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"I realized it is basically insane to make any kind of judgment about rap without hearing it."
November 4, 2010 9:29 PM   Subscribe

Listening to Rap for the First Time, with a Book Critic
posted by OverlappingElvis (80 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite

 
NPR, when white people need to know what's going on.
posted by nola at 9:37 PM on November 4, 2010 [33 favorites]


I think this is pretty interesting. Also, I really like all the songs and artists they chose as examples. I just sent it to my uncle who was asking for a primer on rap for old guys.
posted by saul wright at 9:48 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


It was a nice surprise to read this and see that Anderson expressing little but total enthusiasm for the form, as opposed to a continuation of the embarrassing "Yes, but is really music?" dialogue that you somehow still see and hear people engaging in, 30+ years after entering mainstream popular culture.
posted by incomple at 9:48 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I like it so far - on ODB:

SA: "as YOU can GO, beLOW zeRO" — he's creating iambs out of words that don't naturally fall into that pattern: i.e., he stresses 'zero' on the second syllable instead of the first, where the stress naturally falls.

SA: His pronunciation of "zoo" is one of the cooler things I've ever heard: a "z" with the smallest possible nondescript little vowel syllable attached to it. There is no way on earth to communicate the musicality of the refrain that ends that song in print.

posted by mannequito at 9:49 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was ready to snark about old white guys needing to pretend that rap is poetry before they can accept or appreciate it, but his enthusiasm and observations won me over. It is always fun to see something you already enjoy through the eyes of someone else, enjoying it for the first time.
posted by dhalgren at 9:58 PM on November 4, 2010


DP! HELLZ YEAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!!!!!!
posted by symbioid at 9:58 PM on November 4, 2010


I just sent it to my uncle who was asking for a primer on rap for old guys.

Pauline Kael liked Salt-N-Pepa, she said.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:59 PM on November 4, 2010


I like how they had to censor "crackers" on the video on the dead prez. LOL.
posted by symbioid at 10:00 PM on November 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Maybe it's most useful for the period the book calls "the golden age" (1985-1992), where you start to have amazing lyrical complexity (like Big Daddy Kane) that's not so dependent on the voice stuff .... I realized it is basically insane to make any kind of judgment about rap without hearing it — or at least post-1992 rap.

Um. The "Golden Age" was really 1990-1995. I'm not sure where the book draws the line and why it draws it at 1992. Many of the best hip-hop albums ever were released in 1991 -- starting with Step in the Arena. And if you don't talk about pre-1992 albums like It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, Run-D.M.C., Paid in Full, Strictly Business, Criminal Minded, The Low End Theory, and Breaking Atoms (and that's just East Coast rappers), you might as well just hang it up.
posted by blucevalo at 10:08 PM on November 4, 2010


I was considering the various fortunes of rap acts... the Beastie Boys were in pretty much on the ground floor, as was Will Smith (aka The Fresh Prince) - apart from them, rappers have a very, very limited shelf life. Either the rappers don't grow, or the audience isn't interested in hearing old acts trying something new. I find it very sad - I bought and enjoyed the hell out of RunDMC's Crown Royal album, but people looked at me like I was some kind of doofus for admitting it.

Some guys hang around because they're wedged into a niche - ICP, Emminem, and a lot of guys stuffed into a backpack - but rap seems to eat its own earlier and with greater finality than other musical genres.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:18 PM on November 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Needs mo' ho's.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 10:25 PM on November 4, 2010


Oh man Nicki Minaj totally blew me away the first time I heard her on the new Kanye CD. It actually took me a while to realize it wasn't two separate rappers. This is the first time I actually looked for some of her other music Here's song of her's (featuring Eminem).

She's really good.
posted by delmoi at 10:27 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can someone tell me where I can buy the sheet music to any rap "tune", anywhere on the planet? Can it be "played" on any other instrument, like other music can? That is all.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 10:27 PM on November 4, 2010


...Uhh, rockstar baby
now come to my suite and get lockjaw baby
Rich n-gga lookin at the cops all crazy
its the mob sh-t n-gga Martin Scorsese
heater close range, cuz people are strange
but i bet that AK 47 keep you ordaned
you cant see weezy nor wayne"
posted by clavdivs at 10:29 PM on November 4, 2010


blucevalo: Um. The "Golden Age" was really 1990-1995.

