Letters From Freakloud #29

Hello all.

You can go ahead and congratulate me on the wedding if you haven’t already. And for those inclined, you can buy us stuff here.

This is one of those interesting real-life matters that falls into a strange category for an internet writer-guy. Its too personal for you to care and too important for me not to say anything about. So rather than deciding for you how interested you are, I’ll allow you to make up your own adult mind.

I’ll post a pic and give you the link to many more. Click if you like. If you don’t like, simply skip ahead (you insensitive bastard).

If you’d like to look at more photos of an intimate ceremony binding people that you don’t know, follow this link .

That should leave you further inclined to buy us stuff.

Now, sirs and madams, I know you didn’t come here for matrimony. You’ve got that in the bedroom that you’re avoiding by reading this. You came for the hippity-hop. And that you shall have.

It’s Okay

Chicago underground legends All Natural became one of my favorite groups when they dropped a single with this title. The lyrics of the song were dedicated to the so-called “hard” rappers. All Natural emcee Capital D was reminding all of the thugs that it was okay to rap without selling drugs, or calling women bee-itches and such. It was 1995 and I guess he still thought that he could turn the tide…

Eleven years later, I’m co-opting the song title with a different spirit. I’m using it to present to you reasons why it’s okay not to like rappers that everyone else lives for. No matter how insane people wish for you to feel for having your opinions.

Psychologically speaking, I’m doing this because I can remember being in my high school cafeteria when Tupac dropped Makavelli. I’ve never been a ‘Pac fan, and while that was an easier position to maintain before he died (or moved to the moon), I was constantly surrounded by Pac supporters. Well this one day in the cafeteria, I was engaged in a conversation with a few dudes about Makavelli. I expressed my dissatisfaction with the record, even though I hadn’t heard it at the time. Didn’t matter to me, I could tell from the singles that it would be more gangster-ish hullabaloo that I had no time for. I was far too busy hurting myself breakdancing.

One of the dudes that I was talking to took a few steps back to sit in one of the lunchroom chairs. And as he was taking his seat, I clearly heard him say:

“I can’t respect no man that don’t like Makavelli.”

Now I could have ran over to him and smacked him with a lunch tray, but getting suspended over a rapper who could give two shits about my social status or my attendance record seemed like some shit that I would regret later. So I acted like I didn’t hear him…Now I feel like a big ‘ole pussy…I guess if its really up my ass like that, I can get at him with an cheese tray at our ten year reunion.

The problem with my mindset at the time is that I felt there were only two options, fight or ignore. What I came to realize later (now) is that I could have engaged him in a short debate about the issue right then and made him feel really stupid, which would have made me feel better.

So in honor of pyrrhic victories and 25th hour redemption, I present to you my reasons why its okay to not like any of the pantheon of rappers that everyone tells you should. Even the dead ones.

The Notoriously Overrated B.I.G.

His supporters call him the greatest rapper of all time. They cite his storytelling ability and versatility as qualities unmatched by any of his hip-hop contemporaries. They say he resurrected the East Coast at a time dominated by West Coast gangster-ism.

I say he’s mediocre at best.

Sure he was a dope storyteller. “I Got a Story to Tell” is probably one of the most vivid and intricate plots ever woven on wax. But aside from that and “Warning” there isn’t enough evidence on the two LP’s released while he was alive to place him at number one of all time. Slick Rick, Kool G Rap, and Melle Mel are also excellent storytellers, and I’m sure that if any one of them had been killed after their second album, there would be legions of hip-hop fans proclaiming them to be the greatest rapper of all time.

And as far as his versatility goes, being able to go back and forth between an arrogant playa-listic type and a brooding, introspective thug character doesn’t make him versatile. If anything it makes him savvy enough to realize that the street philosophy tales that satisfied the New York underground listeners weren’t going to translate into platinum soundscan numbers. Does this make him intelligent? Yes. Making him the greatest rapper of all time is a harder sell.

He definitely deserves props for his flow. While Jay-Z and Tupac admirers have been able to steal the styles of their respective idols and fool a sizeable portion of the record-buying public, Biggie’s impersonators have been able to copy the voice (Shyne and Guerilla Black, stand up!) but the style has eluded them. The funny thing is, in the mid-90’s almost everybody in the New York underground used that style. One need look no further than Heather B, or early M.O.P. to understand why Big’s style wasn’t so special to me.

Tupac “Jesus” Shakur

Chances are that everyone in your family likes Tupac. Your sister, your god-daddy, your granny and your goldfish likes Tupac. Your newborn baby nephew has Thug Life footed pajamas. The roaches in your house bump “I Get Around” on their iPods. Fortunately for you, none of this means that you have to be a fan. I’m certainly not.

For those of you that share my opinion, let us not forget the mortal danger it places us in. In some circles, saying anything negative about Tupac is akin to rolling around in a Bosnian field full of unexploded land mines. Shit can get hectic. But it still doesn’t mean that you have to like him.

For starters, as positive and conscious as he was on his first album, his final two records (Makavelli and All Eyez on Me) were filled with such hate and venom that they almost seem like works from two different artists. As educated and revolutionary as some might want to color him, it would seem that he would have a higher sense of responsibility to the youth that would undoubtedly be hearing his music and hanging on to every word. And while some might view his contradictory messages as an allegory of the black man’s experience, it is difficult to reconcile the inconsistencies between “Keep Your Head Up” and “I Get Around”.

…unless its some kind of quantum physics thing. In that case, he was like, eight thousand years ahead of his time and I’m an asshole. Just wanted to cover that base…

Assuming its all Newtonian and linear. The man, as emotionally connected to the people as he was, simply wasn’t the world’s foremost rapper. He was the rapper that managed to touch the most people at the deepest level. I’m sure there’s an award for that somewhere…probably on MTV.

Well…

Now I feel all icky inside. What began as a rally against the overrated ended up being an attack on two dead rappers that a lot of people really like. The most nauseating thing is that I’m now left with a question that I can’t answer. Because if the answer is what I think it is, then everything I know and love becomes woefully irrelevant, especially this column.

The question is this:

If touching the masses of people with one’s art doesn’t matter, then what the hell does?

Many answers flash through my mind, but none that matter to anyone but me…

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