Youthful expression is vital for the health of rap.
New York and Houston veterans still bring it hard, making sure rap music survive – but where are the younger cats?
While reading Yes Yes Y’all – an account of the birth of hip-hop culture in the seventies, made up of interviews with the people who made it happen – I see all the scene’s innovators being sixteen, eighteen, at most twenty (and the first time Grand Wizard Theodore showed the world his art of scratching he needed to stand on a milk crate so he could reach the turntables). Just like later innovators LL Cool J and A Tribe Called Quest and Snoop and Mobb Deep when they made their marks in the game.
The last decade can be seen as a transition period for rap music. The mixtape dominated as a compromise between the golden era album format and the locally based, globally and instantly spread, viral forms of distribution that are now establishing themselves (Youtube, Twitter and beyond). Most mixtape rappers still saw their goal as a major label contract and a big shot produced full length. But it was a long road to walk. Most got chewed up by the machine, and the few who made it had become fully media trained and business minded on their way. Music turned stale. Youthful expression went away for a decade.
Fresh and innovative rap music is rarely made by adults. It’s never born in the meeting rooms of record companies. It’s still based on teenagers in dead end areas messing around with new technology. Just like when Flash and Theodore defined modern music in the urban wastelands of South Bronx some 35 years ago. Like Golden State based Lil B and The Pack, Main Attrakionz, Odd Future. Who are catching up with the development of music and the spin of the world better than anybody in the business. In fashion. Subject matter. In rap style. In graphic profile. In media presence. And most importantly in beats. They are that next step that the RZA saw but was unable to take successfully – from analog to digital.
Tapes by 22 year old Roach Gigz and 23 year old Wiz Khalifa feel like some of the year’s best.
Kush & OJ. A whole mixtape about weed smoke and orange juice. Cannabis usage is, as we all know, tricky subject matter. It turns easily into college, stoner jock, nerd shit. But if the production stays somewhere between Warren G’s first album and the already mentioned cloud rap names, we can all be safe. No mustard stains on these samples. The few failed tracks here channel indie pop/rock, but as song structure, not as sample material, which is unfortunate.
THC-themed tracks can slap hard. Especially if in the same vein as Freddie Gibbs’ Higher Learning (Exhale). Not rambling about being confused and having the munchies and doing stupid shit, but about feeling good and growing, enjoying life, planning for the future, seeing things more clear than ever.