In this forthright piece #itchysilk writer L Henrixx tears a new one for the creators and lovers of that terrible wave of music where lyrical content is way down the list of requirements. mumble rap (no capital at the beginning of the sentence was not a grammatical it was intentional) has literally taken over the world without a vast majority of the public knowing what drivel said artists are spouting. Pushed by publications who should know better they have become poster girls and boys while lacking any of the attributes applicable to ‘talent’. Placed under the label of Hip-Hop L Henrixx further discusses the effects that mumble rap and its self-aggrandising artists are having on a genre that traditionally certainly had something to say.
“It takes 10000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert.”- Malcolm Gladwell
Though this statement has been contested, queried and allegedly debunked; the essence remains. An extensive amount of time should be invested into an art form/instrument to be deemed an expert. ‘Why an expert?’ you ask. Well, once upon a time, music did require a level of expertise to signify a celebrity, prodigy, famous figure and so on. Yes, there were always ‘one-hit wonders’ and those that fell by the wayside who provided enough entertainment to be deemed acceptable but once upon a time, talent, skill and authenticity were integral parts of a successful and talented artist.
We have undoubtedly witnessed this in many genres, however, most of those genres have seen substantial success which was not subject to damaging scapegoats or stereotypes. One genre which seems to always shoulder a ‘hit’ when the culture is jeopardized, is Hip-Hop. While Jazz for example, can be segmented into Acid, Modal, Nu Jazz to name a few, or Rock, in Progressive, Mellow, Grunge without discrediting the whole genre, Hip-Hop is seemingly more vulnerable.
As a die-hard fan of Hip Hop (the original definition, not current) at its ‘best’, I simply ask that the recent wave of ‘hip-pop’, ‘hip-flop’, ‘trap’, ‘mumble rap’ be a genre of its own, unfortunately, due to the shallow influences of money, bitches, narcotics and the ‘stand for nothing, include everything’ herds of today, Hip Hop now is open to taking several L’s (‘losses’ for those of you unfamiliar with New Yorkism’s, I joke) at our expense.
One thing that most lovers of Hip Hop appreciated over the years, is the ability to fuse different influences, genres, moods, lyricism and styles into one. In a sense, Hip Hop was defined yet undefined. Refined in some areas, rugged and raw in others. Melody, musicality, breaks and beats working simultaneously. This worked almost flawlessly in the 90’s, also known as the ‘Golden Era’.
There was the conscious/ ‘woke’ division. The party section *silences the urge to dance to find some Naughty By Nature* The Beef *Wu Hands*. The political movement. The love making crooners. There was a variety. Needless to say, whether the hipsters/pro-gentrification nation want to admit or not, Hip Hop originated from black culture and all aspects of existence that this encompassed. Being that the late 2010’s have a habit of only associating negative connotations with ethnicity yet denying ethnicities the claim of their positive (or indeed less negative) influences on the world; (think ‘Boxer braids’ as a minuscule reference) many other ethnicities are given credit for their contributions to culture.
Though Hip Hop is a worldly movement, the origin is what made Hip Hop authentic and organic; The struggle. The uprising. The sexual, emotional and psychological dynamics between male and female. The culture. The pain. The interactions. The regional dialects. The expression through art forms such as Breakdancing. Freestyle. DJ’ing. Instruments. All of this said to say, that the owners of record labels, that represented said acts, was once more reflective of Hip Hop’s origin.
I google searched ‘Hip Hop Artists 2016/ 2017’. Justin Beiber (unsure of spelling and quite frankly, do not give a division of damn) somehow showed up on that list (the same suspect, nasal neek who flippantly utilizes the N-word which is outside of his race bracket, acted like it was a mistake and was still somehow not assaulted or shunned- yet I digress). Many other mediocre (to put it kindly) trend-riding, microwave equivalent, ABC-rhyming atrocities showed up. Painfully. The eye roll was real though part of my emotional response to nonsense is now numbed due to the last few years of industry tomfoolery. Google for yourself. The only people I agreed with on the list were Kendrick Lamar, Nas and J Cole. Nas, still having accolades from his 90’s genius and Kendrick/J Cole primarily for consistency though. Dave East, though not on the list, should have been. Lyrically and flow wise, he can do damage. Other areas could be up for discussion but his catalogue is serious and deserves a place on that list more so than the many undeserving undesirables. Even more worthy of praise, is the fact that he is believable and convincing. Again, authenticity.
Without the aid of a ghost writer or a constructed aesthetic (Unlike the kindergarden rhymes of Aubrey the actor who allegedly ‘Started from the bottom now we’ here’? (exactly where Aubrey?) Degrassi is the bottom? Nor do I believe he’s ‘about that life’ in any way shape or form). Also, where is Stalley and how is he still slept on in every regard? *As a fan, I’ve neglected his greatness of late, my bad*. Hell. Nicki and Koo- I mean Kanye were on that list. How Sway? Since the gates are wide open, both should have been replaced by Azealia Banks– regardless of her controversy and questionable antics/statements, her cadence, ability to rap across, up and down the musical board and beat selection in itself should have earned her a cemented position on that list.
