KRS says, "Cheer up, buddy! You got eight more hard hours of workin for the man."
Yeah, that's right, Friday morning. Another week in the books. Spanks lost yesterday to the Tigers. Johnny Damon (formerly Johnny Nitro) hit a 3-run homer to keep the Spanks in it, but then popped out harmlessly to end the game. Remember, in Yankee land, it's not what you did, it's what you didn't do. Sorry, Johnny. Let's see if the Tigers can pull off a miracle in Detroit and win the next two. Bill, I'm pulling for 'em. You knows I is, main!
Wow, KRS One's "Emceez Act Like They Don't Know" just came began on UNDERGROUNDHIPHOP.com's Old School Channel. Beautiful. It might just be a Boogie Down Friday. Speaking of old school, big armfuls of props and praise to the boys at SUPERSTARDJS.org and Fat Laces Radio. Wow, they put on a nice set. I subscribed to their podcast a month or so ago and it's been guaranteed freshness ever since with no expiration date. Dude's do their damn thang, b'lee dat.
A couple of shows ago, they went on the "Is Hip Hop Dead?" discussion. Compelling although I don't think there's much validity to the argument of the artform being dead. It's nearing its 30th birthday. It's getting older, but it's certainly not dead. In fact, I never really get caught up in the personification of an artform (see Common's "i used to love h.e.r."). I mean, I take my preferences serious and I'll argue their greatness until I'm red in the face, but in the end, it's just music. Let's not get wrapped up in the dying artform discussion.
Okay, well, I can't help myself. Here's my perspective. It won't ever die because you'll always have those old records. Hell, almost my entire Top 20 list was comprised of records from ten years ago. The Fat Lace Fellas threw on Leaders of the New School, LL's "Nitro" and Public Enemy's "Welcome to the Terrordome" to end their show the other night and all of those records hit so freaking hard that to call them dusty or antiqued would be an absolute abomination. Sometimes I get with the new stuff, the new artists. I walked around signing Smitty's "Diamonds On My Neck" for like a month and have no clue why. But as a whole, I like the old stuff because it has emotional context. The new stuff is more the wrapping than the actual gift. It's something you put on when you're doing something else--stunting at the intersection, stepping to a fine lookin lady at the club, flexin at some dude like you wanna scrap. People like hooks and not verses. People like beats and not songs. People like singles and not albums. People like actors and not emcees. You can blame radio for that. I mean, when I was coming up, stations made it their marketing strategy to resist rap at radio. "We play absolutely no rap!" Then who does in this town? Once I found it, I was locked in for good. Once radio sold out and began spinning hip hop records, artists lined up ready to sell out themselves.
Once it hooked and kids wanted it, they made the labels money, the money paid the artist and the artist done started spending. It wasn't until people really started seeing how much the music industry was a pretty clean hussle that things started going south. It's always been a resource for those in the struggle and that's what made the music so appealing. It was like the blues in that way, but then it went from "making money to get by" to "making enough money for that oceanfront mansion and the jetskis." It was the years of excess much like the hair bands of the eighties. Instead of Ferraris, rappers bought Bentleys. Instead of cocaine, rappers preferred weed. Instead of knocking up groupies, rappers rolled with celebrities. There were too many distractions from the music to actually make quality music.
I'm not gonna sit here and cry "sellout" on all my favorite artists because you put most hip hop artists first records against their latest recordings and the new ish can't hold a match to the old stuff. We can argue artists' repertoires all day, but generally speaking, hip hop artists get worse with age. It's a youthful artform and as you grow old, so does your music and, eventually, you're trapped in a creative wheelchair (or deathbed, as the case with some artists) and to revive your career, you have to start at the absolute bottom. At that age, you'd be lucky to get label that'd want your old, tired ass.
I see hip hop growing old like jazz. You have the standard sound for so long and then a core of certain excelled or priveleged artists grew tired of the "old" way and discovered that names sold the genre and not the music. You got Miles, Coltrane, Getz, Mingus, Roland Kirk, Ornette Coleman--they took it far beyond where conventional jazz and the old rules would allow. There was resistance, but ultimately it caught on and some guys made some pretty money off of it. But jazz would then fizzle out of popularity when other genres would come to the forefront. But we still have Kind of Blue, Blue Train and Shape of Jazz to Come to remember them by. Twenty years from now, we'll be listening to Mike Jones like, "Whoa!" Vanilla Ice is Lawrence Welk.
I just remember it being so much more fun in the early going. Everyone had their own sound, look, signature. Slick Rick and his eye patch. Biz and his dookie-fat gold chains. LL and the Kangols. But now, I swear there's a plant that makes rappers somewhere in Deleware. It's gotta be an incredible facility. Like they have a duplication specialist that can basically replicate any of your favorite rappers in just moments. The labels know what work and, with declining sales, either they stick with the big (old) names (like LL) and see if they can painfully milk one more ten-song album from their tired, worn careers or they look for some kid that looks like, talks like, rolls like, sounds like some other rapper on a competing label. Next thing you know, you have ten cats on ten labels that sound just like Nelly or 50 Cent and, sadly, five of those artists will actually sell some records because the hip hop audience is not only incredibly fickle, but they're dumb as crap.
Unfortunately for the labels, the listeners are starting to smarten up and the labels have failed to realize this. So now, the joker becomes the joked. The table has turned because people have proven that their piles and piles of crappy hip hop records are really worth very little. Sales decline, downloads increase. Albums are reduced to singles because they're easier to sell on iTunes and now you take artist development out of the equation and we're on the heels of a new dawn and it ain't picture perfect. Sad to say that in the end, radio really was good for hip hop because it gave the game structure. To get radio play was the ultimate reward, but now when you can make a hip hop record for a fraction of the cost and basically market and promote it online for hardly anything, you got "emcees" and "producers" popping up on every block. The rap market has become incredibly fragmented. Instead of buying records, people are making records now. You got cats who swear they know the artform because they saw a kid who called himself "Hurricane" rip a show in Billings, Montana to an audience of 15 people--14 of which were two drinks from death and the 15th was his moms. This sort of saturation creates a cancerous effect where fans dismiss the movement, revert to the old stuff and sit around getting fat and saying things like "back then," "back in the day" and "like in 1991" leaving a cavity where the knowledgable fan used to be and filling it with kids who have no context nor investment in the artform. Ultimately, it'll continue to spin out of control until it hits rock bottom and a new movement begin.
Hip hop as we knew it in the early to mid 90s is something we'll never see again. There's too much money involved for people to take the game so lightly. I speak generally because it's easier at this time in the morning. There are exceptions and there are many releases this year that I think have merit--not as much as last year or the year before, but they're there nonetheless. It's just a downward trend that can be attributed to too many elements to really start pointing fingers. However, I tend to blame these guys.
Well, the local meteorologists scored an 86 on Thursday by coming within 2 degrees of the high, but missing the low by 5 degrees. That's an improvement on Wednesday. They gotta tricky weekend ahead of them with a cold front and (gasp) rain blowing through. We'll see how many holes we can poke in their wonderful seven-day forecast this weekend. Should be interesting. Next week, I'm gonna take a shot and see how I fair with no tools, computers or radar maps to aid me.
Alright, gotta get to work. Got tickets to the opening night of Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. Might have to redeem those this evening for some gruesome, bloody fun. Speaking of gruesome and bloody, go Tigers! Beat the crap out of the Banks.
A-Rod, who had three strikeouts yesterday and went 0-4 for the day said, "My chin is up. My chin isn't going anywhere." So eloquently put. Nothing that an up-and-in heater can't take care of, Alexis.