Electro: The Beat That Won’t Be Beaten

May, 1984: Rapid and solid, fast and frantic, the Electro beat is the new Sound of the City – as stimulating as the urban jungle that spawned it.

To celebrate the long-awaited return of The Face, we have selected a stand-out story from each year of our extensive archive, from 1980 to 2004.

Remembered by photographer Steve Pyke

“Hip-hop was only just kicking off in the UK, and I’d been asked to photograph a number of bands for the NME, both in the UK and in the States, and in New York particularly. And these Soul Sonic Rockers were coming over from New York for a gig in Brixton, and [Features Editor] Paul Rambali asked me if I could do a series of photographs for an extended piece about them and the dance that they did: breaking. He wanted me to do something in an experimental way, and I immediately thought of these pictures of Eadweard Muybridge. He shot early photographs of horses running, with multiple exposures but on the same frame. So what I thought we could do is shoot in the studio against a black background, and shoot with a strobe light that would fire off six lights in a second. So six in a second would give you six different frames, a series of movements in one second. So each frame, each picture that you’re looking at there, represents a second of movement with those breakdancers. They came in and did their thing, and I showed them two or three Polaroids of each breakdancer, and they really liked the idea. They were playing their music on their beatbox, and they were breakdancing to it. It was a lot of fun – all the shoots I did for The Face were a lot of fun. Paul and [Editor] Nick Logan and [Designer] Neville Brody gave photographers and writers creative license and left you alone to do what you do, which was great. It had a massive impact on my career.”

Steve Pyke is one of the leading portrait photographers of his profession. Throughout his career he has developed, funded and published a number of personal projects, and has published nine books. In 2004 he received an MBE for his services to the Arts. In 2006 he was made a Friend of the Royal Photographic Society. Steve lives and works in New Orleans.

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Rapid and solid, fast and frantic, the Electro beat is the new Sound of the City – as stimulating as the urban jungle that spawned it. Dismissed as a craze, a novelty, denounced as sinister robot music devoid of ‘real’ emotion, it proved to be a tough seed that took root on England’s pavements. And with it came a style and an attitude; a zany improvisation on the digital pulse of the age. David Toop tracks the rise of the Beat Box and asks: Wotupski, Bug Byte? Paul Rambali meets the Future Tribe, the B-Boys. B for British. Photographs by Steve Pyke and Patricia Bates.

PHASE 1: THE HIP-HOP WON'T STOP

Trevor Birch is a B-Boy. That’s ‘B’ for Bad, Beautiful, Black, Breaking, the Bronx. But in Trevor’s case, ‘B’ for British. He couldn’t tell you which subway line leads to the New York borough north of the Harlem river that has given him, at 18 in East London, an activity, an identity. But he has heard the records, seen the look, knows the moves.

He practises them up to four hours a day, during lunch breaks at the Community Project where he works with his old school-friend Gengiz Ozkadi painting murals, and later in the evening in the bedroom at Ozkadi’s council home. To records like Newcleus’ Jam On It and One For The Treble by Davy DMX, taped from Radio Invicta on Sunday nights because they can’t afford to buy the records – thus pirating the pirates – they rehearse the flamboyant gestures of a satellite subculture, dancing a zany improvisation on the micro-electronic pulse of the age.

And every Friday night they travel six miles to the Electric Ballroom in Camden. Both wear yellow peak caps and identical red and blue Adidas jogging suits over... it’s impossible to say over what because they never take them off, never even unzip their anoraks. Oblivious to the writhing bodies around them, they stand facing each other on the crowded dancefloor, waiting for the mutant crack of the Linn Drum, the signal that galvanises them into tense, jerky spasms, swapped back and forth like a ball of invisible voltage.

“We like doing it,” says Trevor. “We don’t do it for money. It keeps us from doing something stupid.” He picked it up three years ago from his elder brother, when it was called Robot Dancing. At the Tidal Basin club near his home, he kept abreast of the dance style that evolved into Body-Popping and Break-Dancing. He has never been to Covent Garden, where at times late last summer it seemed there were more Break Dance crews than tourists to fund them. He and Ozkadi call their crew Technical Poppers, and they like to keep their moves up their sleeves. Once, at the Kensington club in East Ham, Trevor made the error of showing off his best style. “So many people took my moves that I had to go home and start all over again!”

