Once & Future Nostalgia

There ain't no back in the day, nigga. Ain't no nostalgia to this shit here. There's just the street and the game and what happens here today...

...a quote by Melvin 'Cheese' Wagstaff, a character from HBO's serial drama The Wire.
Hip Hop History

I love the word nostalgia. For me, it brings to mind the image of cracking open an old steamer trunk, discovering artifacts from a bygone era and spending hours becoming acquainted with their past in a very personal way. I saw this poster a couple of weeks ago and that word began to seep back into my subconscious. It opened the memories of my childhood, dug in and then spread their contents all over the floor of my mind. Before I realized it, I was transported back to a time when Hip Hop's rhythms and rhymes bathed in nostalgia.

I could hear James Brown, George Clinton, Lyn Collins, Issac Hayes & The Average White Band waltzing with a SP1200; it made me miss how insightful the music used to be. You could listen to one song and discover a host of obscure or forgotten artist thru the sampling that took place. Take GangStarr's 1990 hit Jazz Thing for example. Not only is the group's front man Guru providing a Jazz history lesson through his rhymes, the samples used by producer DJ Premier linked the listener to Kool & The Gang, Thelonious Monk, Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker. That's four artist in one song...what an auditory smorgasbord. (This song in particular turned me on to other Jazz greats)

A Great Day In Harlem 1958
A Great Day In Harlem 1958 Photo by Art Kane

While the art of sampling became a hot bed issue due to copyright infringement claims & judgements against record labels and artist, it was an essential element of Hip Hop that allowed a listener to rediscover good music. That's why for me, there is nostalgia to this shit here. 

If it wasn't for sampling, I would have never developed a more discerning ear for music. There would have been no unearthing of artist like Marcos Valle, Nina Simone, Donald Byrd or Horace Silver. (just to name a few)

As the Philosopher and Poet George Santayana once wrote:

The earth has its music for those who will listen,
Its bright variations forever abound;
With all the wonders that God has bequeathed us,
There is nothing that thrills like the magic of sound.

Say word George...say word.  

A Great Day In Harlem 1998
A Great Day In Harlem 1998 Photo By Gordon Parks


  1. you touched a nerve here...with images and history lesson...thanks for sharing!

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