This commentary was inspired by a conversation that I had with a teenager about rap on Thanksgiving. I know it is beating the proverbial dead horse but hearing his views made me think of the current state of rap music, again.
I used to be in love with rap music! I remember the feeling certain songs gave me, like “Survival of the Fittest” by Mobb Deep for instance, every time I heard that song, I wanted to shake the shit of out somebody, it got me that hype! Back then, songs gave me that sublime feeling of when you close your eyes, distort your face and nod your head violently to some insane beat by Da Beat Minerz, Pete Rock or DJ Premier, that feeling of the 88’ to 98 era. Back then Hip Hop was a religion. Because when you believe in something so much that it changes the way you walk, talk, dress and influences your outlook on life, it is no longer admiration, it is worship. These days, I don’t love it anymore but I still care about it.
This current incarnation of popular rap music sucks!--- It’s Art vs. Corporate interest. The determination of dopeness is based on who’s hot right now or who’s getting the most radio spins or who has the most internet presence. You’re gonna have to forgive my thirty something-year old perspective but, this is one instance where change is over rated! Don’t get me wrong, there has been some dope albums in the last few years (“Cuban Links II” comes to mind.) But I can count the amount of solid rap albums in the last ten years on one hand. I mean a record that is so amazing that it affects your life because you can’t go a day without listening to it . I had to have listened to Illmatic for two years straight before I gave it a rest; I still listen to that album to this day.
The true mark of a legend is when someone creates and is able to alter the context of a particular style and then that thing being compared and/or credited to that person after they've made their mark. That is why Nas, Biggie, Pac, Jay-Z, Ice Cube, Wu-Tang and others are legends, because they lyrically expressed the complexities of black malehood, brought the plights of their regions to the mainstream and captured moments in time. The current climate consists of whack ass beef videos, redundant sounding singles, lazy and irresponsible lyricism and image schizophrenia.
Have you noticed that mostly every rappers has sold drugs? that shit is mind blowing to me; it is so mind blowing that a dude that had a respectable career as a Correctional Officer, had to lie about it, because he would rather be known as a cocaine kingpin for fear that it would destroy his made-up image, the fuck? Maybe if he actually had some valid skill he wouldn’t need to fabricate a story to attempt to ascend to a shaky throne. I respect the fact that these dudes are making music instead of doing something that could put their life in jeopardy, but then again being a rapper can put your life in jeopardy as well nowadays. Quite frankly, Going to school and getting a degree is not a bad look, they can take your record deal but not your knowledge.
I understand that generations are affected by the artists of their generation, so I try not to engage in conversations with younger cats anymore. It’s like having a discussion about Michael Jackson (R.I.P) with younger cats and kittens. Their memory of MJ is that he was a freak and a child molester, they say all kinds of hateful shit but, I say if you weren’t alive at the time or you were a child and you can’t remember the sublime dopeness of “Off The Wall” and “Thriller”, then shut your ass up!
Hip Hop is now the disfigured child of corporate America, it is mal adjusted, malnourished and maladaptive. It’s the main event in a demented circus, a high wire act that doesn’t have a safety net and they (corporations)are the purveyors of the retardation of the culture. Dudes are on the cover of national publications with guns to their chin and pandering to ignorant and negative stereotypes. Women are spread eagled in magazines and whoring themselves out in videos. Most popular rap songs are audio tutorials on how to mack a bitch and how to kill a nigga and sadly, the madness is continously being perpetrated at the expense of a higly impressionable and rabid youth culture(and some inmature adults), that refer to these songs to teach them about life. Fela Kuti said “Music is a weapon” If used properly you can build and if mis-used you can destroy. I told the youngster "When you are nodding to the insane sermon of some these emcees, you are nodding in the affirmative", and I asked him to think about that for a minute.
Globalization of hip hop culture was truly a blessing and a curse. Tell me who profits? Who suffers the most? When will it wake up or when will it end? Where is the integrity? Where did the love go?