Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Best Rap Performance (1984): Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan was God's gift to rap music.

In the summer and fall of 1984, I was chasing after a girl named Diana. And she loved hip-hop music, so I vowed to be more open-minded about it. She also loved Ronald Reagan (and I tried to tolerate that).

On August 11, 1984, President Ronald Reagan was doing a microphone check for his weekly radio address and (not realizing he was being recorded) said:

My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.

Within weeks, Reagan's voice was sampled and used in several hip-hop songs, including "See the Light, Feel the Heat" by Air Force 1 (Elliot Sokolov & Jack Waldman, mixed by Arthur Baker):

Jerry Harrison from Talking Heads and Bootsy Collins from Parliament-Funkadelic had a similar idea, producing the funkier "5 Minutes" and releasing it under the name Bonzo Goes to Washington:

These songs confused Diana -- she loved them musically, but wasn't happy that they were basically making fun of her hero. To prove to Diana that my musical tastes were broader than they really were (and perhaps also to needle her about Reagan), I bought both of these records.

Also around that time, the review "Rap Master Ronnie" (written by Doonesbury's Gary Trudeau and Elizabeth Swados) premiered. In this show, Reagan and his closest advisors rap about his politics and work habits. Diana and I saw this show together. She hated the politics and thought the music was weak. I loved the show and bought the soundtrack album.

These records have more in common than Ronald Reagan, rap music, and a girl named Diana. All 3 were ignored by the Grammy Awards. And I've dragged all 3 along to every new place I've lived. But I haven't listened to any of them in more than 20 years.

Meanwhile, rap music survived and thrived (blame Reagan).

That's not to say that I never want to listen to music about Ronald Reagan. That urge strikes me every 4 or 5 months. And when it happens, I dig out my vinyl copy of Animal Boy by the Ramones. Just to listen to this:

This album came out long after Diana and I were through. Incidentally, Diana hated the Ramones. And that's fine with me.

1 comment:

iaremusic said...

I saw Rap Master Ronnie too, Alex - in San Francisco in 1986. How weird!