It’s so hard for a true fan of hip-hop to listen to the radio or watch TV. The foundational elements of hip-hop almost seem non-existent. You hardly see people breaking at a party anymore. DJs rarely scratch at clubs, instead feeding the turntable one krunk song after another. The graffiti artist is more or less a neo-American relic. And the MC . let’s not get started on the MC. Nowadays if you hear a simple coherent rhyme of some substance your mind is blown because it goes against the anti-intelligent, materialistic monikers that are thrown about over the heavily synthesized, meekly and irrespectively sampled beats, most of which lack innovative musicianship. Every now and then hip-hop gets a reprieve, a rounded artist to remind us what good music sounds like, a new artist. Most real lyricists currently in the game are throwbacks from the hip-hop renaissance from 1992 to 1998, resembling your artists like Nas, Jay-Z, Method Man, Ghostface Killah, Jadakiss and Busta Rhymes, and new artists like Lupe Fiasco or Little Brother are the reprieves. They are definitely not as popular as one may like them to be because they force the consumer to actually listen. Similar to good literature, the passage or the bar either contains a deep analytical allusion or it can vividly depict a socio-economic and political situation.
Of course we all like to kick it. And who wants to use their brain all the time and enjoy a “range” of music inside a diverse genre? I don’t mind hearing “My Girl Got a Girlfriend” or “She’s Tatted Up” over and over again on the radio at all hours of the day … and I sincerely mean over and over again. Granted, I don’t want to think about socio-economics or political reform while I’m dancing in a club, but that also means that an artist doesn’t have to dumb down him or herself or the listeners with asinine songs. It’s unfortunate that the easiest and most likely way for an artist to make it in the rap game is to come up with a catchy single that exploits age-old racial stereotypes, hyper-sexual misogyny and/or ultra-capitalism. Is this the window of hip-hop we want to give the world?
In a verse by KRS-One on the song “Better Than I Ever Been” with Kanye West, Nas and Rakim (Rakim appearing on the Premier Remix), KRS spit that on the radio we need to hear more local MCs. When you think for a moment, how bad would that be? I don’t mean unpolished, grimy cats spitting in a made-up studio in their grandma’s basement trying to come up with the next ignorant catchphrase over a Casio keyboard beat that’ll get ’em paid, but those artists who have considerable talent, a community backing and some, dare I say it . buzz. For example, take our local artist Krukid. He’s commonly referred to as a cross between 50 Cent and Jay-Z, and his content, originality, flow and cadence, backed with ambitious production, quantify him as a formidable MC. His sophomore album, Afri-I-can, available now on his Web site through Rawkus Records, is what the game needs more of – issued, coherent rappers with a message. Not a message like “school is cool” or the opposite, “I’m hard because I kill people” but a message in the sense that he’s grounded, hungry and explicit without cursing. Krukid, a Ugandan hip-hopper who reps a continent, unites the most turbulent and molested land in the history of our world for a brief moment on his title track. The land where the Griot birthed the MC. This is where all superficial hip-hop stereotypes stop because there is no hood in America that is tougher than Sudan or Darfur. For real, this brother has the skill, intelligence and charisma to be great and greatness is what this game needs.
So let’s take control of what we see as our music and steer it towards a direction of realness. Let’s get our own, like Krukid, in the airplay. After all, we’re hot because we’re fly, and we’re that because we buy. One Love.
George can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.