Friday, January 13, 2006

A Brief Friday Rant about Hip Hop

Unfortunately, for the past few years my favorite two words in my vocabulary have been the words "fuck" and "you", but I am trying to desperately expand my vocab and not be so abrasive. Like the other day when this gentleman that I know said that "Rakim was overrated", I wanted to put my two favorite words into action or just kick him in the chest, something subtle like that, but I took a deep breath and calmly debated him on his particular opinion. I felt I was making progress. Or the other day when an ex, and ex who just moved back from California and lives a street behind me now, came to my house unexpectedly saying how she wanted me back. I wanted to spray her with my water hose like one does when they catch two dogs fucking in their rose bushes, all the while saying my two favorite words in her direction. I mean, she did fuck two of my friends by the way, but I took a deep breath and articulately explained why we could never be together again. So the other day I felt good about my new found civility, I felt that I was making a change for the better, that was until I had a brief conversation with a younger Hip Hop fan.

As we discussed the wonderful world of two turntables and a microphone, I went on about the plethora of problems that I have with the art-form in its current state, in which he said "You old guys are always complaining about Hip Hop, like how your favorite artist fit in with the times, the new artists are just doing the same thing. You can't deal with the changing trends." I quickly started to get mad, but tried to desperately calm myself down, from doing breathing exercises to thinking about me peacefully running through the hills "Sound of Music" style. Nothing worked, I was pissed, so I stood in my best B-boy stance, smirked and said, "Fuuuck yoooou!!"

I'll tell you why I was pissed, because not only is that logic lazy and basically apologizing for the current state of Hip Hop, it is basically devoid of any rational thought imaginable. Let me explain. I know the old argument where one says, "Your grandparents didn't like your parents music, you parents didn't like your music", the whole "sign of the times" argument. The problem with that, in my honest opinion, is that Hip Hop doesn't follow along those same guidelines because the art form was founded on LYRICAL SKILL. As an MC you always had to not only have a fluid flow and a voice to match, you had to construct a solid 16 bars of lyricism that blew people away. I said this somewhere else before, but Hip Hop is like basketball. See, Kobe Bryant and Julius Erving, even though they come from two different era's, can sit together at a basketball game and pretty much agree on which players have skill and who doesn't. Having skills never changes, just like having a great lay-up or performing a precise jump-shot hasn't changed since Dr. James Naismith invented basketball in 1891, its the same way, spitting absolute flames and earning the title of MC hasn't changed since 1973.

So please, please, don't insult my intelligence by treating the horrible trend of bad hip hop in the same way one would categorize fads of the past like bell-bottom jeans or the motherfucking pet rock. So it is in my right to say that Lil flip sucks more than a prostitute with OCD, that when listening to "Dem Franchise Boyz" that I realize that I have heard more satisfying bowel movements, that I feel that Nelly sold his soul to the devil based on having so much success based on marginal talent, that platinum "grills" is the new blackface, that those guys who do that "Laffy Taffy" song have turned Hip Hop into a sort of "Special Olympics". Telling me to "stop complaining" about something that I have such high standards for is like being told to stop complaining about a local High School in your area with below average test scores and a low graduation rate, homelessness, high crime rates, just pick a goddamned epidemic. Or having a daughter who has a nasty cooked cocaine habit and being told, "Relax, she's just going through a crackhead phase..." What the fuck is that??


Reese The Law Girl said...

Oooh, I must be the most bored person at work today as I'm first to comment.

First of all, I agree with you 100%. But, maybe the children's standards are different than ours. Like, maybe they have none?

I like your b-ball analogy, but b-ball is a little different because you can always measure if a team (and a particular member of a team) is playing well by looking at the scoreboard (or the stat sheet). But, hip-hop, or music in general is a completely different story.

I am starting to believe that with a new generation, they're idea of what good is (style, flow, lyrics, etc.) is changing. Too, what? I have no idea. But...ahem...don't yell at me...maybe it's just a sign of the times?

You know, like Armageddon?


Dawud said...

