I am not a "90s Nigga". While the style of music I make & listen is more reminiscent of the 90s, I'm not a fan of the whole "Real Hip Hop" movement. I do think we hit a peak in the 90s, as evidenced by the commercial and critical success compared to today, but I am not unaware of the shortcomings that Old School Hip Hop fell victim to. I try to attain as much knowledge of the Golden Era of hip hop as I can from those who were there to experience and/or participate in it. I buy albums and listen to them not for the sake of entertainment, but to understand the musical climate that was prevalent at the the time. I buy books and read reviews pertinent to hip hop of then and now, and I have found a few contradictions, to say the least. A lot of what the senior hip hop audience criticizes us for today, were present, and at times, applauded during their hey day, and I compiled a list of things that stuck out to me. I mean no offense to any of the artists listed, I have respect and admiration for all of you in one way or another. My intentions are not to offend, but to inform!
Rappers Singing too much
Drake would probably be the first rapper that comes to mind, but he's the type of rapper where no matter what he does he will receive a hefty amount of hate. Another well known offender of this unwritten law would be Future. I supposed Drake suffers a lot of flack due to the singing adding to his perceived softness, and Future because of how autotuned yet grating his crooning sounds, but I'm sure Biz Markie, Big Daddy Kane, Ghostface Killah and Ol' Dirty Bastard were no where as near Motown status as they thought they were. Kane, Ghost, and ODB are three of my favorite rappers of all time, who could not sing, but didn't hesitate to do so anyway. Biz Markie inspired me to do what I did on "So Good", and that's one of my most beloved records to this day. Rap comes from everything but rap, Funk, Jazz, Disco, Soul, and Reggae all played a roll in the formation of our artform, so it is to be expected that every now and then the influences of other genres go beyond just the sampling and into the artists themselves. I don't have a problem with most rappers singing, if it's bad, (as it was with Kane's "The Day You're Mine"), then I'll skip it. But if it adds to the song, more power to the artist. And for the record, with the exception of possibly Nelly, Drake is the best Rap singer I've yet to hear.
Who/what from the old school falls into the category? Try nearly everyone from The Gangstarr Foundation, most of the Killa Beez, EPMD, and the classic album "Doggystyle". While an artists lyrics should hold some kind of significance to their body of work, countless talented MCs have suffered from poor production, and the records they make come out less than what they could've been. If the beat outshines the rapper, that shouldn't be too much of an issue, it's better than the MC trying to compete with the beat and completely throwing the song off. Before we're rappers, we're musicians & Entertainers, and those that understood that balance usually end up being more successful.
The prior generation seems to lambast artists like Chief Keef, Waka Flocka, and Meek Mill (to a lesser degree) for making music that stems from the streets yet lacks any poetic value. While many of the golden era legends where able to find an incredible balance between thuggery and artistry (Nas, Tupac, Kool G Rap), many of them did not, and relied more on a street and hardcore image and sound to carry them. Some MCs that fall under that category, with all due respect, would be MOP, Onyx & Ol' Dirty Bastard, who, according to Method Man & The GZA, didn't write many of his own rhymes. While MOP were very well capable of killing tracks based off lyrics alone, as was Sticky Fingaz (evidenced by guest verses on Pete Rock & Eminem tracks), it isn't their wordplay that they were remembered for. It is for their ability to amp their audiences up with an aggressive sound, usually fueled by violence, the same way Waka, Cheif Keef, and Meek Mill do. While few of the newer artists have earned their stripes as MCs, if they're not claiming to be lyricists, no harm has been done.
Kool G Rap is regarded as one of the most influential MCs of his time. Many of todays most critically and commercially successful MCs site him as an influence to their styles. There is nearly no shortage to the amount of things he has accomplished, other than receiving a plaque. Despite his impact and influence, G Rap has never received a gold or platinum album or single. This can be attributed to many things, lack of promotion from record label, controversy sparked by "Truly Yours", or his lyrics being too raw for mainstream media. For whatever reason, the point remains that commercial success has managed to escape G Rap. This conflicts directly with the career of party rapper MC Hammer, who's "Please Hammer, Don't Hurt 'Em" album is the first him Hip Hop to go Diamond. For a number of reasons, Hammer was and is, to a degree, considered a joke in rap circles. He was mocked openly by artists such as LL Cool J, Ice Cube, and a few others. But when it was crunch time, Hammer outsold everybody. This is not a comment about the skills of either artists, both of whom I appreciate. This is to say that when it came time to crunch numbers, the same people who called Hammer whack supported him, and those that called G Rap the greatest of all time, didn't. So, our generation is not to blame for commercial artists receiving commercial attention, that is the way of the world.
Kane was the king of battling, exactly 70% of his debut album was dedicated to bigging up his own image, primarily based around how much better of a rapper he was than everyone else. After undeniable shots were being thrown between Kane and Rakim, Rakim readied direct lines for Kane on his hit single "Let the Rhythm Hit 'Em". But before release, Kane allegedly made a behind the scenes call to squash the beef between the two, in hopes it wouldn't surface and become public. Whether or not subliminal shots were actually being thrown by Kane, with all the big boy talking he did, it hurt me to hear of his supposed cop out. He's still in my top 3 MCs, but he was not about that life. Other MCs who didn't quite live up to their lyrics were Prodigy & Tupac, but we'll get into that a little later. I don't think it should matter whether a rapper rhymes about his life or not. When I listened to Wu Tang for the first time, I knew they weren't really swordsmen from Asia, but they painted such vivid pictures with their art it didn't matter. I'm pretty sure people didn't listen to Slick Ricks "Children Story" and believe it to be a real event, it's all entertainment. The same way you don't call Sylvester Stallone "Rambo", you shouldn't expect Rick Ross to actually have those connects to Noreaga. Rap is music, and music is a form of entertainment, so be entertained!
If anyone knows me, or my blog, they know how much I am in love with Old School music. Though my Top 5 MCs changes with the day, Ghostface Killah, Kool G Rap, and Big Daddy Kane are constant fixtures, so this blog was in no way meant to slander any of their legendary careers. I am simply trying to bring the old school and new school together, by explaining we're not all different after all. I have been blessed to be surrounded by both groups, and I want us all to be able to benefit from that! Leave comments below! Peace!