Driving through Florida today, I was listening to loud music as usual. Inspired by listening to the Green Lantern "mixtape" of the Beastie Boys called "NY State of Mind" as well as Justice's album "Cross," I became inspired to write this. Also lately (or shall we say, for the last 5 years?) I've been really fucking frustrated and fed up with the music I hear in clubs... particularly, American clubs. Particularly when it's not advertised to be dance/electronic, and is not in a big city.
What I hear is really shitty hip-hop. Why do you I hear really shitty hip-hop? Because for the most part, popular hip-hop lately has been, oh, 75% SHIT. I'm mostly talking about Southern stuff. "Meet me in the mall... it's going down" type shit. I literally heard a rowdy 4th grader singing this when I taught schoolchildren in 2006. He also sang "I'm in Love with a Stripper." Now you may think I'm some crazy liberal but I actually do care about the content an elementary school kid sings about. The point was appropriate though: the lyrical wordplay and musical value was at the 4th grade level. I don't even care to look up who "raps" that tripe.
Why are people still going nuts over hearing "does the sweat drip down my balls"? Does it really deserve that much fanfare? Where the hell is Lil' Jon now? Probably laughing at how much fucking money he made over the same riffs and talentless lyrics. This is music made by businessmen rather than actual passionate musicians, preying off the stupidity of mainstream culture.
What the Beastie Boys/Green Lantern mixtape made me think about was, where the hell is some good New York hip-hop? Green throws in the anthology of Beasties' acapellas over sick beats by Biggie, MOP, Mobb Deep, Wu-Tang, and 50. Maybe some of the new shit is NYC... I mean I really don't know, I don't listen to the radio. For at least down here in Florida, it blows. I'm hoping it's better when I head up to Manhattan!
"Apple bottom jeans." If I knew that I would never hear that song again, I'd probably be 3000% more happy and optimistic about life. As I check out another Flo-Rida song, "Sugar" (another song I've heard played but had no idea who the artist was), I'm reminded what really went wrong with hip-hop. It became pop. But not Run DMC or Rob Base type-pop. I mean REALLY pop. Because at least that old school stuff still sounded hip-hop... sped up samples, scratching, etc. "Sugar" samples one of the worst dance-pop songs ever, "Blue" by Eiffel 65. Almost as bad as sampling Alice Deejay. I guess I wouldn't be pissed at Flo-Rida if he claimed he wasn't making hip-hop at all, but hip-POP. That's fair. I also see that Soulja' Boy is on the charts too with some bubble-gum pop that I'm sure a lot of 14 year old girls are hoping is the ringtone their boyfriend hears when she calls. I just read the lyrics to the brilliant "Crank Dat" in about 3 seconds.
Here, let me quote some lyrics that I'm sure Eric B would be proud of --
"Haterz wanna be me
Soulja Boy, I'm the man
They be lookin' at my neck
Sayin' it's the Rubberband Man, man
Watch me do it, watch me do it
Let get to it, let get to it"
From the Billboard Chart 15 years ago, here's some lyrics to "Regulate" by Warren G and Nate Dogg (classic) --
"It was a clear black night, a clear white moon
Warren g was on the streets, trying to consume
Some skirts for the eve, so I can get some funk
Just rollin in my ride, chillin all alone"
"Regulate" actually makes sense, right? And it tells a damn good story. So clearly, mainstream hip-hop was better at some point and is now deteriorating.
Now there have to be some saviors amidst all of this miserable music. I have to give props to a few people right now. I'm glad Kid Cudi outta Cleveland has been getting a lot of airplay and club play with "Day N Nite" with its hypnotic beat and thoughtful lyrics. Even more (pleasantly) surprising is that the Crookers' remix is being banged out as well. Of course, where was the first time I heard this song before hearing it in clubs in NYC and then elsewhere? The Dance Dept. Podcast outta mothafuckin' Amsterdam. Yes, Europe and the electronic dance scene as usual was breaking out what's hot and innovative in hip-hop.
I also gotta say I respect Kanye West for the last few years because even though "808s and Heartbreak" can be kind of dull sometimes, I love him for making a "concept" album with some 80s synth-infected romantic brooding. I will say that The Graduate was one of the best all-around hip-hop albums that was mainstream as well. He may have ALMOST made up for steppin' in with uber hubris at the MTV Europe Awards in '06, where he bitched about how he spent $1 million for a video with Pamela Anderson and thus should've been the winner, instead of the badass song by Justice VS. Simian, "We Are Your Friends." When I saw that, I thought, clearly this guy has no understanding of musical taste in Europe. At least it seems the man has learned some things since then, as he went on to collaborate with Daft Punk ("Stronger").
I'm also so glad that M.I.A. has made it big, from the ever-present "Paper Planes" song to the Grammy's to being one of TIME's Most Influential People. If you don't know much about her besides "Swagger Like That," well she's the daughter of a Tamil Tiger (separatist group in Sri Lanka), grew up in London, dated DJ with mad skills Diplo (check out his SICK remix of John Legend/Andre 3000 "Green Light" called the Diplo Dade County 1988 Mix) is adored in the indie-rock scene as much as the hip-hop scene, and is a visual artist who has sold art to people like Jude Law.
I'm glad to be leaving on a positive note. Keeping on that vibe, check out some of these artists, links, videos, etc.
Kid Cudi "Day N Nite" (Crookers' remix)
Charles Hamilton (this boy knows how to rap) "Brooklyn Girls"
Outkast feat. Raekwon “Skew it on the Bar-B” (classic from when ATL got my respect)
Hey what happened to peace…?