If you have read my books, you know that I was into hair bands when I was a teenager- like, Motley Crue and Poison and that sort of thing. When those days ended, kids like me had two ways to turn: Grunge or Rap.
You would think that I would have went toward Grunge, being that at least there were still guitars and long hair, but no- I thought it was too depressing, too down. I did dig some of Nirvana's stuff, when I wanted to revel in my misery (like Lithium for instance, and In Bloom, my two favorites), but I also started to like some rap songs.
RAP!? WHAT?! Pimps and ho's and gunshots? Well, yes.
I lived with a dancer at the time, and she was super hip, so she always had dibs on what music to play. The stuff varied from Jane's Addiction to Blondie to Suicidal Tendencies to Snoop Dogg, the new rapper of the moment. We initially just liked the beats to dance to, they were really funky and sort of seventies- all of the Dr. Dre beats were the same, lots of funk influences and samples from many great songs. Good beats were good beats, we were sold. But then I remember her playing a song called "Deeper" by a female rapper named Boss. Amongst much slang and cursing, this chick was talking about something that really struck me:
She didn't have any skills to make a living and she was scared. She was a“second away” from going back to dealing drugs. She couldn't sleep, she’s was getting gray hairs. She felt herself tipping over to the dark side. She didn't want to deal drugs and do shady shit, but she didn't know how else to make a living, to make that kind of money- she was trapped.
That was her reality. I felt it.
A rapper named Tupac Shakur, who was a backup dancer for Digital Underground I believe, came out a year or so later with a song that also struck me. It was called So Many Tears and it sampled a Stevie Wonder song. He also spoke of his life, real true stuff, his reality, his struggles.
Take me away from all the pressure and all the pain
Show me some happiness again, I'm going blind
I spend my time in this cell, ain't living well
I know my destiny is Hell Where did I fail?
My life is in denial and when I die
Baptized in eternal fire I'll shed so many tears"
"Painting a picture of my enemies killing me, in my sleep
Will I survive 'til the mornin' to see the sun?
Please Lord forgive me for my sins, cause here I come"
And of course, this guy was literally gunned down and killed in Vegas, not too long later.
I do not like songs about going to the strip club and nailing strippers, or songs about shakin' it like a salt shaker or shorties gettin' low. Those songs can kiss my ass. Autotuned songs with no originality can also kiss my ass. If you are going to sample someone else's music as the background beat, that is fine, but give us something real in the way of lyrics, tell us your story, be original, make a contribution. Is it art? Yes. I think it is if you can give us something real.
There are also some interesting kids out there doing things that are going in the opposite way of all of the Cristal and Rolex rap songs- I have mentioned Kreayshawn in previous posts, and I like the fact that she likes to make her own stuff from thrift stores and she is not interested in Gucci and Prada. It appears to be the same with Lil Debbie- they have their own style, they are not trying to be label whores and I respect that portion of them.
Rap got off track. It was about stories of peoples lives...and then it got bloated and ugly and turned into tacky consumption of luxury goods and greed.I heard a song today by this Macklemore character that made me laugh my ass off: Thrift Shop! THANK YOU!!! He basically said that fifty dollars is too much to spend on a Gucci T-shirt and that he goes to the thrift shop with 20 bucks and buys grandpa clothes and wears them out to party and looks fly as hell in them. That is turning the whole landscape of Rap right on its' ear, right there.
"One man’s trash, that’s another man’s come up Thank your granddad for donating that plaid button-
Up shirt, cause right now, I’m up in here stuntin'
I’m at the Goodwill, you can find me in the bins
I’m not, I’m not stuck on searchin' in that section (Mens)
Your grammy, your aunty, your momma, your mammy
I’ll take those flannel zebra jammies, second hand and I’ll rock that motherfuck*r;
I’m like “Yo, that’s fifty dollars for a t-shirt”
Limited edition, let’s do some simple addition
Fifty dollars for a t-shirt, that’s just some ignorant b*tch sh*t
I call that getting swindled and pimped, sh*t
I call that getting tricked by business
That shirt’s hella dough
And having the same one as six other people in this club is a hella don’t
Peep game, come take a look through my telescope
Trying to get girls from a brand?
Man you hella won’t, man you hella won't"
And this guy has also done a great song on marriage equality that actually made me get a little misty-eyed.
What do you guys think of Rap these days? Still relevant?