What can I say, I love Hip-Hop. Back in my teens (cause I'm so old now) I was what you would call a "punk" or "rocker". In my circle of friends rap was forbidden and frowned upon as it was not even considered music. Well the thing I never told my friends was that I secretly liked it and I could do a bit of it myself. Fast forward a few years to when I'm entering college, and my musical style along with clothing style, began to change. I wanted to experience more, and absorb all genres of music like a sponge. In my quest for doing so, I discovered my outward true love for hip-hop.
I actually started writing raps when I was a little kid, but gave that up once I began playing the drums and being in bands when I was thirteen. The first couple songs I wrote where kind of like raps because I knew nothing of song writing except "you have to rhyme" which of course is not true. I gave it up once I learned how to write songs within the punk rock/grunge style of music I was playing.
It wasn't until a friend of mine bought me the "Fort Minor" CD " the Rising Tied" that I really had a passion again. I grew up on early 90's rap, and that was sure outdated. I sounded like a member of the Beastie Boys every time I tried. But it was Fort Minor's Mike Shinoda (also rapper of Linkin Park) that really taught me about story telling and meaningful rap. I have that CD memorized and it's what began "Justin as the artist" I am today.
From Fort Minor I branched out to underground mid-west legends like the white boys holding it down on "Rhymesayers"- Mac Lethal, Brother Ali, and Atmosphere to name a few. These guys are among the best lyricists of all time.
Now what do I mean by "lyricist"? What's the difference between a "rapper" and a "lyricist"?
A rapper, really is anyone who can and to quote Pat Wakie, "Someone rapping rhythmically to a beat". You can be absolute garbage, but you throw some words over a beat and you're a "rapper" in the sense of it. Now-a-days there is so much trash on MTV and Hot97 and the like, that people are almost brainwashed into thinking what real hip-hop is. Rap is more than "Money, cars, clothes, and the hoes". It's more that just throwing money up, and popping bottles. This whole movement was started in the late 90's after Tupac and Biggie died. P.Diddy can really be called the Godfather of this kind of rap because he capitalized on what Biggie was about. Diddy was a producer not rapper. All he knew about was being rich, and that's what he did.
I know I'm going to catch beef for this, but hip-hop was ruined by Lil Wayne. He himself invented the phrase "bling-bling". He was eleven when he started rapping. What does an eleven year old dream about: fame, fortune, girls, money, etc. Now he's like twenty-five and still rapping about the same thing. Step your game up! Maybe when Wayne gets out of jail he can rap about, how drugs, money, and fame have ruined his life. But then again, he loves it, and most of you look up to him anyway...
I know it sounds like I'm being a hater but I have strong opinions on music. I'm not by any means an amazing rapper, but when someone can become a millionaire with a chorus that exclaims "Superman that hoe" I rest my case. I give "Soulja Boy" credit for capitalizing on the Internet and the masses for making him famous, go get it kid.
What's a lyricist?
A lyricist is a rapper with a conscience. A lyricist looks at the world around him, and thinks "what can I say about it, how can I change it, and what will it look like?" A philosopher of words and a thinker in rhythm, a lyricist is an atom bomb waiting to explode. These are the kind of rappers I aspired to learn from when I picked up the pen. These guys showed me how to turn poetry into a story, and a story in a poem. No matter the beat, fast a slow, none or low, a masters of the craft can get it done.
Common (Sense) is a Chicago born rapper, who is known for his commentaries on life while rapping. Him along with fellow "Blackstar" associates Talib Kweli and Mos Def, can take any topic and make it relavent and preach a message. To me these three are geniuses and never get the credit they deserve.
Mainstream artists are far and few when it comes to rapping like a "thinker", but a few manage to get away with it. Jay-Z and Eminem are probably the two greatest rappers who ever lived. I know people are yelling at me and saying they are ashamed of me, but hear me out as I break it down.
Jay-Z, aside from some of the corny stuff he does now, has a reputation that far exceeds anyone else. What other mainstream artist is as big and relevant at the age of forty as him. While "Hova" doesn't boast the sex appeal and fantasy rap of a Wayne, or the aggressive chops of a Nas, Jay does something quite different. He attacks every verse with a smooth flow, and a calm voice. Jay's problem is he's too good. When you listen to his raps, they seem to be lacking those "Ooooooo" moments that a lot of other great rappers have. In actuality they're there, and you missed it. His intelligence allows him to hide secret meanings and rhymes in every line. He builds on metaphors and clever word play to convey what he's meaning even if you don't notice. See for yourself. Go pick out a classic jigga song and pay attention.
Eminem, undoubtedly the most confused and tortured mind of them all, Em's insanity makes him a genius. Never in my life have I heard someone string along groups of words in patterns that actually have meaning like he does. Not counting his weird or offensive songs, Eminem can melt a dictionary with the way he raps on a song. He changes from serious to funny, from loving to hateful, from fast to slow, and normal voice to a thrown voice. To me, he is the greatest no doubt, and now that he's back and off the drugs and trying to get his life together, he can accomplish more.
The next generation of rappers are kind of scary. They are all carbon clones of whoever they role with. The "Cash Money Millionaires" of Lil Wayne, Drake, Nikki Minaj, and company, all have the same style. I remember getting Drake's first mixtape when he was seventeen and still on Degrassi. It was absolutely amazing. He had his own voice, he had the craft of storytelling and speaking the truth on every verse. Then something happened to him. He was discovered by Lil Wayne and became part of his crew (a great career choice). It appears Wayne has the Midas touch and everything he does turn to gold. Now what happened? Drake blew up, and is taking Wayne's place while he's in jail. But it appears while Drake is still good, he sold out a bit. He no longer has that raw and fresh voice. He no longer takes deep trips down memory lane and reflects on what life was like for him. He is slowly becoming like his peers around him. First the flow changed, then the voice, then the topics, and now the lifestyle. Come on Drake, come back!
Check out this song off of Drake's first Mixtape called "S.T.R.E.S.S." and see how he sounded.
Now listen to him "Over"
Even on the comments for "STRESS" people are saying what I'm saying.
Back in the 80's and early 90's it was all about being an individual. Back then an Emcee was about being a specialist in your kind of style. The pioneers like Grandmaster Flash, the Beastie Boys, Run DMC, knew how to captivate an audience by being unique. While Hip-Hop saw its groundbreaking revolution in the 90's with De La Soul, the Roots, WU-Tang, Nas, Common, Big L and the list goes on, it is now becoming very amateurish and the "in" thing to do. I wish rap would go back to the days of being great and having talent, but for now we'll just keep seeing the same things over and over. A good song to explain the evolution of Hip-Hop is Common's "I Used to Love H.E.R." And while dated to 94, the same thing was happening back then.
Here's my personal top ten just for fun. What are yours?
2. Big L
5. Lupe Fiasco
6. Mos Def
8. Brother Ali
9. Mac Lethal
10. Kid Cudi
Check out my raps at Myspace.com/mcsikboi
Check out my band at Myspace.com/processoffusion
For info on any of these artists check them out on youtube.