Fuck Hip Hop.
January 7, 2003 1:06 AM   Subscribe

Fuck Hip Hop. Title of a block-rockin' essay by dj, filmmaker and cultural activist Pierre Bennu.

I think the time has come to bid a farewell to the last black arts movement. It’s had a good run but it no longer serves the community that spawned it. Innovation has been replaced with mediocrity and originality replaced with recycled nostalgia for the ghost of hip hop past, leaving nothing to look forward to. Honestly when was the last time you heard something (mainstream) that made you want to run around in circles and write down every word. When was the last time you didn’t feel guilty nodding your head to a song that had a ‘hot beat’ after realizing the lyrical content made you cringe.

Tough questions, Pierre. And the whole piece is even tougher. Here's a few responses from Nettime.
posted by theplayethic (142 comments total)

 
I get some solace from knowing and supporting these artists, and from the fact that around the world from Germany to Cuba to Brazil to South Africa, hip hop’s accessibility and capacity for genius is still vital, thriving, and relevant.

So, not quite as negative as the title first suggests.

This comes back to the now somewhat clichéd distinction between hip hop and rap. Most of the music heard by the mainstream (Puff Daddy, Nelly, whatever) is rap, and by now is a far cry from the ethos and ideals of hip hop.

'Hip hop', meanwhile, is undergoing another renaissance, with artists like Prefuse 73, Madlib (and the rest of the Stones Throw roster), Jay Dee, Dilated Peoples, Common, Talib Kweli, The Roots, Mos Def, and the Quannum artists proving that hip hops not dead yet.

Related : after the shooting of two innocent teenage girls in Birmingham, UK politicians have decided that hip hop and garage are to blame. I never thought I'd find myself defending So Solid Crew and their ilk, but the suggestion that music as witless and soulless as UK Garage could be to blame for gangland shootings is patently ludicrous. Why turn attention on them, when the East Coast/West Coast nonsense of rap so clearly glorifies guns and "personal beefs"?

Hip hop is as vibrant, intelligent, inventive and community spiritied as it ever was (remember, Afrika Bambaata created the Zulu Nation to offer the kids in the Bronx an alternative to street gangs). Rap is as moronic and morally devoid as it ever was. Whats changed exactly?
posted by influx at 2:07 AM on January 7, 2003


Music has all gone to hell since the death of Bing Crosby.
posted by Postroad at 3:35 AM on January 7, 2003


I don't think it's fair to say anyone is blaming garage/hip hop as the soul reason for these shootings. And as this Guardian article points out "Two years ago, the Home Office warned in a submission to a Commons inquiry on firearms that the celebration of guns in film 'may encourage weak-minded people to seek to obtain firearms as a means of bolstering their self-esteem', so at least there is some consistency to their argument and not just a tabloid style knee-jerk (and I don't like the term weak minded people either).

I'm afraid I really fail to see what is so unbelievable about the link between the proliferation of violent images, the association of guns with manhood and the rise in gun violence. If these artists were rapping about being homophobic, or promoting extreme white supremacist views we would rightly condemn them, but when it's guns it's supposedly OK because they're from the street (one of the lamest excuses of all time).

If you present the young with little but racist imagery then it should come as no surprise that many of them grow up to be racist. What's the difference in giving them little else than a glorification of gun culture.

More middle class unoffensive music, like that nice Mr Sting, but not as loud please (I linked to a Guardian article, someone was going to say it).
posted by ciderwoman at 3:41 AM on January 7, 2003


Honestly when was the last time you heard something (mainstream) that made you want to run around in circles and write down every word.

I'm no pop puppet, but most of Eminem's singles, for example.

Also, most of the stuff that comes out of the French hip-hop scene. It's still pretty fresh.
posted by wackybrit at 3:46 AM on January 7, 2003


Music has all gone to hell since the death of Bing Crosby.

Dean Martin too.

I have a great idea for Hop-Hip:

Step 1. Think of as many ways possible to say "I am the greatest m.c.", or "women are bitches, prostitutes, et cetera", or "my racist and criminal behavior is fascinating".

Step 2. Set above to drum or rhythm track. (the fewer hooks and the more noisy senslessness will improve the critical acclaim: radio static with voice reading from notes written on toilet paper while drunk are fabulously cutting-edge.)

Step 3. Look for real job.
posted by hama7 at 3:54 AM on January 7, 2003


hama7:

Step 4. ??????

Step 5. PROFIT!
posted by PenDevil at 4:28 AM on January 7, 2003


To pick a nit , Gorillaz as alternative hip hop! Being white english and led by Blur's Damon Albarn they hardly qualify.

The real question is 'To hyphenate to not to hyphenate'.
Google reckons that 'hip hop' shades 'hip-hop' 3,020,000 to 2,990,000. Which keeps it more real?
posted by kenaman at 4:46 AM on January 7, 2003


Am I the only one here that hates hip hop and rap. Besides Lenny Kravitz, when is the last time you saw a black musician on MTV that wasn't performing either one or the other. I guess I'm getting old, but when a couple of white kids out of Detroit (White Stripes) are the new salvation for blues rock, you have to start asking why young black culture has abandoned so much musical history in favor of junk. It's sad.
posted by Beholder at 5:03 AM on January 7, 2003


The "hip-hop is over" debate is almost as new and interesting as the "violent/misogynistic lyrics make the Baby Jesus cry"-Tipper-Gore debate.

And: "black arts movement"? tell it to the Beastie Boys and to the talented mr. Mathers)

Music has all gone to hell since the death of Bing Crosby.

Dean Martin too.

Dean Martin has gone to hell? Why? He seemed to be a pretty decent man.
posted by matteo at 5:06 AM on January 7, 2003


Am I the only one here that hates the silly and incorrect distinction that "rap" is commercial music while "hip-hop" is underground music? Remember what KRS said...rap is something you do, hip-hop is something you live.
posted by Succa at 5:06 AM on January 7, 2003


Just as atrocious are today's calcified carbon copies that pass for music videos of the rumpled rap genre.

They've fizzled the snizzle and drizzled the sizzle a looooooong time ago, yo.
posted by dakotadusk at 5:17 AM on January 7, 2003


Music has all gone to hell since the death of Bing Crosby.

Along with Bing himself, from what I've heard.

[Rimshot]

When was the last time you didn’t feel guilty nodding your head to a song that had a ‘hot beat’ after realizing the lyrical content made you cringe.

Scarface's "My Block." Blackalicious' entire Blazing Arrow album. Some of Eminem's stuff. Princess Superstar's "Bad Babysitter," N*E*R*D's "Lapdance." Nappy Roots. Mos Def. Jurassic 5. But then again, I'm not easily offended. And that's just some fairly well know stuff.
Hip-Hop's in a weird phase right now, but it's a long way from dead. This guy sounds like those people who kept saying "Rock Is Dead" when disco came out.

Besides Lenny Kravitz, when is the last time you saw a black musician on MTV that wasn't performing either one or the other.

Lenny Kravitz is a pretty-boy hack. But that's beside the point. To answer your question: soul singers like Jill Scott, Angie Stone, Macy Gray, D' Angelo, etc. just to name a few.

when a couple of white kids out of Detroit (White Stripes) are the new salvation for blues rock, you have to start asking why young black culture has abandoned so much musical history in favor of junk. It's sad.

Listen to grooves on those rap records you profess to hate so much, theres plenty of musical history in there. Most of what I know about funk and deep soul I learned from working backwords from the PE and BDP records I dug in 10th grade, just like I learned about blues and country from working backwards from my rock records.

It's all good, man.
posted by jonmc at 5:17 AM on January 7, 2003


Step 4. ??????

(except Outcast and very few others.)
posted by hama7 at 5:20 AM on January 7, 2003


i dunno, but that last Yes CD 'Magnification' sure sucked. wtf is hiphop?
posted by quonsar at 5:24 AM on January 7, 2003


When was the last time you didn’t feel guilty nodding your head to a song that had a ‘hot beat’ after realizing the lyrical content made you cringe?

The first time I heard 'Work It' by Missy Elliott.

It also made me run around in those circles, looking for paper to write down the lyrics.
***

Also, I don't think anyone is really bothered that many older (read: non-teen) people don't like or understand hip-hop.

Every generation, the less-youthful declare the music of the young to be, as Beholder put it, junk.

Nothing new under the sun, really.
posted by yellowcandy at 5:28 AM on January 7, 2003


Every generation, the less-youthful declare the music of the young to be, as Beholder put it, junk.

Never a truer word was spoken.
posted by hama7 at 5:31 AM on January 7, 2003


Because it's Junk!
posted by hama7 at 5:32 AM on January 7, 2003


To pick a nit , Gorillaz as alternative hip hop! Being white english and led by Blur's Damon Albarn they hardly qualify

Musically I'd agree, but since when did being white or English prohibit you from making Hip Hop?
posted by ciderwoman at 5:37 AM on January 7, 2003


Honestly when was the last time you heard something (mainstream) that made you want to run around in circles and write down every word.

As influx pointed out, you don't have to look too far past the top 40 to find a thriving hip hop community. It seems to me that Bennu's criticisms have less to do with hip hop and more to do with a music industry that favors tried-and-true formulas for success over innovative artists. I think his comments are relevant to all genre’s of popular music. While the success of Brittany Spears (et al.) is undeniable, she hardly represents the current state of pop vocal art.
posted by astirling at 5:41 AM on January 7, 2003


Music has gone to hell since the death of Bing crosby.

Dean Martin too.

Actually I thought the tritone was the beginning of the end.

Honestly when was the last time you heard something (mainstream) that made you want to run around in circles and write down every word.

I'll cheat on this one, as Arista only distributed
Q-Tip's Kamaal the Abstract as an advance copy.

As for influx's list of progressive artists, Jean Grae should also be included.
posted by Smart Dalek at 5:46 AM on January 7, 2003


//Every generation, the less-youthful declare the music of the young to be, as Beholder put it, junk.//

I'm a "non-teen" person, and I "understand" hip hop as much as any one person can. I don't like all of it, but I "understand" it. Take Mr. Eminem, for example. His lyrics aren't challenging to figure out, and neither are his beats. He's clever, yes, but hardly indecipherable, and he's certainly not original (we all know what a minstrel show is).
But his stuff is also junk, not because it makes the baby jesus cry or because listening to it will send us all the hell in a handbasket, but because sensationalism and hate are very, very easy to write and sell. The path of least resistance is what made the river crooked - or, in Yoda's words, anger, fear, the Dark Side are they. The Dark Side takes the quick and easy path. Narrow is the road that leads to the gates of heaven, but wide is the path that leads to hell, etc, etc. My point being that Eminem has thus far taken the easy, Dark Side way.

Now, if Mr. Mathers did some exploring in his work, wrote other stuff than hyperbole about working class white culture, and really tried, as, say, Third Bass's MC Serch did, to explore the presence of a white person in a largely black cultural movement, and what that means, and perhaps even his connection to artists like Elvis Presley and Eric Clapton who have co-opted other black cultural products and profited from them more than any black person ever did, in short, if he used that famous flow of his to some end other than selling records, then he might be worth listening to.

