That new @Murs/9th Wonder video, or 3 Problems that take the FUN out of Hip Hop

"Won't react to hate, on some boss shit.
Tryin'a read some comic books while doing crossfit.
Because the body is a temple
and all these tattoos is like stained-glass windows..."

"There ain't no difference between a gang banger
and Malcolm X. The same anger..."
This video for What Up Tho, a single off Murs and 9th Wonder's collabo album The Final Adventure, was directed by Hobostewd. Peace to that dude Crazy Al Cayne for dropping this one the Twitter machine... Cayne pointed out how much fun this video was to watch, and how more fun being had in hip hop is a good thing. In the past, hip hop was known for that element of fun, but I think it's always a concern of looking soft to the public if one smiles and plays around too much.
This calls to mind an old Smoking Section interview (shared with me by my dude Jamar) where groundbreaking veteran producer Prince Paul talks about his work on the first three De La Soul albums. He talks about how De La transformed from the happy-go-lucky flower children of 3 Feet High and Rising... to the three dudes with a rep for beating people up on the road of De La Soul is Dead. At the core of that part of the interview we find three problems that drain the fun from rap music:
  1. The Spotlight is kinda Hot-
    "The first album dropped and out of nowhere it blew up." Paul says.  "The guys weren’t really prepared for it." When artists are in the studio recording for the first time, the music is imbued with all the enthusiasm and idealism of imagining how great it's going to be famous and/or rich. But being successful is often it's own punishment. "With that success there was a lot criticism, scrutiny, and misconceptions of how the group was in terms of their image." Which, of course leads to problem number two...

  2. Knucklehead Syndrome-
    "[De La Soul] had people on the road try to test them all the time. People would say things like 'Oh, you big flower dudes' and try to run up on them. But De La Soul is made up of three big guys. They had a habit of beating people up when they went on the road and they started to get a rep for that." For some reason, people equate being happy with being soft. To make matters worse, the gangster rap revolution of the early nineties made everyone feel like it was no longer cool for hip hoppers to dance in public. Boots and baggy jeans replaced mall-bought suits and polka-dotted handkerchiefs. The flamboyant and diverse hairstyles of early hip hop were brought into conformity to the fresh Ceasar, braids or baldie (goatee optional, but encouraged).
  3. Industries Ruin Everything-
    "The label was getting on their case and expecting a lot from them in a short amount of time." Paul reveals. "I think De La Soul Is Dead was a sort of rebellion." I'm not anti-business or anything, but industries tend to put undue stress on the creative process. Marketing is a great thing when it is used to match up what an artist wants to make with its natural fan base. When suits are using marketing to dictate to an artist what to make? Not so great.
It's not just De La. The same thing happened with other artists. Brand Nubian. Boogiemonsters. Eminem. MF DOOM touched on it in his Red Bull Academy interview. Just about any artist you want to name is effected by it. Whether external pressure or internal angst, hip hop artists tend to go dark on us. There is a gravity that pulls the spirit down, and limits artistic expression.  I think it's part of the reason so many of the best rappers choose to quit rhyming, albeit temporarily. Is this really what we want?
It starts with us. The fans. We have to be conscious of how we treat the artists we like if we want to see more light-hearted expression to balance of the evil-core stuff we love so much. Even when the message comes from someone we respect, we should question what exactly makes a happy artist less respectable or real than an angry one.
I invite discussion on this subject, so please comment and share this post.



randolph webb said...

nicely stated. good points..
of course now, if u can make it to a 'hip hop' these days, its mostly about Bling, and Ass, wit a section of str8 up class'ism; not to speak of cost of tickets and such; security..yeah..

samax amen said...

I'm old, so the rap shows I go to are lightly-attended neuvo back-pack shit.

I'm not offended by the existence of Strip Club Rap, I just want balance in the media coverage of hip hop.

Stuff like this is out there. Always has been. But Viacom and Clear Channel don't give it enough air play.

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