What self-proclaimed hip-hop “purist” may be missing out on
by Maurice Daniel
I’m a boom-bap kid at heart. Nas’ Second Childhood might be my favorite song ever. I find it hard to imagine that I would ever date a woman who doesn’t LOVE Electric Relaxation by A Tribe Called Quest. When I’m getting to know someone, one of the first and perhaps most important questions to be asked is: “What are you listening to?” For many years I’ve based a large portion of first impressions on the answer to this very question. I believe it says a lot about who we are on a deep level. But even with my own severely jazzy and soulful ear, preferences, and love for all things hip-hop, I’m beginning to have a huge issue with the stance of many hip-hop “purist,” and, what in my opinion seems to be a harsh assessment of today’s variant of rap music (follow me, we’re building to my point).
Okay, okay, I get it. Did you notice how I said rap music and not hip-hop? I’ve taken notice myself. I could see how some would say that there is a lack of substance, a lack of musicality. Perhaps, a very questionable amount of music that excessively glorifies material wealth and promotes dangerous opioid drug use, such as lean, zannex, and other highly addictive drugs as if it were something cool. For me personally, it f*****g sucks being an 80’s baby lost in a sea of Futures’ and Designers’ (although I do occasionally enjoy panda and I loved the acapella of Timmy Turner). So much of today’s music seems to ride the exact same wave of what’s hot in the moment, and could be perceived as a direct copy and paste of styles that already exist. Sometimes, it feels like we’re in an environment of stale, even fragile word-play at best, repetitive 808 patterns that seem all too familiar, and the constant urge to ask: “is this for real???” I watched Lil Uzi Vert’s Hot 97 interview, and believe me, I was just as perplexed as most self-proclaimed “hip-hop heads” were. The fact that Lil Yachty might literally be able to get away with saying nothing more than “yeah” on a dope beat and become a runaway success makes me question how we got here in the first place (Lil Yachty’s own assessment). I also recognize what may be the worst part of these current trends in popular music. The fact that taste makers and those who control the most highly visible platforms for rap and hip-hop music are actively and aggressively pushing an agenda that creates self-esteem issues, leads many youth down a path of self-destruction, promotes idiocy, reinforces the preference of the same exact wave of music, and therefore as a result, leaves us without the beautiful balance that hip-hop once used to maintain. That balance of having a high-profile plethora of music to choose from. A progressive scene where one could choose from something hardcore like Onyx, or something gangster like Snoop, or even something a little less harmful like Common, A Tribe Called Quest, or De La Soul (we still have all of these choices and then some by the way, maybe even more so, just not in the mainstream like before). But the problem with a stance of eradicating all things that are not quite the same as some of us may remember, or even prefer for that matter, the problem with beating these young kids up is three-fold. Let me break it down for you.
For one, it’s almost immoral (keep rocking with me). Second, you sound like my Uncle or something. He didn’t rock with Mobb Deep or anything that I deemed “groundbreaking music”, and for his own good reason. It wasn’t his vibe, his time, and the words and lifestyle made no sense to him. Lastly, we may be proving ourselves to be hypocrites. So much of the hip-hop that initiated my love for the genre in the first place glorified drugs, violence, braggadocio, and a material lifestyle that was far beyond my means. And haven’t we always been rebels in a sense??? Creating our own lane, borrowing from what came before us in a new twist that only we loved, understood, and enjoyed??? In a weird way, by route of “our” generation of rap music, we kind of created the infrastructure for today’s interpretation of, let’s just say “rap” for now, in quotation marks of course. Shit, we took excess to new heights. “Bitches and hoes” have always been common phrases, and UGK was sipping lean when I was a little guy. Deeper than all of this, rap, or the more revered by lovers of art such as myself, “hip-hop,” is a testament to rebellion, to change, to the freedom to express ourselves however we see fit. Not only this, we were far from the first to do so. Ray Charles and other artists of the same time period borrowed from gospel music to make something new, something that was completely frowned upon by anyone who would consider themselves to be a “traditionalist,” or simply enjoyed gospel music the way it was. Now music lovers, please forgive me for what I’m about to say, but damn it if Ray Charles didn’t have the spirit of a trap artist. He totally went against the grain and not everyone was “on deck” in the beginning. Jazz went from boring big band swing, to something completely improvised that swayed and moved without any rules. The point is that music has and will always be a culmination of everything that came before it. It will be influenced by the past. It will follow and break the rules, norms, and old ways of doing things. Imagine if we all were still following the rules of Classical music, or if we never moved past disco. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not defending bullshit music. But what I am defending is change, growth, movement, and the idea that however painful these changes may be, that it’s all for the good, even if it’s not so great at the moment.
