Saturday, 21 February 2009

Beneath the Bling

"Shots big enough to tear the fuckin' wall out
I'll have your punk ass on the dance floor tryin' to crawl out
I had bad luck, then my luck changed up
You see the Range, you see the rims all blinged up
You ain't hear what I charge for 16, I'm makin' a killin'
These other rap niggaz just catching feelings"

Surrounded by Hoes - G-Unit

As a casual listener, I struggle sometimes to class myself a fan of hip-hop/rap. Not due to the fact that I don't know what I like, more that what I like seems so far removed from the artists and music people generally associate with the genre. The sample above is just one of endless examples we could pluck from the mainstream chart toppers, a style that I can't see myself ever falling for. To my ears, the bling and bitches raps sound like parody....a jazzed up reinvention of a lifestyle that few of the artists actually live. More basic than that, isn't it just dull subject matter once the first few gangstarz have ploughed that furrow? It's not hip-hop that flips my switch, put it that way.

Moving on, the reason for this round-the-block preamble is to present the voice of hip-hop that makes perfect sense to me. Artists that have an alternative flow, unorthodox beats, and who rap about the world in which the other 99.9% of us reside. My knowledge is horrendously limited, made up as it is of only minor dabbles over the years, but I do have a much loved core of tunes and rappers that I come back to time after time when the guitars have melted my synapses to goo. So, against my natural instinct, I'll stop babbling about the point I'm making and let the music do the talking (the ideal summary being made by Akala on Where I'm From). Et voilà:

Aesop Rock - None Shall Pass

- Where I'm From

Atmosphere - The Rooster

Brother Ali
- Uncle Sam Goddamn

Cadence Weapon - 30 Seconds

The Coup - Snag you some MP3's for We Are The Ones and My Favourite Mutiny here

Dälek -All of Gutter Tactics. Can't wait? Buy it here then.

Sage Francis - More Epitaph smartness....pick up Civil Obedience here

Saul Williams
- Convict Colony

Another good reference is the Def Jux stable, home to many of those above (Jukies!) and plenty of free tuneage. I've been listening to the new Dälek outing plenty this month too, which has guided me back to the genre and caused much reflection on what I actually dig in hip-hop. As with metal, one of the main attractions is the experimenting and diversity flowing beneath the mainstream example of the music. Hopefully I'll get some of that elaborated upon in a future review of Gutter Tactics.

As always, there are exceptions that prove the rule. I find that some well known hip-hop acts, like the Wu Tang Clan, Cypress Hill, Ice Cube, Lil Wayne and a few others, have grabbed my lug holes down the years. These generally add something over and above their single scoring progeny, though, with the lyrics finding their way beyond just bling. Are there others? Am I being entirely myopic in my take on this particular genre affectation? That's what the comment buttons are for, I suppose. In everyone's least favourite examination terminology: discuss.

Now playing: Brother Ali - Uncle Sam Goddamn
via FoxyTunes

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