Competition is fierce, reputations are waiting to be made and lost. The threat of ‘Pirates’ or ‘Biters’ – people stealing your moves – is always present. The Technical Poppers, who never make their best moves at the Ballroom, have eight or so friends locally with other crews. “They’re looking for a challenge, but I don’t think we’ll oblige them.”

Right now, their main concern is tracksuits: Hummel red and blue tracksuits with diagonal white stripes that they’ve seen in a local sports shop. Trevor asks if I know of any clubs that want to promote a crew in return for the price of two Hummel tracksuits. They’ve got to have those suits. In two weeks’ time, there is the third heat of the All-London Independent and Team Body-Popping, Cracking and Break-Dancing Championship. The Technical Poppers reckon they have a good chance: “We’ve seen everybody else’s moves, but they ain’t seen ours!” But first, they need those suits.

“You ought to have a flick book to explain it,” says Robert Henry, a 22-year-old DJ and promoter who has been involved in organising the championship. “Popping by pros is a violent manoeuvre of the muscles. What they say is: You get tight, and you pop!” He clenches the muscles on his arm and releases them suddenly. "Cracking – that’s a manoeuvre of the joints like when your elbow or shoulder cracks. This time his arm snaps at the joints, as though a knot were passing along from one to the next and across the chest.” And Breaking is where you are more likely to be horizontal than vertical!” But there is no room to demonstrate the startling acrobatics that arose in the eight-bar rhythm breaks characteristic of late-Seventies soul and funk discs.

No doubt about it though, this is the biggest dance craze to hit the UK since Robotics. “So many teams have come out of the woodwork,” enthuses Robert. “We always knew the UK had the same creative power as the Americans.” The first heats were held at a club near Brick Lane in East London. “We wanted to put the show on where Body-Popping came from. It’s like a concrete jungle around there; it’s the nearest thing to the ghetto.” Teams and individuals came from all over: Battersea, Catford, Dagenham, Balham, Leyton, Tottenham – “Any run-down area in London.”

Robert has a theory: “It’s caught on because it’s such a radical form. It’s expressive. All you need is the music and a street-corner, and you can get away from the pressures.”

His theory isn’t new but it fits. And it goes further. Young blacks in Britain who might five years ago have looked to reggae, with its potent figurehead of the late Bob Marley, for the trappings of cultural identity, now turn to the Bronx, to the Beat-Box and the Ghetto-Blaster. A style imported in the grooves of Planet Rock by the Soul Sonic Force in 1982, glimpsed on the faddish videos of mainstream pop and soul acts, a tough, city-spawned seed, has taken root on England’s pavements. It has been nourished by the burgeoning electronic beat, rapid and solid, fast and frantic like the Swarmers on the third wave of Defender. It finds its spirit in raps like Gettin’ Money by Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Everything is funny when you’re gettin’ money” they chant, adding a sardonic “Ha-Ha Ha!

It has its fast-moving entrepreneurs in people like Morgan Kahn of Streetwave Records who, like Chris Blackwell with Island Records’ ska and soul releases in the Sixties, is making this new sound accessible with his best-selling electro compilation albums. It is sustained by DJs like Herbie of the Mastermind roadshow, who mixes the electro albums for Streetwave and who, along with Paul Anderson of Trouble Funk, can be guaranteed to draw the crews.

It has even had its popular successes, if sometimes fake (Break Machine’s recent Street Dance) or trite (the Rock Steady Crew’s hit last year). And it has an audience hungry for information. Trevor Birch missed the New York rap movie Wild Style when it came out, but when the Rock Steady Crew performed at an electronics fair in Olympia last year, the Technical Poppers were there. They weren’t the only ones. The hall was full of Biters, who must have been disappointed. “Their Breakin’ was alright but their Poppin’ was dry.”

In a suburban semi in Wood Green belonging to their manager’s parents, the Soul Sonic Rockers are gathered watching a video of their heroes, an American crew named Dynamic Rockers.

“That's wicked, man!”

“His body’s like rubber…”

“Murder!”

On the video, a frazzled, black and white copy of a copy, one of the Dynamic Rockers is doing a Helicopter – called a Windmill in the US – followed by a Headspin.

“That’s my move,” says Eddie. “That's one of the hardest moves!”

The Dynamic Rocker comes out of the Headspin, flipping upright into a pose, legs and arms intertwined

“All Breakers gotta have a pose” laughs Eddie.

And all Breakers must have a nickname, too.

The nicknames of the Soul Sonic Rockers are Virgo (Eddie aged 19), Cream Cracker (Bee, 18), Sleepy Legs (Mussy, 18), Back Flip (Sonay, 16), Crazy Kid (Ozzie, 18) and Exterminator (Mus, 16). Nineteen-year-old Andrew's nickname is Chisel, because he sculpts the Soul Sonic Mixes they dance to, buying two or three US import singles a week with his dole money, and taking eight hours to mix a 45-minute tape with techniques culled from seeing scratching on TV and watching Herbie mix with the Mastermind roadshow.

Eddie and Bee, the two leaders of the crew, met at work in 1982 and formed what was then called the Breakers Crew. Outfitted in Tiger anoraks – “because,” says Bee, “all the other crews were wearing Adidas and we wanted something unusual” – the Breakers Crew, which soon grew to comprise several of Bee’s Turkish friends, began going to discos like Bananas, Buzby’s, the Pink Elephant and the local Nightingale. By last summer, they were Breaking every weekend in Wood Green shopping mall or the West End.

“First time we went out, we got challenged,” Bee recalls. A challenge works like this: “If we do fifteen Headspins and they do ten, they gotta walk away!” Simple.

They quickly absorbed the language of hip-hop: Back Spin, Head Spin, Helicopter (spinning on the shoulders), One-hand Glider (spinning on one hand), Body Slam (falling on the back), Scorpion (walking on the hands), Crab (it helps if you’re double-jointed), Waving, Cracking, Popping. Jeffrey Daniel is the first person they can recall doing Robotics with a hint of Popping when Shalamar appeared on Top Of The Pops in 1980 and ‘81. And they admire the Dynamic Rockers because “they don't Pop, they Smurf and Break”. There’s an English way of spinning that used to get laughed at in America, they explain, because it was slower. American Poppers use their hands and feet simultaneously so it’s harder to copy.

Towards the end of last year, their parents started telling them off for dancing in the streets. Just then, as luck would have it, Ozzie’s elder brother saw them and offered to be their manager. They changed their name to Soul Sonic Rockers, after Soul Sonic Force and Dynamic Rockers. Now they have bookings at Hombres and Studio Valbonne, a Thursday night residency coming up at the Royal Rooms in Edmonton, and their parents are happy. What about their girlfriends?

“They like it, man. They like the funny moves!” Mus gets up to demonstrate, Popping his hips in a curious square motion. “But they can’t do it. Good thing. Guys hurt themselves enough!”

Nowadays, when people ask them to demonstrate a move, they decline. There are too many Biters around. “We learnt rough, really” muses Eddie, “off the streets. That’s where it comes from: The best place for anyone to learn is on the streets. You gotta have all the people around you. Not at home by yourself.”

As befits their emerging status, they all now have new red and yellow tracksuits; but, since that status is not yet assured, the same old Hi-Tee and Mitre trainers. “It doesn't matter what trainers you use,” says Mus. “But you gotta have them. It shows you’re a Breaker, you got the style.” Like their Puerto Rican counterparts in New York, Algerians and Africans in Paris, the sons of Germany’s ‘Guest Workers’ in Berlin, they have the style. An international style that suits any urban backdrop; fast and madcap like a video game, loose and light like the clothes, portable as a ghetto-blaster, plugged into the digital rhythm. They are the technological primitives, the Future Tribe. And, as Man Parrish predicted in 1982, they don’t stop.

Along with crews like Klymax, Phase 2, The Kleer Crew and Phinx, the Soul Sonic Rockers have come through to the semi-final of the All London Body-Popping, Cracking and Break-Dancing Championship. In the individual stakes, Horace Mills, Ricky Facey from Plaistow, a white teenager named Brian Webster who impressed everybody, and the well-known Soul Boy are all in the contest – which, incidentally, has as its mascot the ‘1994 Breaking Champ’, a seven-year-old called Luke Skywalker.

At the finals in August at the Lyceum Ballroom, they will be competing for prize money of £2,500 – and the chance to emulate the professional success of crews like Zulu Rockers and Sidewalk, the first team to come out of the UK.

If the Technical Poppers win, Trevor Birch wants to use the money to go to New York, where it all started.

“I know they’re not all that good but I wanna find out,” he says generously. “If I go somewhere where the action is good – clubs open all night – I know I’II get better quicker.” In the window of a sportswear shop in Canning Town is a red, blue and white Hummel tracksuit, the only thing standing between him and the biggest break of all.

