Remember when rap was fun?
A little silly — and snot slicked — at times, even?
Perhaps this will help: “So, go up your nose with a finger or two / And pull out one or a crusty crew / Yo, don’t try to front like it’s so gloomy and gray / ‘Cause we all pick our boogers sometime every day.”
Take that, Baudelaire.
Yes, Biz Markie’s “Pickin’ Boogers,” which opened his 1988 debut “Goin’ Off,” remains capable of eliciting grins almost as wide as Markie’s near-omnipresent one.
Decades after its release, hip-hop has scaled new commercial and creative peaks, but from Kendrick Lamar’s thoughtfulness to J. Cole’s earnestness to Travis Scott’s loopiness, there’s not a ton of levity to go around.
And this is what makes “Hammer’s House Party Tour,” of which Biz is a part, such a welcome addition to the summer concert schedule.
A flashback to hip-hop’s golden “Yo! MTV Raps” era, the line-up revisits those days when the beats were big, the pants were bigger still and the smiles frequently outsized them all.
With the trek hitting town this week, let’s break down the bill:
Who: MC Hammer
Background: “Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em.”
On his blockbuster third LP, MC Hammer pummeled charts and egos alike, changing the course of hip-hop forever.
You could argue that it was all for the worse, that Hammer’s radio-friendly pop-rap represented a watering down of the genre.
And you’d be wrong.
Twenty-nine years after the fact, it’s easy to forget how rap was barely a blip in the music mainstream until this zeppelin came along.
The only other rap album to hit No. 1 before “Please” was the Beastie Boys’ “License to Ill.” That an art form born in the African-American community was taken to the top of the charts by a bunch of white dudes, great as they may have been, was lost on no one.
Granted, “Please” was not an especially artistically ambitious release and could aptly be described as a set of musical training wheels for hip-hop newcomers, safe and squeaky clean.
And of course, artists like LL Cool J, Run DMC, Public Enemy and, yeah, the Fat Boys, had notable success before Hammer’s emergence.
But it was like nothing on this scale: “Please” was the first rap album to reach diamond status with shipments of more than 10 million copies, and it remains one of the top-selling releases ever.
Nowadays hip-hop is the most popular form of music there is.
And all that started in earnest right here.
Guaranteed party starter: “Turn This Mutha Out.” Blaring his words as if he had a bullhorn for a larynx, Hammer called his shot on this pre-“Please” hit. “I’m improvin’ / Better start schoolin’ / Headed to the top where I’ll be rulin’ ” Yeah, soon enough.
Who: Sir Mix-A-Lot
Background: Yeah, we all know this Seattle rapper favors derrieres as massive as his hometown Space Needle, his “Baby Got Back” is hip-hop’s answer to Spinal Tap’s “Big Bottom” — and is just as winkingly ridiculous.
Rapping in a self-described “weird Smurf voice” on his platinum 1988 debut “Swass,” where he rhymed about his hatred for pet llamas while boasting of slapping Clint Eastwood’s momma on a truly bizarre hip-hop cover of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man,” Mix-A-Lot set an anything-goes tone from the beginning.
Whether he was waxing about buying your lady knock-off Louis Vuitton gear at the swap meet or the utilitarian value of certain baked goods — “Don’t make a difference what food you make / Use buttermilk biscuits to clean your plate” — Sir Mix-A-Lot tended to put the fun first.
Guaranteed party starter: “Posse on Broadway.” The self-professed J.R. Ewing of Seattle rounds up his crew and hits the town, collecting so many ladies that some have to ride on the trunk and on the hood — kind of like how we transport the kids to pre-school.
Who: Biz Markie
Background: With the jowls of a bulldog and what sounds like a spring-loaded tongue, Markie’s rhymes leap out of him like a triggered jack-in-the-box.
He’s like rap’s version of an offensive lineman: In the same way those massive football players’ superior athleticism is often underestimated because of their gargantuan size, “The Clown Prince of Hip-Hop” and his formidable mic skills can get short shrift because he doesn’t look the part thanks to his goofy, pull-my-finger demeanor and willingness to don powdered wigs in videos.
Speaking of which, you know him best for signature hit “Just a Friend,” whose chorus is delivered with the bellowed, atonal, heart-in-a-vice bray of a drunken karaoke in the immediate aftermath of a break-up. But no MC has ever written a greater ode to penning rhymes on the john than one Biz Markie on “T.S.R. (Toilet Stool Rap).” (“Whether I’m constipated or have diarrhea / I always come out with a funky fresh idea”).
Guaranteed party starter: “Vapors.” Start doing those neck exercises now; you’ll need the added muscle to support the five pounds of gold chains mandatory to this throwback banger.
Who: 2 Live Crew
Background: So many things are hard to reconcile about the ’80s in hindsight: talking cars and cat-eating puppets on prime time; hairdos treated like bank accounts — the bigger the better; the absolute hysteria that greeted 2 Live Crew’s third full-length, “As Nasty As They Wanna Be.”
It was the first album to ever officially be ruled obscene by a federal judge, making it illegal to sell in certain parts of 2 Live Crew’s native Florida for a time, with a trio of group members even getting arrested for performing some of it live in, where else, a sex club in their home state.
Sure, “Nasty” was pretty much a blue movie set to a beat.
But the fact that it contained samples from off-color comedic greats such as Rudy Ray Moore and Eddie Murphy, and also featured the Andrew Dice Clay-inspired “Dirty Nursery Rhymes” should have put this one in its proper context as an album of dirty limericks meant to be snickered at in locker rooms as opposed to litigated in courtrooms.
Guaranteed party starter: “Do The Bart.” “The dance of the ’90s” is, in fact, “not just a dance; it’s a state of mind.”
In other words, it’s just like transcendentalism — but with slightly more robust posteriors.