Welcome to the inaugural installment of my “Shooting Myself In The Foot” series. This is where I (in a shameless attempt to garner more hits for the blog) share my opinions about hip hop. I call it “Shooting Myself In The Foot” because if I do my job and really get some eyeballs to the blog I’ll make famous rappers upset and get myself blacklisted by them. We’ll start by pouring up a tall glass of hater-ade and go in on some new jacks but first a little background info…
… I was born in 1982, which means I’m pushing 30 and in “hip hop years” I’m pretty much a crotchety old man. I’m currently working on my second decade in this game and things have changed a lot since the mid 90’s when I first started pretending I could rap. That being said, I generally try to avoid becoming the “jaded head” you know the type, some dude who swears up and down how much he loves hip hop but then can’t stop talking shit about every hip hop artist on earth. I’m not trying to bring the 90’s back, in the 90’s I was scrawny with bad acne, lived with my mom and was so intimidated by women that I could have probably ended up with blue balls while sitting in a whorehouse with 10 crisp $100 bills in my pocket. I actually love watching the progress of rap music and am happy to see it expand its horizons. I’m rooting for the new generation, and I am optimistic that rap will continue to progress. It is perhaps because of that optimism that I often find myself disappointed by the latest rappers to gain national attention. The story goes like this, an artist starts building a buzz, they end up on my radar, I check them out with varying degrees of enthusiasm and then –at some point– I realize that as much as I want to love them I actually HATE them. Here’s the top 5 cases:
#5: Wiz Khalifa
As anyone who knows me– or has read any of my barely articulate and bi-polar twitter posts on Sundays in the fall– may know I am a DIE HARD Steelers fan. Both of my parents are from that area and I was rooting for them before I even knew it. So when a rapper emerges from Pittsburgh, giving the finger to industry standards and ending up on MTV without a record deal and I was all for it. His songs struck me as unique, I liked his playful attitude and when I saw Lamarr Woodley in the “Black And Yellow” video I thought I was going to be a fan forever. Then the unthinkable happened, the major label debut came out “Roll Up” was everywhere and then the coattail express started rolling, out comes Mac Miller and I realized that the reason I had trouble telling his songs apart wasn’t because he had a “distinct style” that he stuck to with consistency it was because he made the same song 6000 times and was in fact lazy and marginally talented.
Why the hate? I’m never one to hold someone’s success against them and if “Rolling Papers” had lived up to the limited potential I thought I heard in previous offerings, I’d probably be a fan but the major label debut is not the time to get complacent it’s the time to really crank things up to high gear and for forgetting that, Wiz ends up in this article.
#4 Odd Future
I know it is a whole bunch of dudes and people say that “so-and-so” is the real talent of the group but I’m lumping them all together because everything I’ve heard from all of the members yielded the same reaction from me. I remember when I first caught wind of these guys and I was exited to check them out. A lot of people–who’s opinions I respect–were speaking highly of them and I was intrigued by their irreverence and the excitement they were generating. Name dropping cool bands, doing Lykke Li remixes, I was amped to check them out. I listened to their music. I downloaded everything I could find, loaded up the mp3 player with it and easily listed to every song I had no fewer than 10 times. I was determined not to get left in the dust by sleeping on the crew that would become the hipster illuminati’s newest darlings. Problem is, I hated it, to me it was just lazily done, I mean not having a chorus doesn’t always mean you’re “lyrical” sometimes it just means you couldn’t come up with a hook. The supposed “shock value” was neither shocking nor of much value to me. I’m happy that they were able to break though with such unconventional methods but the music just doesn’t do it for me. Honestly they sound exactly like what they are, a bunch of teenagers still learning the awkward realities of life and trying there best to cope with them creatively. That isn’t a bad thing for a person to do but it is a horrible thing for a person to listen to.
Why the hate? It’s not really their fault, for a while there at the beginning of 2011 I couldn’t go to any music blog without hearing about them, that built up a level of hype that would be hard for anyone to live up to and that quickened my fatigue but at the same time the shit is just uninspired juvenile dribble to me and I wish I’d never heard it.
Okay, this one really hurt. I lived in Atlanta for ten years and Yelawolf put in mad work in the ATL. Shit I have buddies that went to high school with homie. I loved the style, the idea of a southern white boy doing “southern white boy shit” and getting love in the hip hop arena. I was late getting around to peeping him, I thought “Pop The Trunk” was a cool song and video but after about three listening sessions I came to the conclusion that instead of being good it was actually offensively bad. Granted, dude’s got the rapid-fire thing down and he did do a song with Big Boi but I ain’t buying it, shit is whack. He’s clearly out-matched by his label mates and sadly I think he’s been grinding so long that all label money is going to do is make him complacent and quickly distinguish any spark that may have once burned.
