Yes, I know you may be saying to yourself “Why is he posting Brand New Funk?” everyone identifies this album with the monster hit “Parents Just Don’t Understand”. Yeah, I know. That’s part of what I want to address in this post. “Parents Just Don’t Understand” was massive. Of note “Parents” won the first Grammy for Best Rap Performance. The Grammy Awards that the Hip Hop Nation chose to boycott in early ’89. “Parents” for me was like another monster record in ’88 you know that record that Chuck D. said if you sing it around him you might get smacked? Let me just cut to the chase…

Just like I was grooving to Bobby McFerrin long before “Don’t Worry Be Happy”, I felt a similar kinship with DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince and when the floodgates opened and the monster success happened(read: crossover) I was working to process it and to be quite honest “Parents Just Don’t Understand” was an easy target because it wasn’t hard. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, there was a time where this self-professed “Love Man” really embraced the mantra “If it ain’t rough it ain’t me”. Sure there were exceptions but I liked my Rap Music (that’s what some of us old people called the music back in the day) with that edge. You must understand that at the beginning of ’88 I was under the sway of Public Enemy, Eric B & Rakim, BDP, Stetsa, LL, Kane, a new crew coming through named EPMD, Biz and on and on. Not that all the artists that I mentioned were all grit all the time, especially Biz, but the beats would bang and the music wasn’t something easily packaged for Middle America. It wasn’t that my love for DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince waned it was just that honestly I hated that damn song and I was often the odd man out because so many of my friends loved it. I guess that’s when I began to embrace my burgeoning music snobbery.

But “Brand New Funk”? Oh yeah. Hell yeah. “You shoulda seen the people dancing and shaking and moving…” the entire song was committed to memory. Get down. That’s what I wanted to hear. It had that edge, that touch of the street. Now please believe you me I get it. No, I really get it. No “Parents Just Don’t Understand” no “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and I believe that young Will Smith gent appeared in a few other projects after that. The record was fun and I like fun but I don’t know it was just something and I really believe that something was the commercial success. I think what it was hearing the music emanate from places I didn’t expect and then saying to myself “Where were you all a year ago when Rock The House was doing its thing?”. When they re-released “Girls Of The World” buoyed by the success of He’s THe DJ, I’m The Rapper it drove me nuts. That was a real eye-roll moment.

Now after doing all that venting that I’ve been holding on to for thirty years I will say that I was and am proud to be a part of the generation that this record emanates from. “Parents” aside I was really invested in Jeff and Will’s success from really being a fan of their music and what they represented. Hell, what they still represent. Shouts to West Philly first off. These guys (like many of our heroes of the era) dressed like us and carried themselves in a way that many of us could latch on to. It was bigger than the music. Certified triple platinum music that is… gotta salute it.

Like any fan, you ride or die but you may not always agree. But let’s be clear. This is a time to celebrate 30 years of a landmark album so I just felt the need to write about it today and share some thoughts that really had not crossed my mind in decades. It feels good, like really good to transport back to that time for just a minute or so. No, we may not have gotten everything right back then, but we certainly weren’t wrong about everything either. This record and group were right on time and oh what a time it was!

Ivan Orr is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, performer, and writer. A native of Charlottesville, Virginia Ivan was involved with the forming and nascent days of The Music Resource Center as its first Program Director. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Music, Ivan currently resides in Richmond, VA where he maintains an active performance and production schedule while serving as the Music Editor for Grown Folks Music, a position he has held since 2010.