Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Rammellzee, 1960-2010

Sad news for hip-hop last night, as word spread that the groundbreaking graffiti artist and MC Rammellzee had died of as-yet-unknown causes. Born in Far Rockaway, Queens, a fixture of the fertile downtown New York scene of early 1980s, the mysterious figure known as Rammellzee is probably most famous for appearing in three films: Henry Chalfant's Style Wars, Charlie Ahearn's Wild Style (that's him rapping in Wild Style in the clip above) and, playing the role of "man with money," Jim Jarmusch's Stranger Than Paradise. And for "Beat Bop," a song he made with his Bronx cohort K-Rob that was produced by Jean-Michel Basquiat

Writing in the liner notes to the very excellent old-school rap compilation ego trip's The Big Playback, ego trip's Chairman Mao calls the song "the grand-daddy opus of hip-hop experimentalism." (Since I'm plugging, a disclosure: I used to work at ego trip.) It's long, as Mao described it, "ten minutes and ten seconds of sublimely funky abstraction…" But really, really worth a listen. Recorded in 1983, it still sounds like a future we haven't caught up with yet.

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RIP, King of the Gangsta Duck.

Also, remember that fire-breathing graffiti-goes-Predator-by-way-of-samurai costume he used to wear? Yes, you do.

saythatscool (#101)

All I can really remember from Style Wars is him rapping about SOS while the Rock Steady Crew had a breakdance war with some other crew. He was an original, no doubt.

Art Yucko (#1,321)

Before the internets and crazy DVD distribution, finding a copy of Style Wars was a holy grail search. A friend discovered that they had a copy of it on 16mm at the downtown library and a group of us went in for a chaperoned viewing on a projector-box-screen. I imagine religious pilgrims have a similar experience.

Joseph Nechvatal (#5,823)


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