Back To The Future

Picture the scene. A spotty teenage boy is sitting in his bedroom in Stanford-Le-Hope playing records. His adolescent mind already captured by the magic of Hip Hop he hungrily devourers any slab of vinyl he can get his hands on. These are the days before MP3′s so every piece of music that he heard was purchased with either pocket money or the daily wage of a Saturday job. It averages out at one or two records a week and during the late 80′s it was hard to keep up with every release such was the lack of money and sheer quanity of classic records being released. Being as this exotic, vivid and captivating music was made on the other side of the world and not yet part of mainstream consciousness everything had to be either imported from America or you had to try and find a UK licensed copy tucked away in some obscure section of the record shop. These were the days when Our Price and HMV had tiny sections marked Rap waaaaaaaaaay before the ‘Urban’ section took up half the record shop like today. One UK label, Gee Street, used to licence various records by Idlers Records of New York who, among other artists, had the Jungle Brothers on its roster. What this meant is that record shops had no need to import the original US release and instead Gee Street released a UK version however they wanted and their own bastard way.

The Jungle Brothers had a minor hit with ‘I’ll House You’ which was some awful ‘Hip House’ thing that never appealed to me but it did to one of my tasteless school friends who purchased the 12” version with its thousands of remixes on. Such was my desperation to hear anything Hip Hop I borrowed this record and hoped some magic could be found between its dusty grooves and there, tucked away right at the end on the B-Side by our good friends at Gee Street was a joint called ‘In Time’. ‘In Time’ was remarkable for a number of reasons. First, the music. A haunting sax heralds in some crunchy lo-fi drums and Mike G, Baby Bam and a very young Q-Tip drop Afrocentric rhymes on this simple but devastating groove. Second was the spirit. This was not a party jam. This was part of the then growing Afrocentic Hip Hop movement that gave us concious lyrics, golden era music and the X-Clan. This was not disco but brothers wearing red, black and green with beads and sandals. Africa was in the house. Revolution was in the air. There was substance to Hip Hop at this time and it felt to those the followed this movement very very real and, although I didn’t know it at the time, it also began to worry white America and The Man. The third reason, and the reason the song really stuck in my mind were the first verse lyrics. Baby Bam:

In time, in time
In time this rhyme’ll be more than just a fantasy
A Black man’ll be the man to claim Presidency
Is it hard to see?
So try to see as i see
In time i see a better Black reality
It took one man to open the door, yep!
He let in one million more
And i don’t think that this country knows
What the hell that it’s in for
A Black reign, to tough to tame (to tame)
Enough to blow the other man’s brain (man’s brain)
Things just won’t be the same (the same)
It’s gonna be a whole new game (a whole new game)
New lessons will be taught
Meaningless fights will not be fought
An attempt to save some lives
Spreading out more peaceful vibes
See that less drugs will be sold
So a man can live to grow old
Instead of being left in the cold to rot
‘Cause he got stopped by a small white rock
I hope in time things change
And that i’m around to see that stage

At the time the very notion of a black man to claim presidency was a like some impossible dream. It felt to my teenage brain that Baby Bam was dreaming to far into the future. it felt like some story or hopeless optimism that could happen but not in my lifetime. Reaganomics were killing poor minority groups in America as the white middle classes edged away and the blacks and Hispanics were firmly at the bottom of the pile. The best black America could hope for was David Dinkins. I tried to imagine a black man as president but the grip of the American establishment seemed to powerful to allow this to ever happen. I have no idea why but the opening lines of his verse have always stayed with me and today of all days it feels right to tell you all about this. Its not remarkable really but on a personal level it does illustrate how far America has come in the 20 or so years since that record was released. A black man is the president of America. Today. The future is now and the Jungle Brothers need to take a bow for believing the impossible dream. I salute them and Obama.


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