Dancing while sitting down is the perfect illustration for rapping with this flow with no adlibs.
ILoveMakonnen – Trust Me Danny
Dancing while sitting down is the perfect illustration for rapping with this flow with no adlibs.
ILoveMakonnen – Trust Me Danny
The last time I took a hard line stance against something I read in a global online publication, I ended up eating my words very soon after. So it is not without some hesitation that I broach this even more sensitive topic, but if the worst thing that happens is that I get proven wrong, it sounds like a risk worth taking.
This time it’s not staged interviews or trifling clickbait about the music I love, it’s a moral indictment of it.
It’s a pretty standard critique using pretty standard reference points – “Rap music is so misogynistic, didn’t you hear that Snoop Doggy Dogg fellow shouting ‘bitches ain’t shit’? And I don’t think he was referring to our local kennel club…” But an unoriginal opinion is not necessarily a groundless one, so let’s see how this writer supports her age-old criticism.
We can excuse the fact that she uses The Black Album, Get Rich or Die Tryin’, and “Superman” as reference points to her assertion that 90s nostalgia is sparking second wind careers for aging rappers (all of these were released in 2003). I also won’t get all worked up with the “why do you have to agree with everything an artist says to appreciate their art?” question like I usually do. I’ll even let slide that weird paragraph where she postulates that sexism in art could be a marketing tool because “sex sells”; as though having the word “sex” as a root makes those concepts identical. These are small quibbles that don’t deserve more than a quick mention, the real issue I have is much deeper.
Firstly, I’m amazed at her lack of critical thinking and self reflection on her current or past motivations to listening to this music if she truly believes it “hates her”. She lists no redeeming qualities of this art form she finds so offensive, gives no examples of excellent moments made possible by rap or times it helped her through a difficult experience, yet she continues to listen and vaguely defend it to this day. She celebrates rap that avoids espousing these offensive attitudes and hauls out the old “conscious rap” fallacies about hip-hop only addressing social issues and empowerment in its early years, but this other breed that she claims to love despite its harmful content gets no further analysis than pointing out its ugliest facets. The sole explanation she offers for her paradoxical relationship with misogynist rap is that she was first exposed to it at a an early, impressionable age when her desire to be cool outshined her good judgement. But is that really enough to inspire over a decade of sincere interest? Could it be, as she disjointedly states in her closing sentence, that there’s more to hip-hop than these ugly passages? Might there be some aesthetic merit in the thousands of other creative decisions that go into making a powerful rap song? Can we honestly characterize her lifetime love of hip-hop as some weird musical Stockholm Syndrome where all she gets is abuse but can’t bring herself to change the radio station because it’s all she knows? It’s troubling that she doesn’t seem to be asking herself these kinds of critical questions about rap and herself, and instead seems content reaping whatever unspoken benefits of listening to rap while complaining and deriding it at every opportunity.
Staunch detractors would argue that these supposed “redeeming qualities” that go undiscussed in this piece are negated by the violent misogynist content and cannot possibly have a positive effect on the listener. To these people I would ask – do you own a cellular phone? a computer? Where were these products produced and under what conditions? Do you drive a car? Do you buy meat from factory farms? Do you order products through big box online retailers that could be acquired from a local independent business? Do you ever use styrofoam or plastic wrap? Do you wear polyester? Does the financial institution where you keep your money only do good deeds with it? Does your face wash have synthetic microbeads? All of these things are at least as problematic as the content of the rap songs she is taking issue with. Everything we do is problematic. The damage to our culture, environment, and other humans is far more devastating from these other actions, yet people find it much easier to shrug their shoulders and continue to perpetuate these problems without having moral dilemmas and writing thinkpieces about them. Why can we have such subtle, nuanced relationships with with all of the other terrible things we do while an entire genre of music gets a broad stroke dismissal?
I believe the reason that hip-hop, above all these other issues, inspires such outrage from people like Ms. Palmer, and the reason that she cannot reconcile her love and misgivings about rap to herself is epitomized by the title of her piece. It’s not that she’s primarily concerned about the damage they imagine the misogyny in rap music causes to our society, it’s that they feel personally attacked by these songs. “I love hip-hop but it hates me.” All of the other problematic activities that she engages in get a pass because she’s not the one directly suffering from their ill effects. Like when Phil Donahue got all butt-hurt and defensive when he felt like the black people on his “The Issue of Race” panel might not like him, the writer here is not primarily concerned about a moral violation. Like a petulant child she’s upset about not being loved, affirmed, and accepted by everything and everyone in the world at every moment.
