Thursday, July 26, 2012

Reflection: Jams circa 1970's- 1980's

Repost from July 15,2011

Jams were street parties usually held in the back parks of housing developments. The DJ from one of the neighborhood rap crews would supply the music. He came equipped with five milk crates packed with LP’s, two turntables, a microphone, and two re-built five foot high speakers whose woofers were the size of hubcaps—crank them up—and the pavement was thumping. When George Clinton and P-Funadelic’s Flashlight filtered the air: Heads began to nod. Tapping feet spread around the park. Flashlights and lighters— even matches—appeared ready to light the night sky. The DJ would turn the music down so everyone could mimic George Clinton’s ‘Flashlight’ whine in unison. ‘Flashlight’ came from all different directions: Young and loud, old hoarse voices trying to catch up, and slurred incomprehensible noises came from the neighborhood winos. Even the cops felt the groove. They gently patted their feet and nightsticks to the beat singing along with everyone. The party really started jumping when the DJ spun Le Chic’s Good Times and the Sugar Hill Gang’s Rappers Delight on his turntables—scratching and mixing the two 12”vinyls—showing off his style and composing his own music. You could dance the night away or until somebody—who had too much liquor or beer—start spewing accusations of ‘hogging all of the liquor’ to their drinking partner.


“No, I didn’t!”

The first punch was thrown.

The music was lowered and everyone danced to a slower pace. The DJ would go on the microphone to try to get them to break it up. But, there was nothing more entertaining then watching Jack Daniels and Old English 800 malt liquor duking it out.

“Yes you did!”

A bottle was picked up.

Dancing feet lost the beat when the music came to an abrupt halt and the cops moved in. After both parties tried unsuccessfully to plead their case, they eventually left; still fussing at each other as Curtis Blows’ The Breaks softly snuck in and stirred calm feet to frantically search for the beat again.

Halfway through the night, the DJ would spin Denroy Morgan’s I’ll Do Anything for You, while a circle—Soul Train-style—was made for the Freestylers, Breakdancers, and Poplockers to show off their moves. Everyone cheered and chanted when a dancer would slide in the middle of the circle and do his specialty—either spinning on his head and back or do some crazy leg movement that Michael Jackson would envy— then a second dancer would interrupt the first dancer’s flow by showing what he got by tossing a move in the first dancer’s face and a chorus of ‘Challenge’ bellowed from the crowd. The dancers would battle until the crescendo of ‘Ooh’s’ peaked to ‘Ooh, did you see that?’ The winner usually was the one who eased into his slickest choreographic moves without thinking about it. The loser would walk off saying, “Awright, you got that one” and promised a re-match next week with some powerful steps (borrowed from a Dance Fever contestant).

At 3am the party would wound down. The two people that were fighting earlier came back with bottles of Jack Daniels wrapped in brown paper bags. They would sit on the back of a bench, watch couples form to slow-dance, and steal sips from their concealed spirits.

This tranquil state lasted until the dense popping from Heatwave’s Always and Forever; the last song, would dissipate. The DJ packed up his system to the laughter and excitement of everyone walking home.

Jams …were the place to be.

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