Here is the problem with many of the younger generation when it comes to a discussion of "Hip-Hop"
they think it is just the music.
80% not only cannot name all four elements but don't even realize that "hip-hop" is a culture that incorprates not only music but art, dancing, and technical skills.
Thing is when you got in a B-Boy stance and said "fuck-you" the kid probably didn't know where the word "B-Boy" came from and the purpose for the stance..


Miz JJ said...

I can appreciate older hip hop and the stuff that's on the radio now. Lyrically most of the stuff now is crap, but sometimes when you dig you can find a gem.

G. Cornelius Harris said...

What you have to do is understand the difference between Hip Hop and Club Music...Everything that is played on main stream is mostly club music...What do you do with club music? Shake ya azz! That is why Southern Rap is big in the clubs now...Its feel good music...Hell I heard a Three 6 track in a NY club...Most of it is bs but its apart of the scene now...But today everybody is commercial...Even the so called underground cats...Its a handful of cats in the game that havent sold their soul...I hope Little Brother isnt the next to sell out...I'll keep you posted

Girl With An Alibi said...

"that platinum "grills" is the new blackface"

I realize that this statement was not the focus of your rant, but I wholeheartedly and loudly agree! AMEN!!

Me said...

What an incredibly hot picture of my husband... thank you for that.

justacoolcat said...

I think there was a major change in Hip-Hop when people stopped rapping about what they were living and started rapping about what they've never experienced.

A great painter that paints deserts has been to a desert.

Where A new face with platinum teeth and bling rented for their latest video rapping about guns and living on the street that actually grew up in the burbs just can't make a connection with anyone aside from an angst ridden teen.

Crackpot Press said...

Ya know... I know this wrong but I really think you should have hosed her down. One friend.. maybe forgivable.. two.. pushing your luck. You definitely could have gotten away with it with a water pistol or balloon.

The "fuck you" part isn't really necessary.

mai said...

*standing ovation*

this post is why, in some alternate universe somewhere, i think we must be happily married, throat-choppin'perpetrators left and right.


Dynamite Soul said...

I think that Hip-Hop is suffering from cracklash. I think the increase of drug- and alcohol abuse in our communities in the early 80's, has taken it's toll on our young.

It may be insensitive, but it is definitely a contributing factor.

I think with all music, there is no problem with being experimental, but by all means, show respect toward the culture.

It is also a regional issue, I grew up in ATL, but I had a "Godfather"(R.I.P) who just so happened to be a DJ. I got my first mix tape with "You Be Illin" on it... I could hear hip hop on the radio when I was very young, but by middle school, "Yo! MTV Raps" was what kept me abreast of MOST hip hop music. I had to wait until Fridays for a real hip-hop mix, and in later years Little John introduced Atlanta to dance-hall on Saturdays. GA States WRAS 88.5 became the ultimate underground hip-hop music resource, but show ran Sundays 10pm-2pm. You really had to love hip hop hard in order to record over all of your parents Kenny G tapes late at night, knowing your ass had to wake up in 4 hours and get ready for school.

So I don't know about other places, but in ATL, you had to be as hard core as I was in order to have a serious appreciation and knowledge of Hip-Hop as a culture. This was booty-shake central down here.

childofthesun said...

Mad, mad applause.

Clifton said...

As a 31 year old fan, I have to say that the only reason I can't get with most of the new material is the skill of the MC's. When I first heard the Laffy Taffy Song, I said to myself "this brother not even rapping". The reason why the music can be easily exploited is because we accept substandard songs like Laffy Taffy under the umbrella. It's hard to reject anything when you do that.

zuberi02 said...

You know to be honest i really wish i could disagree with you but hip-hop is pretty crap right now. Yes we are moving major units and have pushed rock music off the charts but what do we have to show for it? Where is the money actually going? I have a feeling mostly to white record execs. Doubt very much a lot of these artists are getting their due.