PHASE 2: THE BEATBOX BITES BACK

1984: 2am at The Funhouse and the giant video screen fills with the image of the Master O.C.’s hands scratching an Enjoy 12inch. O.C. and Krazy Eddie are vibrating the sound system for the Fearless Four, onstage (and ever-so-human) performing the robot raps of Problems Of The World, F-4000 and the one that made their name, Rockin It.

Twenty-four years earlier, one night in 1960, Bobby Robinson left his retail store – Bobby’s Happy House Records on Harlem’s 125th Street – got into his car and drove 60 miles to hear a tune called Wiggle Wobble.

Robinson, a black record producer who released material by many R&B artists, had heard about the song and the dance craze that went with it. He remembers it clearly: “It was a thing called the Wobble. It was a kind of dance like a wobbling duck and everybody was doing it.” The song was a dance instruction novelty performed by Les Cooper, a piano playing ex doo-wop singer. Bobby recalls the mayhem it was creating with the crowds and the trimming he felt was in order: “It was a song where people listen – “You put your right foot forward and then you wiggle to the left” – and all this and that. So I said, ‘The very first thing I wanna do is take all the words and throw ‘em in the garbage.’ So he had a fit. ‘No! No! This is the instructions telling them how to do the dance.’ I said, 'They know how to do the dance!’.”

With his mouth shut firm, Les Cooper took Wiggle Wobble to a million sales and beyond on Robinson’s Everlast label. It was far from being Bobby’s only dance fad success. For the first release on a new label, Enjoy, he launched Soul Twist by King Curtis and over two decades later – on the same label – jumped the bandwagon again with I'm The Packman (Eat Everything I Can) by The Packman. The Packman wackawacked electronically rather than wiggle-wobbling acoustically, but dance craze records are consistent over the years. Duck mania or Pacmania – what’s the difference?

Records, like I'm The Packman (tagged electro-funk in this country), have made the chips hit the fan. An already sharply divided soul scene in Britain has riven into war zones – discos with mutually hostile rooms for fissured sub-subcultures, guerrilla tactics from fanzines like Blackbeat, civil strife in Echoes magazine, enemy sympathisers in black music and heavy artillery from radio jock Robbie Vincent (a pithy dismissal, “that electro shit”, in The Face). To the chagrin of white soul fans (traditionalists and jazz funkers) many electro-consumers are young blacks; despite its European/Asian influences it is still a major representation of black and Hispanic teen lifestyle in today's urban America.

1982 was the year when the funk warped out into hyperspace. An all-electronic black music had been a long time coming – Sly Stone was using drum machines in the early Seventies (check out Time on There's A Riot Going On); Stevie Wonder's Music Of My Mind and Talking Book albums established him as a synth innovator and Sylvia and Joe Robinson's All Platinum set-up in New Jersey used frosty electronic backdrops for the pop disco of The Moments and Sylvia herself.

It was All Platinum, reconstituted as Sugarhill, Bobby Robinson’s Enjoy and individual records like Vaughan Mason’s Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll which helped establish a new ambience in East Coast post-disco. Slow and heavy, it reflected South and West Bronx breakbeats. Like an update of Mississippi fife and drum rhythms filtered through the Isley Brothers it led to electronic pulse music only barely clinging to disco conventions. Free Expression’s Chill Out in 1981 was a crucial record as was Jazzy Sensation on Tommy Boy. Jazzy Sensation convened hip-hop DJ Afrika Bambaataa and various of his MCs with disco DJ Shep Pettibone and producer Arthur Baker. The record had contrasting rap versions of Gwen McCrae’s Funky Sensation – both used electronic percussion but one featured bass guitar and the other substituted synth bass. You could almost smell the smoke from burning bass guitars and drum kits.

Bambaataa’s follow up, Planet Rock, was again a collaboration with Baker plus MC group Soul Sonic Force and keyboardist John Robie. Barn wanted to re-create the melodrama of B-Boy favourites like Kraftwerk's Trans Europe Express or Babe Ruth's For A Few Dollars More Morricone cover as well as using rhythmic ideas from Captain Sky’s Super Sperm and Kraftwerk’s Numbers. A big fan of Yellow Magic Orchestra (you can hear Barn and Jazzy Jay cutting up YMO's Firecracker on the notorious Death Mix on Winley), he was deeply impressed by Kraftwerk's music and image: “Kraftwerk – I don’t think they even knew how big they were among the black masses back in ‘77 when they came out with Trans Europe Express. When that came out I thought that was one of the best and weirdest damn records I ever heard in my life... That’s an amazing group to see – just to see what computers and all that can do.”

