The Young and Disenchanted

Posts Tagged ‘Snoop Dogg

I finally saw Nas in concert. It was at the New York leg of the Rock the Bells tour, and it was everything that I’d ever hoped it would be. He came out looking fresh in a white shirt and NY fitted, and performed everything from “Made You Look” to “One Love” (with Damien Marley mixing in his father’s track with it – I cannot WAIT for Distant Relatives to drop). The whole arena was going wild, everyone pumping their fists and getting hype. The energy all around me blasted away the tiredness I felt from getting so little sleep the night before, and I stayed on my feet rapping along like I had a record deal my damn self. Towards the end of the set Nas and Damien performed “Road to Zion,” at the beginning of which Damien asked everyone to put their lighters/cell phones/hands up in the air. Looking around at my fellow hip-hop heads in their thousands, faces illuminated by the electronic glow, all of us caught in the sheer passion and love we felt for this music, I couldn’t help but think of the many millions of souls around the world hip-hop culture has touched.

My first hip-hop memory is of listening to Snoop Dogg’s first album with my sisters (I’m going to discount my brief obsession with MC Hammer because a) I don’t directly remember it, it’s only from my family telling me I was a fan that I even know this and b) those damn harem pants). My dad was (and still is) a huge fan of Dr. Dre and purchased Snoop’s first album – Doggystyle – on cassette. It probably wasn’t the best thing for a 5 year-old to be listening to, but no one could tell me anything – I’d be rhyming along to “Gin and Juice” like I knew what liquor, Long Beach or weed were. One of the first things about rap music that fascinated me was the fact that rappers fit so many more words into the same 3 minutes and 30 seconds than performers of other genres do. My little brain was obsessed with how they came up with so many rhymes – some of them in the middle of lines – and coupled this with a beat that got people doing the head bop with a look of total and complete concentration, finished off with a catchy hook. It was magic to me then, and still is now.

The hip-hop I listened to when I was younger (particularly while my family lived in England) was heavily influenced by what my older sisters liked: Mase, DMX and Busta Rhymes were particular favourites, and probably the reason why I’m still an East Coast girl at heart. Trevor Nelson’s show on MTV, The Lick, further opened up the world of American hip-hop to me. My sisters and I would gather around the TV late Friday nights after our parents had gone to sleep, thirstily soaking up everything from the new Timbaland and Missy joints to The Roots’ latest (the first track by them I remember hearing was “You Got Me,” one of my favourite songs of all time). We didn’t only listen to rap – R’n’B was our shit too (R Kelly, Erykah Badu and Aaliyah – good times), and being a nine-year old girl living in England, I fell under the spell of the Spice Girls. Yeah, I said it – no shame in my game.

Ten years on my music tastes have expanded to include indie, grime, coupé-décalé and electronica, but I still go back to hip-hop despite all the talk of it being murdered by Soulja Boy and other ignorant-ass-dumb-chain-wearing-pseudo-rappers. I like to pride myself on the fact that I mostly listen to what people term as “conscious” rap (you know, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Dead Prez) and the OGs (A Tribe Called Quest, Wu Tang, Biggie), but I do still bump chart rap. I won’t necessarily buy Rich Boy’s or Rick Ross’ music, but I’ll be damned if I’m not the biggest boss that you’ve seen thus far. I made the distinction between my “club shit” and “real shit” a while ago (to be precise, circa December 2006 when I bought Nas’ “Hip Hop is Dead”), citing the over-commercialisation of the game and the lack of imagination that, unfortunately, the rise of the South has brought to hip-hop. Yes, rappers have always talked about money, cash and hoes (at least since the 90s), but they would more than occasionally bring up socio-economic and political issues like the struggles of the average young person coming up in an inner-city ghetto or the realities of police brutality, and do both with the flow that made you go “daaaaaaaaaaaamn!” But that was then. Now, if the Billboard Hip-Hop and R’n’B chart is anything to go by, sex, designer clothes and being strapped when you hit the club is all that defines the music that I fell in love with all those years ago, only now without the allure of clever wordplay or imaginative production. All new rappers seem to be mocking (or reflecting) the intelligence of their audiences, posteuring in their LV-upholstered SUVs. All hope is lost.

Or maybe not. Last weekend, I went to the album launch party of Blitz the Ambassador, a Ghanaian rapper based in Brooklyn. I was blown away first by the fact that he performed with a (seriously smoking hot) live band, his flow and the fact that he played the talking drum. I felt the way I did when I saw Nas perform a few weekends ago, the way I did when I first heard “With so much drama in the LBC/It’s kinda hard being Snoop D-O-double-G”: a bubbling excitement, chills down my spine, and a strange feeling of familiarity, because it sounded like the junction between my childhood and my present. Needless to say, I snapped up his album immediately and I love it. But of course, nothing can ever be that picture-perfect. Towards the end, Blitz made a little speech thanking everyone for their support and love, and then made that comment that so many of my favourite “conscious” artists have made before: “I don’t do this for the money.” Um, I’m gonna go ahead and call bullshit on that. Obviously, artists don’t create music solely for cash – the music industry is far too fickle for that to make sense (for better pay, I’d recommend construction or police work). There’s the drive to share a message with like-minded individuals, to be expressive, to do something that makes you so incredibly happy nothing else could compare. And I feel all of them on that. But seriously? If it really isn’t for the money, why can’t I get your album for free? And why do you get mad when people download your shit if it’s all about reclaiming the game and resurrecting hip-hop? And why don’t you stay underground rather than signing with a big record company? Understand I’m not attacking Blitz directly here, but speaking in general to the artists that look down their noses at the “coonery” of people like Gucci Mane and T-Pain (on a personal note, I’m going to add Kanye and Lil Wayne to my list of people who are making hip hop kind of unbearable). Yes, they lack artistry, but at least they’re being 100% honest about why it is they’re in this game. And they must, to some degree, believe that they’re truly making good music… although what that says about their mental state, I’d really rather not contemplate. All I’m saying is that hip-hop isn’t necessarily dead, but that the non-“conscious” rappers are a representation of one (unfortunate) direction it has taken. I don’t think this is a permanent evolution. I also think the “conscious” dudes need to get off their fucking high horses – YES you make better music, but it really isn’t that life-or-death serious. As far as I’m concerned, all the back and forth and haterade in hip-hop right now is doing nothing for its devotees. Basically, rappers: get the fuck back to making music that gets me so hype I act like a little kid who OD’d on candy, stop using Twitter as a forum for bitching at each other and make hip hop the only love of my life once more.

That’s just my very humble opinion. Hip-hop heads, let me know if you feel otherwise and shit.

P.S. Title is from my main man/future-children’s-father Common: first ever track of his I heard, and still one of my favourites of all time.

Advertisements