There was a fairly large argument about this on the AVClub the other day, but the first set of time to be called The Golden Era (for rap music) was 1988-1992. That was The Golden Era, and people were looking back on it, like, instantly afterwords. Then came the 1993-1996 era which was golden-quality, but was really a whole separate epoch. Looking at the years it seems like 1988-1996 inclusively, but it really was two separate times.
posted by paisley henosis at 10:31 PM on November 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


i bet ring tone sales could rival sheet music sales
given enough data
OH, nice topic for NPR
posted by clavdivs at 10:34 PM on November 4, 2010


Seekerofsplendor - I don't know about sheet music, but you could start with this bluegrass classic (NOT by phish, by the way, no idea how that rumor got started).
posted by Sara C. at 10:37 PM on November 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


But what does he think of the Hiphopopotamus, the hip hop hippo?
posted by mrnutty at 10:45 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


The thing I love about the title of this post (""I realized it is basically insane to make any kind of judgment about rap without hearing it.") is that it was made by someone who did just that.

The open-mindedness involved with appreciating something completely alien is pretty impressive. (I want to know if hardcore hip-hop is going to be in heavy rotation in the office of New York magazine; also mildly curious how one could live in New York and fully isolate one self from hip-hop).
posted by el io at 10:52 PM on November 4, 2010


Can someone tell me where I can buy the sheet music to any rap "tune", anywhere on the planet? Can it be "played" on any other instrument, like other music can? That is all.

I don't know what you're getting at here. Of course it's straightforward to reproduce the melody and rhythm with standard musical notation. Here's 911 is a Joke. But, as with most modern music, this captures little of what's interesting about the music, which has more to do with tone, texture, phrasing, and elements of performance.
posted by mr_roboto at 10:53 PM on November 4, 2010 [6 favorites]


I was wondering the same, and also wondering how it was that someone with little to no exposure to hip hop was given that particular writing assignment. New York Magazine isn't that ivory tower that there would be nobody on staff qualified to write a book review of a book about rap, and nobody would know any freelancers they could farm it out to.

I know some particular sorts of New Yorkers who will announce breathlessly that they "Hate Rap" the moment they hear the faintest strains of any vaguely post-70's African-American influenced music, but those folks would appear to have too much of an opinion on the subject to do it justice. So maybe this guy was one of those people, but then why did he write this article? And was it simply seeing the words written down and not having to hear the Sensual Negro Rhythms that converted him?
posted by Sara C. at 10:59 PM on November 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can someone tell me where I can buy the sheet music to any rap "tune", anywhere on the planet? Can it be "played" on any other instrument, like other music can? That is all.

PleasebekiddingPleasebekiddingPleasebekidding.
posted by joe lisboa at 11:02 PM on November 4, 2010


Ich laufe nicht, ich werde getragen

ODB R.I.P.
posted by jcruelty at 11:03 PM on November 4, 2010


also mildly curious how one could live in New York and fully isolate one self from hip-hop

I don't think it's a matter of being "fully isolated". I mean, it's easy to hear a genre of music all around you without really listening to it. I think this is the relationship most people have to classical music, for instance.

So maybe this guy was one of those people, but then why did he write this article? And was it simply seeing the words written down and not having to hear the Sensual Negro Rhythms that converted him?

Maybe he just hadn't gotten around to it? For someone who didn't grow up listening to hip-hop, it takes an actual positive effort to get into it; to sit down and do some intentional listening. I've been meaning to start listening to traditional Venezuelan music for like five years now; just haven't gotten around to it. It takes a serious effort to appreciate something unfamiliar.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:04 PM on November 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


I know some particular sorts of New Yorkers who will announce breathlessly that they "Hate Rap" the moment they hear the faintest strains of any vaguely post-70's African-American influenced music, but those folks would appear to have too much of an opinion on the subject to do it justice. So maybe this guy was one of those people, but then why did he write this article? And was it simply seeing the words written down and not having to hear the Sensual Negro Rhythms that converted him?

Yeah, based on the content of the review and the linked article, your assessment of his attitude prior to reviewing the book sounds pretty spot-on. /me rolls eyes.

Maybe they had him review it because it's a book of lyrics and he's their book reviewer, and probably knows a thing or two about assessing lyrics as lyrics (which is after all how they're published in the book, which is not an album)? Being a big rap fan, or even having a lot of rap knowledge, is actually not sufficient to be able to write a good review.
posted by kenko at 11:04 PM on November 4, 2010


mr_roboto - Yeah, but I'm assuming you don't live in Venezuela. Imagine being a cultured member of the intelligentsia living in Salzburg in the 1770's and having never heard Classical music. That's what it's like to live in New York and have never heard hip hop music. Even more of a big deal, since I'd assume that the average peasant didn't have access to Mozart, whereas anybody who can go to a party can hear rap music.

kenko - That's not my assessment of his attitude. I actually read the linked article before I came to the comments. I'm just wondering how they managed to dig up someone in New York in 2010 who had never been exposed to hip hop. Especially since the only New Yorkers I know who haven't are that way by choice, due to the sorts of uninformed prejudices that would disqualify someone from being given an assignment like this.
posted by Sara C. at 11:14 PM on November 4, 2010


''I have often thought that if there had been a good rap group around in those days I might have chosen a career in music instead of politics.''

