Sunday, June 14, 2009

I Can't Think of Ten Great Ones Either

You guys know how I like to complain about hip hop all the time, right? How no one makes decent LPs, no one cares about their live show, no one gives a fuck? Well, it really warmed my heart this weekend to see this piece by Free Darko blogger Dr. Lawyer Indian Chief (seriously) on the Straight Bangin blog. It's at once thoughtful and off-the-wall bonkers--in the good way.

Basically, Dr. LIC was asked to make a list of his top ten hip hop records since 2000, and he could only think of about six, so he penned this condemnation of the genre instead. It contains nuggets like:

That black male figurehead has been replaced by a white woman. Jim Jones would rather have Cory Kennedy on his jock than Chuck D at this point. Not exactly sure why this is (is it simple economics that white girls drive the market-->get white dudes to buy stuff/white people = 80% of America = buying public?), but it is. This whole steez has led to pointless Feist-sampling/MIA-jocking/Lady GaGa-collab’ing/KANYE STATING THAT HE KNOWS WHO PETER BJORN AND JOHN AND ANIMAL COLLECTIVE IS SO THAT HIPSTERS ARE LIKE WOW THAT IS SO SURPRISING and other nonsense that has generally resulted in music that sounds like the opposite of The Infamous or Livin’ Proof. Aside from the Lykke Li/Drake collab, which I really dug, rappers’ pursuit of validation of white women has created this super-faux “Pitchfork Media got Pharoahe Monch to play so it’s like the Roxy with Talking Heads and Afrika Bambattaa and Debbie Harry” in one room. Except it isn’t. It fucking sucks.

That's what I'm talking about! He also actually says something negative about Dilla and then backs it up with so much evidence, you can't even get mad, just kind of disappointed in yourself for never realizing it. I'm gonna make you clickthrough for that line, though. And I'm not gonna repeat what he has to say about ?uestlove, but suffice it to say it chilled me to my core. And:

Here’s an interesting experiment: Pull out your Ice Cube and Paris albums from the Bush I presidency and listen to their anti-prez raps. Shit makes waaaaaaaaaaaaaay more sense and is oddly far more topical than any political rap produced in the past ten years. Putting the strange new Obama-era aside for a moment, let’s focus on Bush II era political rap, one of the greatest creative letdowns of our time. I remember reading some article in URB magazine right after 9/11 about how the fuckedupedness of the time would spur a renaissance in political rap. Never happened. Instead groups like dead prez et al. made the hip-hop equivalent of Farenheit 9-11, conspiratorial, jumbled oversimplification with an easily digestible “Fuck Bush” tagline.

Yeah! And he's looking at you too, Jigga:
Jay and Nas became de facto kingz after Biggie died for no real reason other than there was a throne to fill. This was also during the point in their careers that they both started snoozing hard. [...] These days we can’t accept an empty throne, so we have been stepping over each for the past few years trying to give the “crown” to people like Cam’ron, the Game, and Weezy. And seriously, I love Lil’ Wayne, but I once tried to tally the number of instances on The Carter III where dude makes an “I’m the shit”/actual pooping pun, and I lost track. The guy is great, Top 30 all time, sure. But, like I said, let’s have some standards.

Alright I guess I'm just reprinting the post at this point, but you get the idea, there's much more to it and if you care at all about the quality of popular music (hip hop, indie or otherwise) these days, get over there and take a look.

All That Glitters Ain't Shit [straight bangin]
(Thanks for the heads up, Jonathan)


Isabelle said...

ay yi yi, this blog post gave me the shivers.

Doug Keller said...

" The difference in sonics you hear in each of these cases can be summed up in a word, “rawness.” Note, these are all good albums, but those in the former group are all time classics, and those in the latter group simply don’t rate in that category. The stank flute from “Pack the Pipe,” the Chicago despair of “Hungry,” the downright spookiness of “8 Million Stories.” By 1996, those type of songs were gone, replaced with Jay Dee’s brand of boom-bap neo-soul."

Love this. Allowed me to rationalize why my hip-hop-headedness has fallen off big time in the last few years. It's amazing how much of the best hip-hop by a given artist was their first out the gate (Illmatic, Ready to Die, Reasonable Doubt, Enter the 36 Chambers, etc.). That struck me when I was 13 and it strikes me now.

It's depressing to be a hip-hop fan if you're also a fan of all kinds of music (like I am, like you guys are), because we're careerists, we like to see the moves and the shakes and the growth and all that. In hip-hop, it seems, after the first album drops and they spill all they've got to say, they fall back on collabos and stale retreads and glossy shit. Just as bad (as I flip through my iPod) are the guys that made one classic album and then more or less disappeared (Black Sheep being the ultimate example for me). So if you love hip-hop you either have to watch the folks you love wade water and occasionally have a few fleeting nice tracks that remind you what you loved in the first place but it's among a lot of crap, or you never hear from them again. Either way it's a sad tease, and it starts to feel masochistic. And then when the genre gets ghettoized by non-fans and you're hard pressed to find rational ways to defend it.

I think there's this idea among hip-hop heads of an ideal, where the best folks are making legit records every time out, throwing themselves into it and doing different things and having different subjects and basically pushing hip-hop in all directions. Hip-hop was so fucking exciting in the 90s because it was constantly, constantly evolving. And especially in the 80s because not only did the artists have something to prove, but the genre did too. Right now, it feels like everything has kind of stopped, like hip-hop has become self-satisfied.

I hope this new Mos Def record is good. I'm going to go listen to Aquemini and cry.