The Cool of Malcolm McLaren: Duck Rock

First of all, let it be known that Malcolm McLaren was an undeniable cultural genius.  Sure, he was a self-admitted pirate and a total anarchist, but his impact upon culture, and his ability to identify cool, before it was cool, was simply amazing.  From the Sex Pistols to Sex and Seditionaries to the glam rock of the New York Dolls, Malcolm McLaren did it all.  Which brings us to 1983 and the release of Duck Rock, the visionary’s first solo album.  The record’s distillation of Soweto, South Bronx and proto-electronica sounded like nothing on earth and everything on it at the same time.  The album, set as a fictional radio-show put the most diverse musical styles from around the world into the mix combining rap, merengue, electro funk, hillbilly and Soweto township music.  The idea of creating cut-up music and rhythms from records, and charismatically, charmingly rhyme-chanting over them was still very new.  You must remember, in 1983 rap and hip-hop were still barely more than rumors to most of the country.

Then there are the Duck Rock videos.  The debut, “Buffalo Gals,” was the first commercial music video to show breakdancing, graffiti and scratching on afternoon television and single-handedly kick started countless hip hop careers in Europe in the early 1980s.

“Buffalo Gals” was followed by “Double Dutch,” a genius blend of hip hop and (pirated) South African sounds.  He eventually got in trouble for it, but hey, as McLaren said, “Stealing things is a glorious occupation, particularly in the art world.”
Love it or hate it, revere him or resent him, McLaren and Duck Rock changed music and culture forever.  For more on the McLaren/hip hop phenomenon check out this great article at

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