Nobody emailed me looking for my column last Friday, so I’m gonna go ahead and assume that all of you all’s computers were broken at the same time this weekend. So it’s just as well that I greet you with a happy Monday now that you’re all back on-line. And even though nobody asked, I tell you what caused the delay anyway.
I had to boycott the site last week. Or my columnist self had to boycott it anyway, since I posted more news last week than when I was hired. Mike Eagle the “cut-and-paste journalist” had to step it up a notch since this Hammond fellow is posting with a frequency and an integrity that I’ve yet to see around here. A tip of the ol’ skull cap goes out to him. Mike Eagle the “angry, hate-filled columnist” had to protest the Music Zone. Why? Because Curtis “The Hype Machine” Jackson was in the top story all week.
And Open Mike can’t honor that shit.
Did that sound convincing?
That was me practicing being militant about insignificant shit. I learned that at the Jesse Jackson school of fake black leadership. Fight the Power, Bitches!
The real reason you’re findin’ me on Monday is because Double M put me here. Sooner or later I’m gonna have to face up to that fact that I have no power here. Except for the power to filter the rap news that comes through this bungalow. So until I feel better about my rank in this posse, I’ve vowed to only submit news about wack rappers if it involves them being in trouble with the law. If you want news about Nelly’s collabo with Matchbox 20, go read Jet. And bring me back the “Beauty of the Week” (unless she’s got patchy skin on her booty).
Well, on with the show.
WHAT IF THIS IS AS GOOD AS IT GETS
So I’m a bitter man, I think we all know that. I’m okay with that label because anyone who’s a mainstream rap fan nowadays probably wasn’t around for the golden era. And yes, the actual years of the golden era are relative to when a person started following hip-hop. But I’m willing to bet cash money that anybody who finds today’s rubbish acceptable wasn’t around when craftsmanship and integrity meant something in the music.
There was a time, even recently if you can believe it, that I wasn’t so bitter. There was a time when I was abso-tively, posi-lutely (shout out to moms!) sure that the over-emphasis of materialism in hip-hop was just a phase. I don’t want to get all esoteric here, but there is a certain cyclical nature to the universe. Just as the seasons come and go in circular phases, so do the philosophies of man, swing back and forth like a pendulum betwixt conservatism and liberalism. Take the philosophical shift between tribal humans and those of so-called “civilized” industrial settlements. Or more recently, the reverse shift that happened when the suburbanite conservatism of most Americans in the 1950’s gave way to the free-love, collectivist pseudo-socialism that swept the country in the 1960’s. Human brains have always had a way of swaying from one extreme to the other in certain contexts.
I’ve been waiting for this shift to happen in hip-hop since 1995. That’s ten flippin’ years, people. If you ask me, that was the year hip-hop croaked. Yeah there were seminal hip-hop releases that dropped after that year, but in 1995 the slope officially became slippery.
Personally, I blame whoever shot Biggie. Not because he was all that great of an emcee himself, but because I believe that he would have set the bar for the skill level necessary to rap about material shit. With his death, less able rappers were put in the position to take the materialism in his persona and not the skill. And since the club-hopping, beat-jocking mainstream audience couldn’t tell the difference anyway, it was a simple illusion to orchestrate.
All a limelight-hungry rapper had to do was stay on beat (hence the fall of “No Limit”) and name-drop expensive brand names to place him or herself among the new elite (even though the “old” elite was still alive and kickin’).
Thus began the “jiggy” era of hip-hop. Even though materialism had been a part of hip-hop since its inception, 1995 marked the year when the “bling” became a priority. Now you have poor kids in the projects that rap about cars and jewelry that they don’t own. Why? Because they think it’s what you HAVE to do. Many of them aren’t even aware that there is hip-hop music out there that doesn’t concern itself with those subjects. And with these young people making up most of the next generation of rappers, the future only grows bleaker.
So when any newly-christened wide-eyed neo-b-boy, runs up to me all smiley-faced, talking about how this new such-and-such CD is gonna save hip-hop, I just give him that patented bitter b-boy smirk and move on. It’s getting to the point that I don’t believe that there’s one special rapper that’s gonna have the street cred AND the consciousness to make the music that’s gonna magically open the third eye of the rap audience. I remember when I thought The Roots would be able to do it. Then came Phrenology. I remember when I thought Mos Def , Pharoah Monche, and Common would be able to do it. But none of their respective record labels thought enough of them to put out a second single in an effective amount of time. “Umi Says”, “The Light”, and “Ghetto Heaven” all came way too late to capitalize off of the buzz that “Miss Fat Booty”, “Simon Says” and the other “The Light” had created in the clubs.
So what now? Well, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that hip-hop will be subject to nature’s other cycle: creation and destruction. American black music has always found ways to re-invent itself out of the ashes of genres that have been co-opted and exploited. From Blues to Jazz to Soul to Funk to R&B to Hip-Hop, the general wackness of the music industry has always made it so that the true voice of the African-american experience would find a new means to make itself heard if the current means became inept.
So I no longer look to those in the underground to “save” hip-hop. If it’s not dead already, it’s receiving hospice care, and maybe a little euthanasia wouldn’t be so terrible. On the horizon, there are artists that are stretching the boundaries of urban expression. Andre 3000’s The Love Below, and Q-tip’s Kamal the Abstract are fine examples of successful attempts at re-defining the parameters of “hip-hop”. Or at the very least, they provide proof for a hungry audience that something else can be done.
