Here at Paste Music, we spend each day sorting through new albums to review, interviewing musicians, making compelling lists, and telling our readers about the songs they need to hear on any given day. But our first love has always been live music—the magic that happens when great artists create something spontaneous out of thin air and move people with it. That’s why, together with our sister sites Concert Vault, Wolfgangs and Daytrotter, we’ve spent so much time and effort acquiring and digitizing the world’s largest archive of live recordings—tens of thousands of concerts and hundreds of thousands of songs going back more than 50 years, including the archives of legendary promoter Bill Graham, the Newport Jazz and Newport Folk festivals, the old King Biscuit Flower Hour radio show, and our ongoing daily recording projects at Paste Studio in New York and Daytrotter Studios in Davenport, Iowa.
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The entire vault, with exclusive audio and video recordings stretching from 1959 all the way to 2017, is available for free streaming here at Paste.com, and our mission is to make sure our music-loving readers explore every corner of it. We do it every day with peeks at exclusive live recordings by, say, The Kinks in 1972, or The Police in 1986, or Bon Iver in 2008. But there’s so much more to watch and hear! So this week, we’re taking a genre-by-genre deep dive into the archive and pulling out some of our most precious gems for your enjoyment.
Recently, we explored some of our blues and jazz recordings, with vintage performances by Son House, Muddy Waters, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis and Bill Frisell. Today we’re looking at another American musical invention—hip-hop, a direct descendent of both blues and jazz not just in its foregrounding of rhythm and emotion, but in its genetic connection to the black experience in the United States. We have thousands of hip-hop recordings going back to the dawn of the genre. Let’s start with Run-DMC.
On Sept. 25, 1984, Joseph “Run” Simmons, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels and Jason “Jam Master Jay” Mizell had just released their groundbreaking self-titled debut album, thanks in part to Simmons’s brother, budding hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons. It immediately changed the direction of hip-hip, stripping away the ‘70s-era excesses of early MCs like Grandmaster Flash and paring the music down to something blunter. Watch Run-DMC perform their very first single, “It’s Like That,” at the Capitol Theatre in Passaic, N.J.
Ten years later, Woodstock ‘94 tried—and failed—to recapture the glory of the 1969 cultural landmark with a corporate-sponsored, MTV-ified extravaganza. On the bright side, the added showcases of hip-hop and dance music to go with all the rock music, with sets by Cyprus Hill, Arrested Development, Dee-Lite and Aphex Twin. Here’s Salt-N-Pepa performing their smash 1993 hit “Shoop” on Day 2 of three-day event, Aug. 13 1994.
When New Yorkers lament all the great clubs that have shuttered in the past three decades, they tend to fixate on the headliners: CBGBs, Brownie’s, the Limelight, the Ritz. Less often mentioned is Tramps, but it was no less vital to the city’s music scene. Bob Dylan played there; so did Prince, and The Flaming Lips, and Cheap Trick, and Radiohead, and about a thousand other momentous bands. After closing briefly in the 1990s, the club reopened downtown with a new mission to showcase hip-hop, and the talent started flowing: Tribe Called Quest, Wu-Tang Clan, Public Enemy, Outkast, among others. We have a trove of recordings from Tramps’ heyday. Here are three you won’t believe from 1999 alone:
On July 13, 2011, Seattle outfit Shabazz Palaces visited Daytrotter Studios to perform three songs from their debut LP, “Black Up,” an album that carried the flag for hip-hop’s tradition of jazz undertones and African rhythms into the 21st century. At the time, we said that “Shabazz mastermind Ishmael ‘Butterfly’ Butler makes music that forms an entirely new context all its own, reaching out for us like the darkest arms protruding out of a house of mirrors.” Listen to the group perform “An Echo From Hosts That Profess Infinitum.”
Stay tuned on Tuesday for another dive into the Vault with a tour through our voluminous collection country and Americana recordings. Enjoy!