Ms. Palmer, let me assuage your hurt feelings: rap music does not hate you. Rap music is not a living, breathing, single entity that is capable of forming opinions in favor or against anyone or anything, and the individual rappers that are capable of forming these types of opinions probably spend zero time liking or disliking any total stranger fan like you and me at all. It’s not about you, and the minute we realize this is the minute we can start bringing some intelligent discussion to the table. Misogyny is a HUGE problem that does need to be addressed, but its presence in an piece of creative expression need not indict its entire value.
See this is what I get for talkin’ shit. After two very disappointing discoveries about NOISEY’s journalistic practices (three if you count their pathetic Sean Price coverage), I half-jokingly encouraged everyone to boycott the outlet for being the most trifling rap journalists out. Then they had to go and publish this.
It’s hard to believe that this exists on the same site that recently published a think piece on dudes sexually assaulting Nicki Minaj’s wax likeness at Madame Tussauds. Mr. Burney, congrats on slipping a supremely solid article past the editors of NOISEY.
Before I read this I could probably name you two Baltimore rappers, and they aren’t recent ones. Now I’m feeling like they might have one of the best local scenes in the nation and many of these songs have been on heavy rotation since I read this piece. I won’t steal my man’s shine by reposting all his well-chosen selections here, just know that you’ll find an excellent 2015 reworking of a Tim Trees classic, some cold-ass street rap with very enjoyable pronunciations of the “oo” syllable, and some very tasteful electronica-influenced productions behind some very fresh and innovative rapping.
NOISEY’s previous infractions are still unforgivable, but maybe if we can get enough page views on this kind of solid reportage they’ll allow more of it past their filters. Keep it up, Lawrence!
Don’t ask me why an energy drink company is putting out much more serious rap journalism than people who are supposedly in the journalism business, but they are, and as I was reading this Kurtis Mantronik interview on Red Bull Music Academy Daily I was very pleased to find a very worthy entry into this series.
Mantronix w/MC Tee – Fresh is the Word (12″ version)
Check the full interview if you don’t know their history, it’ll convince you even more that hip-hop’s roots lie in Jamaica as much as the Bronx (this Luke interview, also on RBMA, has even more evidence and BARE MINIMUM bangers), and it might even convince you that Mantronix laid the foundation for trap music.
I’ve yet to discover a Lil’ Uzi Vert song that’s as good as “U.Z.I.“ and this is no exception, but it’s put me on a whole new search that’s been much more fruitful.
Lil’ Uzi Vert – All Night
While Uzi is busy rapping boringly and ripping off Young Thug’s “termite” double entendre, Cardo is steady making a taffy machine out of my skull behind the boards on this track. Like Rocko’s “I’m High“ earlier this year, “All Night” is one of those songs that I’ll blast shamelessly on the strength of the beat alone, despite its huge discrepancy with the rap quality. But while researching Rocko’s pick brings you to an obvious “oh, 808 Mafia” dead end, this little Vert track had me scratching my head. Car-who? Some cursory searches reveal that he provided the backgrounds for Meek Mill’s “Levels“ and a couple of minor hits for the likes of Wiz Khalifa, Sir Michael Rocks, and Mac Miller, but so far these more well-known examples are some of his weakest and from what I’ve heard of his recent material, he’s due to be a very sought-after producer for at least a certain subset of rappers and listeners.
Young Jeezy – The Realest (feat YG)
His texture palette is definitely the initial attraction for me, but I’ll try to avoid an annoying onomatopoetic description of the types of sounds he uses and focus on the two things that I can explain with words that make him special.
Whereas Lex Luger will forever be remembered as the champion of maximal rap production, Cardo is able to to achieve the same density of sound Luger did while having enough finesse and subtlety to to make it not just powerful, but immersive. Lex Luger hit you like a cinder block wall wrapped in steel; it crushed you, it flattened you against the pavement like some used-up flavorless Juicy Fruit under a trucker’s bootheel. Cardo can make almost the same beat but make you feel like you’ve been swept up in a deep ocean or deep space current and you can still make out certain fleeting details of your surroundings as you’re forcefully yet delicately towed along. There’s just as much power, but it’s in a fluid form that feels like it’s interacting with your mind, muscles, bones, and senses in intricate ways that the Lex Luger wall of sound could never hope to accomplish.
Young Jeezy – Birds Could Talk
The other factor that sets Cardo apart from the pack is his unyielding sense of urgency, which is achieved mostly through a masterful sensitivity to timing in the rhythmic structures of his beats. I remember this one Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire freestyle video where he says something about how he’ll always prefer a beat that “tells a story”, and while usually I think stories are kinda overrated I think I agree with him in this sense. I think what he is referring to is not that the beat slowly build and morph and resolve over the course of four minutes to tell one complete “story” in one play through, but that like a story, on a small scale each element seems to occur as a direct result of what happened previously. I think a good story (and a good beat) has to have some kind of sensical causality to it while still being unpredictable enough to keep you interested. Cardo succeeds at this time and time again, and it makes his music captivating in a way that many producers will never achieve.
The side benefit is that it makes the rappers on his beats sound amazing because under Cardo’s influence, even Jeezy’s basic flow is suddenly a crucial element in this very intricate texture that makes you hear his voice as a seamlessly integrated instrument in the soundscape as much as a way of delivering a verbal message. And if you have a more elastic flow like PartyNextDoor’s, it melts just as easily into the mix, stretching and contracting time like a Star Trek anomaly while Cardo’s synths rotate dizzyingly around your head.
King Louie – Clique’d Up (feat. PartyNextDoor)
Or take this more conventional beat he made for Snoop. I can’t remember the last time a Snoop song held my attention for this long, and I think it’s the production that makes that possible.
Snoop Dogg – Passenger Seat
For your browser’s sake I won’t embed any more videos in this post but if I still have your attention, take the time to hear his soulful yet spacey track for Vince Staples and Joey Fatts, this floaty bouce with Iamsu! and P-Lo, and some rugged determination from Pizzle.
My only concern for the wellbeing of his career is that while he has great range and his production is consistently urgent, immersive, and fresh, there’s not much in the way of “catchy” songs that would turn him into the hitmaker that he would need to be to get to that DJ Mustard or London on da Track level. Hopefully he can find a way to either gracefully integrate that element into his already well-defined sound or keep developing his current approach and be ok with not being on the radio all the time. Either way, I’m excited to hear what’s next.
I don’t like pushing negativity on here and I promise my next post is gonna be about a bunch of music I really like but ever since we found out about NOISEY’s highly questionable media tactics a week ago, I’m a little hypersensitive to their bullshit. So when I saw this headline I felt like I needed to say something.
Do yourself a favor and don’t read the interview, use it as motivation to never ingest anything NOISEY produces. I’m not saying that there should never be humorous content in a music publication but when you see the pitiful, generic, two-paragraph treatment they gave to Sean Price’s death yesterday and the most recent interview they did with Sean early last year which is only 2 questions longer than they give to some white dude on the internet who said 4 words of a rap song simultaneously with the rapper in the recording, it’s pretty clear where the priorities and sentiments lie with the NOISEY editors. There’s plenty of interesting (and humorous) content in the rap world, you don’t need to swallow NOISEY’s bullshit, fuckin’ onion head bastards.
Sean Price – Onion Head (feat. Tek)
Is it just me or is the best song on Dirty Sprite 2 the one about 56 Nights?
Future – Kno the Meaning
I’ll admit, DS2 is sprinkled with many of Future’s greatest one-liners (such as “she’s a ho and a slut and a metaphor“) and the production is pretty crazy and I actually like every song on it, but it can’t touch its antecedent mixtape, and the fact that my ears (and feelings) perked up immediately when “Kno the Meaning” started, even before I knew what it was about, only reinforces my evaluation.
The puzzling thing about this song is the “everything I did, it was premeditated” line when the whole point of the song is explaining how 56 Nights happened because of events completely out of his control. In fact, if I understand the explanation correctly, two of the three mixtapes that catapulted him to the top spot in street rap were made very spontaneously without time to prepare and plan every move like he’d been doing in the past, most notably on Honest. Without Beast Mode and 56 Nights, Future would not have just pushed past Taylor Swift to grab his first #1 spot on the Billboard Top 200 with an album that’s not even as good as his first two, right? Future, have you learned nothing from Esco’s time behind bars? Your best music is your least-premeditated music!