Being a B-Boy or B-Girl was about being cool. Kraftwerk's four besuited Aryan showroom dummies were passion from the deep freeze. Like a massive joke at the other extreme from George Clinton’s theatre of excess, they were fascinating to kids who had grown up parallel with the micro-chip revolution.

The music tracks for both Planet Rock and Play At Your Own Risk (a record by Planet Patrol) were recorded in one night. Baker remembers that the sound was partly defined by the lack of technology at that time. “There was no secret to that sound – it was just that we didn’t have racks of shit. We had this one PCM [a digital delay unit]. In the last year and a half technology has gone haywire. When we did Planet Rock that was one of the first records to use a Roland... now everyone has a drum machine.”

Funk used to need human metronomes like Hamilton Bohannon, Fatback’s Bill Curtis and the J.B.s’ John ‘Jabo’ Starks. Now it has the Roland, an analogue drum machine with a microprocessor memory which, along with more sophisticated (and costly) digital machines like the Linn Drum and the Oberheim DMX, has come to dominate dance music.

The usual whine about robotic machines (they are – that’s why kids like them) is to a certain extent irrelevant.

Even if drum machines hadn’t existed, disco mixes would have forced somebody to invent them. Bass drums were being pushed further and further to the front of the mix and by 1979 (the last year of classic disco) a record like Walter Gibbon’s mix of Colleen Heather’s On The Run (West End) comes across like a four-on-the-floor bass drum solo with vocal accompaniment. The inevitable tiny inconsistencies become terrifying chasms in the pulse. Though drummers like Keith LeBlanc (producer of Malcolm X's No Sell Out) at Sugarhill and Pumpkin at Enjoy reintroduced bass drum syncopations it was only a matter of time before the new drum machines were following, then outdoing, their patterns. Sharon Redd’s Beat The Street from 1982 (a record not generally considered electro-funk) has a bass drum playing 16th notes – impossible even for Kung Fu masters or Bionic Women.

One of the first Beat Box records – Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five's Flash To The Beat (Sugarhill) was an official remake of a bootleg released on Bozzo Meko Records, a live recording from Bronx River Community Centre. Flash To The Beat showcased Flash throwing down vicious fills on his ancient Vox percussion box – on the illegal version putting Einsturzende Neubauten to shame.

Flash To The Beat and Planet Rock grew out of hip-hop and were parallel to the late Patrick Cowley’s hi-energy productions for Sylvester (derived from Giorgio Moroder’s sequencer disco) and the electronic soul of D Train, Kashif, The Peech Boys and The System. Most of the latter type of records have proved acceptable to the ‘serious’ soul fraternity in Britain – luckily so, since an enormous amount of black music is now being almost exclusively made with analogue and digital equipment. It was the juvenility of electro, though, that stuck in people’s throats.

Strange as it may seem, it’s hard for some people to see pop culture as inspirational. Electro is craze music, a soundtrack for vid kids to live out fantasies born of a science fiction revival (courtesy of Star Wars and Close Encounters) and the video games onslaught.

Nobody can play Defender or Galaxian for long without being affected by those sounds – sickening rumbles and throbs, fuzzy explosions and maddening tunes – and when Gort and Gorgar began to talk the whole interactive games phenomenon took on a menacing aspect. Do they know you’ve just spent all your mother’s money? Do they care that your fantasies are saturated with deep blue space wars and glowing violet electronic insects? All the electro boogie records that flew in the Planet Rock slipstream used a variant on imagery drawn from computer games, video, cartoons, sci-fi and hip-hop language. Just as The Cuff Links defined relationships through nuclear war images in their song Guided Missiles (recorded in the A-Bomb conscious Fifties), so, on Nunk in 1982, Warp 9 sang: “Girl, you’re looking good on my video…”

Space breaking releases included Planet Patrol’s Play At Your Own Risk, Tyrone Brunson’s The Smurf, The Fearless Four’s Rockin’ It (with its spooky “they’re here” intro taken from Poltergeist), Hip Hop Be Bop (Don't Stop) by Man Parrish, George Clinton’s Computer Games album, Scorpio by Flash and the Furious Five and The Jonzun Crew’s Pack Jam.

