“I think it’s important to recognise that hip-hop has a historical and cultural status that’s undeniable, unavoidable, and as big and as strong as any other genre of music. The Beatnuts are as important an influence on my life as The Beach Boys.” Green Gartside
Back in the late ’80s, I clocked a video for Scritti Politti’s ‘Wood Beez’ and promptly decided that Green Gartside was the man. This wasn’t the UK promo, with some hideously dated expressive dancing from punk rock types (the tribute to Tommie Smith and John Carlos’s black power salutes was fresh though) that was Jarman-lite, but a slightly more acceptable, but still dated US-promo. I can’t recall whether it was to tie-in with a 1988 re-release to give the follow-up LP, ‘Provision’ a push.
The track name seemed clever, and the lyrics, depicted onscreen seemed to have a little more gravitas than any Pete Waterman produced tosh. Importantly, the production seemed so genuinely funky. Not just funky for some blue eyed soul wannabe whiteboy, but genuinely so, with a synthesised sheen that was nicely at odds with Green’s expressive vocal range. I was sold on Scritti. Beyond that song title, I sussed the clever integration of structuralist theories and linguistics within the heart-on-sleeve pop sensibilities a lot later.
To shift from residing in a Camden squat making music to sit alongside the work of post-punkers like Pere Ubu to taking early morning phone calls from Miles Davis fishing for ideas is an incredible evolution. And that’s just their first decade. To have worked with Miles, Robert Wyatt, Roger Troutman and Mos Def is proof of a deeply respected and continually shapeshifting vision that’s reflected in Green’s choice of outfits too.