Every genre has its 80% of shit, made only for profit, and that smaller percentage of actual artists. Sometimes the shit-makers are very talented, as in Eminem's case, but a talented person making shit just makes very tasty shit. I still don't want to eat it though.
posted by eustacescrubb at 5:53 AM on January 7, 2003


I completely loathe both rap and hip-hop. What amazes me is how the level of musical appreciation has declined among the masses; I'm also appalled by the things you can get away with if when you're black and/or your parents mistreated you or whatever. I remember Robert Crumb (by no means a poster child himself) complaining about the level of aggression in contemporary black music.
But at the end of the day it's the lack of melody and the irrational, non-stop thumping that keeps me away from rap/hip-hop.
posted by 111 at 5:54 AM on January 7, 2003


So much playa hatin'. Thank god there's enough good hip hop around (if you look hard enough) to make me not take some of these arguments seriously.
posted by adampsyche at 5:58 AM on January 7, 2003


111--read that back to yourself. I bet you sound like your own mother telling you that your Kiss or Rolling Stones or [insert teenage favorite] were going to rot your mind and keep the country from winning the war. As one of the great hip-hop artists once said, Don't Believe the Hype.
posted by jonmc at 6:03 AM on January 7, 2003


jonmc, PE (ITANOMTHUB and Fear from a Black Planet only) were the exception that used to justify the rule, but now they suck too. Overall, I simply feel disgusted by the annoying beats, the psychopatic violence and the general lack of basic education inherent to rap; I see it as a symptom of cultural decline, not a cause. I also find it odd when kids who do not belong to that kind of environment embrace the hip-hop fashion/slang/lifestyle. But above all, as I said before, hip-hop does not qualify as music in my book, so that's why I dislike it.
posted by 111 at 6:14 AM on January 7, 2003


Hip hop, in the mainstream, lost its edge years ago. There are really only so many times I can listen to a sampled track peppered with such innovative lyrics as "throw your hands in the air..." or bragging about fancy liquors, Bentleys, Versace and diamond rings...
posted by drstrangelove at 6:16 AM on January 7, 2003


There's some remarkable close-minded attitudes to hip hop being voiced here. Many of these "arguments" against hip hop could just have easily been applied to Jazz in the 40's. I don't particularly want to invoke the term 'racism' here, but it seems that an inordinate amount of attention is given to the fact that hip hop is predominately black.

As has been said, as with any form of music, the majority of the work produced is utter rubbish. Nothing new there. As with any form of music, the records that make it into the top 40 are generally the worst examples of that art form. Dig deeper, always.

As far as the black/white/whatever thing goes : hip hop has always been inclusive and multicultural. As the man said - "one nation under a groove".



This reminds me of something I've always found interesting - I know many people who profess to loathe hip hop, but adore Endtroducing... by Dj Shadow, Concrete Schoolyard by Jurassic 5, and Ill Communication by the Beastie Boys - and there is no way, at all, that you can describe any of that as anything other than hip hop. (To me, at least) Endtroducing... is the very essence of hip hop, and that certainly doesnt glorify guns or violence, seeing as its instrumental and all.

Hip hop is a broad church - don't write it off because it lacks melody, is a "black thing", or "just isn't music", as all of these things are blatantly untrue.



Also, the assertion that "musical appreciation has declined among the masses", and, if so, is related to hip hop. The amount of knowledge and appreciation of music that is required by crate diggers such as Dj Shadow, Cut Chemist, DJ Premier, Peanut Butter Wolf et al is simply astounding. Hip hop was created through a deep love and appreciation of music, in all its forms. Hell, the quintessential hip hop break is Apache, a song by The Shadows. Hip hop is open, honest, hungry, and all-inclusive. Unfortunately its just the narrow-minded, ill-informed, talentless assholes that make it into the top 40. Make of that what you will.
posted by influx at 6:17 AM on January 7, 2003


Every genre has its 80% of shit

How generous you are!

I bet you sound like your own mother telling you that your Kiss...

My mother actually liked Kiss, or maybe she was just saying that to............damn it!

jonmc is right, we sound like a bunch of old codgers. Even if hip-hop does kind-of suck.
posted by hama7 at 6:19 AM on January 7, 2003


hey hey momma say the way you move
gonna make me sweat gonna make me groove...
posted by quonsar at 6:20 AM on January 7, 2003


Lenny Kravitz is a pretty-boy hack.

I completely agree, but that wasn't my point. I'm just amazed at how limited black music seems to be these days, when you compare to the 60s, when black artist explored every type of music including hard rock. Are there black musicians playing other genres (not the best word to use) besides rap and hip hop. I'm sure there are, but it's not being played on MTV, and that confines it to the musical sidelines, whether we like it or not.

Every generation, the less-youthful declare the music of the young to be, as Beholder put it, junk.

I admitted that much in my post, but there is a ton of new music that I enjoy very much, so I'm not sure my opinion is completely a cliche.
posted by Beholder at 6:22 AM on January 7, 2003


I also find it odd when kids who do not belong to that kind of environment embrace the hip-hop fashion/slang/lifestyle.

The first hip-hop group to attain lasting popularity was three middle-class kids from Queens (Run DMC) as was LL Cool J. PE and De La Soul were from suburbia, but the type of shit some of the hardcore rappers talk about is present all over, albiet in different guises. "That kind of environment" is both everywhere and nowhere.

Plus radio waves can travel across city lines. People get affected by what moves them and some wanna dig deeper and learn more of what it's all about.

But it isn't all so serious. Hip-Hop, like other rock and roll (and hip-hop is part of rock and roll asfar as i'm concerned) is sometimes just about getting down and enjoying the music. The artists I mentioned in my initial post to this thread are all examples of hip-hop that dosent traffic in "irrational, non-stop thumping" although I will grant you a lotta top 40 does.

on preview, it's "gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove" but that's okay cos the way you shake that thing I'm gonna make you burn I'm gonna make you sting...
posted by jonmc at 6:27 AM on January 7, 2003


PEDANT
posted by quonsar at 6:32 AM on January 7, 2003


I don't know about other cities but Houston has an absolutely thriving hip-hop scene. I'm a teacher in 3rd Ward and I'd guess that 80% of the music my kids listen to is made right here in Houston. The lyrical content is mixed but there is a whole lot more being said than "look at my women, look at my cars, look at my guns" (although there is plenty of that, too).

One example from Lil Flip's "My Life" :
"In elementary I used crayons, even chalk,
I learned to count money before I could read or talk,
and my momma told me "son, you need to shine",
I couldn't stand at the back, I had to lead the line,
I used to make good grades but I talked in class,
in middle school I was late when I walked in class,
if the teacher ran an errand I taught the class,
and what I didn't know I was about to ask,
and just cuz I played ball I got easy grades,
and when I turned thirteen I got even fades,
everybody wearing airmax, rees and jays
but all my parents cared about wuz B's and A's

You only got one life
you better do what you can
because when you turn thirteen, you are a man
and I can't be broke, so Ima rock the crowd,
It's up to me, I gotta make my momma proud

There's a place called heaven and a place called hell,
There's a place called freedom and a place called jail,
and if you go to jail they gonna treat you bad,
take your commisary and beat you bad,
so I'm staying out of trouble and chasing my dreams.

And that's one of the weakest songs on that album. Lil Flip's sold more than a 100,000 records and he doesn't have a major label deal. A lot of artists in Houston sell a lot records out their garages and trunks. Boss Hawg Outlawz, Swisha House, Slim Thug, Lil Troy, T2, Hawk, Ron C, Zero, Chamillionaire, every couple months somebody new comes out.
posted by chris0495 at 6:37 AM on January 7, 2003


Wait, wait... Since hip-hop has been around for quite a while, none of us should feel guilty about criticizing it as "junk." Unless you're well into your 30s, chances are you grew up with hip-hop as just another alternative genre of music. Thus, you can get away with avoiding the "these darn kids and their music" argument in favor of, "man, hip-hop was so much better 'back in the day' when it meant something." The appropriate criticism of hip-hop is not to point out that it's crap so much as "uncool and played out."

You may now return to your regularly scheduled aged crankiness.
posted by deanc at 6:46 AM on January 7, 2003


Yes, yes! Whomever gave us UK garage should be brought in front of a world court tribunal for crimes against humanity.

That, and I want to draw and quarter those responsible for gabber/happy hardcore


posted by shadow45 at 6:54 AM on January 7, 2003


Yes, and i've heard some kickass hip-hop and turntablism from some parts of Europe... Cut Killer, MC Solar.. all good stuff. Hell, i've even heard rap from Australia that kicks ass.. and I like Jehst's stuff too.
posted by shadow45 at 6:56 AM on January 7, 2003


Observation One: It's just wrong to make light of someone else's music preferences, so I won't do that here. To say things like "hip hop sucks" or "rap isn't real music" is just wrong.

Observation Two: Most practicioners of the rap and hip hop art form (as in most other areas of modern pop music) can neither read nor write (sheet) music, and most cannot even play a musical instrument. I suggest that this limits both the quality and range of the music they produce.

Observation Three: Read the open letter to Rolling Stone magazine on their "Women In Rock" issue. This is applicable to the hip hop and rap "scene" in that often the art is less about the music than about image and presentation.

Observation Four: Fatboy Slim's Weapon Of Choice is cool, even to this uptight white guy.
posted by mrmanley at 6:57 AM on January 7, 2003


Hip hop, in the mainstream, lost its edge years ago. There are really only so many times I can listen to a sampled track peppered with such innovative lyrics as "throw your hands in the air..." or bragging about fancy liquors, Bentleys, Versace and diamond rings...

It's so easy and convenient to categorize an entire genre by a few no-talent songs by asshats, isn't it?
posted by adampsyche at 6:57 AM on January 7, 2003


And damn if you want some great hip-hop, check out PB Wolf's Run the Line (DJ Celery remix). DJ Shadow is right up my alley, Preemptive Strike has been my atmosphere for many latenight coding sessions. I never ever thought to classify Shadow as hip-hop, more like dub. (due to the heavy samples..) but of course there are a lot of hip-hop and jazz samples. Good stuff, like elevator music for jaded ex-trance freaks.
posted by shadow45 at 7:00 AM on January 7, 2003


Thank you to influx and jonmc for saying it all better than I could have. Treating hip hop/ rap/ garage/ whatever as a monolithic genre where every artist is only as good as the worst representatives seems incredibly unfair. Does rock suck because Vince Neil and Brett Michaels are still alive?

I don't consider myself a huge hip hop fan anymore, but maybe that's just because I grew up with it and it is just another genre to me. I think of myself more as an indie snob, but my top ten list from the last few years would include The Roots' Things Fall Apart, Paul Barman's Paulalleujah! and The Streets' Original Pirate Material (my favorite album from 2002).
posted by yerfatma at 7:07 AM on January 7, 2003


"Punk rock died when the first kid said:

'Punk's not dead,
Punk's not dead!'"

-David Berman
posted by vaca at 7:08 AM on January 7, 2003


When I first saw the post title, "Fuck Hip Hop", I thought - "Ah - a new category of Hip Hop, explicitly about fucking in some way!.....hmmmm....wasn't it always explicity about fucking (among other things)?....Oh! "FUCK Hip Hop" I get it. "
posted by troutfishing at 7:09 AM on January 7, 2003


I completely agree, but that wasn't my point. I'm just amazed at how limited black music seems to be these days, when you compare to the 60s, when black artist explored every type of music including hard rock. Are there black musicians playing other genres (not the best word to use) besides rap and hip hop. I'm sure there are, but it's not being played on MTV, and that confines it to the musical sidelines, whether we like it or not.

You mean, MTV actually plays music rather than documentaries on the homes of music stares or "reality" shows about pretty young 20-somethings whining about how hard their life is as the stars of an MTV reality show? But I digress.

I don't think that I developed a taste for hip-hop until I started listening to community radio that was willing to play off the manufactured play lists. (Though this I actually made the discovery that alternative country is not that bad.) I think the 95% of everithing is crap rule applies here with one addition. If it gets MTV airtime, it most certainly is crap.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 7:13 AM on January 7, 2003


Concerning the difference between the death of punk and the death of hip-hop:

Punk rock can be identified by a certain amount of identifying music composition elements (simple 2 or 3 chord progressions, the shouting, etc.) but the argument regarding its death is more culture oriented.

For someone to claim that punk was dead, they would have to look past the current waves of earnest DYI efforts and state that punk existed only as a revolt to a movement that happened in the 60s and 70s, and thus modern attempts can no longer the necessary zeitgeist.

I think it's more difficult for someone to claim that hip-hop is dead. Unlike punk rock, its birth wasn't demarked so much by a cultural revolt as it was by a starkly new way of approaching music: funk-like breakbeats over purely rhythmic verses.

Now that this new direction in music has flowered, I don't think someone can write its death certificate for purely cultural reasons. Acts like Latyrx, the Anticon crew, and renegades like Dose-one and Boom Bip, can't be accused of not making hip-hop -- that's exactly what they're doing, and they're progressing the artform like jazz in the 40s.

What this buffoon seems to be saying is that hip-hop is dead because the kids won't listen to the good stuff. Please. How can hip-hop be dead? It hasn't even found its Charlie Parker yet. (Or has it?)
posted by Pinwheel at 7:22 AM on January 7, 2003


You can't clump together all hip-hop and rap together. Some lyrics are amazing how they flow and mix. Take for instance "The Light" by Common, one of my all time favs:

Let's stick to understandin and we won't fall
For better or worse times, I hope to me you call
So I pray everyday more than anything
friends will stay as we begin to lay
this foundation for a family - love ain't simple
Why can't it be anything worth having you work at annually
Granted we known each other for some time
It don't take a whole day to recognize sunshine

posted by bmxGirl at 7:23 AM on January 7, 2003


Does rock suck because Vince Neil and Brett Michaels are still alive?

Still laughing about that one. The only argument in here worth a dime.
posted by widdershins at 7:29 AM on January 7, 2003




quonsar, in his infinite wisdom, said: "...wtf is hiphop?"

It's all right here, my man.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:54 AM on January 7, 2003


hip hop is so many things and not just mc'ing. its graffiti, breaking, beat-making. it's a lifestyle that will never die. those who think hip hop is what you see on tv....empTV, that's cool, you're just depriving yourself of the fusion, knowledge, and enjoyment of every other genre of music. crate-diggers forever.
posted by oliver_crunk at 8:31 AM on January 7, 2003


Completely forgot Del tha Funkee Homosapien/ Deltron 3030 (creator of my all time favorite sci-fi concept album by a hip hop artist).
posted by yerfatma at 8:31 AM on January 7, 2003


No one's mentioned El-P, and that's just sad...
posted by SweetJesus at 8:32 AM on January 7, 2003


A couple of things I like of late that one might call hip hop:

The Roots new Phrenology
Cex Tall, Dark and Handcuffed
The Streets
Jean Grae

and many other things that have already been mentioned in this discussion...

I thought the original article was blazing and on the mark, and it articulated a lot of how i feel about bling bling and pop and the overall commodification of something I can say I love. But then I think - what I love is good music. And it doesn't matter what you call the music, as long as the music is good. What makes me happy is that there are still fantastic, artistic, imaginative MCs, DJs, and breakdancers. There is still good music that we can call "hip hop" if that's what important to us.

Hip hop as a political movement - ah well, that does make me sad. You know, cause I guess there was a time when people thought it could save the cities, and black American people. But...this is complicated, but I would say that failure isn't only about the pop music machine and "selling out," but the basic gulf between the artistic and political arenas.

Has anyone read Upski?
posted by capiscum at 8:40 AM on January 7, 2003


Eminem is good? Hmmm, let's see: "This looks like a job for me/So everybody follow me/ blah blah blah/Cause it's so empty without me"

Rhyming "me" with "me" over and over again. I stand corrected.

Everyone said listen to the tracks, give him a chance. I listened to the whole album. It's tripe. I see not a single shred of creativity, originality, meaningful lyrics. His fame is nothing more than a way for him to throw hissy fits in his songs about the people whom he hates.
posted by archimago at 8:41 AM on January 7, 2003


I respected NWA and Public Enemy and other crucial bands at the inception of hip-hop (or hip-hop's creep into mainstream popularity) specifically because they tackled issues of political importance; I never have and never will connect with hip-hop on a musical level, but I can respect what it's all about, especially when it's all about consciousness raising. But on the whole, it doesn't seem to be about this anymore; you can name a thousand artists who focus more on spirituality than they do on keeping the bitchez in their place, but rock and roll "died" when Kansas sold more albums than the New York Dolls. So when bling-bling routinely outsells the kind of hip-hop Bennu cites, maybe there IS something to his thesis.
posted by kgasmart at 8:47 AM on January 7, 2003


Honestly when was the last time you heard something (mainstream) that made you want to run around in circles and write down every word.

Actually, almost once a week, earlier last year when Russell Simmons brought out his Def Poetry Jam on HBO. Groundbreaking stuff that strikes me (at least) as being the next generation hip-hop.
posted by BentPenguin at 8:50 AM on January 7, 2003


Are there black musicians playing other genres (not the best word to use) besides rap and hip hop. I'm sure there are, but it's not being played on MTV

I first saw Floetry on MTV2.
posted by archimago at 8:55 AM on January 7, 2003


Hip hop can't really ever be dead just like punk hasn't ever really been dead. It seems like there is some need to cycle out genres of music for a decade or so so they can retro it back and make it so-called cool again. Personally I cringe when I hear Avril Lavigne is the new punk on the block. But who I am I to say? She's the one with influence right now over the ripe agers just like the Sex Pistols influenced me at the ripe age of 13.

Unlike punk rock, its birth wasn't demarked so much by a cultural revolt as it was by a starkly new way of approaching music...

Sorry I have to disagree even though I'm not a hip hop expert by any definition, but I think hip hop is definitely a cultural revolt equal to or greater than punk because it is rooted in a community that just wanted something to call it's own. I'm guessing all that bling bling mess you see depicted in videos is just a manifestation of the same thing. I think it's time to move on because it's getting quite redundant. And if isn't a cry for cultural recognition what is it? Please give the kiddies something fresh to hang onto soon.

It's always been funny to me how any person could possibly judge another person's preference for music. I read an article recently which made some sense to me. A social scientist remarks, "one can understand why a genre of music is liked by a relatively homogeneous set of people as it is first being developed: Musical innovation is one of the natural cultural products of social interaction, which we know occurs disproportionately between similar people."

Just for fun: In 1982 Malcolm McLaren combined folk music with hip-hop and called it "Buffalo Gals". It was a top 10 hit in the U.K. Eminem picked up McLaren's Buffalo Girls rap in his song "Without Me" by changing Buffalo Gals to: "Two trailer park girls go round the outside, round the outside, round the outside." Is that what we call fusion?
posted by oh posey at 9:00 AM on January 7, 2003


Personally I cringe when I hear Avril Lavigne is the new punk on the block. But who I am I to say? She's the one with influence right now over the ripe agers just like the Sex Pistols influenced me at the ripe age of 13.

But the Sex Pistols weren't spun out of a corporate factory.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 9:14 AM on January 7, 2003


Everyone gets so bitchy when things go mainstream. Relax. The music you hear on MTV and on commercial radio is only a tiny fraction of the music that's available for you to enjoy. And the mainstream is very, very easy to avoid if it upsets you so much.

Maybe you're outraged that these guys are making a lot of money off of stuff you feel is worthless, but I'm sure there are a lot of people that feel the same about some of your favorite bands. Big deal. Send your money towards artists you enjoy, share them with friends and consider your vote cast and your conscience clear. Save your rage for something worthwhile, like just about anything else.
posted by frenetic at 9:15 AM on January 7, 2003


I miss my Yo! MTV Raps...

Ah, the golden days of Gangstarr's Manifest, Queen Latifah's Dance For Me...
posted by y2karl at 9:23 AM on January 7, 2003


del the funky homosapien is also a member of gorillaz, for all you pretty-boy brit haterz.
posted by pikachulolita at 9:26 AM on January 7, 2003


fo' shizzle, ah lahks poop dorky dork.
posted by quonsar at 9:32 AM on January 7, 2003


del the funky homosapien is also a member of gorillaz, for all you pretty-boy brit haterz

And don't forget Dan "The Automator" Nakumara and Michiko Hatori of Chibo Matto...
posted by SweetJesus at 9:41 AM on January 7, 2003


But the Sex Pistols weren't spun out of a corporate factory.

Good one. I guess technically it was just a store. If they weren't about image (spoken as a Clash fan-- another assembled group), why wasn't Sid Vicious' bass plugged in?

No one's mentioned El-P, and that's just sad...
Definitive Jux got mentioned a couple of times. Think that qualifies. At the risk of being pedantic, is Del really a member of Gorillaz? I thought he was listed as a guest on "Clint Eastwood".
posted by yerfatma at 9:45 AM on January 7, 2003


mrmanley: Observation Two: Most practicioners of the rap and hip hop art form (as in most other areas of modern pop music) can neither read nor write (sheet) music, and most cannot even play a musical instrument. I suggest that this limits both the quality and range of the music they produce.

what absolute nonsense. so i can play 'greensleeves' on the recorder by looking at dots on a page and correlating them to combinations of finger positions. does this necessarily mean that i'm a creative genius with the ability to emotionally move or influence anyone other than my doting mother? of course not.
i suggest that not being able to read or write music is more likely to lead to the production of something creative, original and exciting. such as taking an incredible bongo band drum loop, cutting/pasting/splicing/mixing it into something completely other.
so you're a concert violinist? nice one. can you scratch like dj craze or kentaro? i doubt it.

also, a musical genre is only dead for me when no-one ever listens to it any more. people are still listening to 14th century moorish chants, and people are sure as hell still listening to punk and hip hop. are people still making 14th century moorish chants? not many, i imagine. are people still making hip hop? yes. plenty of them. long may it (and they) live.
posted by nylon at 9:50 AM on January 7, 2003


"i suggest that not being able to read or write music is more likely to lead to the production of something creative, original and exciting." (nylon)

The delusional statement quoted above is, in a nutshelll, the heart of the matter for hip hop and 20th century "culture" as a whole: mistakes are forgiven; the masses, endorsed by guilty-ridden thinkers, disguise their shortcomings and lack of instruction as virtues, attempting to censor whoever disagrees; "The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity." (Yeats).
posted by 111 at 10:15 AM on January 7, 2003


er.... please stop confusing the stuff you hear on the radio with "music" and you won't have these silly "X is dead" problems. those tracks are engineered to sell things, not to be art. if you don't understand where and how to find actual music, maybe music just isn't your thing.


posted by badstone at 10:22 AM on January 7, 2003


I was under the impression that Avril Lavigne rose to popularity from somewhere Canada by making music that people like. She writes her own songs and plays guitar, what more do you want?

Sure, she's signed to a label, but if you're not these days then we wouldn't hear your stuff at all. Weren't the Sex Pistols signed?
posted by ODiV at 10:39 AM on January 7, 2003


But the Sex Pistols weren't spun out of a corporate factory.
Au contraire.

111: Delusional? Are you a jazz student? Learning to read and write music is not in any way related to your ability to create music. You don't make music with a pen.

I cry for anyone foolish enough to believe that Avril Lavigne is in any way punk.

Hip hop, and you don't stop.
posted by Fabulon7 at 10:39 AM on January 7, 2003


My advice: stay away from MTV, MuchMusic, Top 40 radio, Urban Radio and club/dance radio. Instead, listen to your local college or community radio and be prepared to carry a pen and paper to write down all those groups that you discover, including some amazing hip hop.

mrmanley: Observation Two: Most practicioners of the rap and hip hop art form (as in most other areas of modern pop music) can neither read nor write (sheet) music, and most cannot even play a musical instrument. I suggest that this limits both the quality and range of the music they produce.

I would like to know your sources on this statement and if it's even remotely true, what the percentage of rap/ hip hop artists is who don't know how to read sheet music.

"The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity." (Yeats). 111

111, wouldn't you say that the more things change, the more they stay the same? Many musical artists create pap for the masses in order to get rich, popular or powerful. When was this any different? This should in no way negate the fact that they are still artists who are creating something that they feel might be appreciated (there should be an emphasis placed on "creating" as well as "appreciated").

It's always been about finding what's best in the arts and the road travelled while finding it.
posted by ashbury at 10:41 AM on January 7, 2003


This should clear up all the confusion. Zeppelin rulez!
posted by Fabulon7 at 10:42 AM on January 7, 2003


stay away from MTV, MuchMusic, Top 40 radio, Urban Radio and club/dance radio. Instead, listen to your local college or community radio...

unfortunately in most cases college radio died a long time ago. it turned into playlist driven crap, same as everything else, designed to serve as a training ground for future ClearChannel programmers.
posted by badstone at 10:48 AM on January 7, 2003


No one's mentioned El-P, and that's just sad...

Ah, yes. Emerson, Lake - and Palmer. The finest hip-hop, for decades.
posted by websavvy at 10:50 AM on January 7, 2003


I was under the impression that Avril Lavigne rose to popularity from somewhere Canada by making music that people like. She writes her own songs and plays guitar

i understand that the number of people who have ever actually heard her play a guitar is quite miniscule, her insistence that she's a tuff sk8r grrl not a rockbabe poseur reeks of record label scripting, and how old is she, really?

prefab beyond doubt. a corporate attempt to create a brittney for the trendy-cool-disenfranchised-teenboy-masses on skateboards. already spiraling toward the drain, her big moment was being audio fodder for the opening creds of the music awards. [hey, someone has to be final sound check once the bodies are in the room.]
posted by quonsar at 10:55 AM on January 7, 2003


I bet you sound like your own mother telling you that your Kiss or Rolling Stones or [insert teenage favorite] were going to rot your mind and keep the country from winning the war.

It didn't?
posted by semmi at 10:56 AM on January 7, 2003


The argument that "they don't even play their own instruments" never ceases to irritate me. As if reworking existing sounds to create new works is any less creative than knocking out A, D, G on a guitar; as if they only "real" music is that created by 4 guys in a room with instruments. If you really believe that, you'd better throw out your copy of Sergeant Pepper's/Magical Mystery Tour. Songs like a Day in the Life and Strawberry Fields Forever strayed so far away from "real" music that they could justifiably be credited with creating sampling.

The level of artistry involved in making albums like Vocal Studies + Uprock Narratives, or Endtroducing... (made entirely from sampled records) is simply breathtaking. This is not just taking a sample and looping it. This is breaking music down to its constituent parts, and rebuilding it again from the ground up. There is far more talent involved in that creative process than banging out a handful of minor chords and singing about how mommy didn't love me.

Bah.
posted by influx at 12:25 PM on January 7, 2003


The level of artistry involved in making albums like Vocal Studies + Uprock Narratives, or Endtroducing... (made entirely from sampled records) is simply breathtaking.

Damn right. I really got into turntable mixes (some people like to call it instrumental hip hop right now) when Brainfreeze by Dj Shadow and Cut Chemist (from J5) was leaked to the internet. It's two 30 minute tracks, composed live, consisting of 220-or-so 45 soul records from the early 70's, remixed and strung together. Mother fucking brilliant.

It's near impossible to get Brainfreeze on a cd (I'm not sure they ever made one, but if they did it's very, very hard to find) or even an LP. DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist released a so-called follow up titled "Product Placement", which you can find if you look hard enough. I don't think it's as good as Brainfreeze, but it's in a very similar vein (recorded live to tape, consisting of 45 soul records and product advertising jingles)

Should be able to find it on Kazza without too much trouble.
posted by SweetJesus at 12:46 PM on January 7, 2003


A thorough knowledge of electricity is a required part of being an electrician.

A thorough knowledge of music is a required part of being a musician.

Me plugging in a lamp does not make me an electrician.

Someone plugging in a sample does not make them a musician.

Influx: I can copy/paste other people's work. That doesn't make me a writer.

I can take a cut diamond and place it into a premade setting. That doesn't make me a jeweler.

I can take the shucks off of corn. That doesn't make me a farmer.

I can take wine and move it from a bottle to a glass. That doesn't make me a vintner.

The "constituent parts" *IS* the music!
posted by Ynoxas at 12:46 PM on January 7, 2003




A thorough knowledge of electricity is a required part of being an electrician.

My father made almost all electrical repairs around our house. His knowledge of actual electricity began and ended with the fact that amperes, not volts, are deadly. The other lesson I remember is to always shut off the right breaker before starting work (I'll never forget that one).

To continue your flawed logic, you are asserting that all advances in any field were made by people that already completely understood what they were working on. I don't think that's true. Perhaps the most exciting advances are made before anyone completely understands the matter in question. Bell Labs/ Lucent's most recent iteration on the fluorescent bulb is not as exciting as Ben Franklin's kite flying, to me.
posted by yerfatma at 1:00 PM on January 7, 2003


ashbury:

I wish I could provide a link to my assertion that most pop artists can neither read nor write music (and many can't play a musical instrument), but it's no secret: I got the dope from a friend who used to do donkey-work for a music producer in LA. (It also taught me a whole new level of respect for session musicians, who are the unheralded heroes of the music world.) If you know anyone in the music biz, you can ask them and they'll tell you the same thing. I wouldn't be surprised if there wasn't a scholarly article or two on the subject though -- it's certainly well-known in the industry. I'm not saying that this makes for a bad musician; even a guitar great like Stevie Ray Vaughan couldn't read sheet music. (But boy howdy he could play the hell out of that guitar....)

My main complaint about musicians who can neither read nor write music is that the music they produce, while momentarily enjoyable and filled with "flava", is trite, shallow, derivative, and often just plain dumb. (This is true of pop music in general, not just hip hop or rap.) Good music of whatever stripe has depth and texture, something that persists. How many rap songs from ten years ago are still heard on the radio? (Hell, how many from three or four years ago?) Can you imagine listening to most of this junk twenty years from now, or fifty? How much relevance will it have then?

Hip Hop and rap also labor under a memetic load of misogyny, glorification of the "thug life", and an aimless hostility towards subtlety of emotion. It makes the music tiring to listen to, and I have found that most young people tend to grow out of it as they get older and move into jazz, blues, gospel, folk, and world music. I think that's why I tend to roll my eyes when people (in all earnestness) try to extol the artistic virtue of hip hop or rap music.

In other words: I like hamburgers, but I also don't delude myself that I'm really eating steak.
posted by mrmanley at 1:06 PM on January 7, 2003


A thorough knowledge of electricity is a required part of being an electrician.

true, to an extent. trying to be an electrician without knowing anything about electricity will most likely lead to you being killed, or if not at least left with burns or a seriously increased heart-rate, then maybe permanent damage to the equipment you're dealing with, permanent damage to lots of equipment you're not dealing with directly but is still connected, and/or disconnection of many people's power supply.

lacking a thorough knowledge of music (every kind of music?) is unlikely to lead to your death or permanent injury in the event of trying to create some music. and creating music makes you a musician. ask the shaggs.

it's important to know how to drive well before attempting to hurtle down the M42 in a lorry. it's NOT important for me to be familiar the art canon, or to know anything about art history for me to paint a beautiful picture.

do autechre know how to read or write music? can they play the flute? does merzbow? phill niblock? thomas koner? who gives a shit? they make incredible, intense music that doesn't rely on them playing written notes on a trumpet. not all music can be annotated conventionally in the way you're suggesting. it doesn't make it less valid. ask stockhausen. ask john cage (you won't get much of a reply from him, but ask anyway).

How many rap songs from ten years ago are still heard on the radio?

depends which radio you listen to. i would suggest that 'rapper's delight' by the sugarhill gang is still pretty damn popular, and that came out in, what, '79?
posted by nylon at 1:33 PM on January 7, 2003


A thorough knowledge of electricity...
...
The "constituent parts" *IS* the music!


Are collages art? Is mixed media sculpture art? Can still lives be artistic? Is photography art if the photographer did not create all the items in the scene? Is a violinist a musician if she's playing notes someone else wrote on a violin someone else built using technique someone else taught her? Are alternatives histories not truly literature? Is a scientist doing science when she discovers correlations between two existing theories?
posted by badstone at 1:36 PM on January 7, 2003


1) Allah bless you all who mentioned brilliant musicians and artists like El-P, Aesop Rock, Latyrx, Blackalicious, Prefuse 73, and the rest. It's those of you who will keep Hip-Hop alive and true to what it's potential can be.

2) I truly pity those of you with the "I never will like rap" and "rap will never be music to me". Never? EVER? I could never hope to limit myself as to what I will like in the future...who can ever say what we will like 20 years from now? I HATED rap for most of my life, then, about 5 years ago, someone played De La Soul's Buhloone Mind State for me and something just aligned in my brain...this was JAZZ! Unbelievable. And once I started really listening to hip-hop, it unfurled itself to me...it's deep, melodic, complex, intelligent, insightful, and fun all at the same time. It still teaches me everyday. Thank you Nestor Gil for opening me up to the Solesides crew. Wow!

But not all of it is good, and that's where people who don't listen to it have a problem. Like Jazz, it takes alot of exposure in order to hear good from bad and even MORE exposure to start understanding it. Don't assume that what you hear on the radio is good. The Jazz I hear on the radio isn't good (Kenny G is Jazz you know), so should I judge it by his body of work? Surely not...nor should any of you judge hip-hop by what you hear on the radio. We all know the "masses" are pretty ignorant (generally speaking) so why buy into their aesthetic judgements?

Hip-Hop sells more than ANY OTHER genre in the world today. Dead? Not bloody likely. But fight the ignorance within yourselves and seek out some of the good artist mentioned above. If nothing else, listen to DJ Shadow's Endroducing. Even my wife likes THAT and it is, SURELY, hip-hop.

And I'm 31.

-oh and Endroducing it is not Dub. Dub is not defined by having samples, it's a subgenre of Reggae.
posted by Dantien at 1:42 PM on January 7, 2003


What surprises me most about this thread is how easily people are willing to dismiss something because they don't get it or don't like it. Just because it's not your thing doesn't mean its not art.

The second most surprising thing is how quickly people are to point to commercial radio play as an indicator of the health of a genre. Radio doesn't suck because there isn't good music out there, radio sucks because they don't play good music. Check out WFMU for good radio. They don't always play music that I like, but they are an example of how great radio can be.
posted by drobot at 1:45 PM on January 7, 2003


Ynoxas, have you heard Endtroducing or DJ Shadow's contemporaries? I'm doubting it because there is no way in hell anyone who has would question its validity as "music".

As a total music geek (who knows jack all about hip hop), I gotta say that the talent these people have for crafting songs entirely out of records is astounding, easily requiring more "understanding" of music than what normally passes for music these days.
posted by dobbs at 2:03 PM on January 7, 2003


mrmanley, if you were around back in the 40's, you'd be saying the same thing about jazz as you are about hip-hop. you'd assume that guys who taught themselves and were "uneducated" about music, were too ignorant to actually be making "real" music. you'd read the stories in the paper about this bird's drug habits and miles' violence and define them and the rest of the genre by it. you'd call it flat and textureless because you're too naive to appreciate it and too scared of delving into new territory to find out just where the depth actually lies. you wouldn't be able to get into bebop until 50 years after the fact, once it was sufficiently academized, watered down, and white.
posted by badstone at 2:10 PM on January 7, 2003


You people...

Hip hop isn't dead. Punk isn't dead. Why are you so interested in criticising something that you don't know about? I went to see Sarah Jones the other night and she was bad as fuck. I went to see Against Me! a month ago and had the same great feeling.

Punk is a form of music that people have been creating and modifying and developing for 20 years now. It's not dead - maybe it's kind of wierd that some bands are doing the same 3 chord schtick that the sex pistols were taught to do 20 years ago. I'm not into that kind of punk, although you can still hear it on the radio and see it on MTV2... What would you rather it be called? So, fine, that's not punk. I kind of agree. Punk is the vibrant alive movement that is going on in your city, right under your nose, without you being aware of it. It's the independent record labels, the bands that are being started by high school kids, and the shows that kids are renting halls to put on. I know I sound like a cheerleader - but I just don't get the argument.

As for 'A thorough knowledge of music...' does this mean that the brilliant tin whistler that didn't go to music school and doesn't know his notes isn't a musician? Are you crazy, or just ignorant about where music comes from? People have a need to create music, just like the do visual art, and they create it with what is available. Putting together sounds is what music is, whether it be notes or sequences of notes. ALL MUSIC is derived from other sources. I would think you would know that as apparently you've studied music theory and you know which notes go together.
posted by goneill at 2:10 PM on January 7, 2003


badstone:

There is jazz, and there is atonal noise. Too many so-called "jazz buffs" mistake one for the other, but I won't belabor the point here -- whole books have been written on the subject.

Miles Davis and Charlie Parker produce vastly different kinds of music, but they are both "jazz musicians", and their music is as fresh and interesting today as it was decades ago. And yet much of the jazz produced in the 40's and 50's was just crap, and went to a well-deserved oblivion with the passing of years.

The problem, as I see it, is that "great music" is obvious only in retrospect. Or do we say that hip hop and rap is "disposable", in that it relies on topicality and trendiness for its impact? Does that mean it is worth less than, say, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik or Zep's Stairway To Heaven?
posted by mrmanley at 2:19 PM on January 7, 2003


oliver_crunk: crate-diggers forever.

And *that* my friends is why I think hip hop is over rated. The entire hip-hop culture is one of appropriating (and often misappropriating) stuff originally made by other people. I take a break beat from here, and melodic line from there....and the entire thing is a search for a sample that someone else hasn't used yet. Mind you, I realize that not all hiphoppers are musically inept, but the genre is defined on "found" art rather than "new" art.

I really liked Entroducing, but when I finally realized what it actually was, I was kind of annoyed....I mean he didn't actually write any of that music. He just found it. Shit, I can find music on my own just fine.

I cried when when I heard the "song" using the riff from "How Soon Is Now" (the Smiths) some years ago, not mention Vanilla Ice's destruction of a fantastic Queen/Bowie collaboration.

On preview: I have to wonder if Pdiddy and N. BIG will be remembered (much less revered) in 20 years. Heck, given the self-parody the P.E. is becoming, I wonder if they'll be remembered. Are they gonna play Fuck the Police on the oldies station in 2030?
posted by jaded at 2:30 PM on January 7, 2003


mrmanley - I would agree that you can only judge the importance of art/artist by the influence they have on the next generation of artists. So, yes, "great" art is obvious only in retrospect, but that doesn't mean that there aren't great artists in hiphop. I don't get how, after reading this thread, you can say that hiphop is disposable. It's been around for twenty years and is showing no signs of slowing down. I don't understand how after hearing DJ Shadow, Blackalicious - any of the great artists already mentioned, you can't at least appreciate that hiphop is lasting art, even if you don't like it.
posted by drobot at 2:31 PM on January 7, 2003


mrmanley -

Is the Freestyle Foundation trendy? You can barely Google them, but ask any real head and you'll get near worship. Is QBert's Wave Twisters topical? I'd love to hear your analysis. "Great music" is obvious in retrospect to everyone, sure, but it's also obvious to people who know how to look for it. There are people in the world who do not need the nod of academia and the safety of historic distance to appreciate art.


PS - my obligatory list....

Don't forget about turntablism! there are more turnablists in the world than Shadow and Cut Chemist! ISP, Bulletproof, X-Ecutioners, The Allies, Jazzy Jeff, Cash Money, Kid Koala, DJ Krush, Coldcut, Afrika Bambaataa, Prince Paul, Beat Junkies, Grandmaster Flash, Grandwizard Thedore, DJ Flare, D-Stylez...

Also, Madlib has been mentioned, but Quasimoto should be stressed. The Unseen was the best thing to happen to hip hop in a loooong time.
posted by badstone at 2:32 PM on January 7, 2003


PPS -

Musical notation for turntables does exist! DJ Radar invented a notation in order to compose "Concerto for Turntables" and I think A-Trak has crafted a notation as well.
posted by badstone at 2:41 PM on January 7, 2003


archimago: Eminem is good? Hmmm, let's see: "This looks like a job for me/So everybody follow me/ [cuz we need a little controversy]/Cause it's so empty without me"

Everyone said listen to the tracks, give him a chance. I listened to the whole album. It's tripe.
I can't believe I'm defending Eminem, because I'm not a huge fan, but... well, maybe you don't like the theme, but you have to have a tin ear to not hear the flow. I agree with eustacescrubb that if he put his talents to more meaningful subject matter, we'd *really* have something, but archimago you're just dead wrong about his skill:
A visionary, vision is scary,
Could start a revolution, pollutin the airwaves, a rebel
So just let me revel and bask in the fact that I got everyone kissin my ass
And it's a disaster, such a castastrophe
for you see so damn much of my ass; you asked for me?
Well I'm back, na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na
Fix your bent antenna tune it in and then I'm gonna enter in and under your skin like a splinter
The center of attention, back for the winter
I'm interesting, the best thing since wrestling
Infesting in your kid's ears and nesting
Testing, attention please! Feel the tension, soon as someone mentions me
Here's my ten cents, my two cents is free
A nuisance, who sent? You sent for me?
I can't imagine how you could listen to that in the context of the music and not hear the rhythm involved, the internal rhyme scheme that plays into the beat comfortably, the heavy use of alliteration or punny re-iteration of similar sounding phrases ("Snap back to reali-ty, Oh look there goest gravit-y, look there goes rabbit, he...") then pick out one simplistic hook as proof of his incompetence. That's either lazy or outright dishonest.

The lack of talent here seems to be in your own inability to hear the skill involved (even if put to a less than worthy cause). Yippy-Yo yo/In the room the women come and go/talking of Michelangelo...
posted by hincandenza at 3:06 PM on January 7, 2003


mrmanley: Most practicioners of the rap and hip hop art form (as in most other areas of modern pop music) can neither read nor write (sheet) music, and most cannot even play a musical instrument. I suggest that this limits both the quality and range of the music they produce.

The aesthetics of sample-based music don't come from classical music theory, much like the atonal noise in your discussion of jazz. You may not appreciate it, but I don't see how it is a limiting factor. As for the range, it's only restricted by the available media (which may have surpassed the orchestra soon after the orchestra was pressed to wax). You also have to recognize that it's in its nascent form; a discussion of potential shouldn't rely on comparison of 30 years of hip-hop against centuries of classical composition. As badstone fears, it can and is becoming academical.
posted by eddydamascene at 3:16 PM on January 7, 2003


Personally I cringe when I hear Avril Lavigne is the new punk on the block. But who I am I to say? She's the one with influence right now over the ripe agers just like the Sex Pistols influenced me at the ripe age of 13.

But the Sex Pistols weren't spun out of a corporate factory.


Another possibility is that the Sex Pistols actually played something approaching "punk".

Sure, genres are flimsy, transient things -- but the Lavigne Conspiracy has crossed the goddamn line with this punk charade. She's Michelle Branch with ripped sleeves, lots of eye makeup, and vowels that occasionally betray her Canadian heritage. I do find that tiny, tiny blond kid who plays in her band hilarious, though.

(Side note: I wish Michelle Branch would ditch this noodling singer/songwriter thing, hire a couple of really noisy backup musicians, and start wailing. She has a fine voice for it. Or perhaps it just my love of fast rock with female lead vocals, like Dover, talking.)
posted by tingley at 3:19 PM on January 7, 2003


...if you were around back in the 40's, you'd be saying the same thing about jazz as you are about hip-hop. you'd assume that guys who taught themselves and were "uneducated" about music, were too ignorant to actually be making "real" music.

badstone,

The thing about the jazz/hip-hop comparison is that, poor and deprived as they might have been, young black jazz musicians of the '30s and '40s had had access to instruments and music teachers at school. There was real depth of musical training and expertise available which would be impossible to draw upon in any inner city public school in the last 30 years. Subtract materials, instruments and musical education while maintaining a desire to make music, and you get, well...rap and hip-hop.

(Argument ripped off wholesale from Donald Clarke's 'Rise and Fall of Popular Music', chapter nineteen, online in its entirety here):

"American taxpayers will vote against anything that costs money if they get a chance, so forget frills, like libraries. Forget music. The schools in some American states almost closed in the late 1970s because there was not enough money to keep the doors open; at the same time a new generation of black kids were inventing rap.

You can draw a parallel between black music and the American economy as a whole. The tiny middle class are the composers and performers celebrated around the world: Roscoe Mitchell, Leo Smith, Braxton and the rest, relatively poor as they are. The working class is really nowhere: if all an aspiring young black musician wants to do is play in the Hollywood studios or in a symphony orchestra, there are not enough jobs.

And there is the underclass, which could not even afford to go to discos, and had no musical training whatever. But they had turntables and a few records. So they invented their own mixes, by switching back and forth between two copies of the same record, such as James Brown’s ‘Get on the Good Foot’, the harder, funkier music that disco had come from. Using microphones, they chanted over their music, as in Jamaican dub, in which the DJ chants over an instrumental reggae track (one of the first in the new rap genre was Jamaican-born Kool Herc of the South Bronx)...

...the uncomfortable fact is that rap was born of musical starvation. In the late 1980s the great jazz percussionist and composer Max Roach received a foundation grant, and was widely interviewed in American newspapers. One of the subjects he spoke about was music education. No matter how poor they were, no matter what kinds of backgrounds they came from, Roach’s generation, including Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, had been able to get real musical tuition, on real musical instruments, in the schools. But that had changed. ‘If you don’t like rap,’ Roach pointed out to the American people, ‘you’re getting what you paid for...’ "

(the link is here, if any one's interested (scroll down).





posted by Sonny Jim at 3:22 PM on January 7, 2003


The entire hip-hop culture is one of appropriating (and often misappropriating) stuff originally made by other people.

Including the lyrics? And what about Stetsasonic or The Roots? "The entire hip-hop culture"? There have to be a dozen exceptions to your "all hip hop is theft" rule in this thread alone. Talking in extremes makes it easy to debunk.

Shit, I can find music on my own just fine.

Can you find all that music and turn it into something different and as impressive as, say, Kid Koala's Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
posted by yerfatma at 3:26 PM on January 7, 2003


As for the article itself, I think too many people on this thread got into defensive mode (and I don't think too many of you read the article, either).
No new innovative artists are hired to balance out a roster of the pornographic genocide MC’s. In their place, we’re presented with yet more examples of arrested development ... Balding insecure men in their mid 30’s making entire songs about their sexual prowess and what shiny toys they have and you don’t.
...
There are plenty of alternatives today but you’d never know it through the mass media.
Hello, Metafilter- huked on phoniks wurked 4 me!

The author didn't seem to be saying there is no good music or good hip-hop, but that the music that made the most money, the most public face, was nothing more than crap pimped by sleazy record execs, the mumblings of insipid simpletons with a childish love for excessive bling-bling, ho's and bitches. I completely agree with that- when I see Eminem, I see a similar thug who at least has talent and potential with a little sense of humor, something many of the Nickname/hyphen/initial crowd is sorely lacking.

The good artists being pointed out on this thread (many of whom the author explicitly noted as well in his article)- that's the exception, not the rule, at least when it comes to the million dollar record sales and the MTV Cribs houses. Let's be honest, every two-bit no-talent fuckwad on that show has the same damn Navigator with the playstation in the trunk. Why? Because they're shallow and stupid no-talent hacks with no originality, too stupid to come up with someone really new, too stupid realize they didn't deserve any of this and will probably blow it all on VIP Room champagne and be pumping gas by the time they're 40. Like Elvis showed, when you give shallow, stupid, racist hacks a lot of money they spend it in stupid ways and glorify a lifestyle of depraved excess. God, that Puffy quote about diamonds... grrr!!! Those most representative of the public, hyped face of hip hop are nothing but a bunch of modern day black do-ragged Frank Sinatras: misogynist bigoted money-grubbing mob-connected bastards. This is the point the author was making- those carrying on a real tradition of hip hop as a strong voice or vibrant music are not doing it on TRL.
posted by hincandenza at 3:26 PM on January 7, 2003


...the uncomfortable fact is that rap was born of musical starvation.

Oof. What's your point? The uncomfortable fact is that Irish-American culture was born of physical starvation. And yet, people still enjoy it. Just because Max Roach plays jazz doesn't mean he gets hip hop. He might even be a little pissed about missed royalties.

"Hope to earn some hard currency/
from a bit of sample robbery/
noise theivery/
and wholesale piracy"

posted by yerfatma at 3:29 PM on January 7, 2003


"My main complaint about musicians who can neither read nor write music is that the music they produce, while momentarily enjoyable and filled with "flava", is trite, shallow, derivative, and often just plain dumb."

I assume (seeing as it is quite obvious), that you've never heard the music that you are condemning, save for the top 40 pap, which no-one here is defending.

Try listening to some of it, then pass judgement.
posted by influx at 3:32 PM on January 7, 2003


Subtract materials, instruments and musical education while maintaining a desire to make music, and you get, well...rap and hip-hop.

Fast forward to the present: Add Technics, Vestax Mixers, Shure needles, butter rugs, etc... Add music libraries numbering hundreds of thousands of records. Add two decades of DJ Battles and hundreds of videos and DVDs of live performances and "how-to's". Add turntablist crews. Add hundreds of magazines. Add the internet. Add kids doing DJ projects in music colleges.

What you described with your "musical starvation" was Jelly Roll Morton in New Orleans at the turn of the century. What I'm describing is Miles, Bird, and Dizz.
posted by badstone at 3:37 PM on January 7, 2003


It's near impossible to get Brainfreeze on a cd (I'm not sure they ever made one, but if they did it's very, very hard to find) or even an LP. DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist released a so-called follow up titled "Product Placement", which you can find if you look hard enough.

Both were very limited editions that were almost immediately bootlegged in very large numbers. Same thing happened to (the highly reccomended in a similar vein) Steinski's 'Nothing to Fear, a rough mix'.

All were readily available in the larger indie's, and both Rough Trade and Sister Ray (in London, and by mail order), claim to have copies. Amoeba in LA still had copies last time I checked.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 4:03 PM on January 7, 2003


Well I've heard Nylon's band, and so I don't think he's the one to be lecturing anyone about music. Is it jazz? Is it hip hop? It's the sound of people who should learn to read music, that's what it is.
posted by ciderwoman at 4:23 PM on January 7, 2003


Man, I came back to read the new posts on this thread and it's depressing to read this stuff.

If it's so easy to shock, so easy to sample other people's work and make a hit single, so easy to make three chord guitar rock, so easy to rhyme, so easy to rap, so easy to sell out and so easy in general to make music that millions, thousands or even mere hundreds of people would love, why don't some of you guys take a few minutes out of your busy posting schedules and put your money where your mouths are?

I mean, if it's so easy to do all of this stuff, why don't you? Is it because you have too much integrity? You don't want to stoop to their level? Upon accepting your Grammy awards you could denounce the whole mainstream industry and genre and give all the money earned to charity and go down in the history books as that guy who was smarter and more talented and more awesome than everyone else and who managed to destroy no-talent music forever.

You could be super cool like The KLF and write a book about your experience like The Manual - How To Have a Number One The Easy Way wherein you laugh at the industry and explain, in laymans terms how to pull its strings and rob it blind of all the money you think it doesn't deserve anyhow.

But no, by all means, let's argue about which musicians are actually talented and what real music is. That's like, way more awesome.
posted by frenetic at 4:30 PM on January 7, 2003


I seem to be trending towards music criticism rather than simple observation in my posts, which I didn't really mean to do. If rap or hip hop gets it done for you musically, well, good for you. But I I would want people to think seriously about the quality of the music they pour into their heads on a daily basis -- "found music", like "found art", can only be re-ingested so many times before it is more noise than message. No one agrees on where music ends and noise begins, but I think we can all agree that there is such a distinction.

And this provides an interesting counterpoint to the conversation here....>
posted by mrmanley at 4:31 PM on January 7, 2003


Another key difference between jazz and hip-hop is, as troubled as many jazz musicians were (Bill Evans, Miles Davis, etc), I don't recall any of their music glorifying or celebrating misogyny and violence.
posted by 4midori at 4:51 PM on January 7, 2003


DEVENDRA BANHART DEVENDRA BANHART DEVENDRA BANHART
posted by Satapher at 5:27 PM on January 7, 2003


ya dont like the music?
make yer own.
posted by pekar wood at 5:37 PM on January 7, 2003


Another key difference between jazz and hip-hop is, as troubled as many jazz musicians were (Bill Evans, Miles Davis, etc), I don't recall any of their music glorifying or celebrating misogyny and violence.

Bit tricky for a primarily instrumental form, no?
posted by inpHilltr8r at 5:40 PM on January 7, 2003


As has already been said, Johnny Cash and Bruce Springsteen (hell even the Beatles in Run For Your Life) have all produced some disturbingly misogynistic and violent lyrics. Does that invalidate rock too?
posted by influx at 5:40 PM on January 7, 2003


Eminem is good? Hmmm, let's see: "This looks like a job for me/So everybody follow me/ blah blah blah/Cause it's so empty without me"

Rhyming "me" with "me" over and over again. I stand corrected.


Someone rebutted this with a comment that the rest of the song is much better; but that still misses the point: Eminem wasn't rhyming "me" with "me"; he was rhyming "job for me", "follow me", "controversy", and "without me" -- and they do rhyme, the way he sings it. Not the greatest hook in the world, but if you make the particular criticism about it that was made, you've closed off your ears and have no hope of forming any semblance of a coherent understanding of what you're missing.

People devote their lives to making hip-hop, as people devoted their lives to making jazz, to making classical music. People listen to Roots and Blackstar CDs over and over again, as previous generations listened to their Beatles LPs and Louis Armstrong 45s.

Music certainly interacts with the brain on some sort of basic level (self-link -- mostly just speculation, but I like to think it's pretty interesting), but considering the sheer variety of musical idioms (as many as spoken languages (incidentally, music may predate spoken language, using many of the same brain structures)) there's obviously an environmental component. Listen to some South Asian folk music sometime -- it sounds like pure noise to my ears, with no tonality whatsoever, but to the people who play it, it's as straightforward and transparent as Green Day is to us.

If you look at the situation and, with the identical criticisms that were applied to jazz and rock fully in your mind, come to the honest conclusion that all of these hip-hop fans with headphones on their ears and transcendent smiles on their faces are stupid/insane and that only you know the truth about this noise they all claim to "love", you're an idiot.

(Sorry if I stepped over the line there, but christ, people.)

And again, sampling is not "found music" any more than combining words you've heard before into new sentences is "found prose".
posted by Tlogmer at 5:55 PM on January 7, 2003


And this provides an interesting counterpoint to the conversation here

How so? Do Spade Cooley's actions invalidate country music? Murder, Inc. is the exact sort of rap "artist" factory being decried in the original piece. No one is arguing that Master P, P Diddy, P Knight or Murder P are the vanguard of hip hop.
posted by yerfatma at 6:10 PM on January 7, 2003


No one is arguing that Master P, P Diddy, P Knight or Murder P are the vanguard of hip hop.

No one here, at least.

It is a rare and significant occasion when a musical artist captures and expresses the sentiments of a generation and expands his horizons to make an impact on society, creating a union between music and life. Sean "P. Diddy" Combs is undoubtedly among this very select, very small group. With the roots of his talent stemming from rap and hip-hop but reaching way beyond those parameters, Sean has torn down the barricades that continue to segregate music and society. [p-diddy.com]
posted by eddydamascene at 7:47 PM on January 7, 2003


Contestant #1: yerfatma
My father made almost all electrical repairs around our house. His knowledge of actual electricity began and ended with the fact that amperes, not volts, are deadly.

