Article: the message; why should hip-hop have to teach us anything?

DuderonomyDuderonomy Haut de la Garenne 7,558 Posts
edited October 11 in Strut Central

I agree that it shouldn’t, but disagree that this was the main schism.

Conscious rap might be the terminology, but what the so-called back-pack fans were harking after (at least on this board) was substance, personality and decent music. Cypress Hill never (IIRC) preached anything conscious, and most rap from the golden age wasn’t comparable to Public Enemy. I don’t know if there was a clamour within the black American community for more militant and “conscious” themes, I just wanted something listenable while some fellow Strutteurs were telling me I was at fault for not appreciating ‘Lemonade’ by Gucci Mane etc etc.

Would love for some Strutters to crawl out of the woodwork and continue to beef it out over not being down with the kids, but if it isn’t clear by now that mainstream rap long ago became pop (instead of art), I don’t know what is. Which brings me to the author’s final assertion in defence of Kanye West. I just don’t buy it. Kanye is a clever marketer, but I don’t consider him to be (any more) even a musical talent personally, and his cozying up to Trump? West in a nutshell.


  • JimsterJimster Let go me ting, duppy, let go me hand 6,538 Posts
    (Dons old white man hat)

    Not sure if the article is distinguishing between hip-hop and rap like I do.  I guess it's the music of an entire people, and therefore, as diverse as such.  Some folks use the platform to preach, some just want to dance.  It has no obligation to be one or the other.  People get tired of being preached at.  But they also get tired of being under the heel of a jackboot.  What labels do you want to give these sentiments? 

    I personally see hip-hop and rap as two different things - now.  They used to be the same, but now to me hip-hop is old-skool and has more of that og culture to it, and rap can be anything that isn't that.  But I think both genres can be both conscious and vapid, and like the label "Rock and Roll", the "Rap" label has morphed into something way different than what the original label was applied to.

    So... Wayyyy back... Wasn't rap around before hip-hop?  I mean, Last Poets and Gil Scott-Heron were rap, before there was any hip-hop.  Literally, in the sense of rapping as talking.  That was rap when it was conscious and of the times.  Which were times of profound political upheaval in the U.S.  There was no hip-hop before rap.  Then this was integrated with the grimy inner-city struggles of the 70s and evolved into the defacto music of the hip-hop scene.  So now it was referred to as rap and hip-hop interchangeably. That was for me the only time when it was the same thing.

    I think in The Golden Age there was a deliberate artistic distinction starting to be made between hip-hop and rap.  Hip-hop wanted to stay more musical, serious and conscious whereas rap was about making money.  Once the money was dangled, Puffy and Death Row lifestyles and such - that was when rap went pop and never came back.  A lot of rap came from people with a background in hustling but no background in hip-hop.  And so now hip-hop was a subset of rap.

    And I don't think hip-hop will ever be as mainstream as rap, because there is so much money in rap.  Pop people want to do business with rap.  Jazz people want to do business with rap.  Rap can be the pimping of butterflies or simply pop-with-face-tattoos.  Both can't be called hip-hop though, right?

    Kanye lost all credibility when he donned the red cap.  The end, for my money.  It's not like he was negotiating a better place for brown people. He seems to have forgotten what life is like for anyone not as rich as him and #45.  Regardless of whether you are preachy or party, you can't sit down with the devil and join his fucking club.  NEVER THAT, SON - Whether you are hip-hop or rap, let it teach you that one thing. 

    (Hah!  I guess I need to keep the hat on all the time).

  • I went through phases since I was a kid of being more and less backpack. Weirdly the first album I owned as a young kid was 3rd Bass's second album, which definitely had some hints of "conscious"ness, if only for the fact that it was two white rappers (and a Black DJ). There were times the jansport stuff was what I wanted out of rap and times when I want silly or reckless shit - what that Guardian writer calls "reckless, rather than responsible; dreamlike, rather than logical; suggestive, rather than conclusive". I don't think it was ever the lyrical content that attracted me to one or the other end of the spectrum, just an overall aesthetic - flow and production I guess.

    There's a lot to agree with in this article, I think, but it's kind of overwritten. You can boil it down: a genre of music can be anything, and that includes rap. It can be a "culture" or at least a subculture, or just filtered mass produced pop, it can be politically radical or politically reactionary or totally ignorant or deeply personal or funny or serious. I think that's true of anything you can call a musical genre.

    "Conscious" rap (or "hip-hop"?) positioned itself in opposition to the stuff getting more popular (or "rap"), but I don't think there was a real schism at all. The guys making millions weren't like "raaah, fucking Rhymesayers, what the fuck", they were getting paid and partying. I think it was easy, from the position of an indie rapper doing something different from the top 40, to position yourself in opposition to the top 40, but that wasn't a necessary or interesting part of what indie rappers did and do. It's kind of an unfortunate habit. 

    So I think it's always been more of an outside structure imposed on rap by its consumers and cultural critics. Where do you put J-Zone, whose every fucking word was as caveman misogynist as hell but whose dense samples sounded backpack? Where do you put the Coup, who made some of the funniest and most serious songs in rap on the same album, who were political but didn't lecture other rappers or their listeners, but whose storytelling was probably aimed more at suburban whites than at their own milieu? Where do you put, I dunno, fucking MC Paul Barman? It's necessarily reductive.

    Recklessness is FUN. Ignorant-sounding pure id is FUN (see my RXK Nephew posts for a recent example). But writing a verse in acrostic or palindromes like Paul Barman is kinda fun too. Jazz samples and guys rapping about how good they are at rapping can be fun too, like jazz guys doing standards or something.

    But I think "substance and personality", Duder, is what everybody's after, even Gucci Mane diehards or HarveyCanal claiming "Slow Motion" was the greatest rap song of the 2000s. If you're a heavier or more hobbyist or nerdier music consumer than most you're less likely to be satisfied by top 40, and that's true in every genre.


  • DuderonomyDuderonomy Haut de la Garenne 7,558 Posts
    Agree with both of you, thing that seems strange to me is deciding that “conscious” is/was the differing factor. Personally I was harking after the golden age style because the beats of pop-rap were clearly shit IMO, and there was no longer anything to debate in terms of flow/lyrical dexterity etc - there’s been plenty of memes and a million-hit-yootube of rap legends (Snoop & others) dissing the new school for lack of talent and originality that says it all re: substance & personality. Not even a debate at this point I would’ve thought, but it seemed clear rap (vs hip-hop) was heading down this road a loooong time ago IMO.

  • JimsterJimster Let go me ting, duppy, let go me hand 6,538 Posts
    As long as the beat and the chords are nice, I'll be down for it, most likely.

    Unless it's Kanye, natch.
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