Why the hate? Gimmickry is a slippery slope, as a southern white man, I can’t help but be offended by the perpetuation of those stereotypes attributed to us.
First things first, I fucking LOVED “Nike Boots” and “Mixtape About Nothing” still gets spins in my mp3 player but DAMN HOMIE!!! Rick Ross!?! I’m sure it’s big bread and all the trappings that go along with it but Rick Ross is the embodiment of everything that is wrong with post 2000 rap music and as much as I’d gladly cash his checks I cringe to see a talent like Wale swallowed up by that monster. I just wonder what the meetings went like “Wale, you are talented… way more talented than the hacks we’ve been putting on… One problem, all that lyricism is not what MTV wants… here’s our plan: pretend to not be talented, BUT since you are talented, your not talented rapper impersonation will sell WAY more than these truly untalented flunkies we’ve already made into millionaires… you DO want to be a millionaire right?”
Why the hate? dude’s boss is a fucking ex-cop… must I elaborate?
#1 Lupe Fiasco
This is coming from a guy that had “Food And Liquor” in the CD player of my Eclipse (RIP) exclusively for at least 3 months. ”Kick, Push” YES!!! shit I even bumped the hell out of “Superstar” but watching this guy unravel on twitter only to reemerge in a shiny faux Members Only jacket and spiked wristband just makes my blood boil. This is the perfect case of hopes dashed. When dude first dropped I was working at The Sharper Image at Phipps Plaza in Atlanta, GA. At this point my dreams of hip hop greatness had endured a tragic shattering following the inglorious demise of my first group Street Temple Emcees. I was a working stiff trying to nudge myself back into the game by saturating my ears with everything hip hop that I could get my hands on. I was a full time consumer indie to major and when I worked the closing shift at Sharper Image I’d let the team play V103, this kept me up to date on what the white dudes in suits were throwing their dough behind. When I heard Lupe in their drive time rotation my first thought was “there is hope!!!” But “The Cool” nah… “Lazers” no thanks… Lupe sucks, he’s faking the funk to the highest degree and I’d personally like to go 12 rounds with him, he’ll have to get up to 160 because I can’t bring myself to drop any more than 50 lbs for his lame ass but we can do it, he’s rich he can hire the best trainer in the world but I promise you I will clean his clock. It will be like “The Great White Hype” in reverse. I’m not joking, we can sell tickets, we can give the proceeds to the charity of his choice, I will starve myself for 6 months to get down to 160 and Lupe will go down in 3… at 210 I’m comfortable at 160 I’m STARVING something Lupe hasn’t been in a long time, that is why he fell off.
Why the hate? The rise and fall of Lupe Fiasco is indicative of the music environment that claims many a rapper nowadays. My personal belief is that this is a systematic mechanism of oppression. Should a rapper that is not just a minstrel show by another name or the rebirth of Al Jolson in black-face start to gain some sort of mainstream cultural relevance why wouldn’t the power elite move quickly to neutralize that voice? What does the oligarchy (yeah I read 1984) have to gain from the “Food And Liquor” era Lupe becoming a cultural force? It is the knee-jerk reaction of these aristocrats to promptly take such voices out of the game and if the people resist just twist that voice into something acceptable and force feed it to said people. It’s not always the case… Dead Prez hasn’t put a record out in a decade and still gets paid, but that’s another topic. What I’m saying is… rappers with even the slightest inkling of a “message” have no business on commercial airwaves or with a video on Viacom, some people sneak through, but as a general rule, the wealthy business class will never allow true expression to become a blue chip franchise. The mere fact that someone with an inkling of talent would try to jump through those hoops just breaks my heart. There is no happy medium, do it yourself or don’t do it at all!!!…
… There it is, perhaps one of the seven people that read this with have the gall to challenge my assertion, I welcome that. Yes, I do sound like a “hater” and perhaps I am. Yes, I have been a little harsh on the aforementioned rap artists but before you shed tears for any of these rappers remember that they have legions of fans and tons of money and I live with my grandparents and spend my Saturdays taking fifths of Canadian Club to the face while watching Comedy Central. I may sound jealous, envious or other such adjectives and to say these things would be totally missing my point. I WANTED to be fans of these dudes THEY blew it not me… now blow up the comment board!!!