Song of the Moment

J. Cole - Lost Ones

Friday, July 22, 2011

B Side Presents, "Hip Hop Help"

It's obviously no secret I really enjoy rap music. I have since I was a younger kid. When I was growing up in the Milwaukee area, we had a radio station called Hot 102. It played all the rap music of the day, which back then - basically meant a beat with some rhymes over the top of it. Starting to get into music in the late 80's, you had MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice as you're bigger acts of the moment. NWA came onto the scene and mixed things up, but that didn't get as much play in my area of the world. In fact, I can't remember knowing who NWA was until much later in my life.

The reason this post is coming up today, I was talking with my partner in crime Heidi yesterday, and she was doubting that any good rap is out there today. After my initial flabbergastedness went away, I tried to get to the bottom of her argument. And it turns out, she doesn't roll with the rap of today. Why? Because she doesn't identify with it. And I won't steal her thunder as she's promised to tell you all herself how she feels, but the bottom line for me is, she enjoys the "pop" raps of yesterday. You all know the tracks: Nelly - Hot In Herre; Dr. Dre - Forgot About Dre; Snoop Dogg - Drop It Like It's Hot; 50 Cent - In Da Club the list can go on forever and ever. While I certainly think there is a market and a place for such music, it's not the rap I personally choose to run with.

Now, don't get me wrong. I didn't grow up in Compton or anywhere that would be considered a mean street of anything. But I had my share of hardships in life. I had a super odd ball family that was dysfunctional. I grew up with various people around me having drug and alcohol problems. I had a family that moved to a better community - but couldn't afford it. We were broke. Most of the people I went to school either A) couldn't relate to those issues as a younger child - or B) wasn't going to admit to anyone else (and possibly even themselves) that they had those issues either. It was a lot easier to put on Marky Marky and pretend your problems didn't exist.

I was a good kid. I did my best to keep my parents from killing each other. I started working at age 12 to help my parents out financially. I never got brought home by the cops. So I wouldn't say listening to rap music was a rebellion for me or anything, and it's not as though my parents attempted to censor what I listened to. For me, it was simply that I didn't look through the rose colored glasses as a kid. And rap wasn't talking about how great life was, and they were actually singing with a message - not just making hits. In a way, the music was sad - and that was actually kind of nice. Not to sit back and wallow in my sorrows - but knowing that successful people out there also have problems, and that my issues in the grand scheme of life - weren't that bad. Rap provided me with both an outlet to escape and perspective on life. And some great beats and lyrics to sing along with as well.

Now, in retrospect - there were other bands I could have listened to and probably gotten the same feeling and emotional connection. Had I picked up on Radiohead when they first were out, sure - that may have done it. A band like NIN could have too. But for some reason, it was rap. It was 2Pac, Biggie and DMX. Yeah, DMX. Sure - I fell hard and head over heels for the grunge revolution too. Offspring - Smash was my first cd. But when push came to shove, rap was always my go to genre. In many ways, it still is. I agree to an extent how the game is a little slow right now - and I've talked about that in previous posts. But when the Kanye album drops - or the Eminem album drops...records that are great in every aspect of music. Great lyrics, subject matter, great beats and arrangements. It typically gets me way more excited than any other genre. I don't even have a reason to explain it. It just goes back to a 12 year old me rationalizing life with my 'Chronic' cd.

I feel everyone has a genre of music, heck even a band that they identify with more than anything or anyone else. Rap is that for me. I'm harder on rap than any other genre out there. I want it to be great. I want 2Pac to come back and make music that isn't just beats and raunchy lyrics. I want a guy like him to be a real poet on the mic, but still talk about what he's going through. Rap lacks that today. What makes Eminem great to me, is he's an open book. His lyrics are his life. I love that. That's what I identify with. I love Kanye for the same reason. '808's' is sad. Really listen to it. He's struggling to come to terms with his own life and what everything means. I do that too. Many of us do.

Anyways, I have no idea what Heidi is going to write about as it related to rap. It may have nothing to do with what I talked about. But our conversation inspired me to really think about rap - and why it really is I love it. And that's what I came up with. Happy Friday B Siders!


  1. This is awesome.

    You know, I think that rap is one of the most subjective genres out there. In addition to that rap is one of the most stereotyped fields. It's like the only way you can truly come to appreciate it and admire it and relate to it and ENTER it is if your black. I feel that's the the furthest from the truth. It's us as people that want to classify things and categorize. As far as I'm concerned, struggle and hardship are colorblind. For me, more than anything it's about having a genuine understanding and not disregarding those "808's" lyrics or those Eminem lyrics.

