Friday, August 8, 2008

Telegram to Hip Hop

This was going to be a post all about how I'm mad about the state of hip hop. About how hip hop is dead. How its artists are pissing away its potential by not really giving their all, by half assing their records and doing even worse on stage. But somehow (I think Nas had a lot to do with this) "hip hop is dead" came to be code for "long live hip hop," employing in its defense the same subtle bricolage that makes the genre so powerful. So fine, my hip hop is dead post has been derailed. I guess that's a good sign. But hip hop is far from thriving. To use a completely unfair and perhaps even irresponsible analogy, it's like alt rock before the early-90's boom, except there's no Nirvana on the horizon and no Sonic Youth guiding the young'ns.

So: LONG LIVE HIP HOP. Certainly, the old guard is falling into pieces as more and more emcees we once respected and admired resort to releasing terrible, sprawling (not in the good way) records with no direction. Here's a hint for all you struggling-yet-established emcees: if you're feeling like your album doesn't flow right, and isn't running cohesively, adding more producers to it will NOT help the situation. In fact, it will do just the opposite, taking the album even further from its central point, whatever that may be. (Another thing: try to HAVE a central point every once in a while.)

Anyway, I can rant all day about the problems with hip hop, but I'm just going to call it like I see it: close mindedness is killing hip hop. Rappers, DJs, producers, even label execs need to be much more outgoing as far as trying new things and looking for new sounds. As it stands, all we're looking for is the new Jay-Z. This is not what we need, and besides, he's not coming, and nor is Hov himself going to brush himself off and start making great albums again. Blueprint 3 is going to let you down even harder than Blueprint 2, if you catch my drift. Take a risk every once in a while. I'm not saying that there's no one doing this right now, I'm just saying that more people should be.

Take us out, Saul.

Saul Williams - Telegram (acapella, live at the Boulder Theatre) [YouTube]

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