Every year or so, an aspiring music writer, typically new to the city, pens a painfully trite screed about how Boston hip-hop hasn’t made it, often hinting at a bitterness among local artists. That may be true in select cases; there are certainly some who still harbor champagne dreams of big labels eyeing Boston as the next frontier. But if there’s one thing those who have helped cultivate the foundation for local hip-hop have learned after decades in the music industry, it’s that the Hub is probably better off as an incubator of indie rap ingenuity than as a disposable fad ripe for regional exploitation.
Like so much history about communities of color, the narrative of Boston hip-hop has been largely buried, ignored, forgotten. Thankfully, there remain innumerable artists, writers, fans, and even academics who, in the storytelling tradition rap music is rooted in, have kept dope alive via marvelous multimedia tributes. This whole package is dedicated to them, and to all the lives and careers lost in the sad cycle of violence that has both inspired and compromised this incomparable genre.
Among the New England griots who have painstakingly documented hip-hop, author Brian Coleman sits atop the pack. His first two seminal books, Rakim Told Me and Check The Technique, detailed the process behind classic works such as De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising and Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). Coleman’s sequel, Check the Technique 2: More Liner Notes for Hip Hop Junkies, features 25 new chapters, including one with Roxbury rap pioneer Edo.G about his 1991 debut, Life Of A Kid In The Ghetto, that we’ve excerpted at DigBoston.com. We also asked Hub rap historian and UMass Boston Professor Pacey Foster to turn the tape recorder on Coleman for an interview about his process.
To round things out, we packed in features about TDS Mob, who reigned as some of the earliest kings of boom bap in the Hub, and another on Scientifik, a Lawrence-bred rap prodigy whose life was cut tragically short nearly two decades ago. And since you shouldn’t mention Boston rap without noting Antonio Ennis (aka E-Devious, aka Twice Thou), we also asked longtime Dig contributor Dave Wedge, who once upon a time had his own foot in the Mass rap game, to review the new Twice Thou project, Love, Lies & Betrayal. Talk about a title that reflects the ghosts of hip-hop past.
Chris Faraone, News + Features Editor