    B Side, I can tell that you have a natural affinity for rap and I LOVE that. I mean you go "HAM" ON your other genre reviews too but, on hip hop/rap entries, YOU TRULY GO IN. It's like I can hear you through the blog. That's why in times past I've commented that I love your honesty towards this thing called music.

    Heidi, I'd love to read what you're thinking about this too :)

  2. I can kind of relate to what you're saying. There have been many times I've felt like other people feel I shouldn't be so into rap because of the color of my skin. I think that's a bunch of BS - but whatever. I'm not going to stop listening to music I love. I wouldn't tell a friend of mine who may be black he shouldn't listen to Radiohead or something. If you groove to it, listen.

    I try to hit the reviews equally, but I know sometimes more passion comes out with certain groups or genres. I want so much to find a new artist that blows me away - but alas, I don't see it in the near future. Hopefully I'm wrong.

  3. Ooh . . . post is coming . . . This is well written, and I so have to respond. I can't agree with you more about loving the music you can relate to.

  4. Thanks Mac! Looking forward to it!

  5. "rap lacks that today." yes. that's why i don't listen to any thing that's newer than 1997. i can't listen to another blingin' ching a lingin' back that shakin' it ass up on the floor while your gettin' low with your designer clothes on song. and i just don't care for kanye or eminem, save a few songs. i'll take my metal and be on my way. when hot 102 turned into new rock 102.1 - that was the end of hip-hop and rap for me. one day i turned it on and heard soundgarden instead of *popular mid 90s hip hop song* and my music life changed. i definitely identified with metal more in my high school years than anything else. i do agree that you could probably find the same 'identifying' factors in any type of genre. if i were to make a playlist of 'this song reminds me of this time in my life' it would range from classic rock to metal to emo to pop punk to r&b to sinatra.

    and i agree with the first response, you really only give it your all on a rap album - sometimes on a classic rock album, depending on the album.

  6. I think metal is to you what rap is to me. You probably identify with that genre more than any other. Or even if it simply was just that you identified with it in high school - you could go back to it just for the comfort feeling of when you were younger. Reminiscing about simpler time if you will.

    But my ignorance on metal could be similar to you and rap. It'd be easy for me to sit back and say metal isn't what it was in the 90's - since NIN and Pantera and Korn type acts aren't making albums right now. And if they are, they're not up to standards of back in the day. Now, that could be totally untrue, and there could be newer bands that are absolutely killing it. It's not my go-to genre, so I can't really comment. And maybe rap is that way for you? I listen to almost every new artist and new track that comes out (expect the indie stuff). I know more about rap than any other genre because I hit it really hard. It's entirely possible there are some up and comers you'd really enjoy - but you don't take the time to listen to them.

    And as always, I completely disagree with any sentiment that I only "try hard" on rap albums. In fact, I can only find two rap reviews that I've taken as much time on as Eels, Radiohead, Black Keys and other 90's alt rock bands. The only genre I tend to be lazier on is the techno stuff, because it's not super complicated to understand what a dance artist is trying to accomplish. They want you to dance...listen to the beat - move. Enough said. Otherwise, my rap reviews have tended to be more negative except when I'm doing more classic artists albums. The new stuff (see Nelly - 5.0, Ludacirs - Battle of the Sexes...etc) I give poor reviews to because it doesn't meet standards.

    I could debate about this forever. I'm passionate about music. Period. Not just rap music, all music. If I just really cared about hip hop, I'd have started a hip hop blog.

    And janis!, I know you know what I mean. So if anyone reads this and thinks I'm being rude or over-the-top - bear in mind that janis and I have talked about this before, and I know that she knows that I know the deal.

  7. *sigh* i'm just saying, maybe someday you'll love martin denny or les baxter the way you love kanye. a girl can dream.

    and yes, to counter your last comment in the metallica post, i HAVE been busy - moving! i'll be done this week! finally!

  8. Who are those people?

    Move faster!

  9. martin denny and les baxter are famed lounge/exotica composers/artists. pretty sure you did reviewed The Exotic Moods of Les Baxter awhile ago.

    and i'm done moving out - now i just have to move in (unpack). and i got a puppy!

  10. I know...I was kidding. Like the post kind of talks about, it's just not music I identify with. Like classical. I can respect the music and people that enjoy it - but I find classical music makes me want to poke holes in my eyes.

    What kind of dog?