Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor, 1980-1983
Tim Lawrence is Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of East London and the author of
Stripped-Down and Scrambled Sounds
The city’s band scene continued to dip during 1983, with Michael Zilkha and ZE Records dragged into the slump. As the cutting edge of sound shifted from irreverent bands to conceptual producer-musician-DJ outfits, Arthur Baker, John Robie, and Afrika Bambaataa consolidated their pivotal position when they teamed up with the Soulsonic Force to record “Looking for the Perfect Beat” and “Renegades of Funk.” The breakthrough of Run-DMC’s debut “It’s Like That” and “Sucker m.c.’s.” suggested that rap was about to shift into a harder, more aggressive aesthetic. Relations between Flash and Robinson broke down entirely during the release of Melle Mel’s “White Lines (Don’t Do It)” and a second conflict opened when Ed Bahlman asked Robinson to pay for her use of the Liquid Liquid bass line in “White Lines.” Steve “Steinski” Stein and Doug “Double Dee” DiFranco took rap into a more playful and cerebral direction with their cutup mix of globe & Whiz Kid’s “Play That Beat Mr. d.j.” Records such as Visual’s “The Music Got Me” charged New York City’s dance floors but the Peech Boys’ debut album disappointed many, and overall the impression was that the music had slipped past its peak.
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