Well then that didn't make him an electrician, did it? It made him a handyman. There's a reason you get a real electrician to wire your house Sparky. And it's not "flawed logic" just because you don't get it.

Contestant #2: nylon
and creating music makes you a musician.

Absolutely not. Applying paint to a canvas does not make someone a painter.

People can make music. Musicians can make fine music. Making music does not make you a musician. Maybe it's nitpicking but there is a not-so-sublte distinction.

Contestant #3: dobbs
Ynoxas, have you heard Endtroducing or DJ Shadow's contemporaries? I'm doubting it because there is no way in hell anyone who has would question its validity as "music".

As a matter of fact Brainfreeze and Organ Donor reside on my hard drive. But this makes DJ Shadow a DJ, not a musician. He is no more a musician than Barry Sanders is a ballerina.

Contestant #4: goneill
Are you crazy, or just ignorant about where music comes from?

I make no claims to sanity, but I can assure you I am not ignorant of music. I have been a musician for the better part of 20 years, in classical, jazz, country, pop, and gospel. I was a scholarship collegiate musician, done studio work in both orchestral and ensemble settings, live performances in front of 10's of thousands of people both as a instrumentalist and a vocalist and soloist, nationally broadcast television performances, as well as a (somewhat) regrettably unused invitation to the Marine Corps Band. Not to mention stints in college and commercial radio as a DJ.

I may still suck, but I am not ignorant when it comes to music, and certainly deserving of having my own opinion. But thanks for playing.

Medical training makes better doctors. How people would argue that musical training does not make better musicians is incomprehensible.

In most every case, _X_ training makes a better _X_ practitioner. Not a real complicated concept.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:53 PM on January 7, 2003


Another key difference between jazz and hip-hop is, as troubled as many jazz musicians were (Bill Evans, Miles Davis, etc), I don't recall any of their music glorifying or celebrating misogyny and violence.

Neither does good hip-hop. So your point is ... ?


In most every case, _X_ training makes a better _X_ practitioner. Not a real complicated concept.

And your point? There're no shortage of turntablists that have been playing and training for 20+ years, you big star you.
posted by badstone at 8:41 PM on January 7, 2003


oops... there're => there's
posted by badstone at 8:43 PM on January 7, 2003


I'm with Ynoxas on this one. You can argue (as I did, in fact) that there's some real talent with an Eminem- but it's lyric talent with a tinge of musical/rhythmic ability in his phrasing. You can argue that DJ's are very good collage artists- but they aren't creating the real sounds, they're taking already-catchy and polished tunes that actual "musicians" wrote, and putting them together. There is a difference between using the same core language that Shakespeare used, and actually cribbing whole couplets from his plays. Just because you put some good mix tapes together for friends or exes, doesn't mean you deserve a scholarship to Julliard. If I take snippets of film from some of the greatest movie acting performances ever caught on celluloid and put them together- that doesn't actually make me a great actor, does it? Ah, but the words those actors speak, the movements they make, the gestures and facial expressions- why, those are the component parts! Just like real actors! Puh-lease...

No doubt that in a very raw way, hip hop and electronic/modern musicians are displaying real ability and talent. But they aren't trained musicians (well, some are but those aren't the ones I'm referring to), and pretending that Moby is Mozart is fawkin' looney tunes. If these people are SO talented, they'd just write their own damn tunes for looping (oh yeah- looping. that's another silliness; setting a good 4 or 8 beat segment you didn't even write to loop for 3 minutes because you can't think where to go with it until you fade it into another looped segment ain't very musical, thank you very much- it's just autism with groupies and rave kiddies).

The great composers and song writers do often steal riffs or progressions, but in the sense of "I liked the arpeggiation on that one tune, and am gonna play with that in my own song" way, or the "cool melody- I'm gonna reference it as an inside joke by shifting it to the minor key and putting it as the base line of my song" (the first variation of Paganini's 24 Caprices was, almost note for note, inverted on the keyboard to make up the well known theme to Rachmaninoff's 18th variation- but he didn't just loop it, he fleshed it out orchestrally and took this new melody in a new direction). We just can't confuse or muddy this with the infinitely lazier "I'm going to left click here, drag my hand 2 inches right, and let go with my index finger. Voila! I'm goddamn fucking Beethoven!"

I'll be right there to argue some of this stuff is art. I'll be right there to say it's even music. But the people who make it are editors, poets, perhaps even "musical collagists", but they are NOT musicians. I refuse to lump them in with people who spend 8 hours a day in a cold practice room getting early arthritis to master every aspect of an instrument with people who can tap their toe in time and have a gift for wordplay or mix tapes (despite the fact that some of them might mix together song snippets for 8 hours a day, they never really get to the point of composing something note by note). And yeah, there's some sour grapes here: I hate to think that my while-admittedly mediocre renditions of some Chopin polonaise are worth basically nothing, but some illiterate jackass in a stocking cap making goofy- ass hand gestures and pointing and mugging to a camera while someone else's song is playing in an infinite loop in the background can end up with 8 cars in his garage and a permanent table at the back room at Scores.
posted by hincandenza at 9:00 PM on January 7, 2003


It's not just about sampling and loops. The turntable has as much potential for self expression and genuine creation of sounds as any other musical instrument. Educate yourself about some of the basic words in the scratch language and you might begin to understand. Where other instruments are limited to tones, turntablists can manipulate any sound in existence, while adding any number of dimensions of texture. The original track is just a seed. (And there are plenty of turntablists out there making new, original records for themselves and other DJs to scratch with.)
posted by badstone at 9:28 PM on January 7, 2003


but some illiterate jackass in a stocking cap making goofy- ass hand gestures and pointing and mugging to a camera while someone else's song is playing in an infinite loop in the background can end up with 8 cars in his garage and a permanent table at the back room at Scores.

hincandenza - don't hate the playa, hate the game.
posted by monique at 9:47 PM on January 7, 2003


Turntablism does not the genre make. See:

The Roots: MC's over LIVE JAZZ. They are a live band, real drums, real bass, no dj. Get into it.

Spearhead: Another live band, Michael Franti is the front man. Some of the most compassionate genre-hopping music you will ever hear, the antithesis of Thug Life, Inc.

Guru's Jazzamatazz/Street Soul Compilations: MC collaborations with jazz musicians/singers.

These are only a few examples, but it is obvious they all love music and their passion is infectious, if not delicious :)

Q.Is HipHop dead?

A."The year ... is 3030..."
posted by elphTeq at 10:35 PM on January 7, 2003


monique- I don't get it. Can't I hate both the playa and the game? As the author of the article particularly pointed out, it's like selling crack- just cuz it's easy doesn't mean it's right, or that you aren't effectively selling out your fellow human being for a little materialistic satisfaction. And we're not talking about all hip hop et al artists, just the balding grown men acting like 15 year olds, boasting of their sexual conquests, fine ho's, and higher-end Benzes.

elphTeq- I'm somewhat familiar with Spearhead, and Franti's earlier band "Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy". I don't know if Franti writes his own stuff, but I'm not dissing his skills or his viewpoint as a conscientious artist and poet- never was. Again, as I stated above, there are those who are musicians (this "roots" sounds like it) that fall into the hip hop etc. genre. I'm mostly rebelling against the idea that those who are just slapping tracks together from sampled bits or even whole songs, like the vainglorious p-diddy, aret musicians when they're barely poets and editors. Yet they nevertheless get more fame and money than a fleet of immeasurably more talented and skilled pianists or vocalists or what have you that graduate by the thousands every year from universities around the nation.
posted by hincandenza at 11:37 PM on January 7, 2003


Where other instruments are limited to tones, turntablists can manipulate any sound in existence, while adding any number of dimensions of texture.

Unfortunately, these dimensions of texture all sound like... a record being abused. That's one sound, not an infinity of them.
posted by kindall at 12:06 AM on January 8, 2003


'Spooks' were good.
posted by wackybrit at 12:11 AM on January 8, 2003


admittedly, i skipped the last 30 posts or so before posting mine own thoughts. i got impatient.

Observation Two: Most practicioners of the rap and hip hop art form (as in most other areas of modern pop music) can neither read nor write (sheet) music, and most cannot even play a musical instrument. I suggest that this limits both the quality and range of the music they produce.

A thorough knowledge of electricity is a required part of being an electrician.

the genre is defined on "found" art rather than "new" art.


i suggest that insisting on a sheet of paper when discussing music limits both the quality and range of the possibilities. that's like telling a sculptor they're not an artist because they don't use a canvas. the written counterpart of music is a wonderfully complex and powerful tool capable of much beauty and worth, but it is by no means the end-all be-all of music and, like the canvas for visual arts, is the setting for only a small amount of audible creativity.

also, insisting that instrumental hip hop (hip-hop), dub, or whatever you want to call it (you know what i'm speaking of) is not worthy because it borrows blatantly from past creations reeks to me the same way the person who insists my latest fingerpainting is bullshit not because of the inherent asthetic quality (which undoubtedly is the reason), but because i used the same shade of blue as van gogh.

My advice: stay away from MTV, MuchMusic, Top 40 radio, Urban Radio and club/dance radio. Instead, listen to your local college or community radio and be prepared to carry a pen and paper to write down all those groups that you discover, including some amazing hip hop.
...later:
unfortunately in most cases college radio died a long time ago. it turned into playlist driven crap, same as everything else, designed to serve as a training ground for future ClearChannel programmers.

the first quote is right. then again, the second quote might be right as well. the way it plays out at my station (not gonna link, but here's the address [you can listen online {as soon as the semester starts}]: kamp.arizona.edu) is we have to play seven songs per hour from new albums. new albums to the studio. if the promotion company sends them to us, ok. that's new. if i bring in the cd my good friend from summer camp back in the day just recorded, ok. that's new too. from all that crap comes seven songs per hour. past that, it's up to me. *evil laugh*

Are there black musicians playing other genres (not the best word to use) besides rap and hip hop. I'm sure there are, but it's not being played on MTV

dave matthews' band is often played on MTV (oh, you know what i mean), and features carter beauford on drums and percussion, leroi moore on 4 types of saxophone, and boyd tinsley on acoustic and electric violin. these three musicians are imo some of the most talented players of their respective instruments, inside and outside of their 'genre,' and also happen to be black.

sorry i'm so late. good discussion.
posted by carsonb at 2:03 AM on January 8, 2003


I'm confused. Hip hop's "borrowing" through sampling makes it "found art" (whatever that means in this discussion)? Many of Led Zepplin's songs are actually touched up blues songs, uncredited to the original artist until Zep gets sued by said artist. The opening to "Stairway to Heaven" is taken from Spirit's "Taurus". Much of rock'n'roll follows the same pattern. In fact, all of the notes used in rock are stolen from centuries-old composers. Therefore, rock is not art. And neither is classical music because someone actually discovered the notes before them.

Ynoxas, not sure why you're taking it so personally. I still don't get how your electrician makes better music than a handyman by definition.
posted by yerfatma at 5:17 AM on January 8, 2003


For those of you defending underground hip hop (not really that underground)...good.

