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How The West Was One

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Funny, just a week after that "No Cussing" Kid from was all over the TV box comes the opening of Ava Duvernay’s documentary This Is the Life, which chronicle's the early 1990s renaissance of L.A.'s "alternative hip hop" scene, centered around a health food store near Crenshaw & Exposition downtown called the Good Life Cafe. The GL's most distinctive innovation was the freestyle open mike nights that had one important rule: "No Cussin'" -- a sort of a rebuke to the profanity-laden gangsta scene happening in South Central and Long Beach. The Good Life gave voices to some of the most influential underground rappers of the 1990s -- Pigeon John, Abstract Rude, Medusa, Volume 10, the Black-Eyed Peas (original incarnation), Chillin Villain Empire, Rifleman Ellay Khule, Busdriver, The Pharcyde, Jurassic 5 and of course the mighty Freestyle Fellowship -- and was the precusor of sorts to the scene at the Project Blowed/KAOS network complex in Leimert Park. Read Ernest Hardy's LA Weekly preview here. This Is the Life is also available on DVD.

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To go even further back, we visited Poo-Bah Records recently (despite the firing of our dear friend/radio host/L.A. creative jazz expert Michael Davis) and caught a copy of The Watts Prophets compilation Things Gonna Get Greater, 1969-1971 put out by the terrific indie label Water Records. The Prophets [pictured above] were the grandfathers of L.A. hip hop and a vital link between the politically charged Afro-jazz happening in Watts during the late 1960s and the modern hip-hop scene. And their songs are great too: "Amerikka," "Tenements," "Black Pussy" and the immortal "Response to A Bourgeois Nigger." A must-have for any local-music geeks.

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