Sample Sunday: I Can’t Stand the Rain: Of Black Women’s Innovation in Afrofuturism and Music


Song: I Can’t Stand the Rain
Artist: Ann Peebles
Album: I Can’t Stand the Rain
Released: 1974, Hi Records
Writers: Ann Peebles, Don Bryant, Bernard “Bernie” Miller
Sampled By: Missy Elliott, Supa Dupa Fly (The Rain), Supa Dupa Fly, 1997. The Goldmind/Elektra.

I: Do you remember how it used to be?

Ann Peebles’ single, I Can’t Stand the Rain begins with an electronic timbale beating out the rhythm of rain drops as Peebles’ soothing voice rolls in like a soft thunder storm; a melancholic and Afrofuturistic rainy day. It is a thick and funky tune that carries elements of pure southern soul and an emerging use of technology in music. 1974 was a year that, aside from a socio-politically ripe environment, saw great movement in the exploration of technology and this translated to music.  There arose space-aged musical exploration in the likes of Parliament-Funkadelic, Bootsy Collins and Sly and The Family Stone.

Artists like these were  children of the Jim Crow Era, an important time in the evolution of black music in the United States. They created music that explained the black experience in another dimension; envisioning and creating an environment where black self-expression was fully autonomous of white supremacist ideals, but not completely unaffected by such an environment. This is the birth of  musical Afrofuturism, before the movement had a name. Musicians of this era created not just music but a lifestyle of otherworlds and dimensions; a true mothership connection. What were artists to do but create an otherworld, when racial tension, the Vietnam War and economic disparities plagued so many black communities? Black people were living a strange experience and this experience is heard in the music created.

What was not lost in this new sound was the topic of love. As sonically influential as funk and soul are, they were not above being crafted around love. Love is independent of any socio-political occurrence. People fall in love in the middle of trauma and find its light in the darkest corners. Even as Ann Peebles experimented with this new emerging sound, she stayed true to her Memphis soul roots and a good ole love song about lost love and sweet memories. No matter what dimension, this sentiment is relatable to everyone.

II: It be me, me, me and Timothy:

Fast forward twenty-three years, on May 20, 1997 Missy Elliott released The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)  and a month later the world was gifted with one of the most visually stimulating and innovative music videos. Musically, 1997 witnessed a new sound rising from the ashes of a post Tupac and Biggie hip hop. Many black artists began tapping into methods of self expression that went way beyond the artistic box reserved for black musicians. This is the same year we are introduced to Erykah Badu, Busta Rhymes enjoys a breakout year with When Disaster Strikes, and OutKast were one year nestled into ATLien exploration. So it is here that we see a rise in trend of an ‘otherness’ in music; a lot of that can be attributed to Missy Elliott and Timbaland.  Together, they created a sound that was not of this world and was something hip hop had not yet seen. It is an electronically charged sound that blends traditional and innovate rhythms of black music.

Far from the super sexualized personas of her contemporaries, Missy’s undeniable creativity kept her from becoming a slave to her sexuality, as women in hip hop are often forced to do. Missy Elliott’s creative genius and self expression  expanded way beyond the parameters of the box many black artists are placed in, measured by pressure from labels and socio-cultural expectations.   The song and video showcased Missy’s ability to take complete control of her vision, sexuality and lyricism. Together, Missy and Hype Williams crafted a fish-eyed view of the exploration of Afrofuturism in the 90s. Through I Can’t Stand the Rain (Supa Dupa Fly), 

III: Bringing back sweet memories

It is telling and important that Missy Elliott chose I Can’t Stand the Rain as a sample. Missy Elliott’s generation is the children of Ann Peebles’. The music was the soundtrack of their childhood and when mixed with the sounds created of new black experiences, there came the sound we know to be Missy Elliott. Sitting on top of hills like Lauryn in trash bags and sun glasses. Ann Peebles laid the groundwork for musical experimentation, particularly for black women, who do not often receive honor for their musical innovation. Following the idea of blending past and future in the present, Missy Elliott invoked the creativity of Ann Peebles’ to inspire her own. In turn, both women have become a part in the musical archiving of the movements  and growth of Afrofuturism in music.


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