Now, though we know that underground Hip Hop in most cases, still showcases the beauty of the art and that a Google search, TV, radio and the remainder of the internet are all shot to hell in a well-compensated/sponsored hand basket. That does not change the fact that from the outside looking in, the prime examples of what represents Hip Hop, is abysmal.
This predictable syllable, recycled subject rhetoric or disposable, deluded empowered hoes or ‘trap god’ wave is beyond run to the ground. It should be buried. Dug up. Ran over. Set alight. Then buried again. Literally. Popularity- even after movies like Mean Girls (2004) is still deemed as success. The tragedy. Those who say ‘I only listen for the beat’, yet somehow are still providing video views and not listening to the instrumental version- need to be thrown off the sheep cliff too. Every song is the same. Every chorus follows the same monotonous, auto-tuned, basic lyric template. Every video is botched looking, build-a-body strippers or promoting some form of bank note (think Gucci Mane ‘Me’), rented vehicle, gun replica or brand name whose owner would not be caught dead with the ‘artist’ if financial incentives were not involved. So much to aspire to.
The lyrics, well, lack thereof, are worthy of a head scratch and disposal (search Young Thug ‘Mouv’ freestyle)-please observe the side-eye from the dj in the background.
The visuals are already damaging. Let’s put aside the chant, I mean ‘lyrics’ for a second. Statement: “There was party music and rump shaker music in the 90’s’. Everything doesn’t need to be deep.” Correction: ‘1. I would take ‘U Can’t Touch This (1990) by MC Hammer over 99% of the music classed as mainstream Hip Hop today. 2. At least the aforementioned ‘rumps’ in question were real and not the work of a knock-off basement surgeon. 3. DMX ‘Party (Up In Here) (2000), Tupac ‘California Love’ (1995), Busta Rhymes ‘Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See’ (1997), Missy Elliot ‘She’s a B*tch’ (1999) and so on, still have more lyricism than any current ‘party’ song combined. I won’t even continue. Many people I know avoid clubs for this reason.
Though minimalism can be used in a genius way; think elements of Flying Lotus Los Angeles (2008) on many glorious occasions- (divulge, dig, you will find. Side-note: SexSlaveShip and Golden Diva from the album Los Angeles (2008) are still seductive favourites which I need right now. I’m being distracted by the urge to drown out the depression that current music talk is accumulating) the lowest possible level of effort, thought, skill or differentiating factor from the drones of others who reproduce the same mess, is what people seem to be happy with. Gone are the days I debate, ‘put on’, educate or even elevate the ‘tastes’ (I use that loosely) of others. REAL definitions of Hip Hop still exists. Hip Hop music which delves deeper than the scapegoats of airhead artists and just plain noise with a regurgitated bass line, can be found. Not to mention- I don’t even believe 99.999999% of these alleged ‘dope boys’, ‘pimps’, ‘bad bitches’ or the remainder of the many posers and brainchildren (also used loosely) of preppy, hipster, culture vulture record employees who want to create one-dimensional representations of the ‘urban’ (we know what that really means) population.
Remixing, recreating and amalgamation has been a huge contributing factor to the Hip Hop machine- when at its fully functioning ability. RZA, Pete Rock, Madlib, Oh No, DJ Premier, DJ Muggs to name a few, have all used samples to infuse Hip Hop and other musical influences into completely new creations. That being said, the ‘tick tuh tick tick, tuh tick tick’ haunting of current Hip Pop/Mumble music and the relentless biting from predecessors are at an all-time high. The fake-deep lyrics that cause the mouths of the mindless masses to drop in awe, are pitiful. I remember a communal disgust when Trinidad James emerged with the ‘Gold all in my chain’ attempt. Where is all of this outrage when almost every video on TV, song on the radio or Youtube highly viewed video has the same amount of brain capacity and mindless noise? I would quote lyrics I have heard but my mind has usefully become very protective as a form of self-defence. For the most part, I’ll hear a terrible lyric, sigh in disgust, draw from my archives then exit the premises with a quickness. I am not even able to remember the treacherous, struggle lines I have overheard.
Solution wise- as people say complaining without a solution is just venting, is somewhat out of the hands of the labels of today. We know that they are responding to a demand. Or creating a demand. That the general public has consumed and guzzled without afterthought but where else is there to go from here? How much lower can it get? How much more degenerate can music get?
The people, well, the people who are not dictated to when it comes to their ‘taste’ and ‘individuality’ would need to get to a point where they are their own machine; booking shows, running labels, bringing back A & R, not only just contributing to but honing and creating a considerable lane for the art. As opposed to trying to change the lack thereof that is currently mainstream. Unfortunately, the PR machines and general musical industry sorcery has worked. Maybe there is no solution. This is the bed that many chose (silence is a form of consent, do your research) and any form of support of this state of music, is the choice to snuggle in it.