If you are in the DC/MD area then check out my radio show starting in mid february on 89.3. It will be friday nights from 9-12. Its a Pacifica Radio station. It will eventually be syndicated in NY, Philly, LA, SF, and Houston. I know...Houston? Just kidding.

As far as the article goes...Sure, it's an easy opinion. The sky is also blue, snow is still cold, and the sun is hot. The writer is definitely lazy and isn't motivated to look around for hip hop that isn't on mainstream radio. I don't think quality has gone down in the last 10 years. I think that quality on the radio has.

Its the mainstream radio stations and MTV that are to blame for all this. The groups that are popular now would not be popular 14 years ago. There are so many Payola scams now that radio is not based on quality as much as it is based on business. Same with MTV. If you are not sure what Payola is then read this article.
posted by LouieLoco at 5:59 AM on January 8, 2003


The writer is definitely lazy and isn't motivated to look around for hip hop that isn't on mainstream radio.

No he's not. He knows all about "underground" hip hop; he's complaining that the good acts aren't the popular ones anf that hip hop culture is being subverted by brainless thugs. It's easy to blame MTV, but they're just delivering what the masses want. Except when they explain to the masses what they want. But it's not really that way: basically one song is popular, a ton of people rip it off, MTV plays all of the ripoffs because they didn't air the original artist and they can't tell the difference in quality.

Blaming "payola"? Let's not forget Dick Clark and American Bandstand too.
posted by yerfatma at 6:11 AM on January 8, 2003


Ynoxas:

I think you might be missing some basic assumptions in arriving at your conclusion. Most of the world's musicians did not go to college and major in music. All hip-hop stars, are 'trained'; they just aren't trained in college. You can read sheet music, so can I. I'll bet you can't play punk rock, though, because music isn't just notes. It's little subtleties that you only get in your 'training'.

Art is not the same thing as engineering. But even in engineering, college isn't always the solution. My grandfather lead a team of important scientists, and he went to school for social work.

I think we're all taking offense at your thesis, because it comes across as snobby. You seem like you have done a lot of work in the field of music, and that's great, but I'd say that you probably fundamentally don't understand what it's all about.
posted by goneill at 7:13 AM on January 8, 2003


Being able to play an instrument may make someone a musician. I play trombone, for example, therefore I'm a musician. In reality, though, I don't play very well and when I do, it has no soul. Am I really a musician?

Anybody can take anything and make it an instrument to create music. If the result of that music is something that makes people feel or think, then they have transcended the ability to be technically proficient on that instrument to a higher level of musicality.

DJ's, MC's, turntablists, rappers (and those in any other medium you can think of, for that matter)--some (I would say very few) are technically proficient but simply don't have soul, don't make us feel or think in anything but the basest of ways. The loop is simply a part of their instrument; the scratch is another; the sample another; the rhyme is yet another. As a whole you get something that has soul, that makes us feel and think.

Consider Brian Eno's work in the studio. Many people, fans and critics alike, say that his instrument is the studio. What's the difference between Eno an a rapper and how come this isn't contested?
posted by ashbury at 7:19 AM on January 8, 2003


'JK' of Jamaroqui (sp.) cannot read or write music - yet he 'writes all the songs'.
some people seem to be having trouble understanding that music exists outside of the western classical tradition, as regards notation. there are new rules for new forms, not defined by you, or me, but by the contributors to the artform.
melody is only one of many bases for music. just as base 10 is only one of many ways of counting. some mathematical rules that apply in base 10 will not apply in hexidecimal counting systems. yet both systems have value.
sampling technologies are not going away, mastering a piece of software or hardware can be as difficult as mastering a musical instrument.
hip hop is a focus for people around the world as a way to express themselves, for most of america affording the equipment to dj/sample is out of the question, but they survive on old drum-machines and human beatboxes. hip hop is probably enjoying a bigger market than ever, just not one controlled by english speaking north american corporations.
on preview; another way of saying...
posted by asok at 8:03 AM on January 8, 2003


Here's my 2 cents on the whole "What is a musician?" thread going on here:

To compare what DJ Shadow does with sampled sounds with lifting entire couplets of Shakespear's work is lazy and dishonest. Tlogmer was spot on with his analogy about words and sentences. Also, DJ Shadow can play the drums and he uses this skill to create his own beats and beat fragments. Does this count towards his musicianship?

I'm glad that we as a society have discovered all there is to know about music notation, musical instruments and musicianship in general, because it allows us to finally judge who "is" and who "is not" a musician.

"Eastern" music differs from "Western" music in many important ways. Are people who use only "Western" notation really musicians? How can you create anything but shallow tripe if you don't know every possible way to write notes on paper?

Some of the most influential musicians (yes, I dare to use that label) of our time have had little or no knowledge of notation, and yet were still able to create sonic creations which continue to move us. Now that I realize what uneducated sods they were, though, I can rest easy knowing that I can finally recognize good music.

The discussion of music (and the arts in general) has got to be one of the most subjective topics around. Saying that real musicians are the ones who know how to read sheet music and can play the [insert certified instrument here], or whichever other small-minded limitation you take from your mammalian nervous system and project on the rest of the world, only serves to show the world how far you can shove your head up your ass.
posted by botono9 at 9:12 AM on January 8, 2003


"Blaming "payola"? Let's not forget Dick Clark and American Bandstand too."

I don't understand how you cannot blame radio programming and video television shows. People buy what they hear and are familiar with. A good chunk of the population is not passionate about music. They rely on mainstream formats to get their fill of new music. The people who decide what is on these stations are who sell records. Back when hip hop was better per the author, you had Big Daddy Kane, PE, Native Tongues, etc... on the radio and on MTV. When they started putting large label only groups on the radio (around 93-94) is when you hear that hip hop started to suck. The only thing that started to suck around this time was what was being played on the radio and mtv.

,
posted by LouieLoco at 10:07 AM on January 8, 2003


Whoa. First off, payola != radio programming and MTV. Payola is a way of getting on radio and MTV. Second off, blaming the messenger is nothing more than a fun waste of time. If the masses demanded radio and MTV deliver solid hip hop, you'd get it. I understand that's not a great answer, but forcing MTV and the radio to play stuff you like better isn't going to fix the root "problem," that 90% of people simply don't care about music like folks in this thread.
posted by yerfatma at 12:15 PM on January 8, 2003


On the subject of sampling, since there seems to be some misunderstanding (this probably should have gone in my last post, but hey) :

Most DJs creating their own records don't usually lift whole melodic lines and breakbeats; they sample individual sounds -- a bass hit, the tap of a piano chord. Anyone who thinks this isn't making something completely new is encouraged to download some tracks off of "Verve: Remixed" (where whole melodic lines are being lifted, incidentally) and compare them with the original jazz standards.

(And regardless of your opinion of their compositions, it's fallacious to dismiss DJs as nonmusicians. The one I know practices fairly long hours, and he can change the time signature of the song playing at will).
posted by Tlogmer at 1:44 PM on January 8, 2003


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42 Descartes Way
Akron, Ohio

Shoo! Get Away! Scold that rude, noisy, post-modern shaman out of your picket-fenced front lawn! Wield your trusty lawn rake like a weapon, shake it until it rattles like a snake, and yell and scream and chase him away...but he'll dance back before morning, reconstructed and refreshed...a cultural vandal with ninety-nine lives, an unkillable, kaleidoscopic phantom, his splinters and fragments forever re-animating and reassembling into new constellations; flux redux, mixed and modified - a morphing maestro, a chameleon, a reflection of a reflection, a righteous recycler, a shimmering juke-jock in full-length dreamcoat, shaping and shifting and teasing and taunting his raucous, hungry audience - a restless audience, time-slice anarchists, off-the-clock refugees, a thrashing throng of helter-skelter wannabes, rhythmically pressing harder and harder against your graffiti-splattered front gate. Is the Last Man without the gate, or within? Or am I the Last Dude, having a bad dream?

Is the party over, or just getting started?

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posted by Opus Dark at 1:53 PM on January 8, 2003


I still wonder how people, after hearing the amazing eclectism of the roots' new cd, or to the violent, deep, soulful songs of Common, can say and thin that Hip hop is worthless these days.

I just say, hip hop and commercial hip hop and two very different thing, the former being capitalized and therefore killed. It's cliché to say that 'underground hip hop' is the thing to listen to these days because it's still meaningful, but hey, when it's true...
posted by Sijeka at 4:05 AM on January 9, 2003


Re: DJ Shadow and musical ability --

I don't think some of the Shadow-detractors here understand what Shadow actually does. His albums are not long mix tapes.

Shadow uses software like ProTools and Cakewalk and Cubase to create his musical collages. To construct a given song out of a collection of samples, he must make sure that the samples are all in the same tempo and key. To make sure the samples are in the same tempo, he therefore has to change their length (stretch them out or compress them). But changing length changes pitch, which means changing key.
Imagine he has an amazing saxophone part he wants to put over top a drum/bass line he's already constructed. The sax's part must match the tempo and time signature of the drum/bass part, and it must match it's key. If it's already in key, but at the wrong tempo, he'd have to change both the drum/bass part and the sax part, adjusting them until they matched each other. This takes amazing musical ability, the kind onerarely finds, which is why there are few people doing what DJ Shadow does. If it was easy, there'd be 1200 DJ Shadows out there.
Shadow, in an interview with TIME Magazine, discussed how difficult this is musically, and how he often wished he could just pick up a bass or play the drums himself rather than doing it the collage way. Suggesting, therefore, that doing it his way is harder, not easier, than just playing the instruments himself.

Tell you what: all you Shadow/hip-hop detractors: go download a demo of ProTools and try to make something as gorgeous as a Shadow beat and see how very difficult it is.
posted by eustacescrubb at 6:33 AM on January 9, 2003


jaded: The entire hip-hop culture is one of appropriating (and often misappropriating) stuff originally made by other people.

how do you think 'rock n' roll' came to be? or jazz? or punk? it just appeared out of thin air right? nobody listened to anything that came before punk or rock n' roll because it was something that was totally original?

all music comes from music made previously. you'll be hard pressed to find anything that is original and free of influences.

you liked dj shadow but once you realized how it was put together it all of a sudden sucked?

i am astounded by a community that claims to be so open yet has no understanding beyond what pop culture is spitting out on the teevee what the history of hip hop is.
posted by oliver_crunk at 7:29 AM on January 9, 2003


As a matter of fact Brainfreeze and Organ Donor reside on my hard drive. But this makes DJ Shadow a DJ, not a musician.

really? would it all have been possible for you to listen to the sounds (ie music) on Endtroducing if Shadow hadn't made them? i see little difference in an artist seeing patterns in music (and non-music) found on records and someone able to see the patterns in chord progressions and breathing life into them.

your semantic nonsense over the word musician is a little ridiculous. they're different talents, that's obvious (and noted), but they lead to the same thing: unique sounds that wouldn't exist without the musician who made them.

and, for my money, i'd take shadow and equally talented turntablists over most of the shite being shovelled out as music these days.
posted by dobbs at 11:01 AM on January 9, 2003


a DJ, not a musician

spake a blogger, not a writer
posted by inpHilltr8r at 1:20 AM on January 10, 2003


Something tells me music doesnt require 100+ MetaFilter comments.

Anyone have ears?
posted by Satapher at 10:22 AM on January 11, 2003


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