Monday, December 10, 2007

Here lies: Hip-hop - R.I.P.

I've been saying it for years now, and it looks like there's a growing voice in the hip-hop community that agrees with me... or maybe we're all just getting old and waxing nostalgic about what I would argue were the golden days of rap.

So I ran across this album rather late considering it came out more than a year ago now, but that would be because it's usually too much hassle to sift through the 50 Cents, Lil' Jons and bad samples of Daft Punk songs of the world to find any rap worth listening to these days. I normally resort to recommendations of others and random stuff I run across from random sources, which have ranged from internet searches to tv/commercials and clubs.

Which recently brought me across this album by Nas - Hip Hop is Dead. Now it seems that in addition to the "Hip-pop" that 50, P-Diddy and all the Dirty Souf peeps come out with (to be fair, I can tolerate some Ludacris and Mystical, but that's about it) I'm starting to hear some more poetic/preachy rap like Mos Def... and finally downright condescending rap with this by Nas.

I like that he's trying to put some meaning back into things and get back to the roots of rap by putting a message in the lyrics, but I have a feeling that his delivery will fall on deaf ears with the intended audience. This album is him looking directly down his nose at pretty much everyone that's come out within the past 5 years or so and only giving props to those who've been around since he came out back in the early 90's. He wreaks of old man with songs about how bling is retarded, and I love him for it. I'm guessing the thought is that he's high profile enough and has paid his dues, so you really have no choice but to listen to him or get blasted. He certainly gets preachy, as he has in a couple other albums, but he can flow with the best of them so I'll let it slide. Besides, the roots of rap were all about giving the people on the streets a voice since they'd rather rap than vote - " The black vote mean nathan, who you gonna elect Satan or Satan?" He's a self-educated man, and even with the things I can't agree with I can see where he's coming from and don't doubt his intelligence.

So is hip hop dead, or dying? This album begs the question, since if it's good (which it is) then it basically proves itself wrong, right? Pretty much anything loses it's soul when it gets commercialized... I think the mainstream is only going to stay bad with the rare exception, with all the good stuff sticking to the shadows only to pop it's head out every now and then. So you keep the Diddy family and Kanye West, your bling and Rocawear, and I'll stick with Nas, Pharcyde, Outkast, Tribe, and Del.

Time to check out what others are saying on the topic....
here, and here

And here's looking forward to his next release, which I'm sure will get people talking just as much, if not more.

1 comment:

Mike said...

Wow wow wow.
You know me, I can go on about this topic for days on end. Even though I don't listen to music half as much as I used to, I'm still sure I can contribute something here.

I peeped that album days after it came out and though I liked it better than most of his recent efforts, I'd have to say most of Nas's best work is in the past. I don't think anybody can argue with that point. The album itself teems with a lot of elitism and I think that has to do a lot with what Nas's much publicized run-ins with other big name rappers and the fact that he is, well, a rapper. He makes some good points but for the most part he's probably one of the most preachy rappers out there with the exception of KRS.

As far as hip hop being dead. Well, many have been arguing that point for over a decade. It's just like the rock is dead chants of old. Once a music genre hits the mainstream and has to constantly reinvent itself, it branches off in so many directions that "the original" sound and ideas are sometimes lost. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's probably things of this nature that have people like Nas all pissed. However, a lot of people who have been in the game a hell of a lot longer than Nas (chuck d for example) actually embrace the changes in current day hip hop and try to actually understand/help mold them.

I guess it just comes down to rappers having to be preachy by trade and the fact that change is sometimes difficult to accept, especially for older, more established members of the old guard.

I will end this rant with a list of some of the (hip-hop)artists who are currently in my I-Pod. You probably heard of some of them before when we were in Chiba together...

-Atmosphere (or Slug)
-Cannibal Ox
-Sage Francis
-Buck 65
-Lyrics Born
-MF Doom
-Aesop Rock
-Brother Ali

These are some newer artists (actually they are more slept-on than new but you get the point) that I listen to and am always pleasantly surprised by their music.

I also have been getting back into some mid-90s stuff I haven't listened to in awhile (Busta Rhymes, old Wu-Tang, Living Legends, etc.) I guess i'll never get sick of hip hop.

Oh yeah, and speaking of the Wu, they have a new album out (8 Diagrams), I would check it out it.