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Being True School

Contributed by Jon Gore (frontman for Re-Education Camp). Their latest release, PsyOp’s Boombox, is available on iTunes. Watch their music video for “Lesson Four: Five Enemies” at the bottom of the page!

Re-Education Camp Logo
Re-Education Camp Logo

Something old, something new, something true… It’s a little strange being the only representative of a genre on a record label. In many ways, I feel surrounded by my contemporaries and friends, who are singer-songwriters, indie rock and folk artists. In other ways, it’s a bit of a “black sheep” identity to call myself the hip hop artist of Bad Apple Records. This is mostly because hip hop is definitely not recognized as well as the aforementioned genres as a respectable art form, or even “real music” at all. Luckily, I have not encountered this sentiment by anyone at Bad Apple. Maybe because we’re all misfits in our own way, hence the name of the label, right?

Instead of hostility or disgust, there’s been more of a cautious curiosity with what Zack and I bring with Re-Education Camp, and it’s understandable. As the most popular genre on the planet, hip hop takes a variety of forms and they aren’t always creative or well done. When someone tells me they “rap” or “do hip hop,” I’m cautiously curious, too. Sometimes I’m very pleasantly surprised and sometimes I’m horrified. It’s difficult to know who will represent the genre well, so let Doc clear up a few things to help you categorize some of the things you hear from me and others.

Since I began listening to rap music in the late 80s, there has been a discussion and almost tension between “old school” and “new school” groups. I started listening at the beginning of rap music’s Golden Era (spanning from 1987-1995 by many people’s opinions), so “old school” referenced the party-influenced, “throw ya hands in the air!” simple rhyme pattern, DJs mixing pieces from records (sometimes on the spot) style of music that preceded the Golden Era. “New school” was very sample-heavy, mostly drawing from James Brown, 70s soul and R&B, then p-funk and jazz as it moved into the 90s. The topics centered on more complex rhyme patterns (Rakim, Big Daddy Kane and Kool G Rap alone ran circles around the Sugar Hill Gang, Fantastic Five, and Run DMC), and the importance of cultural education and social movements (Public Enemy, Boogie Down Productions and X Clan were big time then).

Keep in mind that this was all before Wu Tang, Nas, Biggie, Pac, Eminem, Snoop & Dre and many of the other names people think of when I mention hip hop. To me, those names are still new school, which pretty much means I’m getting very, very old. Throw Kendrick Lamar or Joey Bada$$ in there, and I feel like I’m living in the distant future.

“Old School” and “New School” are relative terms to the time. “True School” means you get it.

So, old school and new school are merely relative terms depending on when you jump into the fold. Hendrix probably seems very old school to most, unless you’re a die-hard Berry fan. It runs into the same issues that many people have with calling Nirvana “classic rock.” It’s not important to label any music as old school or new school, because it’s a sliding scale that doesn’t really mean much. Instead, hip hop heads have been using the term “True School” as a way of distinguishing between artists who “get it” and those who don’t.

Some may disagree with some of my points below, but to me “True School” means that your music ties into the original hip hop movement, which started in the Bronx in the early 70s. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you sound like the music developed then, but that you have the same mentality. You recognize that the music was created from a blending of African, Caribbean, Latin- and South-American cultures, in addition to the new artistry that was brought into DJing, dancing and graffiti at the time, and you celebrate those elements. You know that the music has served as a mouthpiece for marginalized young people for decades (mostly urban Black and Puerto Rican to start, but now on a global scale). You know that the music has the power to correct misinformation, challenge the status quo, mobilize social justice movements, and showcase rhythmic virtuosity that no other music does as well. In short, your music demonstrates that your roots and love run deep.

When I entered into the Bad Apple family, I told Brandon that our music was true school hip hop and I stand by that statement 100%. This doesn’t mean that Zack and I are always successful in demonstrating that Re-Education Camp is a true school hip hop project, but we sure as hell are gonna try to make it that way.

Much love, y’all. Stay true to your art and to yourself.

Hear an interview with Jon and Zack from Re-Education Camp in the “Challenge the Echo” episode of The Bad Apple Records Podcast! Watch their music video for “Lesson Four: Five Enemies” from their PsyOp’s Boombox LP below…

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