“Man Parrish’s record – produced by Parrish, a white Brooklyn-born synth-freak whose previous experience included porno soundtrack writing”

Planet Patrol are a vocal quintet from Boston (a breeding station for asteroid funkers) originally called The Energetics, who applied their skills to a classic Baker/Robie rhythm. The record mixed acoustic piano with synthesisers and dub delay effects – tagged onto the end of the instrumental is a brilliant acapella section which speeds and slows the hip-hop version of applause (a sort of macho dog bark).

The dog bark turned up again on Man Parrish’s record – produced by Parrish (a white Brooklyn-born synth-freak whose previous experience included porno soundtrack writing) and Raul A. Rodriguez, a disco jock currently producing The Two Sisters on B-Boys Beware and High Noon.

The Smurf by Washington DC-born bass player Tyrone Brunson was pure dance craze instrumental. Smurfing was a New York dance inspired by one of the Saturday morning TV cartoon shows, a fertile source of imagery for graffiti artists and catchphrases for rappers. Smurfs, like all great historical figures, have a complex background. Originally based on characters from Spiro, a French comic of the Sixties, they became an international promo tool, a Dutch hit record (thanks to the genius of Father Abraham) and a series of dance discs. The latter included Letzmeurph Acrossdasurf by The Micronawts (actually a Village Voice critic, Barry Michael Cooper, with a dub mix by Bambaataa) on Aaron Fuchs‘ Tuff City label; Salsa Smurf by Special Request (a Tommy Boy collaboration between two contributors to NYC radio station 92KTU – Carlos DeJesus and Jose ‘Animal’ Daiaz, who also mixed Rhetta Hughes electro hi-energy Angel Man) and Smerphies Dance on Tellstar by Spyder D, a young man named Duane Hughes who, to my knowledge, is the only hip-hopper to carry a business card.

Another dance craze of the period was the Webo or Huevo (Spanish for egg). The Webo had its very own audio track, typical of ‘82/’83 madhouse dub mixes, called Huevo Dancing by Fresh Face. Huevo Dancing was a creation of veteran soul singer/producer George Kerr and keyboardist/guitarist Reggie Griffin. Its violent electric drums and seemingly random attacks on the mixing desk faders give it a special place in my heart. Both Kerr and Griffin were associated with the Sylvia and Joe Robinson empire and Reggie Griffin went on to make his own electro boogie record, Mirada Rock for Sweet Mountain Records, a Sugarhill subsidiary.

Also doing time at Sugarhill with some uncredited session work was Michael Jonzun, of the despised yet totally brilliant Jonzun Crew. Pack Jam on Tommy Boy is one of the toughest records of the last few years (I say that as a person old enough to have seen The Ronettes and Otis Redding live on stage). Like Miranda Rock (“I am a computer”) or Tilt’s Arkade Funk (“I am an arkade funk machine”) there was no beating about the bush. Pack Jam was a video game record and if adults wanted to run scared that was their business.

Many of the electro musicians and producers recognise their music as the fusion that it is – street funk and hip-hop mixed with influences from British synthesiser groups, Latin music and Jazz fusion – all thrown into the robot dancing, breaking and moonwalking meltdown. Lotti Golden and Richard Scher, producers/writers for Warp 9, Chilltown and Ladies’ Choice, called their first Casio-powered Warp 9 release Nunk, a hybrid of N-ew wave and f-UNK.

Electro is closer to past Afro-American fusions than a lot of the Seventies disco promoted by British disc jockeys currently running anti-electro campaigns (Magic Fly by Space, for example, a regular on early editions of Robbie Vincent's Radio London show) and it is arguable that it shows stronger black music roots than certain popular jazz-funk or soft soul records of recent years. Everybody acknowledges the pioneering of Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock in combining electronics with funk, Afro, Latin and jazz (check out On The Corner and Headhunters) and Material’s production on Hancock’s Future Shock was obliquely inspired by Hancock's own mid-Seventies albums.

The current phase of electro, particularly electro-rap and scratch mixes, is like black metal music for the Eighties, a hard-edged, ugly, beautiful trance as desperate and stimulating as New York itself. Run DMC’s records on Profile are direct-to-disc wall poems; The B-Boys, The Boogie Boys, The Beat Box Boys, Davy DMX, Pumpkin and DJ Divine – all physical graffiti on music history books. For the Cold Crush Brothers, the Mad Max warriors of rap, their Punk Rock Rap is a reflection of the exotica of white rock uptown in Washington Heights.

Nothing is sacred in the computer age. As computer programmers, copyright lawyers and corporations struggle to protect themselves against micro raiders and mashers, the vidkids swarm down from the top of the screen, hungry for the cosmic crash.

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