It's always a fun game to play, of trying to push the timeline backwards, to "This was the beginning of Rock and Roll" by playing a 1939 Benny Goodman swing record and listing reasons why this was not merely a minor influence, a brook up near the source of the river that became rock farther* down, but an actual river of its own. What were the philosophical foundations of the American Revolution? The Glorious Revolution of 1688? Too easy. The Mayflower Compact? Pshaw, it's been done. "My paper is going to be on tracing it back to the Elder Edda. Top that." The beginning of the Renaissance? Let me take it to double-entry bookkeeping, or Venetian mirrors and people being able to see themselves as individuals clearly in 1275. Whee, dogie! The trick is to go beyond what is ever going to be accepted a a legitimate answer but point out a few overlooked things to get people thinking. And make you look smart. As here. What the hell do I know about early Hip-Hop? And yet...
Listen to the Hi-Hat rhythm, very much verging into the mechanical, techno, and especially drum machine backing that fueled urban hip-hop. The bass line is not complicated, but a form of percussion. The lyrics are spoken, but not just one of those recited stories from earlier genres. It is with the subtlety of a person who knows music (Isaac Hayes was a studio musician). Not much rhyme and no internal rhyme, which would make my case stronger, I admit. It is unashamedly, even aggressively black in its appeal, not "trying to fit in," but more "No, you fit in with us, thank you very much."
Yet already there is more Alvin Ailey in this 1971 Academy Awards performance: more black than black version. And yes, there are still predominantly white dancers acting black, in contrast to hip-hop's "maybe you'll see a white person from time-to-time," but to the retrospective eye, you can already hear the words "last throes." If you protest that "Shaft" was the beginning of Blaxploitation and should be resolutely ignored I will see your point but reject it. It was a necessary cultural step along the way at that stage and it made good money for some to boot. Much of the black popular entertainment for what, fifteen years? - until Spike Lee's "She's Gotta Have It" did not rise far above that until Hip-Hop - much hated but undeniably new and independent - came in.
My knowledge of popular culture peaked mid-1971 when I entered the Williamsburg Bubble and received only curated versions, and declined rapidly thereafter, but I did know some things, especially about music and (ahem) significant movies, which seldom actually were, and underground comics and other humor. It was not only the year that Isaac went from studio and songwriting ("Soul Man," "Hold On" for Sam & Dave) to successful solo hits, but also for Carole King (who wrote everything in the 1960s that Neil Sedaka didn't) and "Tapestry." The recording world seemed to switch overnight from focus on singles to focus on albums. There were early versions of that - it was one of the things that set the Beatles apart while even the Rolling Stones were still focused on chart singles (1971 was sort of the year for the Stones shift as well) - but mostly, you only bought the album if you liked the Top Forty single and didn't expect - or desire - any thread or continuity among the songs. The gradual increase in available money for young people hit the crossover point where no one owned "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," but lots of people bought "Four Way Street." I cannot recall ever seeing a single from The Who, but "Who's Next" played nonstop in my dorm freshman year.
By 1977 - I was already gone. I was married, and by 1978 even my 8 y/o foster daughter knew the jukebox better than I did when we went out for pizza. (Including, unfortunately, all the lyrics to "Paradise By The Dashboard Light.") Sad, as Donald Trump would say.
But prove me wrong.
*Is there a subtle preference in English for farther down but further up? Farther out but further in? It seems so to me at first glance, but these things do not always prove out. The two words are synonyms, yet not quite. And my impressions are going to be generational, with stronger-than-average British and literary biases.