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!