-- Richard M. Nixon, reminiscing about his life, on an audio tape at the Nixon Library.
posted by orthogonality at 11:25 PM on November 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


He'd heard hip-hop before. RTFA.
posted by Lazlo at 11:47 PM on November 4, 2010


Sam Anderson, New York Magazine's book critic, reviewed the Anthology — all 788 pages — but he did so without ever having heard more than a couple of the songs.

...

Anderson described his introduction to the form as immersion in "pure rap": "just the verbal magic, triple-distilled, free from the superfluity of hooks, beats, sales, bling, clothes, videos, hairstyles, and even the voices of the rappers themselves."

...

He closes with a promise to start listening.


It sounds to me like they are saying this guy had basically never heard hip-hop before. I mean, I'm a white girl whose knowledge of hip-hop is far from encyclopedic, but if you handed me that book I'd have some stuff I'd immediately flip to, check out how the lyrics compared to my total awareness of the song, remember the music video, think about the imagery, the way the rapper's life has been mythologized, etc. The fact that this guy is such a blank slate is frankly impressive.
posted by Sara C. at 11:59 PM on November 4, 2010


Can someone tell me where I can buy the sheet music to any rap "tune", anywhere on the planet? Can it be "played" on any other instrument, like other music can? That is all.

Saw a very capable band at a "hip-hop karaoke" night just a few months ago. They faithfully recreated the backings of a number of different rap hits while some enthusiastic amateurs got on the mic to provide the lyrics.

So, in a word, yes, and you can keep your snark to yourself. Just ONCE I'd like to see a rap thread without the obligatory threadshitting.

I'm a musician. 12 years of piano lessons. I play keyboards and drums, and I sing. I've composed songs, jingles, and relaxation music. I've made remixes for the electronic music scene. I record and produce music for other people. I am paid money (not insane MTV Cribs money, but I squeak by) to do all of these things.

Guess what?

I love rap music, and all this oh-no-this-it's-just-a-beat-they-don't-even-sing horseshit is just that.

Anyway, awesome article. Good find, OverlappingElvis.
posted by tantrumthecat at 12:04 AM on November 5, 2010 [12 favorites]


Can someone tell me where I can buy the sheet music to any rap "tune", anywhere on the planet? Can it be "played" on any other instrument, like other music can? That is all.

Obviously anyone can transcribe any kind of music, but how electronic acts produce sheet music on a first pass? Or even how many rock bands?
That's what it's like to live in New York and have never heard hip hop music. ...It sounds to me like they are saying this guy had basically never heard hip-hop before.
The article explicity said that wasn't the case
Sam Anderson, New York Magazine's book critic, reviewed the Anthology — all 788 pages — but he did so without ever having heard more than a couple of the songs.
Now I'm sure he was exposed to lots of different songs, perhaps without actually paying much attention to them. But if he didn't listen to commercial radio, and didn't buy any rap CDs would he have actually heard that much. And we don't know how long this guy has lived in NYC or even if he lives there now.

Also I don't know anything about country music. There are lots of country stations on the air around here, I'm sure. But I never listen to any of them I could maybe name 2 or 3 country acts, if you include Taylor Swift. The only song I can think of is that one that goes "All my exes live in Texas, therefore I reside in Tennessee" That's pretty much it. It's easy for me to imagine someone being as unfamiliar with rap as I am about country.
posted by delmoi at 12:16 AM on November 5, 2010


It takes a serious effort to appreciate something unfamiliar.

This.

This generation gap thing is tiring sometimes. Especially when someone flaunts their ignorance like it makes them proud. I'd think we'd gotten further after 30 years. It's not like Rock Around the Clock was terribly controversial in 1984, 30 years after Bill Haley and His Comets.
posted by Harald74 at 12:26 AM on November 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


But if he didn't listen to commercial radio, and didn't buy any rap CDs would he have actually heard that much. And we don't know how long this guy has lived in NYC or even if he lives there now.

Have you ever been here? It's not at all like the rest of the US, where that might be true. Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind" is the unofficial theme song of the city at this point. The Brooklyn Museum of Art (second largest art museum in the US) holds hip-hop dance parties on Saturday nights. Elementary school choirs in Staten Island sing hip-hop. The little old lady who lives next door to me plays rap at her backyard barbecues. I, a white girl from the south who has no real connection to the subculture at all, can hum along as the music drifts through the open window. Rap music infuses this city in a way that is hard to understand if you don't live here.

