Young Black Teenagers: Ahead of Their Time?

Tampa, Florida, June, 1991. It was my first real vacation without the parents when Jeff and Patti allowed me to pick a friend (I chose Doug Jackson) and fly down for a week with Uncle Bruce and Aunt Pam. The usual Florida tourist sites were seen, Disney, Universal, Clearwater Beach, Hooters...but by that time in my life I was more interested in finagling my older cousins into taking us to a concert. Like a sign from God himself, that week Tampa was hosting one of the most bewildering package tours of the decade. Imagine my surprise when Michelle and Sean were obliged to chaperon my friend and I to see the Sisters of Mercy/Public Enemy/Gang of Four/Warrior Soul, in a multi-cultural, genre-bending, precursor to Lollapalooza (more on this show in an upcoming edition of WTF). First on the bill though were Young Black Teenagers, a hip-hop quintet from the Bronx clothed in matching army fatigues. They were neither young, black, nor teenagers.

Despite being lambasted by their peers, virtually excommunicated from hip-hop, and generally regarded as novelty simply for their name, Young Black Teenagers had plenty of talent to go round and a PE connection that should have made them household names on par with 3rd Bass. They were the first act signed to Hank Shocklee's Soul for Urban Listeners label and their Bomb Squad produced self-titled album is brimming with the same cathartic edits and air-raid samples that made Fear of a Black Planet such an apocalyptic good time. Bad business deals, bad press, and bad blood with their benefactors (don't fuck with the gift horse) led them down a quick path to the cut-outs. They did score a minor-hit with "Tap the Bottle" (well known for sampling "Tom Sawyer" without Rush's permission) and DJ Skribble went on to become MTV's resident turntable jockey (remember The Grind? me either).

Listening over this record for the first time in many years, I'm actually shocked at how socially conscious and politically adept the group's lyrics were. Of course the themes are dated (reminiscent of the Goats topical jeep jams), but it's easy to conclude that YBT's Achilles heel was that they were far ahead of the game. I'm not quite sure that Eminem could get away with "Daddy Called Me A Nigga' Caused I Like to Rhyme" in the new millennium without the Rainbow Coalition kicking in his door.

(Editor's Note: Trying something new. So you'll have to quickly create an Imeem account to hear the songs I'll be posting. It's well worth your time though.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

so i am bored at magnolia and decide to google young black teenagers.
world of wumme comes up.