Friday, July 9, 2010

Being Hip to the Hop

When someone like myself enjoys hip-hop, it can usually be perceived in two ways.
1. I'm simply an anomaly. A white, suburban kid who simply enjoys an eclectic selection of music.
2. I'm an indie-music-loving-kid-cliche who enjoys the idea of rap music because it doesn't make sense and either loves obscure "indie" rappers or digs super mainstream artists for irony's sake.

I'm a little bit of both.

The following are a few hip-hop albums I have recently acquired and would recommend. (For those of you with sensitive ears, please realize most of these albums are "R-rated.")

Artist: A Tribe Called Quest
Album: The Low End Theory
Hip-Hop legends from the late 80's/early 90's. They're kind of kings in the genre so I decided to check them out and I discovered some jazz influenced hip-hop that's done it's fair share of influencing. One of this album's singles: Scenario...

Artist: Big Boi
Album: Sir Lucious Leftfoot: The Son Of Chico Dusty
Half of the illustrious Outkast duo, Big Boi has some serious beats on this solo album. Maintaining a sense of otherness often thought to belong to Outkast's other half (Andre 3000), Pitchfork describes the album as "inventive, bizarre, joyous, and masterful;" hardly the grounded rapper he played in Outkast. Take a listen to his single: Shutterbug...

Artist: Drake
Album: Thank Me Later
Dubbed "the next big thing," Drake was signed by Lil' Wayne at the young age of 23. He's not exactly wise and mature ... but his lyrics do contain an honesty that I respect, an honesty that's oftentimes sad and depressing (oh, and an "honesty" often explicit). Album highlights usually occur whenever he's "spitting it," which, unfortunately, is not as often as I'd like. Listen to the album opener: Fireworks...

Artist: Shad
Album: TSOL
So this is my "indie-rapper" pick. Hailing from Canada, still pretty underground, he's not exactly a chart topper. I heard about him from the RELEVANT Magazine editor (via their podcast), which can be a hit or miss way of discovering music, but I am loving this album. His lyrics range from encouraging women to get in the hip-hop arena to rapping about his name: Shad, short for Shadrach, from the Old Testament. I'm super hesitant to mention that he may be a Christian (1. I'm not for sure if he is and 2. about 99% of Christian rap is absolutely dreadful) but his lyrics reflect a certain redemptive quality without having that preachy aspect that's so annoying in any CCM rap. For reals, check this guy out. Here's his single: Yaa I Get It...

That's it folks, any hip-hop suggestions?


Dauthan said...

Yeah, I should probably try TCQ at some point, huh?
Listened to the Big Boi album once on his myspace, my thoughts: the production is great, I appreciate the lack of drug rap, but the subject matter is still pretty immature overall - although yeah, Boi can rap, and the guests are great. Oh, and I want to give Yelawolf a shot now? I would still love to hear an Andre 3K solo rap album, but I think that's wishful thinking at this point.
I felt obligated to listen to the Drake album as it is one of the year's "big event" releases. There are some good songs, but it always confuses me when such a "big" or "important" or "statement" or "different" album isn't actually any of those things?
Haven't listened to Shad, not even this YouTube stream, but your description is interesting me.

I frequently feel conflicted about putting rap on my year end lists...thoughts?

(sorry for the excessively long comment =/)

Josiah said...


TCQ has some good tunes. And, to compare it to movie watching, it's kind of like watching a classic like Godfather or something. It may not be a favorite, but it helps to understand a genre's roots.
Totally agree with all of your Big Boi thoughts.
Drake certainly has a few hits (with just as many "misses"). Usually, his more "experimental" songs are pretty weak. I'd prefer some more straight forward stuff from the guy. That said, my little brother got me into him by simply playing him really loudly from his room... a way in which rap should probably be discovered. Over-hyped? Yes. But I haven't dismissed him yet.
Shad: I don't know. I'm just loving him right now. As with all of these artists, I haven't been listening for more than a few weeks, but Shad seems like the real deal. Probably the only one on this list to have potential to make a year end list.

And speaking of year end lists, I've been making them the last three years and I think the only rap album that's made it is The Cool Kids' "The Bake Shop." So rarely do rap albums stick with me for a long, long time. My relationship with rap usually falls in the "temporary fixation" or "intrigued lyrics listener" categories. Probably not in my "all-time" favorite category.

How do you feel conflicted about putting rap on your year end lists?

(sorry for the even longer "excessively long" comment :P)

Dauthan said...

Re: year-end lists - I guess that there are a couple things at play here

1. I don't "know" rap well enough to know when an album is a Great Leap Forward / innovates largely. So I think I shy away from big statements.
2. Speaking of big statements, the ones I usually find in rap are about personal greatness and technical proficiency, etc. I can co-sign a great beat/song/verse pretty easily, I guess - but the themes tend to run thin/occasionally disgust over a full album.

Drake does self-loathing really well. And, lastly, "Over" sounds world-beating coming out of a car stereo.

Anonymous said...

Like you, I usually like the idea of hip hop more than the reality. However, I've been blown away by Kanye's album new and old recently.

My greatest fear might be that dude is as good as he thinks he is. Check out "Graduation."

I think he's clever and rapping about a lot of issues that aren't at the forefront of mainstream rap, but probably should be.