Anyway, this is all sort of beside the point. Extremely cool FPP, pretty interesting conceit to get the white dude from Oregon who has supposedly never heard rap to write the review of the definitive literary take on the genre.
posted by Sara C. at 12:36 AM on November 5, 2010


(NOT by phish, by the way, no idea how that rumor got started).

That's definitely a Napster-ism. When there was just one way to share files, if the first person to upload mis-names something, there's no way to stop it.
posted by auto-correct at 12:49 AM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


But if he didn't listen to commercial radio, and didn't buy any rap CDs would he have actually heard that much.

He must not be a big subway rider, then. Sup, guy-on-J-train-listening-to-his-stereo-yes-a-stereo-not-an-iPod-at-9-in-the-morning, how many CDs you got with you today? Three? Not bad.

Rap music infuses this city in a way that is hard to understand if you don't live here.

At the risk of being a bigger cliche than "rap isn't music because there's no sheet music hurr hurr", nothing makes you feel more like King Motherfucker of the World than The Black Album while walking through midtown.

seriously how does that guy sound like a city
posted by Mikey-San at 12:55 AM on November 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


(I get the feeling he's probably actually heard plenty of rap but never paid any attention, and like much of the noise of NYC, you just kinda "don't hear" stuff you aren't paying attention to.)
posted by Mikey-San at 12:57 AM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think I still have some mis-named files deep in my iPod somewhere. Mostly confusions between Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, and the like. Ahhh, 17 year old Jazz newbs uploading to Napster circa 1999. Your memory lives on...
posted by Sara C. at 12:57 AM on November 5, 2010


Seekerofsplendor, sheet music was necessary for musicians to perform a song they hadn't herd right up until audio recording was invented. a musician with access to a recording can reproduce/interpret any given piece of music, rap included, at least as well as if they had sheet music. The main instrument used for most rap recordings is a recording studio, which can vary greatly in terms of the equipment available.

In western music, sheet music usually only gets as specific as names for specific standardized instruments, performance space (not commonly noted), 5-8 levels of intensity, tempo, rhythm, and notes to be played. Sheet music for most modern rap recordings would need a lot of special notation indicating things like electronic instruments and their settings, samples, effects, filters, and so on. This goes for all modern recordings where the studio itself is one of the instruments used. Think Revolution #9 or the flanged drums on Bold as Love. Usually, anyone who would understand special notation for how to use studio equipment is capable enough to get all they need from a recording, rendering sheet music unnecessary.

That said, I'd bet dollars to doughnuts that the band Jay-Z tours with uses sheet music for at least some of their parts, if not every note played.
posted by mexican at 1:09 AM on November 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


Can it be "played" on any other instrument, like other music can?

Yes.

There aren't many things in modern popular music that give me more joy than The Roots gradual rise to the position of America's favorite band.
posted by billyfleetwood at 1:19 AM on November 5, 2010


He definitely heard rap before. Look at the part when he listens to Big Daddy Kane - he talks about how he's surprised how old school it sounds. He's even heard enough to tell the difference in epochs!

I though the obvious point was that he's heard rap before but never really listened. His analysis of his own reactions to the songs shows how big a difference that makes.
posted by auto-correct at 1:27 AM on November 5, 2010


It's been great seeing Nicki Minaj finally get some love, I thought the haters would sink her not so long ago. She did have to clean up a bit though.
posted by shinybaum at 3:26 AM on November 5, 2010


An Objectivist forum discusses hip-hop
posted by bendybendy at 4:09 AM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just ONCE I'd like to see a rap thread without the obligatory threadshitting.

I should start collecting crazy generalizations about various innocuous topics that Metafilter supposedly doesn't do very well. Every so often someone will pop in and be like, "WHY does everyone have to be such a JERK in EVERY THREAD ABOUT LASAGNA" So, thanks.

Anyway, rap threads usually go really well around here.
posted by Kwine at 5:38 AM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


"curious how one could live in New York and fully isolate one self from hip-hop"

Dude, I live in Washington Heights, and I still think all the hispanic music sounds the same to me. Honestly, it would be cool to see someone do the same thing here with that music next, so I can appreciate the difference between the songs rather than just having it sound like noise.
posted by Eideteker at 6:13 AM on November 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Oh, why'd you have to bring up German + hiphop/rap, jcruelty? Now I'm going to have the first song from this previous thread stuck in my head ALL DAY.

(Which is not a bad thing -- it's an AWESOME song).

Some German rappers (Thomas D of the Fantastischen Vier comes to mind) are also much more poetic than you'd expect -- two of my favorites: Millionen Legionen and Liebesbrief.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 6:22 AM on November 5, 2010


Have you ever been here? It's not at all like the rest of the US, where that might be true. Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind" is the unofficial theme song of the city at this point.
Uh, no. However, I find the idea that you can't live in NY without being familiar with rap ridiculous. And Empire State of Mind is just one song. He didn't say he'd never heard any rap, he just said he'd only heard a few songs and wasn't very familiar with it. Jesus.
posted by delmoi at 6:31 AM on November 5, 2010 [4 favorites]


But what does he think of the Hiphopopotamus, the hip hop hippo?

I'm large as a hippopotamus, trip, I gotta dis
Sip a bottomless cup of brew and I'm getting raw to this

posted by rxrfrx at 6:38 AM on November 5, 2010


It's funny to read the "Gold Age" is 1988-1992... because 1988 is pretty much where I stopped liking anything I heard from the hip hop genre. I tried the examples on the page, and yeah, not much has changed for me in how I hear the music. Aside from the sound of the music, it's the content as well. When the majority of songs went from "I'm sick of being poor and being a victim of the gangsters" to "I'm a gangsta look at how I roll" I became a lot less interested in it no matter how much the phrasing or beats improved. Yes, I know there are plenty of artists that don't rap about the gangsta lifestyle currently working the genre, but they seem to be a small minority of what makes it into the charts.
posted by inthe80s at 6:50 AM on November 5, 2010


Anyway, rap threads usually go really well around here.
posted by Kwine at 5:38 AM on November 5 [+] [!]


I respectfully disagree. Just about every rap-related thread I've read on the blue has had someone whining and hand-wringing about how rap isn't music and isn't art, woof-woof-blah-blah, look-at-my-music-degree-and-my-copy-pasted-Webster's-definition-of-music, why-won't-this-awful-gutter-noise-go-away.

I don't think this is a crazy generalization at all, as a quick topic search will reveal.

But I'll concede that it's worse elsewhere online - there's a music recording & production forum I frequent where merely mentioning hip-hop causes people to break the knives out. People are even unable to stop themselves from shitting up threads created on the rap sub-forum (the board has one)!
posted by tantrumthecat at 6:59 AM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Allmusic.com offers another data point on the golden age, with artist/album/song examples.
posted by kimota at 7:10 AM on November 5, 2010


Rap Isn't Music should be placed in the same chest as A Five Year Old Could Have Painted That, chained shut, and be heaved overboard into the Marianas Trench.
posted by Scoo at 7:44 AM on November 5, 2010 [10 favorites]


Can someone tell me where I can buy the sheet music to any rap "tune", anywhere on the planet? Can it be "played" on any other instrument, like other music can? That is all.

Somebody already covered the first question, but let me take a stab at the second.

Absolutely. Here's pianist Jason Moran playing 'Planet Rock' (here's the original). Or, if you want to go the other way, here's Rob Swift's 'Salsa Scratch,' in which he uses turntables to mimic horns.

Respectfully, Seekerofsplendor, you've got this thing where you say rap's-not-music, but you mean I-don't-like-rap. We might be able to avoid rehashing the same tired old arguments if you'd just say what you mean.
posted by box at 7:51 AM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


The critic says:

Until last week, I thought Mobb Deep and Mos Def were the same thing. (It turns out they are very different.)

Normally I don’t mind being out of the pop-cultural loop—I’ve even learned, over the years, to wear my ignorance with a certain musty old-man pride. Given, however, that I am a professional studier of words, my hip-hop blind spot has come to seem indefensible: I am clueless about one of the culture’s most vital fronts of verbal artistry. It would be like an art critic who’s never seen a comic book, or a choreographer who’s never heard of Michael Jackson.


Yeah, it is indefensible. It's okay though, you're forgiven. This article reeked though. I don't need you to just now get it. Here's your late pass.
posted by cashman at 7:51 AM on November 5, 2010


Maybe he just hadn't gotten around to it? For someone who didn't grow up listening to hip-hop, it takes an actual positive effort to get into it; to sit down and do some intentional listening. I've been meaning to start listening to traditional Venezuelan music for like five years now; just haven't gotten around to it. It takes a serious effort to appreciate something unfamiliar.

Me.. 63 year old white male. Grew up with the Stones and the Beatles and the Byrds. Rap sucks!

Started seriously listening to hip-hop within the last year. Hmm? Some of this stuff is good. Wow..

