$, are either coming into or going out of currency, depending on when you read this. Rap, a club language, has yard ways to describe one’s own or others’ looks. “Fly’ is how a man digs a woman. One would never describe oneself as “fly,” even when cataloguing one’s own attractions (done more in rap than anyplace except perhaps Village Voice personals). Fresh” means irresistibly stylish, oft-modified by “funky,” “crazy,” or “stooped,” predominantly used to convey the fly-news of things other than women, including oneself or one’s rap, which two concepts rappers, like schizophrenics, can’t always keep separate in their heads. “Dope” means “defy,” and “defy” means crazy funky stooped fresh. Synonyms include: the sit, the It, the cool, the than, the word, the grooviest, the categorical imperative, die hallucinates, the that-which-Potter- Stewart-would-know-if-he-saw. A defy rapper is so style-defining as to make the stylish mere copycats. To be defy is to rap to the beat of a different drum machine-not seeking solitude, but rather confident that others will follow. The defy rapper Mac’s a defy rap, which rap defy-lay tells of its own (and the rapper’s) defy-news-so defy, as MIMIC manager, entrepreneur Russell Rush Simmons brags, that it had to be on a label called Defy Jam.
Rap celebrates power, equating strength with style, and style with the “I” in wrong; to “bite” is to thieve another’s dope beat. And only the ill would bite. Early remembered pop was the first fake music ever, since what the record buyer of ’63 experienced as Aural Event on his turntable couldn’t happen live. Rock began to become an Illusion of Event which technology made possible; rock became more like the movies, starting down a long road at the end of which was MAT. Not that this kept Phil Specter up nights. The gurus of the studio had fatter fish to clean, for the new freedom to shape sound had come at a price. With each magnetic jump from live, as tape was made of tapes which were themselves tapes of tapes, the hiss and crackle of interference multiplied.
Dual high-bias media with 2 units each of sonic garbage per 10,000 units of Elvis Presley, retyped on similar 2-units-per-10,OOH tape, became 4 units of hiss; retyped, 8; then 16; then 32. As the sound got fuller, it decayed. The solution was a breakthrough called multi-tracking-using recorders that could capture and play back on 2 (as in stereo), 4 (as in ‘ass then-ear-shattering Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band), 12, 16, and today 24 parallel tracks, eliminating he hiss of transference from one machine to the next. Rhythms, melodies, harmonies could all be captured on separate tracks, allowing the performer or producer to mix and listen and re-mix, adding vocals or lead instrument on yet another track. Rap Edison like Cool Here, Grandmaster Flash and Africa Bumboat began as party Ads, not musicians.
Their wiring of twin turntables to a mixer, allowing them to “stack” the sound of two different records while rapping into a mike, was a kind of crude, extemporaneous multitasking. Technological loops like those in the NASA-queue studios of CBS and Polygraph were now in the hands of the homeboys. Carter was President. The Bee Gees, with five Top-Ten hits in twelve months, were king. Digital recording, the science dividing Raja’s Tam-Tam on tape from Tam-Tam as heard “live” is a technology that converts music to codes or “digits. ” The codes are “read” by a computer, one combining sophisticated sound-to-code translation hardware with a number-crunching COOS and a high-response synthesizer, at speeds of 40,000 digits per second and up.
The recorded sounds, reduced to numbers, can be shaped, mangled, muffled, amplified, and even cannonaded. ** Hardware then translates the digits, as read and altered, back into sound, which can itself be recorded on multicultural and combined with yet more sounds. The result: hiss-free reproduction on an infinity of tracks, each of which can itself be manipulated infinitely. Digital recording, part of the ass sea-change in how pop gets made, divides the responsibility for the final song more or less equally between the performer, the engineer at the mixing board, the producer who coordinates the multi-tracking and mixing process, and the electronic hardware that actually “makes” the music we buy.