If hip-hop were personified by a Pokémon, it’d probably be Geodude: it’s decent but not all that impressive at first… and then it evolves.
Before you know it, you’ve got a massive beast to contend with and everyone’s trying to be down with that tough stuff Onyx is coming with.
However, I get the impression that hip-hop has devolved since then. I’m constantly seeing terrible-to-mediocre emcees spitting their baby dribble all over incredible beats and it’s no longer bemusing to me. It’s gotten disheartening and I can think of nothing more annoying than listening to a beat build into something tremendous only for some corny rapper to come on the mic and brick the living hell out of a perfectly good sound scape. Case in point: Chris “Beat A Bish Down” Brown over the beat for Look At Me Now. I don’t even need to get into the ins-and-outs of why that verse is one of the most underwhelming moments in all of hip-hop, as his performance quite clearly speaks a hell of alot louder than my criticism.
Fundamentally though, this is what a lot of hip-hop has become recently: underwhelming. Producers have gotten better and better and are racking up the accolades and critical acclaim faster than any emcee could scoop a Grammy award but when it comes time to collaborate, finding a dope emcee is about as easy as finding the Hope Diamond in a Cracker Jack box. It’s no wonder that instrumental hip-hop is quickly coming into its own, especially with producers like the late Jay Dee, the late Nujabes, Pete Rock, Madlib, Wax Tailor, Dela, and many others giving people what they want: beautiful music that hasn’t been tainted by some weak-ass rapper.
The solution then is simple: do the opposite of what Eric B & Rakim told us all those years ago and do sweat the technique. Those of us that love hip-hop should demand more from iced-out rappers who seem rather content to not only spit that B.S. about that same damn platinum watch/platinum chain combo but also manage to have as much lyrical depth as your average children’s book and the iambic pentameter (or ‘flow,’) of a poorly maintained 1970’s Cadillac Coupe de Ville, complete with that sputtering engine that’s scarily reminiscent of the stop-start/hashtag rapping that seems to be rather popular amongst new-school rappers these days. Yes, we should start feeding back constructive criticism to emcees that we like and know sounded better on a mixtape or album prior to their latest release. Yes, we should chastise rappers for misogynistic, homophobic, or otherwise culturally intolerant themes in their lyrics. Bottom line: most rappers hate being discriminated against and are quick to take stances against discrimination but how much more hypocritical can you get when you’re referring to that woman casually as a ‘bitch’ or some dude as a ‘faggot-ass nigga’ simply because of what he’s wearing? C’mon, B. Do better.
Now don’t get me wrong: I think a renaissance for hip-hop is lurking on the horizon but something has got to give. Rappers these days do need to step their game up, especially when you’ve got a plethora of awesome producers that are consistently outshining the ones on the mic. It really is that simple and it’s time to stop ignoring the elephant in the room. It’s all good when producers are looking for that high-profile exposure and I completely understand that producers gotta eat too… but is it really worth it when an immaculate beat becomes a track people would quickly skip over because they think it’s rubbish? It may be great for your bank balance but I find it quite saddening everyone’s making money off of a genre that’s virtually bankrupt of lyrical artistry.
Word is bond.