Let’s Just Start with Your Stance
This needs to be said, and I want you to think hard on this. Something happened to me after watching Lil Yachty’s interview in which he proclaimed that lyricism is no longer required, and how that era is dead. That we need to just accept it. Of course I disagree. But then I noticed something equally as disturbing as his comments and assessment of the game. Grown ass men wishing the worst on a kid. Bro, the lil homie is only 19! He’s a kid in every sense of the word. He has time to grow, to make mistakes, to learn. He still has time to move past what may be perceived as being juvenile, and for his notions and ideals to evolve. Now let’s not get it confused, I’m not caping for Lil Yachty, or the music that he makes. I can’t say I’m a fan. But those who vehemently oppose his existence, HIS EXISTANCE, what you’re essentially saying is, nah lil homie. Now that you found your voice, a way to provide for yourself, an outlet for creation, regardless of whether you agree with his creation or not, we’re basically telling him to hide in a corner or to disappear just to appease our preference of what hip-hop is “supposed” to be. To silence the voice that he’s found for himself. Wow, it really sounds awful and horrifying when we put it that way. It’s much deeper than not. If someone said something to the same effect towards any one of my nephews or nieces, I’d attempt to knock their f*****g head off, as I hope you would do for your kids, nieces,
nephews, little brothers, little sisters, etc. And regardless of how you want to see it, these kids are our little brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews. These are the little homies from down the street that you watched grow up. It just so happens to be their time. Step back. Say prayers and send vibes to the youth, but think about what you’re saying before condemning them to silence, and think of how it might possibly affect you for someone to hate on one of your younger loved ones in a similar fashion.
Who Invited Their Uncle To The Turn Up???
My niece is in high school. We don’t listen to the same music, which should be a given. And that’s alright. I’m listening to Oddisee and Big K.R.I.T. She’s rocking out to Fetty Wap and Future (I failed as an Uncle, lol. Jokes, she’s amazing). But that’s just where this new wave of music is currently at. I remember having conversations with my Uncle about how what I was listening to wasn’t real music. Do you really want to be that guy??? My 50+ year old Uncle couldn’t rock out to Beanie Siegel and Ghostface Killah. But what do you expect from someone who came up with the Ohio Players and Earth Wind and Fire? Our styles are miles apart. A good friend of mine had an older brother who wouldn’t even give what we were listening to a chance. I attempted to quote lyrics from T.I’s jacking for beats, excited to point out that our music still had substance and flair, even when from a region outside of the northeast, which used to rule all rap music so it seemed. He proceeded to quote Guru from Gang Starr, belittle my opinion in all things hip-hop, and tell me that what I liked wasn’t equivalent to “good hip- hop.” I found myself a little flustered. I couldn’t understand. In my mind, what I was listening to was refreshing, inspiring, as dope as it gets from a musical stand point. I’ve even found myself on the wrong side of this entire tirade, telling my niece that I didn’t get what she was listening to. I cringe at the thought that I almost allowed myself to become so out of touch as to not realize that things do, and always will change. The point is this, have debates and speak your mind. Disagree with where it’s at. But realize something else. You sound like our parents, and that shit should scare you, just a little. Beautiful boom-bap music, thoughtfulness, lyricism, musicality, it still exist. Ever heard of J.Cole, Kendrick Lamar? The list goes on. And maybe think of it this way, this new wave may be just that, a new and different genre of music. Does it mean that “real hip-hop” can’t co-exist? Of course not. I’m actually listening to Isaiah Rashad’s The Sun’s Tirade right now. A beautiful example of what we’ve left with this next generation and how today’s wave can mix and blend into ours. Things will always change. Parents hated Elvis. Punk probably seemed demonic to those who didn’t get it. Shit, I still don’t get hard core, head banging rock. But the fact that these choices exist is f*****g awesome! Age gracefully. Time will never freeze, things will continue to change, classic will ALWAYS be in style, and the world will go on, with or without you.
Have You Ever Listened To The Lyrics of Mobb Deep???
“Cause long as I’m alive I’ma live illegal…”-Havoc
Havoc was 21 when he wrote these lyrics. These days, not only is he a legend, he’s also a prominent business man with much success and credibility amongst “hip-hop heads,” and in the music industry. Am I comparing Havoc to Lil Yachty? Hell no. No way. Not even close. But what I am saying is that Havoc probably couldn’t have even imagined what he himself, what this life, and what he loved would have evolved into. I loved the music of the early 90’s. It’s where my love for hip-hop became fully developed and nuanced. But when I go back and listen to Beanie Sigel (who just happens to be one of my favorite MCs ever!), I hear a lot of talk that I can’t even relate to anymore. Shit, Sigel was rapping about lean, and zanny’s and perc’s long before it became the national phenomenon that it is amongst today’s rappers and the adoring youth. What I’m saying is that those who criticize the content of today’s generation of rappers, you might be a f*****g hypocrite dog. And I get it. We had a way with words. We were slick with it. At least I’d like to think so. At the time, it felt like all of the music that I loved was full of substance and content. But the content of some of our very own beloved legends isn’t much different from what rappers are rapping about today. It just seems to be a lack of lyricism that might be the particular problem that some feel they just can’t get past. Now again, I reiterate that I’m not caping for the music that seems to dominate the airwaves today. Truth told, I don’t like much about the shit that seems to be the most popular, but then again, I never have. I’m just trying to give a little perspective before we go shitting all over today’s rap music. In conclusion, relax, enjoy what you enjoy. Live and let live. But stop what could be perceived as excessive hate. If you don’t like what you’re hearing ignore it. Better yet, make something better. Just a little something to think about.
Love & Peace…