The eighties was the decade in which hip-hop went global but stayed local; whilst it’s stars were always talking about green, drugs and girls (The last two were in plentiful supply, the first stayed mostly in the hands of the label bosses) they were mostly just bringing the blocks they stayed on into our bedrooms and cars, a dangerous, hedonistic place which millions of new fans vicariously lapped up.
Part of this culture was in verbally gaining the upper hand on your opponents, be that on the mic or the street; the practice had begun in a less confrontational way at the first block parties, even supposedly going back to the early sound system traditions of fifties Jamaican lawn dances.
There’s something less nostalgic though about The Bridge Is Over, a punitive response to Queens based MC Shan’s The Bridge, which Boogie Down Productions said was an attempt to steal the movement’s roots right out from under their South Bronx projects. With it’s stuttering piano loop, KRS-One’s carefree party chanting and splatting drum machine, superficially it’s as primitive as it’s lacking in ferocity, but a month after it’s host album, the classic proto-gangster rap source Criminal Minded was released, BDP producer Scott La Rock was shot dead.
The event was the pointless murder of a mother’s son: it was also to strangers another brick in the wall of hip-hop’s growing mythology, a place where you could save from yourself from danger just by hitting pause.