So yeah. Sometimes it takes some effort to *really* enjoy something.
posted by jgaiser at 8:49 AM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Note to self: NPR is not an exception to "don't read comments anywhere except MeFi."
posted by catlet at 8:50 AM on November 5, 2010


Growing up I wasn't allowed to listen to rap. My parents, like many parents, thought it was the music of hoodlums. Of course that is true in some cases, but they failed to realize that's not such a bad thing in context.*

So I didn't really listen to rap until I was in my twenties. Being savagely obsessed with music, it was only a matter of time before I loaded up the iPod with every single rap and hip-hop album I could buy or borrow (this was shortly after my speed metal phase). I still haven't listened to everything out there, but I quickly learned that rap is not bad in the least, that it's an absolutely amazing and singular art form, and that it absolutely is not the primary music of hoodlums.

I'm old-school though. My favorite act is still Gang Starr, and I haven't kept up on the recent offerings of the genre (aside from the unavoidable Jay-Z/Kanye West/Eminem hype machines). Being a privileged white male I can never claim to "get it," but as a musician I really, really like it. I've even tried making my own beats and even tried my hand at some lyrics, but I'm afraid I have no flow.

I hope some day that no music will be stigmatized the way rap has been; it's such a vile attitude to perpetuate. This article is an encouraging step.


*Because by that logic, classical music is the music of tyrants and monarchs, country/folk music is the music of outlaws and bootleggers, and rock is the music of drug addicts, anarchists, marxists, motorcycle gangs, satan worshippers, etc.
posted by jnrussell at 9:29 AM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Can someone tell me where I can buy the sheet music to any rap "tune", anywhere on the planet? Can it be "played" on any other instrument, like other music can? That is all.


Oh, for fucks sake. Do you have to buy special chairs from a store that caters specifically to people with their heads permanently stuck up their own asses? Something tells me that your concept of 'music' on the whole is hilariously stunted, and should you ever happen to bumble your way into a conversation with someone who actually knows and studies this ancient art of 'musical sounds' you would quickly demonstrate yourself to be an insufferable ignoramus.

You can write a musical score to anything, including experimental electronic composition from the mid-70s, and it is frequently AWESOME. (note to audience: I'm not joking, that link is kind of all the awesome. I'm thinking a FPP is in order, I'll get back to you.)
posted by FatherDagon at 9:48 AM on November 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


because 1988 is pretty much where I stopped liking anything I heard from the hip hop genre.

To each his own, I guess. But the idea that I would have missed the entire musical output of Outkast just because I didn't like N.W.A. is bizarre.
posted by billyfleetwood at 9:49 AM on November 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Where do you stand on the lasagna issue?
posted by Kwine at 9:50 AM on November 5, 2010


country/folk music is the music of outlaws and bootleggers

these are my shifty eyes
posted by Baby_Balrog at 9:54 AM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I used to have a pretty good side bent against rap. I just didn't dig it. Then I discovered Aesop Rock and that changed my mind within one listen. He's a rare gem, but he's fan-fucking-tastic.
posted by Macphisto at 10:26 AM on November 5, 2010


Speaking as a guy who spent a large amount of time in Classic Rock Hell before clawing my way out into the wider range of music out there, I find it funny that so many people keep saying "Rap isn't music!" and "I hate rap!" without apparently realizing just how much rap has bled into other genres, and vice versa. There's a lot of crossover. A lot of stylistic influences. A lot of outright stealing to go with the rhyming, if you will.

I worry that pointing this out to people would just close them off even more, though. "Oh man I really dig the Kill Bill soundtrack but it was done by the RZA and he's a rapper from that awful rap group with the naughty lyrics so now I can't like it no matter what."

An awful lot of what I listen to today is the result of looking at my music and asking myself "What influenced the people I like to listen to?" and the result was that I started listening to blues and jazz and country and rap and techno and all kinds of things in between, above, beyond and intermixed. Sure, I still run across a lot of stuff I hate and there's definitely at least a few genres (corporate crap-pop aimed at teens, most top 40, and modern "love America or get the hell out" country) that I refuse to listen to because I feel it's not worth my time... although I accept that my tastes may change again some day, as they did in the past. But I'm sure as hell glad I can listen to and appreciate stuff that would have turned me off years ago.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:30 AM on November 5, 2010


Can it be "played" on any other instrument, like other music can?

Indeed it can. Check out Dynamite Hack covering Eazy-E, Anthrax and Public Enemy, 30 Seconds to Mars doing Kanye West.