BUT…ON THE OTHER HAND…
Remember last week, in that column of mine you didn’t read? Yeah that one. Well, in it I could be found pondering the other side of this black music evolution thing. You see, another wacky thing about the universe is that there’s always a side of boo-boo to go with your chocolate cake. Since the universe doesn’t concern itself with human concepts like positive and negative consequences, its movements usually produce both kinds of results equally. In the same way that industrialism brought with it rampant colonialism, and 60’s free-love was coupled with all new flavors of “VD”, every “positive” paradigm shift in black music is born with a “not-so-great” sibling. One need only look back at the hedonistic and uninspired Disco music that came with Funk, or the unspeakable horror called New Jack Swing that almost destroyed hip-hop in the early 90’s. Needless to say, I’m weary of what’s next. Sure I see goodness sprouting around, but I also see something sinister creeping up from the void. A scourge so musically disabled that it is poised to answer last week’s question of what new radio genre is going to make crunk rap lovers nostalgic about the Lil’ Jon era in a couple of decades. The plague I speak of?….Reggaeton.
You’ll never be able to say that nobody warned you.
BUT THEN…WHAT IF I’M THE PROBLEM?
The only drawback of the fact that the principles of the universe reveal themselves to me with such clarity is that I can only get so mad about stuff before I turn my critical gaze towards myself. At these moments, the bitter one must question his own internal processes.
“Why AM I so damned angry?”, I ask myself in the mirror with a clenched fist.
Why do I hold on to a five-year era in music that only a small minority of people give even remember, let alone give a shit about. Why do I hold hip-hop music, or any music for that matter to MY standards of integrity or creativity? Sure I can put a decent rhyme together, but I can’t do much more than play a couple of one-fingered kid songs on a piano. So who the hell am I to challenge accomplished musicians and producers to make songs that I deem substantial?
In the end, I’m just one person trying to ignore the long-view of history and keep my favorite genre of music trapped in its infancy. Why? Because it was at this stage of its development when it stimulated my own sense of creativity and wonder. It was through these four arts that I validated myself. It’s a shame that I needed these arts to do that, but that’s the way it was. I want to say that it “saved” me from the self-hatred and confusion that was eating me alive at the time. But now instead of being mad at my own issues, I’m mad at the world. Mad at an entropy that is just as natural as graying hair and stiff joints.
So maybe I should just accept it, and move on with the times. But then…what the hell would I write about?
While I think about it, let’s take a short break and talk about my personal life, shall we?
WHY SHE MAY BE THE ONE
In this portion of my column, I’ll give you people a peek into my private affairs. I’ll give you one reason every week why the new lady in my life…just…might…be…the ONE.
This week’s episode…
This little bit of conversation happened while me and the lovely lady were walking home from a house party, of course we’d had a bit to drink…
Me: shit, I gotta pee.
Her: We’re close to my crib, can you make it?
Me: I don’t know, if I gotta go outside, where should I go?
Her:…pee on the bunny!
Pee on the bunny, people. That is the way.
HIP HOP QUIZ WINNER SPEAKS…
A couple of weeks ago, I asked a whole bunch of trivial questions about hip-hop shit that most people are out of touch with. Aside from a prominent IP staffer (Enfuegos, bitches!), a wily reader named Colin was the quiz champion, being correct on a whooping five out of ten questions.
I’m too broke to give him anything worth a damn, save for a corner of my soapbox from which he can shout down to the commoners. So without further adieu….he speaks!
First off, I want to thank Mike for giving a Great White North cracker some space in the column. I don’t know if I ought to be proud for winning the quiz record, barring an IP staffer, or feel like a sucker for doing it with only 5 out of 10.
For my rant here, I want to give it up to two producer/DJs that don’t get the love they should by the kids these days: Prince Paul and DJ Jazzy Jeff.
You know Prince Paul. You loved early De La. Even the records after Stakes is High are aight, but it ain’t the same without his production. He helped bring hip hop into the mainstream with Stetsasonic before that, and got on the tables afterwards for the RZA-produced Gravediggaz. I know what you’re saying: “Yo, that was HIM?”. It was, so show some respect. People seem to really like White People by Handsome Boy Modeling School, but I thought So, How’s Your Girl… was better. What I want to get across to you is that you ought to be bumping his Politics of the Business record. Guest shots by GURU, Chuck D, Ice T, T Dot’s finest, Kardinal Offishal and mad others help make it a great record. If it’s not enough, YOUR favourite comedian, Dave Chappelle does the intro and the outro. Why are you sleeping on this record? The man knows how to put a beat together. Stop watching 106 and Park and help out a hip hop pioneer.
DJ Jazzy Jeff…. I think heads be sleepin because of the bad taste left by Big Willy. I have to admit that The Magnificent doesn’t have as much hip hop as one might like, but the man is probably the best dj in the world; no one can spin hip hop, r ‘n b, and house as seamlessly as Jeff. It’s about versatility. But grab The Magnificent just for the joint with Bumpy Knucks, Scram. That’s a hard beat. And the best mix I’ve heard recently is Hip Hop Forever 2. Tracks from Black Moon, Nas, OC (one of my favourite beats ever, Time’s Up), Tribe are all given a great DJ’s touch, and are allowed to shine in all the right areas.
And before I go, if you don’t have any Madlib in your hip hop library, I don’t know what to say. But you should.
reprazentin with tha LP….
No, thank YOU, Colin. For having the balls to rep for people with Little Penises.
Kidding, thanks for real. It’s comforting to know that someone out there knows 50% of the insignificant shit that I know! ;P
Make sure you don’t miss any music zone hotness from last week…
Mathan brings you choice beef.
Shawn makes you wanna give him money.
Fernandez found my high school football picture and is trying to pass it off as Michael Strahan…geesh
Gloomy allowed to remember Ordinary World from Duran Duran, and eats things out of other women.
Aaron would trade me to 411 for a pack of squares and a titty.
Tom and Chadwick write columns about devil music….kidding, kidding!….geeesh!
and I’m out