What can I say about this tune? That it’s been my theme song for the last month? That it’s one of the best drum & bass-infused tracks I’ve heard in a long time? Or that the video communicates not only the knowledge of the roots of Drum & Bass (namely Hip Hop), but also speaks to an even deeper understanding of why hip hop was created, as a way for urban youth to rise up out of the streets through dedication of mind and body.
“Not Giving In” features a 10 year old breakdancing prodigy from Manilla, where the video is shot. This guy, whoever he is, is going to have a long and sick-ass career busting moves, getting paid to run around LA and generally being a ridiculous b-boy. The video traces the story of him and his older brother, who wanders into the world of gangs, drugs and violence on the streets of the Filipino capital city. I usually don’t have a lot of faith that music videos and the songs they’re shot to go with have anything to do with each other, especially these days. And when it is done, it’s portrayed as some epic “story-song” narrative that’s disrupting the music world by existing.
The vocal work, superbly done by Alex Clare (of “Too Close” fame, the song that you get hit with every time you see an ad for Internet Explorer), helps to accentuate the soulful feel of the track and gives it this bluesy tone that you couldn’t get with an MC or an airy female vocal sample. This allows the tune to have an emotional yet clearly masculine feel, something almost mandatory for the heavier bass that you get from UK D&B, but seemingly rare these days. The track also manages to pull away from the bass every once and a while, sprinkling a few pop elements into the breakdowns, the lyrics and the lightest whiff of a dubstep rhythm right before 3min in, which gives it replayability and some much-needed variety.
I wanted to close by taking the time to appreciate how long it has been since I have seen an artist pay tribute to the 4 pillars of hip hop in such a classy, modern way. Showing the clear difference in a life that comes by following one of the 4 pillars vs. a life on the streets, studying at the School of Hard Knocks. Breakdancing, Graffiti, MCing & Turntablism were all ways for the urban poor in America in the late 70’s & (more importantly) the 80’s to fight the lure of crack cocaine, gun violence and gang membership. The focus on one’s art/skill/career helped tens of thousands of African American young bucks to keep themselves focused and escape the cycle of violence. This original purpose of hip hop has been lost as of late with the Puffy-birthed & Lil’ Jon-amplified focus on guns, bitches and bling. Perhaps this video is the first in a volley of reminders as to why Hip Hop exists and why underground music was created. Not just to make money or to sell records, but to keep your spirits up while surviving on the mean urban streets of the world.
This is Terry Gotham, see you on the dance floor.