Speaking of crossover, there's the Run-D.M.C. Aerosmith collaboration, or how about a little System Of A Down and Wu-Tang Clan, Static-X and Dead Prez, or the entire Judgment Night Soundtrack: here, here, here, and here
posted by ValkoSipuliSuola at 11:48 AM on November 5, 2010


"When there was just one way to share files, if the first person to upload mis-names something, there's no way to stop it."

One of my favorite mixes is one my dad made for my girlfriend. It's about 16 songs all pulled from Napster, each labelled as being played by Blue Öyster Cult, but about two-thirds of them are by totally different bands (Cheap Trick, Nick Lowe, The Swans). It's pretty great and I love the conceptual pull of them all being "BÖC."
posted by klangklangston at 11:55 AM on November 5, 2010


From the Objectivist link:

"I'm no expert on it, but my understanding is that it is a type of music derived from German electronic dance music in the late 60's/early 70's, which became especially popular in American urban areas in the late 70's/early 80's.

Its characteristics include vocals that are spoken rather than sung ("rapping"), and an emphasis on rhythm rather than melody or harmony. A common element in a lot of early hip-hop was for all of the musical accompaniment to be played on vinyl records by a disk jockey while the vocalist ("rapper") spoke over it.

There is also a style of dance referred to as "hip hop dancing," which is a mixture of break dance and some other styles of dance that became popular in nightculbs that play hip hop music.

I think there is a subtle distinction between hip hop and "rap music," but I'm not sure exactly what it is.
"

If I saw this on ILX, I would assume it was trolling. HIP HOP DANCING! VINYL RECORDS!
posted by klangklangston at 12:08 PM on November 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Can someone tell me where I can buy the sheet music to any rap "tune", anywhere on the planet? Can it be "played" on any other instrument, like other music can?

Dude, this is so clueless and provincial that I can't even get annoyed about it—it's just sad that anyone in the 21st century would think this way. The parameters you suggest as the defining characteristics of "music" are completely arbitrary, and they omit most of the world's traditional and modern music.

You don't have to like hip-hop. But the fact that you don't like it doesn't mean it's not music, and this petulant sneering just makes me hope I never meet you at a party, because frankly you sound like an asshat.
posted by ixohoxi at 2:39 PM on November 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Does everyone really need to jump on this person's head? It might not have been the most informed comment, but it was an honest question. Naivety isn't a defense, but y'all are just being mean.
posted by rosswald at 4:20 PM on November 5, 2010


"curious how one could live in New York and fully isolate one self from hip-hop"

Dude, I live in Washington Heights, and I still think all the hispanic music sounds the same to me. Honestly, it would be cool to see someone do the same thing here with that music next, so I can appreciate the difference between the songs rather than just having it sound like noise.
posted by Eideteker at 9:13 AM on November 5

Agreed. The various latin music genres are most of what I hear (and some rap/hip-hop). Also, I know tons of New Yorkers who have no idea about rap. Its a big enough city for people to have different experiences, be exposed to different things.
posted by rosswald at 4:32 PM on November 5, 2010


it was an honest question.

Um, no it wasn't?
posted by ixohoxi at 4:48 PM on November 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Does everyone really need to jump on this person's head? It might not have been the most informed comment, but it was an honest question. Naivety isn't a defense, but y'all are just being mean.
posted by rosswald at 4:20 PM on November 5 [+] [!]


A quick search of the poster-in-question's comment history makes it very clear that (s)he was snarking.
posted by tantrumthecat at 5:17 PM on November 5, 2010


Ah, okay. Sorry.
posted by rosswald at 5:53 PM on November 5, 2010


No worries, I checked before I wrote my rebuttal! :)
posted by tantrumthecat at 6:57 PM on November 5, 2010


Can someone tell me where I can buy the sheet music to any rap "tune", anywhere on the planet? Can it be "played" on any other instrument, like other music can? That is all.

I'm going to respond because actually, I think it is germane to this post. There is a (not-very-sub-) subtext that comes up whenever what is ostensibly "white European" culture intersects with hip-hop that calls into question the mode of critical interaction the one culture should have with the other. Of course, it's not so monolithic, but the prevailing conclusion is that the simplistic analysis of one culture's form (hip-hop) by the standards of another culture (in this case, European-descendent culture) will usually lead to a trivial dismissal of the one culture's form by the other. That's certainly what we have going on here with Seekerofsplendor's little zinger. Of course, when there is a class and racial divide between the two cultures—or one has a historical responsible for subjugating the other—things are even more problematic, but I won't get into that, I'm keeping things dead simple here.