Before there was such a wide variety of hip-hop. You want gangsta stuff see NWA, Geto Boys. A little more knowledge orientated...maybe some Ice T. Political stuff-Public Enemy, BDP, X-Clan...etc. Flashy and sometimes political...hmmmm...Big Daddy Kane.

I was reading Chuck D's website a few years ago and he said he tried to talk to 50 cent to advise him a little bit...maybe drop a little knowledge in there amongst the gangsta 50 just gave him a blank look.

50 cent blew up and then travelled to australia. Hes rapping in front of the audience and getting them to say nigger like a sing along. Believe me white aussies dont need any more help being racist. My friend had an australian uncle that made a joke about shooting 'abos' at the dinner table. Everyone just looked at what. Hes like no we do actually go around and shoot them for fun. When i hear the word nigger in a record now i substitute it with king, prince, zulu something else...and if i rap at a party a tune with the word nigger in it...ill change it up to something else. coz none of us are niggers...we're kings and queens...the chosen few.

HighMaintenanceHussy said...

You make many intelligent points, HC. In fact, I just had this very conversation with another music enthusiast about rock. Sadly, it's not just rap that has taken a turn for the worse.

obifromsouthlondon said...

you know you cant argue with certain types. they be knowing thats why them girls be letting their panty line showing. or more appropriately niggaz know the ledge but still jump like Geronimo.

an overated fuck you to the non-believers.

phoenix rising said...

now that i have picked myself up off the floor... (laffy taffy + special olympics = seizure like convulsions of laughter) i wholeheartedly agree.

sweetlime said...

i agree with g. cornelius harris, hip hop and club music are two different categories. the shake your ass music you hear coming from the south lately is due to the fact that most of the music was originally made for strippers to dance and played in literally "shake your ass" clubs.

here in the south most people get put onto the rap game by giving shake your ass songs to local dj at strip clubs and it blows up from there. sex, drugs and music go hand and hand and right now sex sells.

Garrett said...

I'm BACK! That is if you can remember me HC. Remember the 15 yr old kid Garrett you would once in a while email with who knew about hip hop just as much as someone at the age of 32. This post is incredible, and basically goes on about what I try to tell kids these days. All of these people are right, kids in my time don't know what Hip Hop is or even was. All they care about is some shit they can dance to. I have a new blog, and everyone here should give it a look it's called My blog is similiar to HC's but I really just talk about Hip Hop, no life stories involved.

What's also said too, is that I could put basically any commercial rapper against some random h.s. school from BX or something and they were get their ass whooped. Which is why there's no talent in mainstream rap, don't call me a backpacker but I don't call hip hop and rap the same. Hip Hop has talent, can be any style of hip hop just has to have lyrical talent. While on the other "rap" is all about money, cars, bitches and talent that a 3rd grader possesses. Keep up the great work.

K said...

a to the mizzen, lol. it's crazy how younger folks don't have the first clue. but we need to step up and show them what to look for.

and um, that is my favorite phrase, also. so don't feel bad.

Accomplice said...

that was funny, but i think you were really serious, so let me clear my throat.
I do agree that most of today's rap is very stupid at best, but it is all about the world we live in now. how many song can you make off one beat? i am in between "thinking of a masterplan" and "grills", but the only thing i wonder is when we get in our 50's are we going to have to reminsce to laffy taffy, what are your grandkids gonna think?

I am Jack said...

Yeah, the "sign of th times" argument is indeed crap, I agree. It's based on skill, so a person can't just say "it is the era we live in" because of that fact. Great post, funny and serious at the same time.

Breez said...

I've got to agree with Dawud. For us, hip-hop is a culture. We grew and evolved with it. A lot of these kids just see it as party music or something to blast from their POS cars with the spinning rims. They equate a hot beat to hot music. What's upsetting is that many of the people that should know better, people who were there from the inception, are accepting the crap out here.

I can relate to Dynamite Soul too. Coming up in the south, I really had to dig to hold on to hip hop.

I look at it like this, if you came up on VSOP, nothing less is acceptable. If you came up on piss water, Riunite isn't so bad.

lizard said...

