I love hip hop music. I can't stand most rap today.
I asked my friend Paul Bost for some good hip hop recommendations yesterday. My only request is that it won't be played before or after Lady Gaga. He's always pointed me in the right direction, but I'm still waiting.
I'd love to be able to turn on the radio or some Music TeleVision. Unfortunately, it seems like that just isn't an option anymore. Now I'm stuck with my iPod with 90s and early 00s hip hop and my occasional visit to Pandora.com.
1. Who do you like, Justin?
I thought you might ask. This is a difficult question to answer. Well, I guess it's not that difficult. I'll list some artists, in no particular order, to give you a sampling:
Common, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, The Roots, A Tribe Called Quest, K-OS, Q-Tip, The Procussions, Arrested Development, Black Eyed Peas (pre-Fergie and a few more legit ones since Fergie), Wu-Tang, KRS-One, CB4, Notorious B.I.G., old school Bone, Outkast, The Fugees, Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth, Ahmad, De La Soul, UGK, and Beastie Boys, among others.
I'll admit to one more: Kanye West. I try my hardest to change that. He's not a good MC, but he makes some of the strongest tracks around these days.
2. What's wrong with hip hop today?
I don't even know where to start. Each thing I think about makes me sound either old or conceited. I think the bottomline is that the combination of production and MCin' is missing the purity it once had for me. The MCs, with few exceptions, don't tell stories and don't rhyme with finesse and creativity. The music, including beats, hooks, and samples, feels rushed, because the producers and rappers are just trying to get it out as quickly as possible. On top of all that, rap is mainstream now, and mainstream often requires artists to follow the rules of popularity. Even Texas-style and Dirty-style southern rap isn't as grimy; it's just an imitation of what it once was.
The more I think about it, maybe the only thing wrong with hip hop today is me. Maybe I'm like my parents already. Big band isn't what it used to be. Doo-wop isn't what it used to be. Rock & roll (for every generation) isn't what it used to be. Maybe I should be on that list.
I do like to clarify and classify to help me cope: Rap is not the same as Hip Hop.
3. So what's the difference between rap and hip hop?
One argument says that rap is the music and hip hop is the culture. I agree that hip hop is a culture, but don't think rap is a part of it. Rap is to hip hop as the Romulans are to the Vulcans: They are outwardly indistinguishable to some people, but different in characteristics. Better stated by KRS-One: "This is the difference between an MC and a rap: Rappers spit rhymes that are mostly illegal. MCs spit rhymes to uplift their people." (about 4:15 into this version of "Classic"). Both have a lot of pride (a/k/a "arrogant"), but hip hop has more depth. Hip hop says, "It's like a jungle sometimes; it makes me wonder how I keep from goin' under." Rap says, "money, power, respect [also sex] is what you need in life." Some of the names listed above are from more of a rap style, but there's something redeeming about them from the hip hop standpoint.
I could say so much more about this topic, but I'll save it for later. Next time, I'll put some of my favorite songs of all time so that you can hear those songs and compare them to the junk on the radio these days. Like a good MC would say, you may not agree with me, but I'm right.
And check out this video to do more learning about hip hop: