vəˈräɡō/: a woman of strength or spirit; a female warrior.

My first Five Minutes of Funk with Whodini

Breakin’ was one of those movies that my sister and I waited on. We wanted to see kids in clothes you couldn’t buy in a mall in Ohio, dancing in places that only existed in movies….as far as we knew. It was the first time that my sister saw a black guy fall in love with a white girl. And to her it meant the world outside of this town wouldn’t mind if she kissed her best friend. That same year, she was the first girl in my family to expose the rope that was hanging from our family tree. I’ve never loved her more.

So here we are in the front row of a small theater. My sister, her best friend-turned boyfriend, and me. I can still remember when Turbo started vibrating because I went off. I tried to “Turbo” in my seat, but I had to be all low key because I knew my sister would extradite my ass from the front row if I embarrassed her. My favorite song on the soundtrack, besides Chaka Khan’s ‘Ain’t Nobody,’ was Ice-T/Reckless. It felt like an ass kicking that you wanted again and again. The scratching was so insane in that song that it still makes me hyper. We had the soundtrack on vinyl, so it was easy just to pick the needle up and move it back to the sounds of screeching tires and car crashes as Ice-T drags a diamond across poly ditches . When I think about it now, it sounds like he is grinding a nail into a metal pipe. The soundtrack to Breakin’ is a fusion of soul, funk, eighties hand clapping, and synthesizers. Thanks to Ice-T, we also get a small glimpse of the rawness to come.

After Breakin, my sister and I are hooked on rap so we decide to take Columbia House Record and Tape Club up on their offer to rip their asses off and order thirteen cassettes for a penny. Four to six weeks later, my sister intercepts the mail and we throw the box on the floor and cut through the wrap. The only cassette case that is orange is Whodini’s. I grab it and bust the window out of my dad’s stereo with a brick from Brooklyn. We are two white girls in a house that has only heard Elvis and Hank Williams for the last ten years. I’m sure the speakers were waiting for us to remind them that they were speakers. The minute we put the tape in it feels like our cool cousin from New York is visiting and he’s like, ”Listen to this shit! It’s gonna blow your fucking mind.”

The first song is “Five Minutes of Funk,” and to quote ZZ Top…”Five Minutes of Funk has a hook that you can bench press Milwaukee with” (thanks P.Downes), My parents had just gotten new linoleum for the kitchen so I tried my first back spin. All of a sudden I wasn’t in suburbia anymore, I was standing in the middle of Brooklyn and whatever soul I didn’t know I had, I found after hearing Five Minutes of Funk for the first time. “Freaks Come out at Night” is the second song on the album and my first chance at trying to pop and lock and wave. The song has one of those beats that makes it possible to dance without moving your feet. Basically this song was made for doing the robot. And I can still remember the moment I heard “Big Mouth” because the line ”The day your mouth writes a check your behind can’t cash” made me go “WHAT!?”  because you can hear the beginning of a new era not only in rap but in music in general. I mean ‘Escape’ broke ground by not only being one of the first rap albums to use a synclavier system (which was basically the swiss army knife of synthesizers), but because it took everything that we knew about music and said…”You ain’t seen shit yet!” To me ‘Escape’ sounds like James Brown meets 2001 a Space Odyssey and I wish like hell that I could step into a tardis and go back to the future of rap.

About Ara Harris

Ara Harris

Music junkie, Atari 2600 bringer backer, word maker upper, loves to photograph and write about suburban decay. Ara grew up on a corner lot in small town Ohio. She began escaping the micro minds of the Midwest by listening to music, watching b films, and touring the cities in her mind. She wrote poetry on the back of algebra tests and asked Lou Reed to take her to prom. Two decades later she self published a full collection of poetry that one reader described as “a Tom Verlaine riff in every synapse”. She believes that we all have a gift, we just have to find it.

%d bloggers like this: