Is anybody else still fuming from yesterday’s 51st Grammy Awards ceremony? M.I.A. wuz robbed! I have no objections to Robert Plant & Alison Krauss winning Album of the Year for Raising Sand. (Well, I have one objection: The damn thing came out a million years ago; it was on my Best of 2007 list, people!) That was a beautiful full-length. But Record of the Year? C’mon, NARAS. “Paper Planes” was everywhere in 2008. And the suits at major labels still can’t figure out why the music business is tanking? Yeah…
As savvy music fans know, sometimes it takes history a while to catch up to the innovators. Which is why I encourage anybody with even a cursory interest in rap to pick up a copy of Fly Girls!, the new Soul Jazz anthology of groundbreaking female MCs. Subtitled “B Boys Beware – Revenge of the Super Female Rappers!” this colorful 2-CD set surveys great ladies on the mic since the dawn of hip-hop, from early Sugarhill pioneers The Sequence (“Simon Says”) up to Missy Elliott (“The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)”), which still sounds breathtakingly fresh 12 years after its initial release). This anthology also creates context by including seminal poets revered in rap culture, like Nikki Giovanni and Camille Yarborough; the latter’s “Take Yo Praise” should strike a chord with anyone who’s heard Fatboy Slim’s “Praise You,” which borrowed heavily from her 1975 original.
Like most Soul Jazz releases, Fly Girls! is beautifully packaged, featuring a 24-page booklet chock full of photos (oh, those ’80s hip-hop fashions) and detailed artist biographies for all 20 tunes. In a perfect world, this fabulous package would get a Grammy Award nomination for Best Historical Album next year. But after what I witnessed last night, I’m not holding my breath.
DJ El Toro is the host of the overnight show In Between Sleep & Reason, Wednesday mornings from 1 AM to 6 AM on KEXP 90.3 FM Seattle and kexp.org. His column, Weird At My School, appears every Monday on the KEXP Blog.