It's so hard to compare anything with its pioneers -- the things happening today, vs. the very *reasons* they are happening at all -- the grounbreaking work that made Hip Hop this major genre in musical history.

Personally I believe that the recording industry has had a terrible influence on all music of late -- supporting formulaic, uninspired, lowest-common-denominator stuff while truly original, new, groundbreaking artists can't get a break. When it's all corporatized, risk-managed, focus-grouped -- soulless -- it's so hard to find art in any of it.

I'd like to believe the backlash will eventually make a difference, and the corporations running the music biz will back off being so corporate and focus back on the reason they came to exist in the first place -- the art and magic that started it all.

Hey, I'm a dreamer, what can I say?

nosthegametoo said...

I can't tell you how many times I've had the same conversation about Hip-Hop. Not long ago, I was volunteering with some young kids who were Rap music fans. They asked me questions like: "who do you think is better, Lil' Wayne or 50 Cent?" But then again, when I talked to them about A Tribe Called Quest, they laughed at me and said, "who is that?"

Guess I'm getting old. But I share your sentiment.

AbROCK said...

As a musician(MC) myself I have to agree 100% with what you are saying. sometimes I liken what we do to the samurai or ronins of 14th century japan. Like the last mohican seeing a diminishing worth for everything he holds valuable.

blackcaesar said...

i agree with everything you said except the relationship between hip hop and jewelry. jewelry is not the new blackface. being bobby brown and flavor of love is the new blackface.

**RPM** said...

Rakim???? Overrated?

Someone somewhere needs slapping.

Amadeo said...

Everytime I listen to old school Hip-Hop (Grandmaster Flash et. al., Sugar Hill Gang) I realized that current day emcees have regressed save for the fact that they are now devoid of content...remember the mid 90's when emcees made you break out a thesaurus?

Dynamite Soul said...

lol @ thesaurus because you are exactly right, only you left out the dictionary and the library card!

I was encouraged to learn even more about my history and literature, and I learned more about the motherland(A.F.R.I.C.A., Angola, Soweto, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Zambia, Mozambique, and Botswana, so let us speak about the Motherland.

Brother OMi said...

zgztmy solution:
take all the wack artists and put them on an island and drop a nuke on 'em...

just buggin'

you know how i feel about it

August said...

Critic, you are on it! You are the only reason I still belive in blogging. I argue the same thing about hip hop. The kids are stuck on stupid and it permeates every aspect of their low social standards.

"that platinum 'grills' is the new blackface"

INDEED! And to be completely honest, BET is the # Minstrel Show in the nation. We have jumped back on the Vaudville circuit with a vengeance, shucking and jiving WITHOUT EVEN KNOWING IT. As I've said before on my favorite forum (dafirm) the "Jigaboo Factor" of today's music (and overall entertainment) MAKES ME SICK.

jameil1922 said...

platinum teeth are so irritating. every stupid person w/too much money has to have a pair now? my friend teaches 11th grade english in baltimore. these fuckers can't read but have gold teeth. you can barely talk and feed your children (most of them have them) but you have gold teeth?! there would be none in my class. i mean damn she is an english teacher. its pretty hard to talk with that ish. larry foote (random steeler) did an interview w/them in. an INTERVIEW w/a white man to be shown in mostly white pittsburgh. if i were the producer, i would've cut his ass from the show.

laffy taffy special olympics lololol. oh the hilarity!

Anonymous said...

"I wanted to...just kick him in the chest"

what, and no throat-chop??

the only black girl in wicker park said...

the thing is, we live in a society of sex. and music is no exception. were people shakin their asses to mc lyte's "cha cha cha" back in the day? nah. hardly. (maybe ll's "jinglin baby", i give you that.) it used to be that beats were made for breakin. now they're made for dry humpin and heavy petting.

and we all know that sex sells. couple that with the fact that music is now a business of making money and not a preservation of integrity. so now, you got a sure fire money maker.

five years ago, i woulda mentioned something about lyrical prowess and general dopeness that seperates hip hop from that rap ish. but now, its just about sex.