Saturday, November 5, 2011

New Jack Epoch (2008 Liner Notes From New Jack Swing Gold Anthology)

(Liner notes to the 2008 New Jack Swing Gold Anthology on Hip-O)
By Barry Michael Cooper


As the country did its best to slush through its extended winter of discontent created by the perfect storm of Louis XVI-like Reaganomics, the filthy lucre of junk bonds, and the Inner City's basso-profundo waltz of automatic gunfire underscoring the horror film known as Monster Crack, there was a hint of life as a rose grew in the bricks of cooked cocaine.

It was the Spring of New Jack Swing.

Horticultured by Teddy Riley, New Jack Swing was a colorful urban opera, a musical con-flux of robotic R&B, cool jazz glissandi, hip hop kick-snare-cut-scratch and claw chorused with sanctified church vocals. Drums that could make Nijinsky leap and strings that could make Verdi weep, New Jack Swing was the soundtrack for a Me Decade in manic-depressive flux. From the Glick-ish, Wall Street upstarts knocking back magnums of Krug and snorting Peruvian flake in the tony, Modernist zoo known as The Royalton--grazing in the Hey!-Look-At-Me!-ride of new money before burning it in the nihilist bonfire of their own vain excesses--to the dope money Glitter Kids trying to glow in the shadows of the ghetto. In their attempt to inhale the richly oxygenated atmosphere of the Grand Bourgeois--breathing the million-aire--this Generation of the Discarded, these Children Of The Disconnect burned their lungs with the noxious gas of twisted ambition and unbridled greed that silently suffocated their souls. Hip Hop's court jester, Biz Markie, had the perfect name for this condition.

Biz called it The Vapors. 

Burdened with a fatherless home front, overworked/or welfare enabled and quite possibly drug addicted mothers, dismal school environs, a non-existent job market, New Jack Swing became an anthem for these needy urchins orphaned by an 80s Republic enamored and blinded in the abysmal flashpoint of Mourning In America. With the added malady of short term memory loss and even shorter fuses, these wealthy young beggars attended a banquet of spiritual famine, waiting on just deserts served with a sprinkle of teflon coated bullets from the mouth of an Uzi. In a hurry to taste the world and everything in it, these Affection-Deficit Babies were all dressed up--in $50,000 gold cable chains, Versace, Hugo Boss and Louis Vuitton--with nowhere to go and needed New Jack Swing's new breed of soulful Yowsa!-Yowsa! as a temporary distraction to their permanently scarred lives. 

Rewinding Ellison’s Invisible Man coda, Teddy Riley's New Jack Swing spoke for these Lost Boys and Girls on the lower frequencies. Super-fluent in this new rap language, Riley-driven compositions like Keith Sweat's "I Want Her," Johnny Kemp's "Just Got Paid," and Guy's "Groove Me" (just to name a few on this phenomenal New Jack Swing Gold Compilation) became the Sound of a New America borne of a contemporary Harlem Renaissance by way of a hard knock life in New York City. However, New Jack Swing transcended the regional: it became the sound of Oakland (En Vogue's "Hold On," and Tony! Toni! Tone'!'s "Feels Good"), Oklahoma (Color Me Badd's "I Wanna Sex You Up"), Waco (Hi-Five's "I Like The Way/The Kissing Game":GOD Rest the soul of Tony Thompson), Charlotte (Jodeci's "Come And Talk to Me"), Boston (Ralph Tresvant's "Sensitivity"), and Philadelphia, too (Boys II Men's "Motownphilly"). 

New Jack Swing introduced us to Andre Harrell's Uptown, the label that created superstars out of Riley, Al B. Sure!, Heavy D, Mary J. Blige, and Jodeci. New Jack Swing made the two premiere production teams of the day--L.A. and Babyface, and Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis--re-evaluate, retrofit, and even re-invent their approach to the music. New Jack Swing snatched off the Kangols and Addidas and replaced them with high top fades, Gucci loafers and Ralph Lauren Rugby shirts. New Jack Swing pulled the frozen-mugged corner boys and salty around-the-way-girls off the wall and melted their ice-grills with the sweat of the Running Man and the Shaka Zulu on the dance floor. New Jack Swing resuscitated a flat-lining R&B with the brand new tenor melodies of Aaron Hall and Jeff Redd.

New Jack Swing even made the late Johnny Carson--the reigning King Of Late Night television-- look over his shoulder to see a grinning set of gums known as Arsenio Hall bearing down on his Tod-shod heels. That landmark year, 1987, that Spring Of New Jack Swing is the reason for this season of Bling 20 years later: the reason why Jay-Z became Jigga-national, the reason why Puff rocked shiny bespoke Valentino and won Coty Awards, the reason why Timberland and the Neptunes and Kanye, and Beyonce and Justin and Missy and Christina stepped fashion forward just to bring sexy back. The reason why VH-1 Hip Honors has inducted both Teddy and Andre into the Hall Of Fame this year. The reason why Jeff Redd could rock a crowd at Lotus in the summer of 2007 with "You Called And Told Me" and then that same New Jack-themed party hosted by legendary novelist and filmmaker Nelson George and New Jack Swing impresario Andrew Knyte (his wildly popular website has generated an international resurgence of the genre) get almost 20,000 hits on You Tube in less than three days. New Jack Swing is a music born from the streets but it in reality it was the orchestration of a New Hustle. New Jack Swing has grown from impetuous youth into cautious Grown and Sexy, a glistening, V-12 ideal. New Jack Swing is both soundproof and timeless.

The Rolls Royce Movement has crossed the Rubicon.

The Bentley Brookland's are burning, burning, burning, on Amagansett Beach.

And let us all say, Yup-Yup.

Barry Michael Cooper
21 August 2007
Baltimore, Md.

Be sure to pick up my new anthology, "Hooked On The American Dream-Vol.1: New Jack City Eats Its Young," available exclusively on Kindle/Amazon. Amazon/Kindle has a free, downloadable app for all computers and mobile devices. Click here to go to the "Hooked On The American Dream-Vol.1:New Jack City Eats Its Young" Kindle store site.

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