UNLESS… the real real meaning of 56 Nights is that Future planned Esco’s arrest and detainment from the beginning to free himself from being haunted by his past two years of music; to create an environment for himself that would force him to push himself in ways that he couldn’t when his precious hard drive was so near at hand. Is that what the weird confessional scene in the video is all about? Is he apologizing to Esco for letting him wallow in despair in the custody of the United Arab Emirates for nearly two months? Forget 10 Day, that’s fucking dedication to an album concept for you. Congrats, Nayvadius.
Man I always thought there was something fishy about that whole Noisey Atlanta series. I watched every episode as they came out hoping to gain some insight into the creative process and context of some of my favorite artists, but I was usually just cringing at the poorly researched questions and superficial treatment of everything and everyone, but I thought that’s all it was! Just some corny, half-assed attempt at reporting so some white dudes to look cool by hanging out with rappers for a day. Little did I know just how fake it was.
Migos on Highly Questionable
This is bigger news than Drake’s ghostwriting. Scripted? Have you listened to Migos? You think they need a script to do entertaining shit? The answer is, of course, no. They don’t need a script to be interesting or entertaining or captivating or anything else worthwhile, they need a script to fulfill all the shallow stereotypes that Noisey wants to perpetuate about rappers, and more importantly they need a script so Noisey can make itself seem super cool and edgy when they’re briefly associated with the rappers they’re deliberately misinforming us about. It’s not enough to show the closet that gave birth to “Versace“, the viewers are supposed to tremble in their cardigans imagining themselves as the skinny white kid with glasses around all these unpredictable thugs waving assault weapons in their kitchen. It’s sad that this is what passes for in-depth rap journalism. Maybe I’m just naive for assuming that Noisey was something more than low-grade reality Internet TV. I won’t be next time.
Ever since I Came From Nothing 2 came out there’s been a single tiny office inside my brain with one little clerk patiently yet diligently searching for the follow-up to “Keep In Touch“.
Young Thug – Keep In Touch
It’s not that it’s my favorite Thug track ever or that it’s even a crucial song-type that he needs to master to round out his oeuvre, it just stuck out so much on that tape that’s so full of cacophonic wildness that I couldn’t help but hold out just a shred of hope that he’d make another song with that special kind of carefree playfulness usually reserved for Biz Markie or Fatlip. Behold! And over a Temptations sample no less.
Young Thug – No Games
Today I was sitting listening to my $1 copy of Going Steady reading Steady B’s Wikipedia wondering how he’s serving life without parole for a murder he was only the getaway driver for when I heard a groovy little guitar lick that I recognized from my distant past.
Steady B – Anyway U Want It
It took me way too long to put it together, but eventually it came to me. How could I forget!
The Notorious B.I.G. – Just Playin’ (Dreams)
I think it didn’t come immediately to mind because “Dreams” wasn’t an album cut and back in the day when I was listening to a lot of Biggie I wasn’t venturing too far outside of official album material, even from artists I really loved. Despite this misguided tendency, I still acquired this single on wax at some point, probably as an add-on to save money on shipping for some other eBay record purchase, so it was a song I only heard when I played it out someplace, unlike the hours spent on Ready to Die and Life After Death.
Now you don’t have to be a prodigy-level sample spotter to guess that the original is probably some “Hot Pants“-era James Brown track, and you’d be right, but don’t stop the search there! Dig a little deeper into those memory banks and and recall the man who beat both of these dudes to the “Blues and Pants” flip, and arguably out-raps them as well.
Geto Boys – Scarface
For a bonus, in case you’ve become hypnotized by 12 minutes of the same one-bar loop and are now having withdrawals, check out “Announcement“. The video had me flashing back to the now thoroughly creepy Picture Pages in a big way, and with all the recent discussion of rap ghostwriting I can’t help but wonder if a certain Shawn Carter might have played a role in Pharrell’s verse… and if so, why didn’t Common do us all a favor and follow suit?
Common – Announcement (feat. Pharrell)