Anyways, most of us who went through your average liberal arts program in the U.S. at least in the last 10-15 years or so I suspect have heard this to the point that it's become pretty trite and simplistic, and comments like Seekerofsplendor's read not even as snark but as conscious trolling. It's so obvious that we may respond with the sort of righteous anger that comes from understanding something so damn obvious, which if you don't understand you are surely willfully ignorant at this point. Moreover, it's fairly obvious to anyone who is sincerely curious about music and is willing to spend more than ten minutes poking around Wikipedia (i.e., someone who thinks they should be posting in a music-related thread on MetaFilter) that the idea of music as a form encoded in a specific notation representing equal temperment to be performed in a rigid manner on a specific set of instruments is something that perhaps has never existed in any consistent way but if it has, is certainly specific to a very limited region and time period. Even if Seekerofsplendor intended to relate rap to more modern rock music, much of which can be purchased in the form of transcribed sheet music, it is important to recognize that this transcription does not represent a mode of performance, but the result of a significant market of amateur musicians for such transcriptions established after a band has become popular. That is, Kurt Cobain certainly wasn't writing on staff notation when he wrote "Come As You Are" and neither did he ever perform looking at sheet music. Yet, though Nirvana is a contemporary of many hip-hop musicians and creates and performed their music in a way as similarly iconoclastic as any hip-hop musician, at least when compared to Classical Period European Art Music, I don't find many discussions questioning whether what Nirvana produced can be considered music or not. However, while this is certainly curious I don't have any rigorous data to back the claim that one thing is discussed more than the other, so consider it a digression and let's continue *cough*.

More to the point, I find this particular article so interesting because it shows how someone analyzing one culture's product (hip-hop) with the critical tools of another (poetic/literary criticism) can actually find much to like when their mind is open. In fact, I feel like we got a double-whammy with this one, because first Sam Anderson merely read the lyrics for many rap "tunes" (for lack of a better word...forgive me for being so free with my usage Seekerofsplendor), and found them to his liking; then upon hearing the lyrics in context, he realized how much he had been missing, and how much richer the experience of hip-hop could be when considering the form as a whole even when considering it through his very specific lense of literary/poetic criticism.

So, all of this is just to say, you don't HAVE to be such a dick about it when you are examining hip-hop, even if you are a stuffy white (or whatever) guy/lady/anything, because if you have an open mind and are willing to appreciate the fact that a lot of people other than you put a lot of energy and joy into creating this stuff and a lot of people put a lot of energy and joy into consuming this stuff, then you will find a way to appreciate it.

Otherwise, you know, if you're not willing to come into it with an open mind at the very least, stay out of the damn thread.
posted by dubitable at 8:19 PM on November 5, 2010 [11 favorites]


I was ready to snark about old white guys needing to pretend that rap is poetry...

dhalgren, rap lyrics ARE poetry.

As are other forms of songwriting. The Writer's Almanac has featured Bruce Springsteen's work, for instance.

In my opinion, at least, lyrics are a subset of poetry, and they also form an intersection with music.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:41 PM on November 5, 2010


rap lyrics ARE poetry.

Rap Lyrics are Literature.
posted by ovvl at 9:54 PM on November 5, 2010


In nearly all examples in this selection the message is the same: boasting. 'There are rappers who suck but I am awesome.' I don't know if this narrowness is merely an error on the part of Anderson and Kelley, but as such I find it quite hard to get excited about.

Clearly there's variation in the metaphors used for expressing that message, but a lot of the metaphors seem either contrived or mutually unrelated.

Much the same goes for most rock lyrics, of course, and I would also be puzzled by attempts to treat mediocre rock lyrics as serious literature.
posted by Anything at 6:48 AM on November 6, 2010


rap lyrics ARE poetry.

Rap Lyrics are Literature.


Is not poetry a subset of literature?
posted by IAmBroom at 10:19 PM on November 6, 2010


NPR, when white people need to know what's going on.

I laughed too. But, it's also for those of us who are too embarrassed to admit that we still don't know very much about rap or hip-hop, even though there are hip-hop artists from our hometowns in countries far away from the US.
posted by bardophile at 11:26 PM on November 8, 2010


Dean Devlin of Slate Magazine catches some errors in The Anthology of Rap. Jay Smooth finds some more and his commenters notice that a lot of the errors reported by Devlin and Jay Smooth identical to errors on the venerable Online Hip Hop Lyrics Archive, a website whose users post their own transcriptions. Dean Devlin writes a followup and gets a response from the editors of the anthology.
posted by Kattullus at 7:59 AM on November 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


Paul Devlin wrote those Slate articles, not Dean Devlin (what an odd brainfart).
posted by Kattullus at 12:26 PM on November 14, 2010


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