So I’m pretty sure you all have heard about this Common vs Drake rap battle going on right now….or should I say pillow fight. Considering both of these rappers are very not gangsta, plenty people are stunned and shocked that this would even happen. Lyrically I think Common would kill Drake and plenty other rappers out today, but I don’t think that’s the point. Common has kinda said that it’s just a rap beef, like they not on that “if I see you in the club I’mma bust ya head” talk but it’s more of just a true diss record. For those that haven’t heard them, here you go:
This entire episode reminds of the reasons I think hip-hop is dead and gone. There are no absolutes in life, and as I write I always have to remind myself of that. With that being said, I feel confident in making the statement that hip hop is not the same as it used to be. Sure there are definitely some young rappers putting in fresh and creative pieces of music for the young and old to appreciate lyrically and enjoy musically, but for the most part the rap game just isn’t the same. Many of the key elements that made rap so appealing in the past seem to be missing or lost to this new generation of emcees. The following is a list of 10 things that seem to have fallen by the wayside in the rap game today.
Female Adoration – Where is the Overweight Lover when you need him? Heavy D, may he rest in peace, and many other rappers used to always take time on their albums to cut songs about romance, love and the beauty of women. Today it seems like if a rapper doesn’t call a woman a b****h when he talks he can’t say anything about women. Women are so desensitized to this that you can go into any club and if a song with the “b” word is on the women completely ignore it and keep dancing. Like Chris Rock said in one of his comedy specials “He aint talking about me”.
Political Thought – Clearly rap has always had strong roots in its expression of political discontent. Sometimes it was expressed through the overt lyrics of Public Enemy and Paris. Other times you will hear it in the raw rhymes of Nas. Either way, the discussion of corruption in Corporate America, and the political system not only entertained the black masses, it educated us as well. When music educates, its social value increases tremendously. Unfortunately as the social value of music increases record sales may not follow. In fact, railing against Corporate America and record producers today is THE way to not get airplay. Ask Chuck D about that one.
Black Pride – How far has the pendulum swung on this one. The decline here has been a slow and steady one. James Brown would roll over in his grave if he knew we went from “say it loud” to the self-hate we hear from rappers today. Not only do many of the most popular songs today stay silent on pride of self and community, today’s rapper seems to take pleasure dissing his own people to include denigrating females, picking on dark-skinned black women, and dissing brothers who aren’t rich. A note to the rappers who do this: a major part of your audience is female, dark-skinned black women and brothers who aren’t rich.
Storytelling – One of the best things about listening to a rap song is following the story. The ability to tell a story in rhyme is one of the coolest things about rap. Ice Cube and Slick Rick and others were master storytellers and storytelling is what makes for memorable lyrics. Without a story it’s just someone talking and, although it may sound good at the time, without a message the words are easily forgotten. “Paul Revere” by the Beastie Boys and “Bedtime Story” by Slick Rick are examples of songs that convey stories along with beats that are as fresh today as they were when they first came out.
Social Commentary – With so much going on in the world, why are so many of today’s rap songs centered on 4 square blocks of the neighborhood you live in or the club that you frequent? One of the things that makes all music great is when artists steps out of themselves and uses their musical talent to describe the world around them. The world is bigger than the club, the private jets (fake), and the street life. With so many captive listeners rappers have advantages that their predecessors didn’t have. Not only is it being wasted with a lack of discussion on society’s ills, we are spreading a message that we either don’t know what is going on in the world or we simply don’t care.
Teamwork – Rap was founded by individuals AND rap groups. Sugar Hill Gang, NWA, Arrested Development, etc. all are examples of groups that helped make the genre work. The interplay between rappers on songs like “F the police” and others made those songs wildly interesting lyrically. The hype man (think Flava Flav) plays a key role in keeping the song lively. The story telling is so much richer when each member of the group retells a section. The interplay of different voices on a record add to the richness of the composition. Teamwork in the rap game today is almost non-existent. “Collabos” are everywhere, but they only consist of one rapper talking about himself and then letting another rapper step up and talk about himself. This is not teamwork, its just two or three rappers taking turns at the mic. If we can’t truly work together on a song how are we going to work together to make any changes in our society?
Musicianship – Granted you can do a lot with a drum machine but let’s get a little musicianship back in the game. You don’t need to form a band but at least sample something with a horn and a guitar every once in a while. Sampling and drum machines used to be a PART of the rap game. Today it seems like that is all there is. This easy way out may create a nice beat, but after an hour of listening to the rap flavors of the day all the beats begin to sound alike. To be a successful artist with some longevity you need to stand out from the crowd, so put down the 808’s & auto-tune and pick up a guitar, or a tambourine, or ukulele – anything.
Originality – Since the inception of rap there have been thousands if not millions of records. With so many archives of rhymes and beats it is a wonder if anything new can be said or recorded. Are you kidding? What if Beethoven would have said that? What if Stevie Wonder as a youngster said “Its all already been done”? The world keeps spinning and music continues to evolve and change. As long as there are people on this earth with a voice we should be able to come up with new and original ways to express ourselves through music. Rap should be no different. Rappers just need to stop retreading the same old “I’m a pimp, player, hood rich” rhyme and move on.
Humility – Okay, so we all know that rappers have been bragging from the start. Sugar Hill Gang was bragging on “Rappers Delight” and Diddy is bragging with Rick Ross and Dirty Diddy Money. Back in the day however the bragging was mixed with some humility. Remember the Fat Boys and Biz Markie? It’s ok to laugh at yourself every once in a while. If you’re whole album is full of how great you are, what self-respecting black man really wants to hear all that. Maybe if all you want to do is aspire to be Lil Wayne that works for you, but a brother or sister with a job, trying to do his or her own thing does not aspire to be king of the hood. The mainstream African American audience is being completely lost and rap is going to have to change to get it back.
Fun – Remember when rap used to be fun? There used to be a thing called a “party jam”. “The roof is on fire”. “Whoop there it is.” What about Doug E. Fresh and “The Show”. Some of these party songs may not have been the most lyrically compelling songs, but they didn’t have to be. The point was that you could listen to some rap and actually have a good time partying without lyrics that called someone a b***h or a ho. Its almost like black people have forgotten how to have fun in their music. Certainly social conditions can make many rappers not feel that great about life, but times weren’t that great when Grandmaster Flash was making “Scorpio”. Today’s rappers are certainly singing enough songs about “going to the club” so certainly they are doing their fair share of partying. How about making some club songs to dance to without all the explicit lyrics? Everyone would feel better about that.
Now back to my Lil Wayne Mixtapes…..
Thanks for tuning in…..