Ah…”Rappers Delight.” When those first base notes give way to the familiar “I said a hip hop…” it hearkens back to a bygone era, when rap was simple and pure. Back then, shock value wasn’t important; you didn’t have to rap about slaughtering cops and slinging dope to sell records. As long as it was done over a solid base line, you could write ridiculously harmless lyrics like these, and people would still dig it.
So after school I take a dip in the pool,
Which is really on the wall,
I got a color TV, so I can see
The Knicks play basketball.
Things have evolved, obviously. The turning point came in 1988, when NWA released “Straight Outta’ Compton” and changed the game forever. Rap got angry. And violent. And yes; really, really good.
But as aggressive as the genre became, at least it was — for the most part — false bravado. Those guys bragging about pimpin’ and drive-bys weren’t actually criminals (well, except for Slick Rick).
Now today’s rappers…these guys are terrifying. If you’re not an ex-con, shoot-out survivor, or a little white guy from Detroit, you’ve got virtually no chance of being taken seriously.
But I digress. The point is, while rap has undergone a staggering metamorphosis in the past three decades, one element of the industry has remained constant from old school through today: rappers hate paying taxes.
That hatred can now be traced all the way back to rap’s genesis, as the three brothers who started Sugar Hill Records — the trailblazing rap label that gave birth to the aforementioned “Rapper’s Delight,” the genre’s first Top 40 hit — are currently in a heap of hot water with the IRS. From Bloomberg:
Leland, Rhondo and Joseph Robinson Jr. admitted today in federal court in Newark, New Jersey, that they didn’t file returns from 2005 to 2008 that would have declared royalties from their ownership of Sugar Hill Music. The brothers failed to pay $1.28 million in taxes and also owe interest and penalties. Each pleaded to two misdemeanor counts covering a different tax year and also admitted to related conduct for failing to file in two other years. They face a year in prison on each count.
That’s right. If things go wrong, it’s not a ho-tel, mo-tel, or Holiday Inn the Robinson brothers will be residing in, but prison. But don’t fret for the Sugar Hill Gang too much, as their attorney, Henry Klingeman, has an air-tight alibi for his clients’ noncompliance:
“They’ve been concentrating on protecting their current musical legacy instead of fulfilling their tax obligations,” he said.
Whew…glad we’ve cleared that up. Carry on, gentlemen.
To the Robinson brothers’ credit, they’ve remained optimistic throughout their recent fiscal ordeal, as evidenced by this statement released through their attorney:
A Skiddleebebop, we rock, Scooby Doo,
And guess what, America, we love you
‘Cause you rocked and a rolled with so much soul,
You could rock ’til a hundred and one years old.
I don’t mean to brag, I don’t mean to boast,
But we like hot butter on our breakfast toast!
I have no idea what that means, but I’ll be damned if it’s not provocative.