Today I’m going to take a quick break away from the wide world of sports and discuss another interest of mine, music and music culture. Don’t worry, the sports talk will be back soon – expect an update tomorrow, if not tonight.
A thought occurred to me today on my way to work – why aren’t there any hip-hop tribute groups? There are plenty of rock cover and tribute bands out there, why aren’t there any for hip-hop or rap?
Doing a cursory Internet search provided various sites of cover bands for many of rock’s premier supergroups, from Led Zeppelin to Steely Dan to The Beatles to Metallica to Guns’N'Roses. I even found a tribute band called Beatallica that combines both Metallica and the Beatles’ tunes in their performance. Wikipedia provides an pretty exhaustive list of cover bands here. But nowhere on that list are the tributes for Run DMC, the Beastie Boys, Eric B. and Rakim, the Fat Boys, N.W.A. or any other classic old school rap group. A search for “rap tribute groups” or “rap tribute bands” brings up only Frontbutt, the self-proclaimed “ultimate party band” performing rap and hip-hop hits from the 80s and 90s. Unfortunately, Frontbutt’s news page hasn’t been updated since 2004, so I have no idea if they are still active.
Now I know there are plenty of random college bands that cover various hip-hop hits or incorporate hip-hop “shout-outs” into their music. And old school rap does get a slight tribute through present-day sampling. But where are the dedicated focused tribute groups? As I often listen to the old school rap station on satellite radio, I know there are many fans of old hip-hop, fans who listen not just for the occasional hit that made the top 40, but for those MCs and DJs who back in the day had flow, social consciousness, and just flat-out better mic skills than many of the MCs today.
Perhaps I am just ahead of my time. Perhaps in 5, 10, or 20 years there will be hip-hop tribute groups. Maybe there will be an imitation Public Enemy “bringing the noize” with an MC dressed like Chuck D, a real DJ dressed and scratching like Terminator X, and yes, even a hypeman in his Flavor Flav pre-VH1 get-up. Maybe mainstream America just isn’t ready. But with hip-hop becoming more and more commercial, don’t be surprised if a few aspiring rappers come together to proudly re-perform the “good ol’ days” of an old school rap group. You never know, maybe someday a G-Unit or Wu-Tang Clan tour will feature the hip-hop Ripper Owens.