Maybe I just don’t get it.
Last Friday while not working at work, one of the many blogs I read posted Otis, the first single from Jay-Z and Kanye West’s upcoming album. The blog’s review was glowing, and I was excited. I mean Kanye and Jay-Z sampling one of my favorite songs? This was going to be epic. But as I gave the song a listen, I started to feel sick, and my mind raced through all five stages of grief.
Denial: This can’t be what they came up with! Two of the most respected and brilliant minds in hip hop came up with this? This has to be a fake. A demo. Practice. Something. Anything but the actual release.
Anger: How could they do this to Otis?! He deserves better! This is lazy. Why are rappers so lazy? Can’t they come up with anything original? This is literally chopping up a brilliant song and shouting over it. This is bullshit. Even worse, this has turned me into my mother!
Bargaining: Maybe it’s not as bad as I thought it was. Let’s try a second listen . . . Nope. Still bad.
Depression: What’s wrong with ME? Does this song actually suck, or is it an indication of the larger issue that I have been trying to ignore for years? I just don’t understand hip hop. How can I identify with my generation if I don’t like hip hop? This reminds me of that one time in 7th grade, when I got made fun of for not knowing who Biggie Smalls was. Not to mention the devastating realization during my sophomore year of college that the fact that I couldn’t sing along with Ignition meant that everyone was gonna know that I wasn’t invited to house parties during my freshman year. Why didn’t anyone like me?! Sniff, sniff.
Acceptance: I am not a rap fan, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. I am no longer going to think that I’m uncool because the rap songs on my iPod were at some time featured on Top 40 radio.
I know, I know, I shouldn’t judge an entire genre on one song. But, as you learned on Friday, my internal struggle sparked a little bit of a debate. Just like the B Side, I believe that the music you’re raised with stays with you and influences your future tastes. I was raised on local country radio, Paula Abdul and my Mom’s collection of 45’s. Not a great start, but I have a deep appreciation for the music that got us to what we have today. And I think that’s why I’m sometimes bothered by sampling; to me, it can feel like a rip off, even more than a bad cover.
But, unlike the B Side’s post would suggest, I do believe that good rap is out there. I’m going to lie, I am offended by “offensive” lyrics, but that perfect blend of an innovative beat with lyrics that actually say something can be extremely powerful. I do appreciate that. I promise!
I think I’ve talked enough in previous posts about my tastes and where they’ve come from. Aside from the occasional song on an MTV Party to Go compilation, rap just wasn’t part of my life until late into my teen years. Maybe this whole post is about how I have felt left out of something that means so much to so many others. I don’t dismiss the genre, but I am finally willing to dismiss the pressure I’ve been putting on myself to love it.