The Fascinating Story of Def Jam’s First Rapper

From Grantland:

In 1995, the head-trauma wing at a nursing home in Bensonhurst began acquiring the lost memories of Def Jam’s first rapper. Terry Keaton, a new patient at Haym Salomon hospital, had emerged from a coma unaware that he was T La Rock. Or that T La Rock had a hit in 1984 called “It’s Yours.” All of this was news to Keaton, as it was to neurologists. What was known is that the history of T La Rock — and perhaps the time of his life — had been purged from Terry Keaton’s mind with a blunt instrument.

The assailant was never caught, and Keaton spent much of his rehab listening to “It’s Yours,” recollecting lines that the rest of the hip-hop world had been quoting for the past decade. Residents at Haym Salomon — many suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s — would trundle into Keaton’s room and learn that T La Rock once called himself a reason for a very nice day. (This is not hyperbole: He is really a nice guy.) Though “It’s Yours” wasn’t exactly targeting the Yiddish-speaking Russian-granny demographic, this Def Jam moment essentially became theirs: a new memory that required an additional memory for all that excess bass. Listening to an 808 drum machine certainly beat not recognizing your loved ones.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 37438 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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