Michael Gonzales is one of hip-hop’s most influential and important journalists. With his work appearing everywhere from Vibe to ego trip and Wax Poetics, as well as authoring 1992’s essential hip-hop primer Bring the Noise, his voice is one of the most knowledgable and engaging to ever cover the culture. With his new essay ‘Memories of Crack City’ appearing in the latest issue of One More Robot magazine, we bring you this excerpt from his ‘Living in Crack City’ article as well as include his Top Five picks for the Greatest Crack Songs of All Time.
As a native New Yorker born and raised on the uptown streets of Harlem, my personal version of ‘Living for the City’ went from stickball games in the street to dodging bullets in the day as crack vials shattered beneath my sneakered feet. Yet, while smoking crack rocks began its raging rein of terror in 1984, the same communities were also contributing culturally with the rise of rap music.
With rappers becoming the aural equivalent of Italian neo-realists directors, my favorite being Vittorion De Sica, these young poets were unafraid of showing ‘the real’ in their material. It was only a matter of time before crack culture (selling, buying, dying) and rap music began to overlap. Twenty-eight years after I first heard a cocaine corner boy on a 145th Street muttering, “Crack, crack, crack,” there has been thousands of rock related songs released.
When I began working on my latest drug-related essay ‘Memories of Crack City’ for the forthcoming One More Robot Summer Issue, I spent a lot of time on YouTube getting lifted and inspired by crack songs created by everyone from Schoolly D to Lil Wayne to Rick Ross. However, since this is issue #10, I decided to pick my personal top-ten crack classics based discs to serve as the soundtrack. In addition, since the piece is about New York, all the songs selected are East Coast based. As one crack head screamed to the other, “Rock on!”
5) Fat Joe – “Crack Attack” 1998
4) Grandmaster Melle Mel – “White Lines” 1983
3) Jay-Z – “Rap Game/Crack Game” 1997
2) The Notorious B.I.G. – “Ten Crack Commandments” 1997
1) Masters of Ceremony – “Cracked Out” 1988
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