Why you should care
Because this is key American history.
Musicians in other genres didn’t respect it. Baby boomers didn’t understand it. MTV (initially) didn’t play it. At the record store, rap releases on labels major enough to secure chain distribution were peppered into the R&B section. Aging rock, jazz and soul musicians balked at rap’s burgeoning, pastiche style of music that sampled bits of their work. And amid all this hubbub in the mid-1980s, Philadelphia gangster turned cult rap hero Jesse “Schoolly D” Weaver (often credited as being a founding father of “gangster rap”) struck back, scoring a point for rap music and making the clashing of the established and the underdog ticket-worthy. Hip-hop came from nothing, so it needed nothing. That would include your respect. Fuck you.
“I Don’t Like Rock ’n’ Roll,” taken from Schoolly D’s eponymous 1985 debut album, saw the larger-than-life, alpha male Schoolly gunning for Prince before the needle even got warm. Then he and his DJ, Code Money, decided to center the music video around kidnapping preppy rock ’n’ rollers from a recording studio and stuffing them into a van. But it went way beyond rock and rap. It was privileged and underprivileged, rich and poor and, to a degree, white and Black.
Code dismantles Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock ’n’ Roll” on the turntable while Schoolly negates the sentiments.
Symbolically, it felt like Schoolly and Code kidnapped everything mainstream America deemed sacred at the time — Kirk Cameron, Bon Jovi, Cinderella, John Stamos, Fruit Roll-Ups — and stuffed it in that van for the entertainment of their own small piece of forgotten America. For good measure, Code dismantles Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock ’n’ Roll” on the turntable while Schoolly negates the sentiments — even the hook is iconoclastic.
Rock-rap collaborations, marketing, big-budget films: Things began to change for rap. Schoolly — actually a classic-rock fan who eventually worked with live bands — continued to fight the good fight as the 1980s came to a close. Songs like “We Don’t Rock, We Rap” and “No More Rock ’n’ Roll” (complete with hair metal bands being body-slammed and clotheslined in its wrestling-themed music video) made him a pillar of consistency, as did his pro-rap, pro-Black appearance on The Morton Downey, Jr. Show, all in 1988. Schoolly was later sued by Led Zeppelin over a copyright issue in the early ’90s, making his relationship with rock ’n’ roll even more perplexing. Nonetheless, it feels good to see that Superman was a rap fan (the “S” on his chest stood for Schoolly) when both rap and America’s Black youth were vying for respect during a zeitgeist of greed, MTV and hair metal.